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October 27, 2018

Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows


I thought I wanted to play a quick game? This one could be longer than both games I reviewed before it… combined! But it’s a lot simpler to discuss. Sorry, there’s no Halloween review this year, I didn’t plan for anything along those lines. Could’ve done some more FNAF, but… nah, it can wait.

I’ve always loved tower defense games. The combination of puzzle, strategy and space management… ah, I love that. The very third game I reviewed on this blog was a tower defense game for the Nintendo DS, too: Desktop Tower Defense. There have been dozens of versions and variations, often with different mechanics; some with unchangeable paths, others where you can build the path yourself or modify it partway into a level.

Ah yes, Desktop Tower Defense. A game I
haven't touched in roughly five years...

Of all of Game In A Bottle's latest games, only one
isn't GemCraft. Dedication, right there!
Game in a Bottle brings to us Gemcraft, a series of tower defense games that were unique in execution. The towers of this strategy game wore colors, each color had an ability of its own, and you could in theory upgrade towers almost endlessly. Your sole limit was your bank of mana, which was used to build anything - towers, traps, walls, amplifiers and so on - and survive whenever monsters reached your Orb, the source of your power. Monsters reaching the Orb are respawned back at the entrance, shaving an amount of mana off your pool (an amount that gets bigger as you progress through a level’s waves, increasing difficulty), and go through the path again. The waves of monsters usually follow precise paths, but later games feature levels where you need to build a long path with walls in order to slow the monsters down - and, with some leeway, you can create an inescapable death trap where, by demolishing one wall and building another, you can capture most monsters in a loop, while leaving them vulnerable from the blast of your gem-powered towers. The left-side bar shows the progression of waves, while the right side is your gem workshop, allowing construction of gems up to Level 12 (though it’s possible to go far beyond). Some games also experiment with additional abilities such as Spells or gem enhancements. As you gain levels, you get points to use on skills that reduce the cost of towers or gems, improve the abilities of gems or have other kinds of impacts on the field.

The series has had only four main games:
-GemCraft (AKA Chapter One), which was fairly basic and in which you could only build Gems at random among the colors available in a level, adding so much unnecessary fake difficulty to the game;
-GemCraft Chapter Zero (AKA “Gem of Eternity”), which added the extra modes to every level, with now the possibility to replay early levels with some added difficulty and more Experience at the key;
-Gemcraft Labyrinth, a massive game that had 169 levels around a square map, starting at the bottom center and leading to the very center, after going around the map. It’s also where, FINALLY, you could create exactly the Gems you wanted;
-Today’s game, Chasing Shadows, also known as Chapter 2;
-And another game is in development!



October 22, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist (Part 2)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Through Part 1 last Friday, I looked at the Single-player options, namely the Tutorial section, the five campaigns each based on a series of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, and the Challenge Duels. Today: Everything else.

Is there a multiplayer mode? Why, yes! It wouldn’t be Yu-Gi-Oh! if you couldn’t duel others with your deck! You have the option of playing a ranked match (to try and get a place on the game’s leaderboards) or a simple player match. Of course, you can also look at the Leaderboards themselves. And, as you can imagine, illegal decks are not allowed here. You can use them to complete the Campaign Mode, because that’s just playing against AIs.

Well... Not super-busy around here lately.

You can find a match or create a match, and from there you have plenty of options: You can choose to play just a single game or a full match, set the starting amount of Life Points (2000, 4000, 8000, 12000 or 16000 - like the Free Play mode in Duel Transer), the time limit (none, or 30 seconds, or 1, 3, 5 or 10 minutes), or set a private slot. This isn't Free Duel - you don't set up these options to play against a computer, but against another human.

Now if I could set up these perimeters to play against
any CPU deck...

The following option from the main menu is “Battle Pack”. This is based on a certain type of tournament play, mostly seen on small events where new packs are unveiled in card stores. All participants are given a number of packs of whichever game they’re playing, and can only build a deck out of the cards they got in those packs they just opened. I’ve participated to one such event involving the Pokémon TCG once, accompanying a friend. The regular packs of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise nowadays rely too much on archetypes for this to be a viable mode of tournament (since you’d open a couple packs and not even have enough cards of each archetype to build any archetype’s core strategy). However, every once in a while Konami releases a pack that has been practically custom-made for this type of event, with cards that either can fit in a lot of decks (AKA, "splashable"), or don’t have the common restrictions of archetypes. I still remember buying some of those a couple years ago, these “Battle Packs” as they were called. That’s where the name of this section comes from.

