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May 19, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 4)

Seeing as this is Part 4 of a very long review, I strongly suggest you go read the preceding three parts if you haven't yet: Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.

Hello again? Yeah, still me. Still rambling on about a certain series and a video game adaptation that was made for it. Don't worry, it ends today. I've been re-reading what I wrote in the past two weeks and I came to a stunning realization: I know way too much about fanfiction. Okay, I've read a lot, I've also written quite a few – which is probably why I make fun of it so much; self-deprecation FTW! – but I'm also very able to write original stuff. And Heck, all my writing tips so far are about the don'ts of fanfic writing, which are just one step below the don'ts of real story writing. Okay, so... where was I... Oh, right! The finale!

This is gonna be epic. I mean, really epic. Like, so freaking totally epic that you won't believe it. You'll really see how far a card game can go. That is, not THAT epic, actually...

Indeed, not so epic...

What are we waiting for? Let's go!

After “Marik”'s arrival at the finale, the eight finalists get aboard the blimp, as the quarter-finale is about to begin. Each time, two opponents are drawn out from a giant sphere, they duel, and the process is repeated. Duel one: Yugi VS Bakura. Oh hey, the wimp versus the shy.

Bakura, you're twelves flavors of screwed against Slifer the Execut-
I mean, Slifer the Sky Dragon! ...What was I thinking...
Then again, if you've read the manga or watched the anime, you should know that this ends very badly; Yami Yugi battles Yami Bakura, and it ends with Yami Bakura being utterly vaporized by an attack coming from Osiris the Sky Dragon (AKA Slifer in the anime; Before you ask, yes, I have a social life). The original Bakura is still alive, but comatose for a bit. Well, this also happens in this game. Glad to see that it respected at least one aspect of the series.

The six that haven't dueled yet join again in the lotto room, and Nikorasu's number gets picked. I should mention that in the original line-up, Isis Ishtar was one of the eight duelists at the finale. But Nikorasu took her place here, which led to most other duels in the finale to be switched around. Therefore, “Marik” was originally fought by Joey, but here, it's Orange Cap Boy who duels him. This “Marik” uses the same tricks as in the series and can summon the same mighty creature. However, he's not horribly hard to defeat.

Yep, you can also duel Bandit Keith again. At least HE is kind
of hard to beat, compared to the others...
I mean, by this point of the game, the player's Duelist Level should be pretty high. Over 250, that's for sure. And if it's still not high enough, there's an easy way to increase it: All the major duelists defeated over the course of the game can be found again around Domino City and re-fought at will: Bonz, Esper Roba, Rex Raptor, Weevil Underwood, Mako Tsunami... You can also fight the machine at KaibaCorp, and you can also find Bandit Keith at the Pier... AGAIN! Dammit, will you die already? I swear I'm naming my enemies after you! There's still a ton of cards available at the shop, and if the card you wanted isn't there, there's a handy little feature you can use in this game. If you collect the cards (like I do), you might have noticed an 8-digit number at the bottom left of the cards. If the card pre-dates this game, you can input that code in the shop's machine and the card will become available in the shop! This is a very nice idea, and I must say it's a welcome addition, especially if you, say, want to collect at least one of every card in the game and you can go check the 8-digit number for each one of them...

Yep, a handy little feature. Gotta give that to this game.

Alright, so, once “Marik” is defeated, he tries to call forth a false Winged Dragon of Ra, but it backfires and sends him in a coma. Namu reveals himself to be the real Marik. Who did Nikorasu battle, then? ...Namu's trusted servant and friend, Rishid? Really? Oh, crap. Sorry about that.

You heartless.

Well... It was good knowing ya, Joey. ...Not really.
Duel 3 is between Joey and... and who? Rishid has been defeated! ...It's Joey against... against Marik? Oh crap, once again. Since Marik is the one with the real God card, he defeats Joey... easily, I must add... and sends him in a coma. Why am I not surprised. I should mention that this duel happens in the semi-finals in the original story, not in the quarter-finals, which means it happened earlier this time. Oh right, I have to show emotion. I had almost forgotten: Boo hoo, poor Joey and all this kind of stuff.

