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May 12, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 2)

Part 1 can be read here.

Welcome back to this long, long, LONG review of a Game Boy Advance game! I gotta admit, I really wanted to write that review earlier. I'm gonna show the full extent of my geek past: I collected Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I have read almost the whole first series (the one with Yugi as the protagonist). I watched the anime until the end of the Duelist Kingdom saga, the one that happened on an island and during which the game's rules were still a "broken, exploitable mess".

Yeah, things were simpler back then.
I mean, who would throw away Duel City
for another duel through a videotape?
I would!
I knew that I couldn't just make a small review for it. This game's plot is huge, and there's so much to talk about that I wouldn't have been able to keep it to two parts. Or three. No, I have to end the Game Boy Advance era with the largest review I could possibly write for a GBA game. This is it! I've been trying to make this review my masterpiece (until a future review takes its spot as biggest, best, greatest review I've written).

So, where were we last time? Oh, right. Orange Cap Boy (which I nicknamed Nikorasu; it's got more dignity than LEGO Brick) has just defeated the lame-ass Esper Roba and Bakura. As he heads right, he sees that Bonz, the zombie wannabe, has been kicked out of his graveyard. By who, you may ask? By a Ghoul. No, not a real one, just another lame-ass character who decided that being a villain would be fun. So Nikorasu defeats the villain and makes him run away. Bonz rejoices and quickly heads back to his resting place.

Now, in the original manga, while Joey was defeating non-villainous duelists, Yugi was taking care of the Ghouls, also known as the Rare Hunters. Turns out that those are pretty damn powerful opponents, even for him. In this game, what happens? Nikorasu does both. He duels against non-threatening characters to get their Locator Cards, and then he fights the Rare Hunters to prevent them from causing trouble. So wait, he's stealing Joey's story arc AND Yugi's story arc? If Orange Cap Boy wasn't already a Gary Stu by the end of Part 1 of this review, now he clearly is!

Hey! In an hour, I'll be back and YOU'll be the wimp!
After this small encounter with the true villains of the story, Nikorasu duels and defeats Rex Raptor, who claimed he refused to duel anyone with a Level under 110 (in which case, what was he doing in the Times Rectangle, where 95% of the duelists are real losers?). Afterwards, the player character can visit KaibaCorp, where a machine can be dueled. The machine is a bit strong for the character's level, but it can still be defeated. It always gives a good reward, but it can use the absurdly powerful F.G.D., a mighty Yu-Gi-Oh! card with 5,000 ATK and DEF. After this, Nikorasu can speak to someone in Times Rectangle, and learn that the shop's owner isn't all he seems to be.

Indeed, when Nikorasu visits the shop, it's revealed that the “Owner” was actually Arkana, the second Ghoul met by Yugi. In the original, he challenged the tri-color-haired boy on a dangerous game involving buzzsaws that would literally make the loser go “footloose”, if you see what I mean. (You don't? Urk. The loser gets his feet cut off!) This also happens in this game, but seriously, by this point your Deck should be strong enough to beat him. Arkana is a pushover, easy to defeat. What happened to the strong duelists of the original series? Were they all toned down to an extreme?

...Wait, yes, they were. Dammit. Let me get this straight. Our main character is living the main two characters' story arcs at the same time AND all the original opponents have become pitifully weak. Congrats, game. (By the way, after you defeat a major member of the Ghouls, he becomes possessed by someone in a cloak and starts mumbling stupid crap about rare cards and power and stuff. I doubt you have to pay attention.)

I smell some plot relevance for this guy!
So, the adventure continues. Nikorasu can now go to the park, where the opponents are a little stronger. An odd punk mime is standing there... But there's also Weevil Underwood, the renowned cheater from the series. The player character defeats Underwood's three henchmen, and then him. The guy starts crying. Oh, by the way, he'll never admit defeat, which means he'll always demand a rematch when you speak to him. If you beat him once more, he lets out that Kaiba is searching for very strong cards.

Cheaters are the real losers among the dueling losers, loser!

