Look out card battle enthusiasts, there is a new kid in town seeking to knock Yu-Gi-Oh! off its throne. Duel Masters
is elbowing its way into the hearts and minds of kids everywhere with a slew of trading cards, video games, and of course, a cartoon series. Its first state side release on the Game Boy Advance is Duel Masters: Sempai Legends
, a solid first entry for the card game that is only hampered with a few minor problems.
- Cartridge Save
- Detailed tutorials and advanced rule explanations
- 5 limited edition cards
- Link support for battle and trading
Experienced gamers know Duel Masters as a Yu-Gi-Oh! type card game that employs the Mana system from Magic the Gathering. The object of the card battles are to destroy your opponents shields and attack them with a summoned monster. Because Duel Masters is based on the Magic rule set which means that monsters can only be summoned once enough cards are tapped for Mana. The Mana system adds another layer of strategy and is the main difference between Duel Masters and a game like Yu-Gi-Oh!. In Yu-Gi-Oh! Monsters can typically be summoned immediately, which leads to a greater number of confrontations and the feeling of slightly more exciting game play. Which rule set is better? That is truly a matter of personal opinion but I'll take the magic system because it is slightly more complicated and therefore a deeper experience overall.
The rules seem complicated at first, but after a few hand the game is easy to pick up. Each duelist starts with a 40 hand deck. Five cards are taken from each deck and are used as each player's shields. Another five cards become the starting hand. At the beginning of the deul the players flip a coin to see who will go first. A player begins their turn by deciding if they would like to add a card to the Mana zone. Once a card is placed here it losses its abilities and is used to generate Mana for the rest of the round.
Each card in Duel Masters has a Mana rating which indicates the number of cards that need to be tapped in order to summon the monster on that card. There are also five different types of Mana: nature, light, water, darkness and fire. Players choose an alignment at the beginning of the game which decides the type of cards they use and influences strategy. Some card types are more inclined to use primitive attacks and blocks while others have decks that are heavily weighted with magic cards.
Another rule which keeps players aligned with certain Mana types is that in order to summon a monster, players must tap at least one card of its Mana alignment. Having a multicolored deck means that players risk running into situations where they must waste a turn waiting for a certain Mana card in order to summon a monster. Once a player has enough Mana they can tap cards in the Mana and bring out the creatures. For one round the monsters suffer from summoning sickness where they are unable to attack but can still block. Each creature card has different abilities and qualifications. There are blockers, double strikes, and attack boosters. Knowing the side effects of each card becomes extremely important once gamers advance past the opening training duels.
Luckily there is a detailed tutorial at the beginning of story mode that eases players into the battle system which is a feature that many of the Yu-Gi-Oh! games lack. This is a rather large factor when recommending a card game to people looking to get their feet wet in the genre. There is even an advanced rules section in the options menu that goes over more complicated battle strategies such as rarity symbols, special abilities, and evolution creatures.
The game's only mode besides the multiplayer duel room is a rather short story mode that involves the hero's loss of a special dueling card. Don't expect an epic story line, story mode is simply a few plot points that move gamers from duel to duel. The hero travels to different towns and encounters a plethora of duelists on the way. Most people in the smallish villages are willing to test your card battle skills and random encounters occur extremely often between villages. There is almost always the option of running from a duel, but since constant card battles is the only way to advance the game, you might as well fight.
Winning a battle awards players with a booster pack of 5 cards from the combatant's deck. The hero also gains points which go towards his reputation. Certain battles cannot be entered without meeting a reputation requirement so get ready to duke it out with the townies.
The card battles consist of three different screens, the first of which is the deck screen where cards are tapped, pooled for Mana, or used to summon a monster. The interface on this screen is detailed and makes good use almost every pixel of the Game Boy Screen. The second interface is the battlefield where summoned monsters appear in front of their masters and the card shields. When selecting each monster for attack its stats appear in the top corner of the screen and when an attack is launched by either player it leads to the battle animation. This third screen is completely cosmetic; it shows a short animation of the duel after which the loser pops off into oblivion. If players find this little bonus to be unnecessary during battles it can be turned off from the options menu.
One aspect that could use some work is the deck management system. Unfortunately there is no way to sort cards while building a deck. Even being able to separate cards by Mana type would be helpful. Prepare to spend a lot of time aimlessly scrolling through a list while swapping out old cards.
Another small complaint has to do with the art style. It feels more lose than the stylized characters of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon and falls into the category of poorly Americanized anime. This is a purely aesthetic critique and has no effect on the game play or menu system. It is easy enough to navigate the black haired character around the cookie cutter towns and engage in conversations or duels. The villages are attractive but contain few elements that make them stand out as anything other than hubs for card battles.
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