So, duel 4 is between Mai and Kaiba. Kaiba quickly beats her with his three trusted Blue-Eyed White Dragons. Did I mention that the duels occurred on top of the blimp, and to add more “epic” to the story, while the blimp is flying towards the true destination of the finale? After Mai and Kaiba's duel, the blimp lands on a wrecked island on which only one tower rests: The duel tower! Everyone arrives at the tower, amazed at its sight. Honestly, this is not an architectural work of art, so I don't give a damn. Still, the semi-finales happen between these walls, and then the finale will be at the very top.

Who does Nikorasu duel in the semi-finale? ...Take a wild guess. A wild freaking guess. Our hero, a perfect nobody, is a friend of the original Yu-Gi-Oh series' cast, has gone through both Yugi AND Joey's storylines, he has saved Yugi's life, and now he's in the finale. He has only one step left to show that he's better then everyone else: He's dueling Yami Yugi. He is going against the strongest duelist in the series, the REAL protagonist. Oh, and of course, you have to defeat him.

WRITING TIP #5: IF YOUR CHARACTER IS BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE, EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL HEROES, IT'S A MOTHER-FLIPPING MARY SUE! Screw you, game!

At the cost of the last remaining thread of sense in this
plot.

So... *sigh*... I never thought I'd write these lines myself... It makes no sense, and you know it, you all know it... Orange Cap Boy, Mister “LEGO Brick of a personality”, nicknamed Nikorasu for the sake of having a name, the little nobody defeats Yami freaking Yugi and gains Slifer the Sky Dragon. Yes, I just wrote that. The continuity nut in me feels like he got stabbed by a bad plot. But it happened.

"Game over, man!"
...After this battle, Kaiba duels Marik on top of the tower, where he opposes great resistance for a while... but Marik easily defeats him with the Winged Dragon of Ra. Also, guess what, Kaiba faints. He'll be in a coma until Marik is defeated. Now that makes three characters who pushed the game too far. You know, this card game is dangerous. Don't those characters want a less.. um... risky pastime, such as flower arrangement or macrame? Maybe collecting beer bottle caps or participating in dog shows? I heard that Magic: The Gathering isn't half bad, either.

Everyone goes to see Kaiba in his room aboard the blimp's infirmary, after which it's time for the very last duel of the whole game. The player VS Yami Marik Ishtar. I hope you're ready, because this is gonna be a HARD battle. Because of the set Field, nearly all of Marik's monsters have an ATK over 2,000, and it can be very easy for him to lead the Duel and bring your Life Points down to 0. He's the final boss, of course he's gonna be hard to beat.

But, obviously, Nikorasu defeats Marik. I'll admit, if you know a good strategy and you can use it from the start, you'll lead the duel fairly quickly. I mean, the first times I battled him I had trouble, as he was really strong. But after a few times, he becomes a lot easier to defeat. Once you know his strategy and you can counter him in the first turns... Not to mention that this isn't the manga or the anime; he isn't gonna pull out his God Card as easily, because we all know that in the friggin' series, all the characters seem to pull out the right card at the right moment, magically like it was meant to happen; even the villains do that, which is why they always manage to make their combos come true before the dueling protagonist can fight back. I never believed in that “Heart of the Cards” bullcrap, if you ask me. I prefer to put my beliefs in something more important to mankind.

My God, another one in a coma? Is this Raise Comatose
Awareness day?

Okay, so... When Yami Marik is defeated, he vanishes, reverting to Namu, and the boy faints. After what the group goes to the infirmary, wait by Joey's bed to see him wake up. Ah, so defeating the root of all evil frees from coma those who succumbed to it? Good to know... I guess... Mokuba also passes by to say they the blimp will land soon in Domino City... and he also thanks Nikorasu for saving his brother. Kaiba woke up as well in the other room. And so did Rishid.

You did inherit the Winged Dragon of Ra God Card after beating Marik, but Isis Ishtar forces you to give all three cards back to her. Hey, no fair! I didn't get to try my new card! And she won't leave until you give them back. No way to progress further unless you do. Which means you never get to try the final God Card. Unless you hack, but would you really do that for a freaking Yu-Gi-Oh! Game??? So you give the three God Cards back. Next, back at Times Rectangle, Nikorasu, Joey and Yugi go home, tell each other goodbye, and that's how it ends.

Hey! I want my God Cards back,, you little...
Oh hey, I saved Marik? And everyone else? Hurray!

What a hilariously stupid piece of dumbed-down cheesy mother-loving awesome crap.

