While en route to Sega's press event earlier this week, a few of us took to speculating what one might find in a game called Dinosaur King. Would it be a primal tournament pitting dinosaur against dinosaur in brutal combat to see which beast would reign supreme? Or perhaps it would be a saurian party game set in the opulent court of Louis XIV, with a pteranodon playing the part of The Sun King? As it turned out, Dinosaur King is a game based on a card game and anime franchise that has existed in Japan for the past couple of years. Having made the transpacific voyage to American television, Dinosaur King is now heading to the DS. During our time with the game, we tried our hand at archaeology, dinosaur battle, and rocks-paper-scissors. Maybe our wacky predictions weren't too far off after all...
Dinosaur King casts you in the role of Max or Rex, two kids who are trying to stop the sinister Dr. Z and his Alpha Gang from using resurrected dinosaurs to perpetrate evil all around the world. To combat this nefarious force, you'll need some dinosaurs of your own. The problem is, they're a bit hard to come by these days. Fortunately, through the power of fictional science, you can get yourself some living, breathing, battling dinosaurs.
Presented in traditional top-down role-playing game style, the game spans five continents (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica) that have produced substantial fossil deposits. Adventuring around these continents, your character will use his specialized radar to locate fossils underground. Once you find some, you can drill down to excavate them and take them back to the D-Lab. There you'll use a pick to chip away the stone around the fossils and blow into the DS microphone to clear the dust. Careful chipping will yield rarer dinosaurs, while sloppy chipping may break your pick and yield a more common specimen. Once you've fully cleaned off a fossil, you'll be able to add it to your DinoShot. This is a gun-looking contraption that can hold up to three different dinosaurs that you can take with you out into the wide world. You'll definitely want to roll three dinos deep whenever possible, as the world you inhabit is chockablock full of Alpha Gang thugs spoiling for a fight. If you randomly encounter one of them, it's time for some dino combat.
The basic fight mechanic in Dinosaur King is quite easy to grasp. Your dinosaur has three different circular attack buttons--rock, paper, and scissors. Your opponent has the same three options, and the success of your attack is governed by the familiar rule set: paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper. In each battle, one of the three circular attack icons will have spikes all around it; this is your critical attack, which will do much more damage than a regular one. During the early going, you'll have a D-Lab scientist remotely chiming in with tips on battle tactics. For example, while we were battling, the scientist told us to watch out for our enemy's critical attack. We could see that rock was his critical attack, so we used our paper attack, which landed successfully. Later battles, we were told, become tougher because you no longer have coaching, and your opponents get stronger.
Naturally, you can get stronger as well. Your dinosaurs will level up, which increases their attributes and makes them hardier in combat. You'll also earn new attack cards that you can map to your three attack buttons. Each attack button has a limited amount of energy you can use each round, so you'll have to be careful how often you use each attack. Every attack, like every dinosaur, has a particular elemental affinity, like grass, mountain, or air. Different elements are strong or weak against others, and your elemental attacks can change the battlefield to your advantage.
One of the best parts of combat is the realistically modeled dinosaurs that look like something out of Jurassic Park. They are nicely textured and quite lively on the battlefield, especially when they bust out with incongruously over-the-top special attacks. In one battle we used an attack called Thunder Bazooka, in which our triceratops jumped in the air and shot across the battlefield like a corkscrewing torpedo with lightning bolts streaming behind it. In another battle, our parasaurolophus headbutted our opponent around 180 degrees, then grabbed it by the tail and swung it around in a circle before flinging it off into the air. We found these attacks hilarious, though there's no telling whether the humor would hold up over time.
As a further service for dinophiles, Dinosaur King contains a dino encyclopedia with information on each one of the 90-plus dinosaurs in the game, including size measurements, related species, and a 3D model with a human standing next to it for comparative purposes. It also features wireless and Wi-Fi capabilities that allow for trading of items and dinosaurs, as well as head-to-head battling. Dinosaur fans and RPG lovers can look forward to more Dinosaur King coverage here on GameSpot as the September release date approaches.