Beating an opponent in this mode can be very tricky.
You have the choice between Sealed Play in which you open 10 5-card packs, and that’s all you can use) and Draft Play (in which you gather 45 cards from 3 rounds of pack openings). Sealed Play has the first two Battle Packs released, while Draft Play also includes the other version of the second Battle Pack (called “Round 2”). In both cases, once your deck has been built with the cards from the packs, you can then use that deck in duels. Five duels, and you can choose between playing against real people in Online mode, or against a computer. Considering this game is already a couple years old, the Online mode won’t give a lot of results, so the Single Player option will be the better one.

I hadn’t really tested that mode until writing this review, in part because I was focused on beating the Campaigns. While I enjoyed this special, restrictive way to play, I don’t think I’d go back to it all that often. However, I have to admit that it’s a fun mode, one in which you need to show resourcefulness and an ability to play cards you may have never thought about before, and how to make those interact. Keep in mind that you get random cards still, so if you got a bad bunch and all the opponents got better cards… well, too bad. You get to keep the cards, though, so it’s a bonus for collection completion.

Next is the Deck Edit section, in which you can view your collection, build a deck from scratch, or load a recipe that you’ve unlocked. I don’t think there’s much to say about the card search functions, which allow you to look for a card you own based on its name, Level/Rank, Type, Attribute, genre of Spell or Trap, kind of effect, ATK or DEF…

My favorite Deck right now is a mix of Blue-Eyes, Legendary Dragons,
quick summons and opponent card destruction. Also, many Xyz monsters.

Alright, to complete this recipe I need one more Destiny Hero - Plasma.
Off to beat up this Deck some more and get that missing card.
The best feature here might be the recipe viewer, which opens as an option when you start a deck from scratch. It can be used to see how many cards you’re missing in any deck recipe. You can already get most of the cards from buying packs, but some cards are very rare and hard to get. A victory against a recipe awards you three cards from that deck recipe, and a loss awards you only one card. Also, your trunk of cards can only hold up to three copies of every card, and the card rewards for beating Campaign levels and recipes take that into account, never giving you cards that you already own the maximum number of copies you could have (3). Really, the best way to finish the collection is to keep track of the cards you don’t own yet, and go back to duel against those deck recipes in the Campaigns (each recipe indicates the name of the “level” it appears in). All the deck recipes also indicate whether they’re legal for multiplayer play. A lot of recipes contain Forbidden cards as well as Limited cards in more copies than allowed, so you can’t use them in multiplayer unless you edit them to take out the cards that aren't allowed. For single-player campaigns, you can use them.

Oh, by the way, do you know how many recipes there are in this game? Um… According to my calculations, which may be inexact… 436. That includes the Campaign Mode’s regular and reverse duels, all of the Challenges, and all the recipes that are added from DLC packs.

So many packs, so many rare cards!
Then there’s the Card Shop. Some Yu-Gi-Oh! video games out there try to have packs that resemble the real packs sold in stores over the past 20 years. Here, not so much. The packs are split in lots of 265 cards, each one representing a character from the anime.

The packs are unlocked by progressing through the Campaigns, but they’re not that difficult to get. The last pack of a Campaign isn’t unlocked even halfway through that Campaign. You always get some cards by completing duels, so you will not always need to purchase packs. However, you always get Duel Points whether you win or lose a duel, and always enough that you can buy one or two packs even if you lost; most pack costs 400 Duel Points, except the first one at 200.

The biggest issue with every card pack is that you get 7 Commons and 1 Rare card, and some Rare cards have very, very low odds of appearing. On top of that, even though your trunk can only contain up to three copies of every card, you will keep getting copies of cards you already have, even if they just vanish. You don’t even get to sell them back for Duel Points or anything, they serve no purpose.