Namu: Proof that not all  anime characters
are white. Phew, racism avoided!
At any moment during the game, the player character can also go to Yugi's Grandpa's house, where he'll often meet with unexpected guests who are ready to duel him: Joey, Yugi (not the Yami, mind you)... and Namu, a guy whose skin is too dark to be Japanese like the others. He won't duel you. After you meet that odd guy (if you've read the manga or watched the anime before playing this game, you KNOW that this character has plot relevance...), you can now head to the pier... where you'll see Kaiba demolish a weak duelist. Oh, and further through the pier, there's that silent punk mime puppet thing that suddenly speaks and forces the Orange Cap Boy into a duel. He's a little harder to defeat, as his cards are pretty good, but I'd say he about the same level as you.

Still speechless? ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Ah, shut up.
What do I hate about this duel? In the original story, after Yami Yugi defeated this character, he earned the first God Card, whose effects are so devastating they can literally harm the opponent players. Wait, is that possible with the Duel Disks? I can already imagine Kaiba telling me “Of course! Don't you know anything about science?” with a horrible pseudo-German accent. Science in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe is just the same as their way to deal with problems. Over-the-top, ridiculous, and totally centered around card games. Anyway, what sucks is that you do NOT get the God Card during this duel, and the Mime does not use it in his Deck either, which means that he's a lot easier to defeat. Listen: In the original series, he was so difficult to defeat that Yami Yugi only won thanks to a technicality! (The rule that says that you lose when you run out of cards to draw.)

Oh yeah, sometimes the monsters apepar as sprites here too.
Okay, um... back to the story now, the mime has been defeated, and as a result Nikorasu can now visit two more locations: An arcade and the city aquarium. He must first go to the arcade, where he meets up with Joey. The guy's been dueling for a while, so he's taking a break. However, he snaps out of this break as soon as he sees how many Locator Cards the player character got already. Joey hurries out, but there's still a lot of duelists in the arcade to be dueled. Once that's done, Nikorasu goes to the aquarium. At the end of it, he sees Joey, who's losing against Mako Tsunami, renowned for being a crazy fish guy who loves the sea. You can duel Joey to give him some help, but Mako refuses that you duel him until you've defeated the other four water duelists around the place. Seriously, if you thought the game was too easy, those guys are a sudden spike in difficulty. Hope you like them, because they have the sea game field set on default, and this increases the stats of all their monsters by a few hundreds. In other words, their monsters are much stronger than the ones you have met before. Things are getting real.

I hope so! We'll "sea" who's the best between us two!
Still, once the pushovers are beaten, it's all between Orange Cap Boy and Mako. You know, this scene here shows just how much of a Gary Stu the player character is in this situation. In the original story, Joey didn't lose against the sea guy. Mako was using disloyal tactics such as hiding his monsters in the aquarium's reservoir, but by the end Joey still found the opponent's weakness and won. Here, he gets beaten, washed off, defeated, and you are the one to beat Mako and take his card. Yeah, imagine that.

I hate to say it, but I'm just not feeling for these characters in this setting. Oh, don't worry, I would like to. But I only feel for them in the manga or the anime, because that's where they belong. Here, their spot gets stolen by a nobody who's supposed to represent the player. Kids, remember: Yami Yugi has defeated psychopaths in dangerous games, he's put his life at risk, he's saved the world, but you're still better than him! Even if your character has as much personality as an elementary school's cafeteria food!

Stupid Ghouls! Robes are impractical to walk and duel with!
So, Nikorasu (urgh) defeats Mako and gets the Locator Card. Look at this, he has all six now! He can go to the finale! He heads back to Yugi and his grandpa's toy shop to discover the location of the finale – oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Yugi's grandfather is there and tells the player character that Joey came by a bit ago and left with Téa Gardner, the pretty – but rather useless – token girl in the main group. Joey looked weird, apparently. Yugi also enters the shop, but soon enough a hooded figure appears and talks to them. He's a member of the Ghouls (or Rare Hunters – seriously, Ghouls is more menacing; Rare Hunters sounds like cheap Indiana Jones villains). He tells the protagonists that Joey and Téa are somewhere in Domino City, under their control. Nikorasu and Yugi show resistance against the Ghoul, and so he leaves. The two main characters decide to split up and look for clues around the city.

