My fellow staffperson Keith Schleicher reviewed this game a while ago, but Konami was nice enough to give us a copy to review as well. Keith has obviously had more of a past with the other GBA and Yu-Gi-Oh! games than I have as this is the first Yu-Gi-Oh! game that has actually touched any of my systems.
That’s actually pretty odd because I religiously watch the television show on a regular basis, both on the Kid’s WB Saturday and on Cartoon Network. I could care less if CN is playing repeats or not, I just think the show is so awesome and so much better than the Pokemon TV show. Fact is Yu-Gi-Oh! has superceded Pokemon as the defacto card game nowadays and the videogames are selling like wildfire as well. Just watching the TV show I get the sense that the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is like a cross between the Pokemon one and Magic: The Gathering. Obviously this is a show where they actually play the card game, so I’m able to pick up what I need to do without reading the instructions (which were absent) for this game.
This game is set during the Battle City tournament, although the location of the actual tournament has changed to Domino City. They have also changed the name of the Rare Hunters to Ghouls. Other than that anyone who saw the Battle City section of the television show should feel right at home here pretty much. Onto the review.
The Sacred Cards does what it needs to on the graphics side of things. This is obviously not a graphical powerhouse along the lines of Metroid Fusion or some of the other good-looking GBA games. In fact, I’d say the adventure part of this game shares the most with the Phantasy Star series. The look as you walk through the different locations that you unlock gives me the feeling of the old Sega RPG. Basically you play a deck master (you don’t play as Yugi) and you travel around talking to people and dueling them. Every time you talk to a major character (Yugi, Joey, Seto Kaiba, etc.) you will see a graphic of their head with text underneath. The profiles of the characters do not move at all or anything, so you have a static headshot for all of the major characters. When talking to the minor characters you just see text.
The environments in the adventure section look pretty good and there is a bit of detail in the buildings that surround the area, but nothing in the way of animation. This means that everything but the people (and animals) in a section is static, which is quite sad. It would have been cool to see rolling fog in the graveyard for instance or changes in time of day, but you won’t see that kind of thing here.
The other section of the game is the card duels. The graphics here are mostly relegated to the cards themselves. On the duel board you can see small versions of the cards and if you are familiar with the television show you will probably know a few cards and what they can do when you start off. Each card can be looked at in detail so you can read what effects they may have, what type of card they are (Fiend, Forest, Aqua, Shadow, etc.) and just a general larger look at the card itself by clicking the A button on a card and going to details either during the duel or in the adventure mode by going into your deck and trunk via the Start button. The only animation you see on the board is when cards attack and you see which card wins and how low your Life Points are.
All in all the graphics are okay, I just think they could have done a bit more to make this game that much more appealing.
Not much to say about the sound or music portions of this game. Each section in the adventure mode has its own background music, but nothing is ever really catchy and the first one in Domino City gets annoying pretty quickly, but the rest just flow in the background as they are supposed to. During duels and depending on what board you are playing on you may have some different music as well.
The sound effects are okay and do their job. The best sounds are in duels when you are battling another card. You hear a slash of a sword and if the card is defeated it disappears in a cloud of fire with the appropriate sound effect. The meat of the game is obviously the dueling and the sound and music don’t make themselves known too much.
Control in this game is quite easy. During adventure sections you move with the D-pad, talk with the A key, run with the B key and you can challenge a character to a duel with the R trigger. Once in duel mode the d-pad controls all the options and where you set your cards on the board. A button brings up a menu of options for you to do (Attack, Defend, Sacrifice, Effect) while the B button is used to check details, cancel your action and even discard a card from your hand.
The triggers have a special place in the duel section. The R key will let you see how many cards your opponent has because you cannot see his/her part of the screen outside of cards they have laid down, only your own. The L trigger is of great use here as well. You will be able to see all the attack and defense points of your monsters on the field and be able to see the face up monters the opposing duelist has.
Controls are a bit touchy only in the movement during the adventure section. Your turning ability seems to not be as tight as it could be. Then again the adventure mode is just there for you to go from place to place and from conversation to conversation. Overall a really good control interface.
This game is a lot of fun just for the duels and the card collecting. You are a duelist that is trying to qualify for the Battle City finals and you go through the adventure section challenging duelists weak and strong on your way up the Duelist ladder. I personally haven’t played any of the other Yu-Gi-Oh! games, but I found this one quite fun. It seems there are some rule changes in this game that goes against what I saw on television.
For some odd reason duelists are only allowed to have 5 cards at a time instead of 7. This makes you have to discard cards in your hand for any cards that require space, such as Pot of Greed (draw two cards from your deck). You could easily lose lower-level cards this way and lower-level cards are what is used to summon the big boys in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe, so it’s a bit hard to swallow.
Another odd thing I eventually figured out is that this game is reliant on the type of card you have. For example a Pyro card gets attacked by a Forest card. The Forest card has more attack points than the Pyro card has defense points, but the Forest card actually loses and the card is destroyed. I don’t remember this type of thing being covered in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series, but it is obvious that each type of card has power over another type of card that can be used to beat a more powerful attacker. It was just something that struck me as odd and without any instructions it took me a while to understand how my more powerful card got sent to the Graveyard.
Speaking of Graveyard, this is also a source of deviation from the television series. If you happen to have the Monster Reborn card you’ll be able to take a monster from the Graveyeard, but only the last one that was taken from the board. In the television series you could pull whichever card you wanted with the Monster Reborn card…now that card is pretty useless unless you get the right cards in the right order.
The game does start you off nicely and you are easily able to beat the early duelists, but soon enough you will find yourself in more difficult situations. Be sure to visit the card shop and have a plan of what to get from there and what to sell to them for more money. Remember you need lots of lower-level cards of the same type to sacrifice in order to summon the large creatures with massive attack/defend numbers. Be sure you take account of the types of cards your major ones are and be sure to get lower-level monsters of the same type. Nothing gets you screwed more than not having the correct types to summon major monsters.
Overall the story does follow the Battle City storyline pretty much. It was fun to go up against everyone and being able to get your hands on the 5 Egyptian God Cards (uber-powerful monsters that are still at the center of the current Yu-Gi-Oh! storyline on television here). I enjoyed this game a lot and hope Konami brings some sort of Yu-Gi-Oh! card game to a major console. From what I’ve heard, Falsebound Kingdom is as far from a card game as they can get.
Just being able to play the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game was enough for me in this game. It’s great to see the familiar faces, both good and evil, from the television show and it was awesome to see the major characters use their major cards in a duel. The story certainly sucks you in, but I think the whole dueling thing sucked me in even more.
Will people play this repeatedly? I probably would just to play a few duels because it is that much fun to do. This game is easy to pick up, although if you are not familiar with the Yu-Gi-Oh! world you may find yourself quite lost.