Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 03/18/02 | Genre: Simulation
Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel Stories for Game Boy Color was released back in 1996 but has finally hit the United States. For those who know nothing about it basically it plays like Magic the Gathering with rules that are a lot easier to understand. That way anyone can begin playing right away. As in any collectible card battle game two players, you and a friend or you and the computer play against each other with a deck of no more or less then 40 cards. It's usually made of up monster cards with varying attack and defensive powers and magic cards that can either boost your creatures, destroy enemy creatures, and a host of other things. There are over 700 cards in all and all of them are accessible after a while. You'll interact with all the characters from the TV show and increase your duelist standing making your way to fight the Rulers of the Heavens for the Millennium Items. As an extra bonus it comes with 3 rare cards for the physical card game.
Unlike the PlayStation game, Yu-Gi-Oh: Forbidden Memories, Yu-Gi-Oh: Dark Duels is a pretty much a card battling game with only the smallest amount of story to keep it moving... yet somehow it still holds your attention. Each player gets 8,000 life points to whittle down to zero by using magic and monster cards to attack each other. Where Dark Duels is far, far better is in the explanation and little added twists in gameplay. You can combine cards to form greater monsters but you'll have to wait until you next turn to combine them, this gives you a greater fighting chance against some of the CPU players since they have some pretty wicked cards. When you beat your opponent you not only get a new card, which are usually good, you also get a construction part. These are separate cards from the over 700 in the game and allow you to create your own cards complete with different artwork and text. You can always break down the cards you've created when you get more construction cards in order to make new ones. The more opponents you beat the higher your duelist rating which lets you use stronger cards and create better constructed cards.
Now it seems like all you need to do is create powerful monsters then just slap magic cards on them to power them up to crush the enemy. While a good many of the duels can be won that way the higher-level opponents use trap cards and change the landscape. Certain trap cards like Raigeki or Dark Hole can destroy any monster regardless of strength and a card like Mountains changes the battlefield and gives Dragon, Winged Beast and Thunder-types an advantage putting other creatures at a disadvantage. So you need to really plan out a strategy for each CPU opponent you play. They all have different styles so trim your deck accordingly before you go to duel.
A nice feature is the password system. At the bottom of each actual Yu-Gi-Oh game card there is an eight digit number on the bottom left, this code can be put in on the appropriate screen and you get that card, There are plenty of FAQ sites that have a complete list of codes so you won't need to go out and start buying tons of cards, unless you want to. Now to keep it from being an easy way to destroy opponents you can have three of the same card in your deck, you can only use the password once and each card can only be accessed by a certain level duelist. Another way to stop cheap wins is that each card has a size number. So if your deck can only hold 400 size points and the Blue Eyes White Dragon is 200 points you won't be able to use it until you level up since the deck must have 40 cards in it.
There are really only a few downsides to this game. One comes in the fact that there is over 700 cards and hundreds more you can create. Now that doesn't sound like a problem but when trying to find the card you're looking for in all that it's almost impossible. There are a few ways you can sort cards but they still involve a lot of search time and there is no short cut or search menu. Another problem is in translation. Since this is a Japanese game when translated over some of the names don't fit in the shortened window so unless you know all the cards well you'll have to view each card. The last being that trap cards are only good for one turn as opposed to being on the table until your opponent does something to trigger it.
The graphics are usual GBC standard. However they didn't replicate the cards images exactly so there is a little difference in the pictures on the cards. All the character's from the TV series are depicted really well and have a little animation to them as the dialog scrolls across the bottom. There is some music that's all right to deal with and the usual beeps and twangs of the GBC.
Over all Yu-Gi-Oh: Dark Duels is easy to get into and very addicting. Between the card collecting and construction there are hours of obsessive fun to be had. And since there are 15 CPU opponents, a multiplayer option, trading option and a few hidden CPU people to face off against this has a lot of replay value. This game is for anyone who is a fan of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, the cartoon or card battling games in general.