Oh good, just the 23rd time I get that one.
Duel Transer had special card packs, unlocked late in the game, which contained almost exclusively cards you didn’t own already. Admittedly, here, you can get cards you don’t have by repeatedly dueling against Decks containing those cards. But there’s nothing letting you get those cards quickly. On top of that, you cannot mass-buy packs in Legacy of the Duelist - instead, you have to buy one pack, open it, look at the cards you got, buy one pack, look at the cards… one… by… one… slowly… and it’s such a pain! Can’t buy 5 or 10 packs at once! Okay, some calculations: If you play for a while, you’ll quickly gather 10,000 Duel Points. You can spend that money on 25 packs, at 400 DP each, and with no quick mass-buy option, it’s long, boring, and time-wasting.

I’d argue another issue is that there’s no Free Play mode. My favorite feature of Duel Transer, the Wii game, was that you could duel against any recipe you unlocked, and set your own parameters (such as picking Duel or Match, the maximum time allotted for a turn, or the amount of starting Life Points). It was a quick way to level up, collect the in-game currency, practice against some decks, and refine your strategies. Then again, Duel Transer also had a Level Up system, which I felt was unnecessary, but at least it gave better rewards as you progressed. Arguably, the Campaign mode isn’t much different since you can go back and replay any duel, anytime, but I would have liked a mode where you can set parameters of your own and challenge yourself.

And as you can imagine, I had to buy them
all for this review.
Last but not least… the Downloadable Content. All 17 of them, each at 5$. On top of the base game at 20$, so if you want to buy everything, outside of sales, that’ll be 105$. Thanks, Konami. Every DLC pack includes two pre-constructed decks, usually containing cards you can NOT get in the base game from buying packs with Duel Points. So if you want some very particular cards… welp, you’ll need to buy those. Each DLC pack also includes a few duels with characters that weren’t part of the base game - as an example, the first DLC for the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series features the duel between Joey and Bonz, the zombie-themed duelist, as well as the duel between Kaiba and Pegasus during the Duelist Kingdom arc. There are other DLC packs for the original series, mostly involving the “Waking the Dragons” story arc of the anime with many of the released cards and the characters unique to that arc, such as Alister, Dartz or Rafael. DLC packs for other series of the franchise do the same, though GX only has two, 5Ds only has one, ZEXAL only has one. And in two cases, the packs contain the famed duel against the “Final boss” of that series. Jaden’s duel against Yami Yugi? DLC pack. Yusei versus Z-One? DLC pack. ZEXAL? …Okay, that one’s final duels are in the base game, alright.

Arc-V, the last show of the franchise at the time of Legacy of the Duelist’s release? The base game only has one Duel - every other duel must be obtained by buying the damned DLC packs. The Arc-V duels are split among not one, two or three DLC packs… but among 10 packs. You heard right: To get everything there, you gotta shill out 50 bucks.

Why is the final duel against the big bad of the series
a DLC content exclusive??
Admittedly, not all’s bad. On top of the pre-constructed decks with cards that can’t be obtained otherwise, the included duels can also be played in reverse, and you unlock additional Challenge Duels the same way you’d unlock them in regular campaigns, for characters added through the DLCs. Last duel a character appears in, and they’re defeated, that’s how their Challenge Duel is unlocked. Admittedly, they won’t count towards Steam achievement completion (since those only take into account the duels of the base game), but it’s still nice. Wished it wasn’t 5$ a pop, though, as some of these DLC packs really aren’t worth that price. But hey, I guess it’s less scummy than forcing players to pay 10$ for an extra save file… I doubt Konami will ever be allowed to live that one down.

Dueling all the tiime, all day... it'll take me hundreds of
hours to get all the cards.
I think I’ve covered everything. So, how does this fare? Well… it’s pretty good. The throwback to 20 years of collected history across five Yu-Gi-Oh! anime is definitely a welcome concept. It allowed me to learn more about every series through meeting their characters, their Decks, and following the progression of the Campaigns. That every single character gets at least two Decks, from one to 20+ Campaign Decks and a Challenge Duel deck, is also pretty cool (though sometimes the archetype/Deck used by that character in the Challenge portion may seem arbitrary, not fitting the character’s theme or style from the anime). This game has everything: The classic Decks, the classic monsters and strategies, a way to collect them all, and some extras against the most powerful Decks of a time. All across over 400 deck recipes. That is humongous.

