Age - E for Everybody
Genre - Dueling
Cards? - Yeah.
Company - Wizards of the Coast
Ah. The video games that are based on collectible card games...
No, by that I don't mean games like DBZ CCG for the GameBoy Advance which is based on a recently made CCG (made years after the series first premiered), I mean games based on CCG that are the backbone slash cornerstone of the series itself. Series like Poke'mon, Yu-Gi-Oh and this series.
And if you think I'll be unfair on this one review and not really do anything deep with this? Well this time I can tell you that's NOT true! This time out I'll deliver THREE Duel Masters related reviews just to prove that I am not biased against this show... which isn't very good, and I would only watch it if it was put out on the GameBoy Advance... wait, it's on Free On Demand now so... ooohh! They put Anime Network on Free On Demand... oh, well, so much for attempting to watch Duel Masters.
Wish they weren't showing the last episodes though, would like to see something more closer to the beginning but I guess it's better than nothing.
Okay. Sorry. Back to the review.
This CCG is abit different. It's the first that I've seen that seems to be based off of, as people have told me, Magic the Gathering. In fact you can't mistake the cards for anything else from the way they look! Makes you wonder why the people who made Magic the Gathering hasn't gotten off their butts and marketed a few video games off their franchaise yet. I might even review it if they did that.
If you've played Magic the Gathering (and have NOT been turned off by their online Magic the Gathering game where they charge real money to buy virtual Starter Decks and Boosters to play Magic the Gathering online) then you have an inkling of what is going to be expected from you when you play Duel Masters, but briefly I'll go into that now.
You hold a deck of 40 cards (similar to decks in Yu-Gi-Oh) and they are split into five "elements".
The elements of Fire, Water, Nature, Light and Da..rk..ness?
1-2-3-4... 5...? Eh wait a minute! 1...2...3... Eh I've been elementally cheated! I'm missing Earth (which I figure must be Nature) and Wind... sheesh, jammed both into one "element"? Nuts.
Ok. The object of the game is to break the "Shields" of your opponent (which are cards)... which seems to be something stolen from the Poke'mon rulebook only in reverse... instead of taking the cards you set aside as prizes, you use them as defense.
Anyway as each card "Shield" is destroyed it goes right into that player's hand, which is kind of a double edged sword because you could be placing a powerful "shield trigger" card into his/her hand by accident which might turn the tide against you.
And what are you playing for? Besides cards I mean (you win three cards as prizes with each victory).
You are playing for "reputation" points, which (as they build) give you a higher and higher dueling rank and more power and reputation. Sorta like the playing card version of the URBZ, only you don't have to learn and memorize a ton of greetings, social interactions and so forth (and talk to people endlessly) to get your rep down pat, you just need to win lots of games.
Cards? There'll be cards, of course (and five real cards you get in this game for buying it)! You have lots of cards... not as much as Yu-Gi-Oh has (about over 200 as of the last incarnation on the GBA) but they're growing so you'll see more soon enough. Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
As for how you'll get cards in THIS game? There's a card shop in this game, but it's not always available right off the bat (one character so far I played doesn't have the card shop available on his map until he's played for awhile and moved a little forward in his story).
There you can duel, or if you talk to the person behind the counter (of a store chock full of, yes, Duel Masters merchandise) you can buy/sell cards. This is one of the things that is way better than the GBA version as you'll see.
Unlike the GBA version which is basically a hit/miss trading proposition (you have to have such and such a card
Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
What can you do with all the pretty cards you gather up? Well there are a lot of things to do with the cards, and lots and lots of rules that could keep us here forever and ever to talk about. But then again I don't need to talk about the full gameplay since you can learn that from either buying the PS2 game, the GameBoy Advance games (which I'll review next week and in the near future), and the 2-Player Starter Deck (which includes a form you can send in to join the Duel Masters official club called D-Max).
So, then, since I don't need to go over the full monty on gameplay (and I won't go into the membership thing) we'll focus on story and review.
Story is so simple it won't take me long to talk about it.
Ah. Some person (female named the "Widow") has somehow (in her greed) set loose five creatures from another dimension connected to the Duel Masters game onto the world.
