It’s time to duel. Get your game on. Feelin’ the flow. At one time or another, these phrases have carried with them the promise of victory, the affirmation that hope remains alive until the very end. Throughout stories of ancient pharaohs, high school turmoil and wars between dimensions, one hero after the other has taken up the mantle to show that a simple card game is anything but and that a single draw can save worlds…also that no hairstyle is too bizarre.
In case the nostalgia hasn’t struck a chord with you, then I’ll assume you are either super young or particularly averse to card based series. Regardless, this is Yu-Gi-Oh! people, a franchise whose name relates strongly to the initial series and has come to serve as an artifact banner for those who proceeded it. For clarification, Yu-Gi-Oh isn’t the name of the card game, that’s Duel Monsters, or the main character, though Yugi is remarkably close…wait a minute, maybe they meant it to be. Those clever ducks. Regardless, whether you knew from the get go that the series title essentially translates to King of Games, or you just remember Yugi yelling it to transform (which he stopped doing at one point for some reason), then you probably already knew these basics and are wondering why I’m rambling on and on. Well my friends, it’s because I am excited, filled with a renewed vigor for a franchise I had relegated to nostalgia for quite a while (barring the occasional episode of the original series I catch if I wake up early enough). From coming into this game with a fair deal of skepticism and doubt, I was pleasantly surprised by how fun Legacy of the Duelist is.
Beginning from like, Legacy of the Duelist takes us from Yugi and Joey’s practice duel, on a simple tabletop map no less, to the dimensional clashes that comprise Zexal, with a little Arc-V thrown in for good measure. That being said, so as not to paint a false image in your minds, the game does take the form of a top-down, tabletop style experience, so my point about the scope of the game relates more to story than visual impact. Though, on the plus side, the field on which you play does change based upon the where and when from the story, an example being the iconic red/blue projection fields of the Duelist Kingdom arc. Of course, jumping back to story for a second, not every single duel is included in this incredible cross section, with the game opting out of all but the classic clashes of cards. Unfortunately, this may leave some players wanting for a favourite of theirs, but that is more the minority than the majority. Unless you were really geared up to duel Para and Dox…although I would’ve like kicking the proverbial crap out of them myself.
However, as is the purview of most gamers, you might be wondering how the game plays. So allow me to elucidate. As one might expect of a Yu-Gi-Oh! title, Legacy of the Duelist has you play Duel Monsters, the card game previously mentioned. Now I don’t know exactly how specific I should get here regarding the ins and outs of the mechanics of said game, so I’ll keep it medium. Actually, this game taught me how to properly play Duel Monsters for the first time, and I’ve been a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan since before Pegasus reared his gilded ocular visage.
Now, cards are divided into three basic categories; Monster, Trap and Spell. Monsters serve as the front line in your forces, dealing damage to opposing monsters in order to destroy said monsters and damage your opponents Life Points. Pretty simple mechanics follow, the monster with Attack Points higher than the monster it is attacking wins, with the difference in damage being taken from the losers Life Points…trust me, it’s simpler than I’m making it sound…I think. Spell and Trap cards bring extra effects into the fray, altering monsters strengths, allowing destroyed creatures to return to play or simply messing with an opponents hand of cards. So, that’s the confusing gist of it all. Luckily however, the game provides a tutorial for each campaign chapter, teaching the new duel mechanics introduced in that particular iteration of the franchise. So whilst you may have skimmed over my inept description of the basics, pay some attention to the legitimate tutorials, I know I did. Though I’m still rather new, so my knowledge on Pendulum Summoning isn’t world class…
Graphic wise, Legacy of the Duelist doesn’t offer too much. Taking notes from reality rather than fiction, the game depicts and aerial view of duels (as mentioned earlier), showcasing the cards in their true to life forms. Hence, the visually explosive duels of the series are still beyond our reach, barring a few brief moments, wherein canonically important monsters receive a brief summon/attack animation. Though this selectivity adds an element of excitement to the fray, it simultaneously highlights how static the visuals can usually be.
Dialogue wise, characters are relegated to unspoken text, a la visual novel style, though abbreviated to be sure. So, from an objective standpoint, players can come to understand why the current protagonist is dueling and what the particular world threatening stakes of that particular arc may be. However, for viewers of the series, it is quite upsetting to see the story without hearing the characters once more. I mean, “Get your game on!” just doesn’t carry the same weight when read.
However, with all that being said, one important question lingers; is this game fun? The answer is as follows; yes, very. Despite its shortcomings, Legacy of the Duelist is undeniably fun for anyone who has ever called the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise familiar. If not for the ability to play through multiple storylines, then for the sheer fact that you don’t have to shuffle physical cards every time you activate an effect that would require such, which happens a lot (though physical cards are still cool too). For those of us who occasionally cannot tap into the Heart of the Cards, the loss screen is thankfully short, allowing for you to immediately jump back into the fray for some dueling revenge. Another rage quit saving grace is the ability to use a custom deck at any point in the Story Mode, without having to win with the story deck or clear some other condition first. So if, oh I don’t know, you’re having trouble using Joey’s deck to beat Rex Raptor, you can switch to a custom set and dole out some sweet, sweet justice…not that that happened to me or anything. It may also interest you to know that, in addition to being won from Story Mode, new cards may be purchased with in-game Duel Points. Said points are also obtained from Story Mode but, in another showing of video game leniency, an amount of points is given even after a loss. Thus, whilst you may continue to be bested by one foe, you are not too slowly accruing the currency which will turn your situation around.
So, in a manner of speaking, come for the nostalgia and stay for the surprisingly lengthy campaign (and that’s without factoring in the replayability from Reverse Duels). Choose your cards, build your deck and get ready to save worlds with the power of a card game because that is something that makes sense in an anime series. And remember, that from now until the end of days is brought about by whatever God card comes next; It’s time to duel!