Unlike Duel Transer, this one doesn’t have animations for the anime characters, only for a few key monster cards. The surrounding backgrounds for the duels change quite a bit, which is nice. The story segments in the Campaign are pretty cool too, even if the characters are mostly stills with different facial expressions and all the dialogue is written.

The only place where Kaiba can actually defeat Yugi.
My issues were almost all described in this post so far: There’s no option to mass-buy packs in the Shop, nor do we stop getting cards that we already own in three copies. There is no Free Play mode allowing someone to play against an unlocked Deck recipe with options of their choosing. The difficulty is all over the place and unequal across Campaigns, but that’s a common problem of games for this franchise. The more annoying aspect is with the DLCs, which give out cards that can’t be obtained in the base game, and sometimes offer way too little bonus content for the 5$ price tag of each.

But overall, it’s still a fun experience, I recommend this game.

The Stardust Dragon is creepier than I remember it.

Next week… I need something short and quick to review.

October 19, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist (Part 1)


Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Some people waste their time away in Minecraft, Skyrim (I’m gonna get to that one eventually!), World of Warcraft, Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch… I’m hooked on the damned children’s trading cards.

Someday, maybe, I will watch those shows.
I probably won't find the time for that, though.
Following last week’s review of Duel Transer for the Wii, I found myself wanting more. Thankfully, there is no shortage of Yu-Gi-Oh! video games out there. Konami has been pretty active in releasing new games on all platforms, including for PC. As far as Yu-Gi-Oh! games go, most of them are fairly basic and have a story. They tend to focus on one era of the anime, usually the era the game was released in. Still waiting for the first official game for VRAINS, so I can learn through trial and error how the latest gameplay mechanics actually work.

It only makes sense that some games based on the collectible cards would make their way onto Steam. So far, there are two: Legacy of the Duelist, and Duel Links. Looking up “Yu-Gi-Oh” on Steam’s search engine also brings up the possibility to purchase some seasons of the franchise's various anime. You can also see a lot of DLC packs, all of which are to be used within Legacy of the Duelist. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Are you ready for a trip across twenty years'
worth of Yu-Gi-Oh! history? Count me in!
Duel Links is a game taken from mobile, with different gameplay mechanics to the real game, but I’ll get around to talking about that one eventually. For the moment, we dive into Legacy of the Duelist. Remember when I said that there was a near-infinite replay value to these games? This one seems to embody this mindset, even moreso than the previous one I reviewed, Duel Transer (check out that review here). I could reasonably see myself playing this for hundreds of hours, though it does come with its flaws.

This one is also special in that it doesn’t focus on a single era of the franchise. While it came out during the time of Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (the fifth iteration, featuring protagonist Yuya Sakaki), it actually prominently features every previous generation and their characters. This game is available on the Steam market for 19.99$.

Come along, it’s time for more Yu-Gi-Oh!

October 12, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Duel Transer (Part 3)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Some characters who appear later in the anime
are unlocked later in the game.
You thought I was done with this one? Nope! In fact, while I may have discussed most of the Story Mode in Part 2, I still have a lot to talk about. The cards have been released since 1999 in Japan and 2002 in America. The Trading Card Game has changed drastically since then, and has brought to us thousands of cards to be collected, traded, and used in duels. Point being, with every new set released, new cards come out, new archetypes appear… New strategies show up. The fantastic aspect of newer Yu-Gi-Oh! video games is that they serve as a long history of the card game itself, as the creators of the game have access to this large backlog of cards and archetypes, from which it’s possible to build more decks than one could ever envision. It would be a waste to have so many possibilities and not use them.

After Duel Transer’s Story Mode, you unlock a special area called Niflheimr (God, I suck at these Norse mythology names). It’s a special bonus area, 20 floors (when the Story Mode has, in total, 14 floors), with nothing but Transcenders to duel, all with powerful Decks. So, if you want to beat the game, you’ll have to go through every single floor and defeat every single duelist. Each archetype you can think of that predates 2010? Each possible strategy that can prove troublesome, or set of cards that have proven popular, whether it’s in tournaments, or as troll moves in casual play? You bet.