Eh? Oh, you didn't know that the game taps it's "strength" from real creatures in this other world that are represented on the cards, right? Yeah... that's a bunch of hooey, isn't it. Reminds me of the immortal words of a certain judicial type person when she said, and I quote...
"DO I HAVE "STUPID" WRITTEN ON MY FOREHEAD?!?"
(Judge Judy... from the court show of the same name)
Ah... the things they'll expect people to believe.
I would have had no problem if it was a straight down and dirty dueling series, but this whole creatures from another world is something else though. I have a hard enough time with everything they expect you to put up with in Yu-Gi-Oh, don't expect me to be going for this now. Pull my finger, Atari.
Anyway those creatures must be reeled in, and to do that you must find nine pieces of the card that represented each creature in this world. That's when the hard work comes in.
Hard work? It's a dueling game so what kind of hard work would THAT be? That would be in the form of you having to manage and control FIVE characters, one at a time, and move their stories along to get all five creatures brought back... at least that's what it seems like to me.
However if you're looking for redeeming qualities in your characters, like personalities that you might actually like... then you're barking up the wrong deck.
The personalities of everyone seem to be about as unappealing as can be. I don't blame the voice actors, though, most of whom sound like they're actually real kids (or just those who play kids), I blame the characters themselves for being rather uninspiring. If you're holding out for stand-up and memorable (in one way or another) kind of personalities like Jonouchi (Joey), Anzu (Tea), Brock or Misty then you are not going to find them here. But you will trip over a lot of hacks and posers though.
The movement of this game is rather... dull. Dull, dull, dull... yawn.
Instead of being able to walk about like you do in the GBA game, you simply move from area to area (via the use of a map), moving (panning left to right) from person to person who, in a rather awkward or dull or strange way, tell you in some way that they want to duel. Yeah. Not good.
How can I find any respect for anyone who tells me things like "I'm going to own the zone!", "Understand, if you duel me, you're going to lose.", "It's all over!" (in a rather awkward voice), "Let's duel!" (in a rather weird voice) and so forth. Sheesh. Can't seem to dig up enough respect for my opponents, yet I had to dig up something else that I didn't think I had to for this game... a strategy.
Yeah. I thought I could just blow through this game with no real plan. That thought ended after Opponent #6 when I realized I needed a plan to get through Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
Strange. The game itself is deep, but the people who inhabit the world of this game are shallow.
So there's actually a game here, and some depth to it, but the thing that probably chases people away from the game is the layering of "characters" surrounding the game which seem to turn people off.
Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
One problem I do have with the game is that it can be decided simply by the luck of the draw.
You draw bad in Yu-Gi-Oh or Poke'mon you have a chance to recover as you play and get your groove back, but you draw bad here and it's all over. Why? Because.
1-You need to fill up a "mana pool" to have the energy to draw cards onto the field or use them.
2-You need cards of such-and-such a mana "cost" to play onto the field in relation to the mana stored away in your pool.
3-If you have only high end monsters (your low ends buried in your deck) and your opponent is throwing down card after card to deplete your shields? You're doomed.
4-And once your opponent is on a roll and filling their side up with cards there's no way you'll recover. You lost your momentum and your doomed (it'll be a hard task to even attempt a comeback once your opponent has gotten their game on, but I suppose it's possible -- it just hasn't happened to me yet).
So what do we have here?
We have a game with bad "personality" yet good gameplay. Also, once you get dealt a bad deal then it might as well be all over (unless you luck out and draw a few good cards immediately after the start because once your opponent starts throwing down cards and pounding at your defenseless side you are well on the way to dismal defeat) but is that enough to drive you away?
Not really... except of course that is if we're talking about the acting in this game which might as well drive people away. Yes, of course I realize that fans of the series will be buying this game without question, but what about the rest of us who might NOT be fans of this series?
There might yet be hope for this game in that dept.
If you like CCGs (Collectible Card Games) then you might be a fan of this, and there is enough of a game here to at least warrant a rental to sort out your feelings for the game. But if you want some personality with your gameplay then you might as well go elsewhere, it'll take some soul searching and some rental time before you decide if you can stand the lackluster "personality" of those who live in this world enough to play the game. However if you're just here for the gameplay then you'll find merit in it.
