"You know, if the dinosaurs could have done lightning attacks in real life..." I said to the Sega PR person sitting next to me as I played the upcoming Dinosaur King for the Nintendo DS, "...they wouldn't have gone extinct," he finished the joke with expert timing.
Look at Dinosaur King, then, as a bit of revisionist history. What if dinosaurs could blast lightning bolts out of their faces? What if they regularly took hold of one another's tails, spun them around in a circle three times, and then tossed them into huge boulders? What if dinosaurs had the ability to control the powers of the elements? I can tell you right now that if any of those things were true, we'd currently be preparing for a presidential election between Sen. Velociraptor and Sen. Stegosaurus.
You can also look at Dinosaur King as a fairly straightforward Pokemon rip-off, only instead of collecting charmanders or bulbasaurs, you're digging up the fossilized remains of a triceratops and a tyrannosaurus. After you find a fossil (using your handy radar and drill, which you can also use to dig up other treasures as you roam the lands in this kid-friendly role-playing game), you can take it back to the lab and try your hand at uncovering the fossil using the DS stylus and touchpad. Because the game is aimed at kids, you can't really mess this part up, but it's fun to see if you can completely uncover the fossil before your chipping tool runs out of life.
Revealing your fossil is only half the fun, because once the fossil has been cleaned, you can bring the dinosaur back to life and then add it to your collection. This ever-increasing stable of dinosaurs will be at your beck and call, willing to lay down their lives as you head out in the world looking to foil the evil Dr. Z and... Oh, who cares about the plot. Let's get to the dino-combat!
You can carry up to three dinosaurs with you out into the world and enter one-on-one combat via random encounters. Fighting follows a rock-paper-scissors format, though each attack has an energy level associated with it. If you don't have enough energy to perform a move, you'll have to choose another one. Because this game is geared toward a young audience, your opponent will usually telegraph his attack by yelling something like, "I'm going to try that again!" or "This time, I'll try something different." As a result, it's pretty easy to tell what move your foe will try next.
That said, the best part of the dinosaur combat is the animations, which feature dinosaurs chomping on one another's tails, spitting fire, and doing the kinds of moves normally reserved for wrestling games. In fact, I'm fairly certain I saw a brachiosaurus give a megalosaurus a tombstone piledriver at one point. The megalosaurus sold it pretty well, too.
Dinosaur King is out this week on the Nintendo DS.