No, really: I kept saying that this is both one of my favorite AND most despised games. I don't think I've seen a lot of games that gave me such strong conflicting emotions. I love this game, but I also hate it.

Come on, you're just awaiting for an idiot wearing an orange
cap and a backpack. One who shouldn't even exist in this
world. Give me the card, I'll beat Marik and vanish
forever. Hopefully.
The plot is similar enough to what was in the manga, so I can say Konami tried to be faithful. At the same time, they had to create a Player Character for the plot to work, so they made Orange Cap Boy. He fits more the description of a Pokémon protagonist than a Yu-Gi-Oh one. He doesn't even have the wacky haircut! He has a cap covering his head! (It's not “What's wrong with his hair”, it's “Why is his hair NOT wrong?”) Also, since he plays both Yugi and Joey's storylines, that makes him a Black Hole Sue, and this makes this whole game's plot a cheap self-insert fanfiction. But at the same time, it's freaking Yu-Gi-Oh! If you've even barely followed the Abridged series, you know it's always been weird and absurd. It's like everything revolves around card games. And in some cases, it's really funny to see how things go. The player character defeats weakling, then normal duelists, then a bunch of Ghouls, and even major Yu-Gi-Oh characters. Is it justified that he can defeat the strongest duelists that were in the series? Not really, unless “being the Player Character” counts. That's the sole reason he can do all that. Therefore, the plot is still very interesting; I do kind of like how both storylines were blended into a single one. It's some good Japanese cheese-fest, the kind of cheesy stuff you've come to expect from the sillier things that reached North America and gained a fanbase. But at the same time, this really makes Orange Cap Boy a horrible character when you think about it. The plot entirely revolves around him, not around the real protagonists of the series. Does this game have a good plot? No. Is it contrived in order to put all the importance on your character? Hell yes. This is flawed, horribly flawed, all in favor of your Gary Stu of a character. But damn, this power fantasy is also kinda awesome.

The pixel art looks very nice. The worlds are very pretty, and you can easily recognize all the main characters thanks to their in-game sprite. Then again, with such a colorful cast... Anyway, if you didn't recognize them on first sight, you'll get a mugshot of the major characters on the screen; those close-ups are clear, so you will recognize them.

Woah, yeah, there was definitely some work put into this. Credit goes to
user Kazushi of Sprite Database for this.

That's just 100 out of the 900. Impressive, you can give them
that. Picture from The Spriters Resource.
Yeah, like these. I think that's a nice touch. Even the unimportant duelists, those weaklings who walk around the locations of the game, each one has its own sprite, which is really a cool idea. Each person in this game (Except the Ghouls, of course) has its own appearance. It's nice. Likewise, each screen of each location is very detailed and has its own feel, which is important for a game that is meant to be a re-telling of a story seen in both a manga and an animated series. Also good to mention, during duels, the cards are shown in tiny sprites, but are still distinguishable from the others, as every card can still be recognized by its sprite. However, when the cards battle and when you look at a card's stats and description, you see a zoomed-in version of the cards; they are just as detailed as the original cards! The art of all the 900 cards has been re-created in pixelated form so that you would instantly look at one and say “I know that one! It's __________!” If you're a geek like me, you might add: “I know it because it's in my collection!” The music isn't too bad either, you can go through the game and not grow tired of it, but after the first playthrough you might find yourself lowering the portable console's volume.

On the other hand, look at the cards you hae in the starting
Deck. You'd almost want to cry. Good thing the opponents
give Ante cards and money when you beat them, Or else...
Now, the second deal breaker: The gameplay. Turning a card game like Yu-Gi-Oh into a video game is a long and tedious task, because there's hundreds of different cards to put in there and dozens of computer character Decks to create. I understand that Konami did the best they could with what they had. I've got to admit, I felt like the first enemies (the first, um... fourth of the game, say), were way too easy to defeat, and the last ones were either very difficult or not difficult enough. Guess that's what happens when you are playing against computer opponents a card game based on the luck of drawing the right cards to make your combo. I'd say the game's difficulty is just right. You will probably lose a few times on the way, but if you save frequently, there should be no problem. The enemies give good cards to help with your Deck when you defeat them, and many major duelists give tremendous amounts of money so that you can buy lots of good cards in the shop.

