Letting your Yu-Gi-Oh prejudices get in the way of giving this game a chance would be a mistake. Unless, of course, you don’t like card games, either. In that case, go ahead and be a hater.
This game is hands-down the best card game I have ever played for any system. First and foremost, it actually plays the way a card game is supposed to play. There’s no ridiculous running around in a forest somewhere challenging random cards to RPG-esque battles or doing whatever else Magic: The Gathering games like to have in them. The game is all about you buying cards, building decks, and dueling with many different opponents. Although it has a solid base in actual card playing, and gets rid of the third-person running around and talking to tons of NPCs to gather info to move on with your quest, it still manages to put in a story.
The story merges seemingly perfectly with the gameplay, where you will be dueling people left and right, then someone will come up and say, “Hey, man, you are pretty good; here’s a tournament invite.” There’s no long and involved plot scenes to take you away from what you really bought the game to do. The opponents are also not nearly as stupid and cheating as they are in other card games, either. The higher-skilled opponents even have various strategies they will employ against you, instead of just stacking their deck with tons of illegal cards that you can’t use yourself. Overall, this is the most fun card game I have played on any console.
The music and sound effects are also perfect for this type of game. The music is enjoyable to listen to and, most importantly, does not distract you from the game with annoying noises or repetitions. The sound effects aren’t over-the-top but, at the same time, they give you the feel of crushing your opponent every time you land a big hit to his life points.
As far as looks, I have seen nothing better with any card game. This game shows miniature versions of all of your cards on the touch screen, complete with details (as opposed to generic-looking cards with just names), and there are even short and sweet cutscenes when you summon powerful monsters. In addition to seeing your monsters during those couple-second scenes, you can also view an impressive 3D model of your character on the top screen whenever you highlight them on the touch screen. The characters from the TV show appear just as they do in the show, which I consider to be an infinitely better idea than trying to make them look 3D like the monsters. The graphics also more than stand up to anything else I have seen on the DS.
As long as you still enjoy card games, there’s really no point at which this game would stop being fun. There are a ton of cards to choose from, and you have a nearly endless number of deck combinations to explore. You can even save a large number of decks, and even learn and make the decks that the computer controlled opponents use. If you are a big fan of Mai and her harpy lady deck, you can go ahead and make friends with her and she’ll let you in on her secret to success. The same holds true for pretty much any of your favorite characters from the show. Even if you don’t like the show at all, you can still spend a whole lot of time trying different deck combinations that suit your individual play style. The fact that you can link up and trade and duel with your friends over the DS’s wireless connection only adds to the enjoyment. Oh, and it should be noted that this game supports the official rules of the actual Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game. This really means nothing to those who don’t play the actual card game, I guess, but I’m sure it’s worth noting.
This review marks probably the first time I have ever saved the controls section for the last part of my review. There is a very good reason for this. This game has what I believe to be the best possible controls for any game in this genre. This is due mainly to the touch screen capabilities of the DS, but I must give credit to the creators for taking full advantage of the DS here. You can control all of your moves with the touch screen, meaning that you can play an entire duel just like you would if you were playing with physical cards. When you want to play a card, you touch that particular card. Simple as that.
In addition to being the perfect presentation of a card game, this game is also makes the best use of the DS’s capabilities out of any DS game I have played. Most of the other ones focus more on the touch screen than they do on the gameplay. They force you to focus on circling crap or quickly poking dots on the screen or blowing into the microphone (why the hell should anyone ever blow into a microphone anyway? It’s actually pretty irritating when you hear people breathe into regular mics, let alone blow into them), and they forget that they should make the game in their heads first, and then decide what the best way to make the DS fit the game is.
You hear that, everyone? That’s right, I said it. Make the DS fit the game, not the game fit the DS. Game fitting DS = poo, DS fitting game = gold. Got it? Good. Argue with me all you want if you enjoy being wrong, but that’s just the way it is. The controls for this game are nothing short of wicked awesome.
If you haven’t gotten the point yet, I’ll spell it out for you one last time. This game is the best card game I have ever played for any system. Which means it must be one of the best card games that exists. One of the best card games that exists has got to warrant at least a rental if you are into the genre, so try not to let your Yu-Gi-Oh biases stop you from enjoying it. On the flip side, if you are not into this genre, it would be a very very stupid thing to buy this game. This game has virtually nothing to offer anyone who doesn’t like card games. If you are one of the chosen ones who actually like Yu-Gi-Oh AND like playing card games, this game is a must-have.