Get ready to see a lot of those.

Example: This deck recipe focused on the infamous Stall strategy
that uses the no-less-infamous card Final Countdown.
Oh, and you want to know the best part? Most of the Decks used by Transcenders on the 20 floors of Niflheimr are ILLEGAL. As in, they use forbidden or limited cards, sometimes in a number of copies higher than you’re allowed to have in your own deck. In Duel Transer, you are allowed to have any card you want in your Deck, but you must respect the Limited (one copy maximum) and Semi-Limited (two copies maximum) state of some cards, all of which have been given this setting precisely because they were overpowered for the meta-game of the day. To fend off the opponents, you are allowed exactly one Forbidden card in your Deck. As an example, you can only run one copy of certain cards such as Swords of Revealing Light or Mirror Force (back in the day, you could only have one of either - their restrictions have since been lifted, due to the power creep).

The Niflheimr Transcenders can have three copies of each.

In short: The computer is a cheating bastard.

October 8, 2018

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Duel Transer (Part 2)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Month
5Ds: Duel Transer - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Legacy of the Duelist - Part 1 - Part 2

Why is it that most characters in this game have hair that you'd seem able
to pull off their heads like they're some LEGO minifigurine wigs?
In Part 1, I explained the gameplay mechanics of this particular Yu-Gi-Oh game, and touched on the plot a little. This time, I will be discussing the plot in greater detail.

Duelist Nicolas completes the area at the entrance of Yggdrasil and is allowed to walk inside, moving forward in this competition. I should note that the Personal Digital Assistant, sent to each duelist invited to the tournament, grants access to many of the main menu’s features, like editing your Deck or viewing your Status. You also get access to the shop, so every time you gain DP (Duel Points, the game’s currency), you can use them to either purchase new booster packs or recipes of decks you’ve defeated.

Just a big can loaded with knowledge of the cards.
It can go down like any other duelist.

I said they had good decks. That means they can still get screwed
over by bad luck.
Surtr, creator of this tournament, boots up the system required for Stage 2. An odd robot walks into the area, with a light samurai-like design to it. This, Surtr explains, is a Transcender. It has the cards, power and wisdom of a duelist, all it lacks is the soul. So, basically, it’s just a big robot programmed with knowledge of how the card game works. Just a CPU to defeat. One loser from the previous area tries to brute-force his way into Stage 2 but is defeated quickly by the Transcender in a duel. Surtr says that in order to get to the next floor, duelists will have to duel each other to remove weaker duelists, but also defeat the Transcender, which is using a deck modeled after one used by an early opponent in the anime. And from what I understand, it’s going to be that way for each floor of the Yggdrasil tower: Duel adversaries, duel a Transcender(s), move up. That tower seemed to have only 5 or 6 floors, it should be quick.

It's pretty cool that some Duelists have their key cards.
Even Carly! The... Dark Signer... oh crap.
What I love about a game like this one is that you get to duel against the characters of the show, experience their strategies as if you were in the series. Characters start with weaker versions of their own decks, improving over time. Before you know it, you have to duel against the best decks they’ve used in the anime.

I should also mention that among the secrets in the game, there are areas gated off from the rest, containing extra duelists. Those can usually only be accessed by owning particular cards. Those usually lead to the Dark Signers, major villains from the first season of the anime. All of them can be found and fought.

Leo sports the kind of adorableness that can kill.
Can I add something else that I actually like about this game? I like how every character of the anime was given a CGI body that appears in duels. Each one has a duel start animation with a line of dialogue, then other animations when they summon a monster, declare an attack, or get hit by your attacks. Last but not least, they have both victory and defeat animations depending on the duel’s outcome. That’s pretty cool. A lot of important Synchro monsters from the anime also get their own animations, when they’re summoned or when they’re attacking, and those can be collected in a gallery in the game’s Database section. It’s a self-imposed challenge to collect all these animations.

In Part 1, I mentioned that this game was up-to-date with the banlist of the physical card game, up to 2014 when the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was terminated. This game, which updated until the end, thus has all the Forbidden, Limited and Semi-Limited cards of the time. However, the game is difficult, so we were given mercy by Konami, and we’re allowed a single Forbidden card in the Deck. You’ll be grateful for it. Choose yours wisely…

Yet you can use as many Limited cards as you want..
But only one copy of each.

