The fates of nations hang in the balance — but watching the Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon feels like watching a circle of nerds play card games in Belfi’s basement on Friday night.
Excitable Boy: “I summon the monstrous dinosaur URABY!”
Melodramatic Boy: “Your URABY cannot defeat… the ARMED NINJA!”
[I have to admit that ninjas fighting against dinosaurs is actually pretty cool.]
Excitable Boy: “Ha! We’ll see how that ARMED NINJA fares against VALKYRION THE MAGNA WARRIOR!”
Melodramatic Boy (clutching head in imagined pain): “Noooooo!”
Like Dragonball Z, the cartoon’s basically a giant display of ridiculous one-upmanship, except that instead of attacking each other with fireballs and psychic ice beams, the characters sit at a table and play cards. I can’t get behind that.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! Double Pack is a bit more engaging than the cartoon. For one thing, it’s more fun to play than to watch (even if the real-world rules have been drastically simplified). For another, even though it uses the English names (like
Jonouchi Joey), the game’s two stories — adapted from the Battle City arc — aren’t as childishly censored as the cartoon. When duelists lose a match, they’re no longer banished to a mythical Shadow Realm — in the Double Pack, losers are chopped up by spinning buzzsaws or tied to anchors and hurled into the ocean!
That, I can get behind.
The Double Pack’s first episode, The Sacred Cards, takes place in Domino City, where you’ll guide your hep cat character (he sports a backwards pink baseball cap) and challenge everyone to card duels. Other characters from the show, including Yugi himself (a spiky-haired kid who wears slave attire, complete with chains and collar), make brief appearances, but their purpose is the same as everyone else: to stand around, get challenged by the hipster player, and get beaten.
When someone loses a friendly match, they give up their rarest card. A bunch of villains called “GHOULS” have invaded the tournament to obtain all the rare cards for themselves. When GHOULS win matches, they kill the loser, which begs the question: if you’re going to kill everyone, why bother playing? Why not just brain a few kids and steal their decks?
The game ignores many of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s rules and is essentially a prettied-up variant of War. Basically, when your turn begins, you play a monster card. There’s no “casting cost” like you’d find in Magic; you just place the card on the virtual table, whether it’s a Dark Plant (with 300 attack power) or a Battle Ox (with 1700 attack strength). In the actual card game, a lot of these creatures have special powers to differentiate them from each other, but most of those powers have been removed in the videogame. So now we’re left with a bunch of cards that are just outright better than others.
To simplify the game even further, Konami added an Elemental Instant Kill mechanic. Water automatically beats fire, which beats forest, and so on. Because of the elemental system, themed decks SUCK, which is an insane turnabout for avid Yu-Gi-Oh fiends. If you know someone is using a zombie deck, then just make sure you have a bunch of “light” cards and you can instantly destroy a 1500-strength Zombie with a piddly 250-strength Fairy!
75 percent of the game’s opponents use themed decks. Unless you’re an idiot, you should win The Sacred Cards quickly and easily.
The second game, Reshef of Destruction, adds a bunch of dark and twisted cards with really cool artwork. I especially like STUFFED ANIMAL — a teddy bear split in half by two rows of sharp, glistening teeth.
Don’t get excited; the Reshef game is complete trash.
Like The Sacred Cards, the Elemental Instant Kill system still exists and there are a bunch of cards that are just outright better than others. However, this time around, the NEO-GHOULS’ decks are more varied and less reliant on easily-defeated themes.
Unfortunately, Konami has made a bunch of horrible changes:
1) In The Sacred Cards, winning a duel usually increased your deck strength by 5, which was too low. In Reshef, winning often increases your deck strength by only ONE. Deck strength is necessary to improve your deck, and grinding is not fun.
2) After you win a match, your life points aren’t restored, so you have to walk all the way back home to recharge. This doesn’t make the game more challenging; it just wastes time.
3) Your opponents cheat. Even if your monsters are face-down and therefore hidden from view, the enemy reads your mind and knows whether or not to attack. This was also a problem in The Sacred Cards, but that game was so easy that it didn’t matter.
4) The cursor is broken. The purpose of the cursor is to select a card. If you push left, the cursor should move left. If you push right, the cursor should move to the right. In Reshef of Destruction, the cursor freakishly flies around the screen for a few seconds before you’re allowed to move it anywhere. Every time you perform an action, the cursor starts flying around again. This wastes time and plummets the card battles from “simple but fun” to “annoying”. I can’t recall any other game — certainly not any game made after 1985 — that managed to screw up cursor movement.
On the plus side, your avatar’s backwards baseball cap is now blue.
I can’t recommend a compilation of virtual card games where the better game is too easy, too short, has no multiplayer mode, and doesn’t even follow the card game’s rules. If the latest version of FIFA let players grab the ball with their hands, run down the field, and hurl it into the goal, fans would rage. Why should Yu-Gi-Oh be spared similar wrath?