What? It has merits and yet I can't stand the series? What gives! Well, you see, even if I think all the characters are shallow it's still an interesting game, and you can't take that away from the game even if everyone in the game seems to be at times close to being the David Duchovny of anime voice acting.
But this is only the beginning. Next time we see a Duel Masters game it'll be a GBA game (which is actually more challenging and harder to master than the PS2 version), so it'll be more on the merits of the game than the voice actors (of which there are none in the GBA game). Let's break this down.
Duel Masters Breakdown (PS2)
What's Hot? - Believe it or not there's actually a decent game here. It's not so bad and easy to get into.
Gameplay is relatively easy, and it's not for everyone (if CCGs aren't your thing). Still there is enough merit here to warrant a check if you are the curious type.
Combat animation is solid, though the rest of the animation isn't up to snuff in comparison. Gameplay is relatively easy enough to get a grasp on, and once you sat through the instructions and got your "game face" on for serious gameplay you should have no problem with it.
Oh, and this has the only workable version of a place Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
What's Not? - While the game has it's redeeming points, and it's positive merits towards why people should give it a chance, the entire ensemble cast of characters seemingly do NOT have any redeeming points.
Talk about a bunch of low enders! The entire game seems to be filled with characters that just don't have any real "spark" of personality! From the main characters, to the secondary characters, to the minor players who just duel you to help you build your reputation points. All of the above just fall dreadfully short.
The story is lackluster. Really, I couldn't think of a more enthusiasm killing story than this one... where's my motivation again? I can't seem to find it anywhere in this story.
While being able to control five people is an interesting thing, having an actual story that makes it worth controlling five people over (and people worth controlling) would have been a plus here.
Duel Masters playing monks? Gimme a break.
The plot is generic and weak. The acting is shallow, as the characters have no real "spark" that would make them interesting (not in the least), and if it wasn't for the gameplay I'd tell you to pass on this.
Even the best CCG in the world is going to suffer if the "cast" surrounding the game are sure to turn off players, and that is probably why Duel Masters hasn't taken off yet... the cast and everyone in this game is dull, and if the people in the Anime series are the same then I can see the lackluster interest.
Yes, within this boredom is a game, but some "mana" needs to be infused into the characters.
To paraphrase a certain movie... "If they only had a soul."
Oh, and the animation for the most part (with the exception of the combat animation) isn't so hot.
Moments to Remember?
There's something to remember about this game? Really?
Sadly the only thing I can say is memorable is the card game itself, and the duels... no, not the people you duel, the duels themselves. The people are forgettable, and that's not a good thing.
What to Ignore?
Everyone? I could ignore everyone and their attempts to be hip, tough, cute, sexy, living, human, etc.
From the ancient order of card playing monks, the secondary characters on both sides of the equation (good and evil), to everyone and their second cousin who wants to duel you for reputation points (and cards), to your own characters... everyone is just dull, dull, dull.
Hey! What this game needs is a personality infusion! Or it needed people who actually had more energy in their acting. Or both. If there was a standout personality that really catches the attention in this game that would be something... but I haven't seen that happen yet. Heck, if there was a whole game full of standout personalities that really catches the attention that would be -- Ratchet & Clank : Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal... or Yu-Gi-Oh : Monster Capsule Coliseum... or Sly 2 : Band of Thieves... etc. etc. etc.
When it comes to character personality obviously the people who made this game figured the target audience (kids) wouldn't miss that very much, but I missed it.
What a contradiction! A game worth checking out filled with personalities worth avoiding.
It's a game you should give a try, surrounded by a universe of anti-personalities you should avoid.
So what are you to do?
Rental is a good option. Another option is to pop for the GBA version since you can try out the gameplay without the hurdle of suffering through bad acting... though you'll have lots of reading to do.
But, then again, maybe you've seen the anime (of which I've barely done) and said to yourself "I can't stand the Anime! How can I stand the game if I hate the Anime?"
Well, obviously, if you can watch the Duel Masters Anime without flinching then you will be playing this game no questions asked. However if you can't stand the Anime? You might be able to play the game... but again it's all for the gameplay, and not for the lack of character in the characters.
And this time out there's no Adam West to save the voice acting day! Darn!
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