Ha! Right! There's literally four dozens of you
out there. All small names with big egos!
Now I, Nicolas, will knock you all down!
The second floor of Yggdrasil features the next addition to the room tile puzzle: Locked gates, with one duelist in the room possessing the key. You have to find that duelist, defeat them, get the key and move forward. Keep in mind that the key you get can be used to unlock only one panel - stupid one-use, breakable keys! Things just get more complex from there. On the next floor, you have to defeat two Transcenders. Floor 3 is also where you start to properly duel the Signers, heroes of the show, with Akiza Izinski as one of the first, and she uses a mean deck with plants and effects that steal your monsters. As for the Transcenders themselves, they’re using a Toon deck and a Lightsworn deck respectively. I could say what each opponent uses as an archetype, but those of you who don’t sufficiently know the card game wouldn’t know them.

So we get to the fourth floor, and I have a bad feeling about it. Just remember what the Japanese word for “four” sounds like in Japanese. As if to confirm my thoughts, Surtr says that there are three Transcenders to defeat here! Oh great, just add one more to each floor, why don’t you? There aren’t only Transcenders here, though; there’s also a strange machine that speaks like a human, as if it was some dollar-store Iron Man clad in red and white, that goes by the name of Odin (if the text boxes are to be believed, anyway). If this is just a suit of armor and not a robot, it must be mighty impractical for the person inside. Look at those stupid shoulders!

Forget the silly haircuts, the lucky draws, the weird card-based drama.
These shoulders are the dumbest thing in the entirety of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.

The majestic performance of Nicolas in this tournament so far has attracted a lot of eyes. There are darker forces at play here. A lot of characters are discussing the Transcenders and how those robots getting proper souls would make them undefeatable. Aw, come on! Card games aren’t a thing of soul! What you need is a good Deck that can beat your adversary, that’s all! Don’t give me that do-goody-good “Heart of the Cards” bullshit!

Odin, huh? The All-Seeing Eye of Norse mythology?
Where's Thor? Still playing Hero on Earth?
Oh, and Odin has to be defeated, as they block the way to the exit. Get ready, though; they’re the hardest boss thus far. That Aqua Deck is surprisingly versatile and strong - and, like every other adversary deck, actually usable once you unlock it and get all of the cards! (Note that, in order to be able to use a Deck recipe, you have to buy it from the Shop, you don't instantly unlock it. You thus need to gather the currency of the game in order to purchase the recipe, then get the cards in the Shop's packs.)

Past Odin is a Transcender using a Monarchs deck, and once it’s defeated Nicolas moves to the next floor. Meanwhile, other characters (such as Tetsu Trudge) lose to the latest opponent. Someone on this floor uses an Earthbound Immortal card, which is the strongest weapon of a Dark Signer. Now, if you actually know the real-life Earthbound Immortal cards, you know they kind of suck, but then again so does every “overpowered weapon” card used by villains of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime that get a nerf when it’s time to bring them to the actual game.

In the real card game, they suck.
They look pretty cool, though.

All of the locks.
The fifth floor is also the last, so it’s where the competition shall end, right? With Nicolas still in the race, Yusei and Jack still around as well. Hm, that game was shorter than I thought. On this floor, there’s no shortcut. You have to go on one path, defeat all the duelists there (including Jack Atlas), then unlock the gate that leads to the second path, on which you duel all the duelists and then Yusei for another key, which unlocks the way to two Transcenders, which must be dueled, after which we go against Surtr. Seems simple enough. Let’s do that.

For the record, there are three levels of locks, with associated Key Cards LV1 to 3. Part of the puzzle aspect of the grid-based levels is to not only find out which character has a key, but also which has the key with the correct level that you need right now. Goddammit, this system’s overly complicated for no good reason.

