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Joseph Rositano
03 Oct, 2008

Dinosaur King Review

DS Review | Open the door, get on the floor, everybody avoid the Dinosaur.
Dinosaur King is based on the Japanese anime of the same name, which follows the adventures of Max Taylor and Rex Owen, two boys who are members of the D-Team. The D-Team is an organisation that study and revive dinosaurs, as well as thwart the schemes of the evil Alpha Gang. The game has a lot to offer for fans: you can collect and train over 70 different dinosaurs, there are regular appearances by characters from the anime, and you can even battle other players online. Unfortunately, the experience is severely hampered by a lacklustre combat system and repetitive gameplay.

Dinosaur King starts off by revealing that development on the DinoShot has just been completed. The D-Team are particularly excited as the device is designed to revive dinosaurs from fossils, allowing them to be studied in ways never thought possible. As quickly as the celebration begins however, the Alpha Gang appear and swipe one of the DinoShots. Surprisingly, they summon a T-Rex and command it to destroy the area. Max and Rex are quick to retaliate, and summon their own dinosaurs to battle the ferocious beast. Through their combined efforts, the T-Rex is quickly defeated, but the Alpha Gang manages to escape. Max and Rex must now discover the Alpha Gang’s true intentions, and protect the world from their continuing threats.

Dinosaur King is best described as a Pokémon clone. The game has a big emphasis on collecting dinosaurs and battling them to make them stronger. There are, however, a few differences which set the franchises apart. Firstly, instead of capturing dinosaurs that are roaming around in the wild, players have to use a radar to detect where fossils are buried and then dig them up. To revive the beasts, you have to play a short fossil-cleaning mini-game. The main idea behind it is to gently pick away the dirt and rock surrounding the dinosaur’s bones, just like an archaeologist. While novel at first, it quickly becomes redundant as there’s simply no challenge involved and you’re more or less doing the same task over and over again.

  
This gets painfully boring after a while.

This gets painfully boring after a while.
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After the initial resurrection, the dinosaur doesn’t actually take physical form until you enter a battle. For a majority of the time, it is represented as a playing card, complete with battle statistics. Again there are similarities to Pokémon; every dinosaur has an elemental power (fire, water, grass, etc) that can affect the outcome of the battle. Admittedly, we didn’t notice a huge difference in terms of power, though some attacks can alter the battlefield (i.e. make it a rock surface) and increase the defense of your dinosaurs. For those who like perfecting their strategies, each dinosaur also has a battle technique. Techniques give your dinosaurs an advantage when specific requirements are met, such as Crisis which gives your dinosaur more attack power when it’s low on health. While you don’t necessarily need to pay attention to these mechanics to enjoy the game, if you like strategic elements then it adds some depth to the gameplay.

Unfortunately, combat is arguably Dinosaur King’s biggest flaw. To start off, battles occur randomly which makes exploration tedious - you can’t last ten seconds without being challenged to a fight. In battle, each dinosaur has three attacks that are divided across the hand signs rock, paper and scissors. During combat, each player chooses a hand sign to perform and the winning symbol ultimately decides who takes damage. For example, if you chose rock and your opponent picked paper, your dinosaur would take damage. If you both happened to choose scissors, then the attacks would cancel each other out and both dinosaurs would receive minor damage. Clearly, due to the random nature of rock, paper, scissors, this system would irritate players. To make it friendlier, the developers have incorporated a hint system. Basically, before the attack select screen appears, your opponent will make a comment which hints at the hand sign they’re going to make. To be quite frank, it’s one of the stupidest ideas ever implemented into an RPG. “If you make a Critical Move, I’ll match it.” “I like that move you just made. I think I will do the same.” The AI more or less tells you what attack to perform. It’s unchallenging, repetitive, and just plain boring. That said, there are moments when your opponents won’t give such obvious hints, if any at all, but they’re likely to annoy players since it falls back on random luck.

One of the more pleasant features is the game’s leveling up system. As your dinosaurs level up, not only will their general abilities increase, but they’ll also create move cards. Move cards let your dinosaurs learn more powerful attacks, but they’re unique in that they can constantly be reused, so you can freely experiment with different attack variations on any of your party members. There are, however, a few limitations. Each dinosaur is associated with a particular hand sign, dubbed a Critical Move. During battles, Critical Moves cause more damage than the other two hand signs. The move card that your dinosaur makes is strictly to be attached to the same hand sign as their Critical Move. For instance, if the dinosaur’s Critical Move is the paper symbol, then the move cards they make can only be placed in the paper attack slot. Because of the way the system is implemented, you’re encouraged to have a balanced team, though this isn’t something you’ll need to take to heart.

  
Pity it's almost impossible to not attack an enemy.

Pity it's almost impossible to not attack an enemy.
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As we mentioned in the introduction, you can go online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and battle or swap items with other players. You’ll have the option to select whether you play against people in your friends list or just random players who are connected in your local region. In the case of the latter, the game also automatically finds people who have dinosaurs at a similar level to your own. Unfortunately, obviously you won’t get hints as to what hand sign your opponent is going to make, so battles are based on luck more than anything else.

Despite some questionable gameplay decisions, Dinosaur King is graphically sound. During the battles the top screen displays a movie of the dinosaurs attacking each other. They’re animated in full 3D, and look fantastic. Outside battles it’s a different story. Environments and characters are flat 2D sprites and aren’t very appealing. That said, everything’s neat and presented nicely. The soundtrack isn’t too memorable, soft tunes usually accompany exploration while battles are more energetic.

Dinosaur King is a missed opportunity. Underneath the repetitive gameplay and the downright awful combat system there’s a decent RPG. It has the appeal of strategic qualities such as the elemental attributes and battle techniques, as well as the freedom to mix and match different move cards to party members. Unfortunately, only die-hard fans of the anime will be able to overlook its flaws, everyone else should stick to Pokémon
The Score
Unless you’re a fan of the anime, then you need not apply yourself to Dinosaur King. Battles occur too frequently, the combat system uses a questionable adaptation of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and the fossil-cleaning mini-game gets repetitive far too quickly. The game is simply a missed opportunity. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/09/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $49.95 AU
Publisher:
  SEGA Australia
Genre:
  Strategy
Year Made:
  2008

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