However, I think it really sucks that the cards and the gameplay have been changed so much for this GBA game. I mean, all those who grew up with the cards are going to look at every single card in this and say: “No, this monster didn't have an effect!” “This one HAD an effect!” “What the Hell, this has never been a Ritual monster!” “Since when is this not a Fusion monster?” “This effect is overpowered!” “This one isn't, it's too weak!” “God, this sucks!” Seriously, try to explain the cards in this game to someone who has only played with the real ones, and he'll look at you like you've been stranded on an island for four years.

Another example of a lame card that has a high Level
just because its Defense is high. What the Hell.
It also sorta  sucks that the game had to work with a Level system and limitations to the construction of your Deck. I mean, the card game was created with a very clear idea in mind; anyone can use any card or combination of cards in their Deck. The whole point to the Yu-Gi-Oh card game is that you can build a very strong Deck, given that you have all the cards to create good combos. Here, any form of creativity is halted, you can't do whatever you want in the game with the cards presented to you, because you need to be above a card's Level in order to use it, and you ALSO have to be able to fit that card into your 40-card Deck, which is easier said than done considering the maximum Deck value you can reach...

However! No matter what I can say about these changes to the cards... oddly enough, within this game, it actually kind of works. Listen to me before you start punching! I know it's not the real card game. It cannot be, as the limited programming space of a GBA cartridge probably wouldn't have been able to get all the original effects of the 900 cards available in this (By the way, you gotta admit that 900 is still very impressive). My guess is that they made the card game simpler for the newbies (which, admittedly, I was at the time when this game came out), by removing the more complex effects. This doesn't totally prepare them for the real thing, but it's a good start, I guess, if you don't mind having only the basics down and having to re-learn the rest. Also, I think the Level and Deck space limitations are there for a reason. They force you to start off with a Deck barely stronger than the opponents, and as you progress your Duelist Level increases, giving you access to better cards and letting you face better duelists. The strength of your opponents increases as you progress, but your own Level increases also at a steady pace so you are always going to have a chance against the opponents, and whenever you battle a strong duelist for the first time, their Level is pretty close to yours, so the later duelists still offer a challenge the first time you duel against them.

This doesn't excuse one of the big changes that is having 11 Attributes in the game (instead of 6), a modification that is just unnecessary. We could have done without it. Feels too much like they were trying to give the game a bit of a Pokémon feel, and for the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, it's just wrong. Not to mention the arbitrary and silly way some weak cards were given an extremely high Level that you must reach so you can use them, while even stronger cards have a lower Level and are therefore accessible earlier on. (Also, not being able to use the last God Card? Shame on you, Konami!)

"Yes. Shame on you, Konami, for altering the card game so much in this."
By the way, yes, I really own a Game Boy Advance SP. Sorry for the picture
quality though, I'm trying to get my webcam to make me look good.
Though you can't look good when you're frowning like this.

So yeah. Is this game awesome? Well, being the protagonist sure is, even if it causes so many plot contrivances and all sorts of other problems. But aside from that, is this game really awesome? Well, not really, but it's still a lot of fun, if you want to play a monster card game but you don't want to think too much. Is it a good game? Uh... It offers the right dose of everything so that most gamers should be happy. It also offers a healthy dose of cheesy to everyone who loves that kind of thing from the Japanese series. Those who grew up with the anime or with the cards will get offended at the large amount of changes made, both in the story (as I did) and in the gameplay, but if you look at this game like it's a beginner's first steps, then yes, it's an okay introduction to the world of Yu-Gi-Oh. Not a great one, just an okay one; after all, it's still too different from the real stuff to make it a very good introduction, but it's sill fine. Take it as its own thing, not as a faithful adaptation; it's clearly not.

Another fun thing to mention: The game was packaged with three very good cards to add to your collection. I still got two of them. The other was lost. I couldn't use it anyway.

You can drop the game now, it's over!

And now, I declare my biggest review ever... Finally OVER! Not just my biggest review ever, but the entire GBA era of Planned All Along, too! This was officially the last Game Boy Advance game I owned! Which means that I will not be reviewing Game Boy Advance games anymore (or MAYYYYYBE if I do buy other GBA games in the future, but that's not a certainty). How am I gonna fill up this spot, then? …I know! I will review... Video game flicks!

But not next week. The normal schedule will keep going, and then in June you'll probably get the first video game movie review on Planned All Along. Until then... See ya this Friday!