Fighting Jack? Oh yes, the spot of King of Games is mine!
With all the major duelists on this floor, it feels like the final level. Many memorable duels take place here. Since I’ve had so many hours on my save file, I’ve collected all the cards in the game, all in three copies. Thus, I’ve been able to build for myself a custom deck that relies on the easy summon of Level 8 monsters (mostly Blue-Eyes White Dragon - yes, I am going the Kaiba route), along with ways to bypass the nasty little tricks opponents can have on their side. While replaying through this last floor, I have been saved multiple times by the Fusion summon of the Ultimate Blue-Eyes White Dragon, a monster with 4500 ATK (for the record, the maximum printed value on a card is 5000).

I can't see a thing! I can't play card games in this
situation!
Yusei, Jack and the others desperately wanted to ask Surtr about the Earthbound Immortals. Since the organizer of this tournament would only answer to its winner, Nicolas accepts to ask that question for them… But before Surtr can give a proper answer, Odin intervenes. It first mocks Surtr for thinking it’s human (apparently he’s just an advanced Transcender believing to be a human??? What???), and then causes an earthquake that sends everybody tumbling down the tower, ending up in a dark basement. Everybody turns out fine. The plot armor is strong with them. They make sure that everyone’s alright, then wonder where they are. Odin, who is also there, explains that this is Bifröst, located underneath Yggdrasil. And that if anybody wants answers, they’ll just have to go down the floors of Bifröst, all the way to the bottom one, which Odin claims to be Valhalla. Still rocking the Norse theme, huh?

Okay, who applied the purple filter to Armstrong?
Cut that out!
The first floor of Bifröst (which I guess could be called Floor Minus 1) uses the breaking floor tiles explained earlier. Those can severely hinder your movements around the board if they break. All the heroes can really do is explore and defeat the various Transcenders. Forget the faceless human duelists. Now, you’ll be duelist robots almost all the time. With, of course, the occasional battle against the major anime character. As an example, here, after you beat up the three Transcenders (and three is nothing compared to later floors), Chief Armstrong appears covered in darkness, like something’s controlling him. We have to duel him in order to reach the end of this floor. And this, conveniently, frees him from the spirit. Or whatever it is that has taken control. I didn't know a children's trading card game could do that.

I'm trying to stay away, but you're the one challenging
me to a duel right now!
So what now? Well, on Floor Minus 2, it’s Hunter Pace who gets possessed and has to be defeated. Still not that bad. Expect this to become a regular thing on each floor of this “building”. Floor Minus 3, it’s Randsborg’s turn. Floor Minus 4? It’s Leo’s turn. Floor Minus 5? It’s now Crow who gets possessed. Meanwhile, Odin just watches and gloats. Because, y’know, they're a generic anime villain with no real reason to exist. Nah, worse than that; feels like a generic anime filler villain. “Here, your friend is mine now, you’re getting weak, haha, goodbye, see you at the end!” Floor Minus 6 continues the trend with Luna, and Floor Minus 7 sees Akiza being possessed as well. So, if I understand right, only Yusei, Jack and the protagonist are strong-willed enough to not fall into the villain’s trap.

And the award of "Most Unpronounceable Name" goes to...
Llanfair­pwll­gwyn­gyll­go­gery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch!
...But Hlidskjalf is a close second.

Past Bifröst Floor Minus 7, we reach… Um… Okay, I’d like to buy a vowel. I’ve done well so far, but I don’t think I could pronounce this. I can at least try writing it correctly. This is Hlidskjalf. Hey, I thought we had been promised Valhalla?  Both Yusei and Jack have decided that enough is enough, and are ready to stop Odin if that’s the last thing they do… But the protagonist, Nicolas, is there as well and only one of them can go duel against Odin.

First the past King, then the current King of Games...
And then, the Big Bad!
Only one way to settle that out: Duel! And this is the last floor of the actual Story Mode, so as you can expect, the battles here are going to be very difficult. Yusei and Jack are at full power, and will use every trick they know. Mass summon of Synchro monsters? You bet. Crazy powerful effects? Certainly. Still, they’re not impossible to defeat. You might have to customize your deck to counter their tactics, though. Both Yusei and Jack have a Level 3 key card, and two Level 3 lock panels block the way to Odin, so you need to defeat them.

You're saying this like I'm the bad guy!

