RPG’s aren’t in short supply for the DS, in fact the DS seems to be a haven for them with big names such as Square Enix pushing out titles left right and centre. SEGA isn’t new to RPG’s either with their past works including the much loved Phantasy Star and Shining Force series, now comes Dinosaur King, based on a children’s card game and Anime.
The game starts rather abruptly as the evil Alpha gang attack Reece’s laboratory in search of a Dinoshot, a small handheld device that can summon Dinosaurs with the use of cards, of course you being the plucky hero with an attitude problem decides you too need a Dinoshot to defeat the leader of the Alpha gang. You get to choose between two characters, Max and Rex, Oddly unlike most other RPG’s where you’d have a choice of one female and one male character both of these main characters are boys, though it may not be a huge concern it does beg the question, why?
Right let’s get down to the nitty gritty part of this RPG, the combat system. The combat in this game is different to almost every RPG I’ve ever played in that the combat system doesn’t rely on drop down menus to select commands, instead you play the battles with rock, paper, and scissors with each one assigned an attack. It may sound hit or miss at first but for random encounter battles there is pretty much a set pattern to all the bad guys moves, they open with their critical attack (a critical attack is one of the rock, paper, scissors moves but much more powerful) then you just move anti-clockwise around the symbols until the enemy has ran out of HP.
A staple of the RPG genre is the potion, or health drink that restores HP during battle, Dinosaur king does have these items but you cannot use them in battle to heal your dinosaur, you have to make sure before you enter a boss fight that all your dinosaurs are fully healed or you will be in trouble.
And that leads me onto the boss fights, for me the most infuriating part of the game. As said before the battles are rock paper scissors matches. In a normal battle the enemy will say something which will give you a massive hint as to what move they’re doing next, in a boss fight however for the most part all you get is random lines which give no indication at all, this throws any strategy this game would have out of the window, pretty much putting whatever move you do down to complete luck which at times can see you doing the same fight over and over and over again. Combat with bosses also seems very biased against the player in favour of the enemy, an example being if you are in a boss fight even though you are several levels higher than the enemy, their normal attack will still take away half of your health and since you can’t replenish it your dinosaur dies. You are then transported back to the HQ of the town you are in.
Map exploration is done in the classic 2D over world style, outside the town you are you’ll be expected to do missions for the people in inside the town, some require you to walk quite far, experiencing random encounters all the way which can be a bit of a bore and very repetitive, it almost feels like the developers were trying to pad the game out with anything they could think of.
In the game you get fossils that can be turned into dinosaurs by chipping the rock away from the fossil in a mini game, the game allows you to carry 3 dinosaurs though I found I only ever needed the one I started out with. Other mini games include a drill and scanner you can use to scan the ground around you and dig up items, the scanner runs out of power very quickly and going to get it charged up at the HQ can be a pain if your pretty far from town.
I’ve talked about how the combat works, now for how the combat looks, the combat in terms or graphical style is the complete opposite to the rest of the game, what you see is a 3D play field with two beautifully rendered (for DS) dinosaurs, the developers opted for more realistic looking dinosaurs as opposed to drawn anime ones which does present a completely different style not quite in keeping with the rest of the game. It does however show that some effort was put into making the somewhat broken combat system at least pleasant to look at, and pleasant it is, the moves at times are ridiculous, dinosaurs throwing each other in the air and smashing each other into rocks help bring it back to its over the top anime roots.
The music is difficult to rate as although the tracks are pleasant enough to listen to you’ll soon find yourself turning the sound down as the short tracks loop indefinitely and can get very grating if your trying to concentrate on the story.
Overall the game is ok, the combat system is annoying and the plot is a little predictable, I do feel however all the padding to the storyline, side missions etc. actually detract from this game as the main storyline also has what would be classified as side missions too, this would make any child paying this put it down in favour of a game that actually shows progression as you work through it.