Yu-Gi-Oh seems to have beat Nintendo at their own game. Before you can say “Pokemon,” Yu-Gi-Oh! captured the collectible card game crown to be the game to beat. With inventive characters, a wide variety of strategies to employ, and rules that are easy to learn but difficult to master, it’s easy to see why Yu-Gi-Oh! is so popular. Konami has released their third version of Yu-Gi-Oh for the GBA entitled The Sacred Cards.

The game has two modes. One is the adventure mode and the other is dueling mode. The adventure mode has your character walking around the screen talking to people and challenging them to duels. After winning some duels, the story will progress and more areas will be available to visit and duel. Each of these areas are different and have a distinct feel to them, even though they don’t compose more than a few frames in most cases. While talking with the main characters, their caricatures appear, similar to the other games. The caricatures seem to be more defined than the previous games.


Those who have played the first two GBA Yu-Gi-Oh! games will notice a new battling engine. TSC feature actual graphics for each card, instead of card with a colored outline and a black box in the middle. A bar across the picture will give an idea for attack and defensive power. A small picture of the cards is actually visible, so card memorization isn’t as essential as before. The details screen for each card features are larger picture of each card, as well as larger text.


The graphics do the job they are meant to do, but they won’t win any awards.

TSC doesn’t need a lot of sound effects, but the sound and music are varied throughout the game. Each area in the adventure mode has its own background music, and it does seem to set the stage for each duel. Even certain dueling grounds will have different music depending on the type of field the duel is being held on. It’s nothing memorable that you will be humming after you are finished with the game, but it works for the setting that it’s in.

Control doesn’t have to be anything special for the game, but they are intuitive still. During the adventure mode, your character moves while using the D-pad, talks using the A key, and challenges players to a duel by hitting the R key. During the duels, move using the D-pad, select using the A, cancel or status screen using the B key, and see how many cards the opponent has by hitting the R key. A nice new feature shows up by pressing and holding down the L key, which will darken the screen and show the attack and defense points of each monster card on the player’s side of the field, as well as any face up monsters on the opponent’s side. The controls may be a bit too touchy at times, but for the most part they are more than adequate.

The game has two elements, the adventure mode and the dueling mode. The adventure mode will follow the character through a storyline similar to the Battle City Tournament of the television show. A few minor changes have been made for the story. For example, the tournament is held in Domino City and not Battle City, and the Rare Hunters are now called Ghouls. In this mode, a card shop can be visited and cards bought and sold.


The dueling of the game is the real meat and potatoes of the game. Since the game has been tested extensively by many minions of schoolchildren across the country, the dueling has been tested extensively. As long as changes to the rules aren’t made to the detriment of the game, the gameplay should be as addictive as the original card game. However, some rule changes have been made.


First, a maximum of five cards are allowed in a hand. Seven were the maximum allowed in the other GBA games. This won’t be a major factor, but it can affect gameplay with certain cards, such as Pot of Greed.


Second, the graveyards aren’t visible. Only the most recently discarded monster card from the graveyard will be visible and can be used. For instance, playing the card Monster Reborn will cause your most recently discarded monster to be put into play. Also, it is impossible to look at the details of any cards in the graveyard.


Sometimes it would seem that a monster would be destroyed by some special rules, but those rules weren’t explained on the card. It’s also possible that it was a bug in the game, but I can’t be certain.


Traps would be automatically set off when the conditions were met right away. The other GBA games would ask the player if the trap should be set off then.


Other than these rules changes, the gameplay seems to remain faithful to the card game. These changes don’t affect the gameplay too much, but the effect can be felt in certain duels.


The game does have a gentle learning curve. If anything, the first few duels are rather easy, but they do get more challenging as the game progresses. At certain points, it will feel like it’s impossible to progress, but some card changing in the deck will assist in gaining victory.


A complaint of the first game, The Eternal Duelist Soul, was that the starting deck was too weak, and frustration came easily at the start of the game. A complaint of the second game, Worldwide Edition: Stairway to the Destined Duel, was that the starting deck had too many powerful cards in it. Since lower monsters must be sacrificed to summon the more powerful monsters, it was sometimes impossible to have enough lower level monsters on the field to summon the more powerful monsters. TSC seems to get the proper balance with the starting deck. While this deck won’t be suitable for the entire game, it gives a good foundation for the rest of the game.


The deck has a certain capacity number. Each card has a cost associated with it. The deck must have 40 cards in it without going over the capacity limit. This number will grow with each victory, so more powerful cards can be added later.


Cards are won (or lost) in an Ante that is shown at the start of the duel. Many cards will be won this way, but cards can be bought and sold in the card shop as well. Although a wide variety of cards are available, I felt that there was a shortage of trap cards throughout the game.

The story draws the player into the game. Players familiar to the cartoon will instantly recognize several of the characters in the game. Because of the story, players will try to find the next area of the city to be unlocked or see what happens next in the story. The story immerses the player into the game more than the other GBA games.


The story of the game doesn’t last that long, but it does last long enough that it will keep the player busy for quite a while. Once the story is over, the player can start over again and try to reclaim the Egyptian God Cards, but others won’t feel the need to play through it again. However, since the deck can be changed to the player’s individual preferences, it is good practice for anyone trying to get better at the game.

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