So much stuff in this maze. So complicated.
Disadvantage of the board game panel system: You won’t be able to get every item on a board unless you’re extremely lucky, the rolling of Action Points can be a pain in the ass, and there are hidden Transcenders on bonus levels that you won’t know about till you’ve rolled for AP enough times. Makes completion very difficult. The advantage is that the boards are made so that many duels can be skipped, if you’re not aiming for completion. The plot-relevant duels can’t be avoided, and if you’re looking for a key card owned by a nearby duelist you might have to duel (and defeat) everybody around you before finding what you need. At least you don’t have to duel every single opponent on a floor unless you do it on purpose. I made use of a guide from GameFAQs after a while, once in order to beat the bonus floors, once more in order to find the Transcenders and other duelists I still hadn’t defeated in the game.

Oh, also, every opponent has a Level, from 1 to 50. What does it do? Almost nothing. Your character levels up by gaining experience from duels (measly amounts, no less), up to Level 50 as well. The only reason you could ever be interested in that grind is that various packs are unlocked when you reach a certain level - though they also require you to defeat the final boss. As you progress, other packs are unlocked permanently, so you should be able to get all the cards after a while. The grind to get all the cards and reach Level 50 yourself is easier if you duel many opponents who own high-level Decks (which is the only real reason why opponents have Levels in the first place). The rewards in Duel Points for winning duels are also greater depending on your level.

So far I'm coming out on top.
So, it’s the final duel against Odin, and the red and white robot is using a Fairy-theme Deck reliant on the easy summon of strong LIGHT monsters through the use of Spell cards. Its Level 40 deck is pretty tough, relying heavily on Special Summons - so if you can block that, it should be much easier to win. When it’s defeated, it wonders how the protagonist can be so strong… only for Surtr to arrive and, having learned the true path of the duelist from his defeat against Nicolas (geez, you just lost a duel at a children's card game, dude, it’s not supposed to be a life-changing revelation), strikes Odin. The armor shatters, revealing…

Thank Slifer, the shoulders are gone!

…whaaaaaaa? There was a woman in that suit of armor?

As a Nintendo fanboy, I really should have expected that as a possible twist. Shame on me!


Augh, Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon!
A behemoth of its time.
Odin hasn’t been quite defeated, as she (they?) now has a second deck for the real final battle. A LV50 Deck, no less. This one relies on Special summoning Dragon-type monsters en masse thanks to its key cards (especially Red-Eyes Darkness Metal Dragon), while also setting up the hand and Deck in order to summon enormous Dragon-type Fusion monsters, especially Five-Headed Dragon, which has 5000 ATK and DEF, the highest values that can ever be on a card.

Odin’s weaknesses here are pretty much the same as they were in the Fairy Deck; since she relies so much on Special Summoning, any card that prevents those will stop her strategy dead in its tracks. (All alternate summons, whether they be Ritual, Fusion or Synchro, also count as Special Summons). Her Deck is all about dragons and much of it focuses on DARK monsters, therefore anything that can stop dragons and DARK monsters easily will be a plus. Not only that, but since she’s so reliant on Special Summoning high-level monsters (Level 5 or above, which need a Tribute for Normal Summon) from her hand, if she’s stripped of her Special Summoning trick she ends up with a hand full of monsters she can’t even bring out! Personally, the card below has become one of my favorites, since it destroys the strategy of both decks used by the final boss… as long as you can keep it on the field, that is.

The Koa'ki Meiru archetype is willingly OP, with
cards having amazing stats and effects, but huge
drawbacks as well.

Time to leave that damned island for good!
With the boss defeated, the protagonists manage to convince Odin that their soul, which has been rotting for millennia and lived in hatred for so long, is no longer pure enough to represent true power, hence why it was defeated. It can now move on in peace - Ha! Nope. Instead of seeing the error of its ways, Odin decides to bring the place crashing down again, in hopes of killing everybody. But that fails when some of the minor characters - Tetsu Trusge and Mina Tidewell - find an exit at last. The entire group flees as the place crumbles down, and they reach the ground floor of the island and the boat that will take them back to land. Geez.

The end!

Well, okay, that’s the end of the Story Mode - there’s much more to see. This will be continued… in Part 3!

Woo, rhyme.