Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D Review:
At first glance Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D appears to follow a long-standing tradition of left-field launch titles like Fuzion Frenzy (Xbox), Pen Pen Trilcelon (Dreamcast), Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy (Jaguar), and Marky Mark/INXS: Make My Video (Sega CD). Yet the harsh truth is worse than that. While many of us don't make it a point to keep up with shovelware releases, the Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs for the Nintendo 3DS is actually the latest installment in a line of monster dueling games.
Where’s The Fear?
Despite what the cover of the case would like to make you believe, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D does not take advantage of the Nintendo 3DS's 3D capabilities in the way one expects a dinosaur game would. It's devoid of any in-your-face T-Rex imagery; in fact, I spent half of the game looking at dinosaur tails as I guided these creatures along linear paths to their next battle. This narrow point a-to-b movement is what developer Ubisoft Quebec sees as the game's exploratory section. And just when I thought I could get to the end of each path by simply pointing up with the analog stick, it actually benefits me to strategically run over objects, which reveal bones to pick up. The more bones collected, the more prizes one can use to dress up dinosaurs in various colors and stripes.
Nothing Beats A Raptor with +20 Armor!
It was after my first battle that I got an idea of the game's attempt a providing depth to an otherwise shallow experience. Every kill leads to a trophy themed after an attribute of your newly fallen opponent. Better yet, these items are designed to be equipped and upgrade your fighter. The Great Tail of The Carcharodontosaurs for instance features Armor +8, Health +9, and Push +1. Interested in Dino Strike Damage +15? The Great Horn of Health offers that as well as Health +20. Furthermore, these items range in three levels of rarity, the rarest of which can be used only after clearing 4 maps. It's an amusing concept; perhaps dinosaurs would still be around today if they actually had this kind of upgradable know-how.
The battles take place on equally narrow areas, some that are subject to earthquakes and lava eruptions, attempting to add some tension and risk of ring-outs. The B button attacks, A button pushes your opponents, and when the enemy flashes red, that's when to dodge left or right with the Circle pad. Unfortunately this is the extent of the complexity of the combat. Any losing round can be remedied by trying out different upgrade combinations and seeing if the opponent is more susceptible to rapid attacks or pushes. If you can spot the enemy's power attacks regularly, no battle should take more than three attempts. It is because of this one-dimensional gameplay that the local multiplayer is hardly worth trying out. At least you don't need to put much effort in StreetPass; those who win get items while the losers do not suffer any kind of penalty.
Life Of The Party
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D's only saving grace is that describing it at a gamer gathering is ten times more fun than actually playing it. You can entertain friends by describing the shallowness of a fighting system that equates to "Primal Rage for Kids". Then there's the aforementioned item upgrading and dress-up. Save the best for last by delving into a bizarre story that takes inspiration from--of all things--old school Final Fantasy games and other JPRGs. As the age of the dinosaurs is nearing its end, the once-imprisoned Arkosaurus have been freed to unleash evil upon the planet. How this Arkosaur actually acts evil or opportunistic compared to other dinosaurs is not explained, nor is it easy to understand why the creatures you control are any nobler. The Arkosaur was once defeated by four now-deceased guardians, and it's up to you to find four new heroes to take it down once more. Sound familiar? It gets better because Ubisoft conveniently classifies the character types into four professional sports-themed categories: predators, hunters, chargers, and defenders.
You would think that after multiple dinosaur-related iterations, not to mention experience with dragons and mutant insects, Ubisoft might have learned to make these monster battles somewhat interesting. And when you have a product launch like the 3DS, you would also think that the developer/publisher would have taken advantage of the stereotypically menacing nature of dinosaurs. Instead we have the biggest wasted opportunity of all the 3DS launch games, and not one of the so-called guardians can even cast a simple fire spell.