Many locations have Ghouls scattered around them at this point in the game. You have to defeat every. Single. One of them. Good luck with that! They use Shadow decks. As in, literal Shadow decks. What? Shadow isn't a Type nor an Attribute in the card game? Well, here, it freaking is.

(Warning: Extreme Geek Moment Incoming.)

Oh yeah, I should mention the most infamous aspect of this stupid game's mechanics. The original card game had only seven Attributes: Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, Light, Darkness and Divine. Here? 11. Oh yeah, because it respects the original card game so well! You see, very monster card has its Attribute here, and every Attribute (except Divine) has its strength and weakness. Your opponent pulls out a card too strong for you? If you use a creature whose Attribute is that monster's weakness, you can beat it instantly!

Seriously, has this become a fucking pastiche of Pokémon? No, seriously, look! The many Attributes in this game are separated in three groups. First there's Fire, Forest, Wind, Ground, Thunder and Water. How does Forest defeat Wind, don't ask me. Then there's Light, Darkness, Dream and Shadow. Again, how does Darkness defeat Dream, or how Shadow defeats Light, don't ask me. I couldn't care any less. Last but not least, the Divine Attribute, which has no strengths nor weaknesses, and is owned by... Not only the God Cards, but also all the Ritual monsters here. Wow, this is totally like the card game!

...My sarcasm known no limits.

You thought this wasn't insulting enough to the original game? Well, it gets worse. Due to cartridge limitations (or maybe because the developers thought the gamers were idiots), most cards have been changed. Over the 900 cards in this game, there's maybe 1 or 2% that are “original cards”. Some of the others are changed beyond recognition. If you expected to play a faithful version of the card game, you've been tricked. Also, the effects are all weird; many monsters who would have had effects in the original game have lost their effect now, while other monsters who didn't have effects originally now have effects. Try to make sense of that. Oh wait, that's not all. Fusion monsters were entirely removed from the game, and the way Ritual Summons work is very different as well. For a Ritual Monster, you now need to have one monster in particular on the field and then be able to sacrifice one or more other monsters. And if your Duelist Level is over 255, you can Summon them without having to do any of that.

Look! This one should have been a Fusion Monster!

Now that's what I call messing around with the formula.

Oh, also due to “cartridge limitations” (I say that because I don't feel right insulting video game developers directly), most card effects are pretty darn similar, many being almost copy-pastes of others. Many effects are simplified to an extreme. Field Spells will increase the right monsters' ATK and DEF, not by a set amount, but by a percentage. All other effects that increase or decrease ATK and DEF do so... by 500, every time, while in the original cards the amounts were much more diverse. But here, no 100, no 200, no 300, no 400, no 600, no 700, no 800, no 900, no 1,000... 500. Every. Single. Time.

Like that makes sense with the original game.

There's more key differences between this and the original card game: You can only use a monster's effect on the turn that it is summoned; Trap Cards can only be used during the opponent's turn, not during yours; there's practically no special summons; you can discard cards from your hand, or send any cards from your Field to the Graveyard directly, at any moment during your turn; you can Tribute monsters at any moment as well, which gets confusing since you can do it even if you don't have a Level 5+ monster in your hand nor an effect that requires a Tribute. And honestly, those are the worst ones I can think off the top of my head. Still, that's quite a few, huh?

It's almost as if the game was simplified for newbie players, so they can learn the basics. But there's the problem; since the cards are different in many cases AND the effects are different in other cases AND the gameplay is too different from the original card game, it's not a good tool to learn how to play with the real cards. Therefore, it even fails in its "simple for newbies" description.

(Extreme Geek Moment Over.)

See? This game is really unfaithful to the source material in both possible ways: In its representation of the manga, turning into some sort of self-insert fanfic, and in its representation of the card game it is freaking based on! ...Oh wait, that's right, it's too early to give my final thoughts. We still got the second half of the game to beat! Tune in this Friday!

By the way, never forget: