|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Yu-Gi-Oh!, in its heyday, was a pretty impressive franchise. Not only was it a fascinating and complex card game, but the franchise made for pretty good manga and anime subject material. I can't necessarily say that I've ever been a huge fan of the franchise, but I know that there's a market out there for it, and I have been known to drop in on a few card battles here and there during anime conventions. That being said, however, I am completely unconvinced that Yu-Gi-Oh! makes a good videogame.
Generally they are almost always over-simplistic versions of the card game, and don't offer any real videogame-specific experience, other than the occasional card animation. Even the World Championship series on the DS gets bland quickly, even though it deserves some credit for its online modes.
It is with this perspective that I dove into Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny. I was expecting a re-hash of the card game that would probably bore me to death. However, I was pleasantly surprised with this game because it actually goes beyond just a card game you can play on your PlayStation 2. Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny deserves some real credit because it takes the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise into a videogame world that is actually playable.
The game's story mode puts you in the shoes of a new transfer student at the Duelist Academy. You have about three months until a big competition, and you really have your heart set on participating. The only problem? It is a tag team battle, and you can't compete unless you can form friendships with and earn the trust of your peers. You do this by talking to various students at the academy and interacting with them in a sim-style interface. You can approach any character in the game (there are probably about 50 or so), but you'll only have regular interaction with a few main characters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! series like Jaden and Syrus. It is from these people that you will eventually select your tag team partner. You can keep track of your various relationships with characters through a very simple stats system that displays things like skill and trust.
And although the addition of this new facet of gameplay is very welcome, it still has many flaws. Although the sim-style menu when talking to people is great, it doesn't exactly take much to befriend people and win them over in the game. You'll generally have between 2-4 options of different things to say or talk about, and if you've been reading what your companion has been saying to you, then you'll know what to say next in order to gain more points. For example, let's say you go up to Jaden, and he tells you he's really excited about the upcoming duel. You have a choice between talking to him about dueling, hobbies, rumors, or school. Now, which one do you think he'll respond to the best? Yeah, that was my decision too.
But as interesting as the classmate-relationship facet of the game may be, the heart of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny is still firmly rooted in the card game-based play that we've seen so many times before. That's not to say that it is not enjoyable, especially for fans of the card game or the series, but I'm just warning you beforehand that there's no real new ground covered here. You'll be able to earn cards, build up your own deck, and battle you classmates. The only thing that's really missing here is online play, but since it is a PS2 title, I'm not all that surprised that the online factor is MIA for this title.
One thing that really surprised me in a bad way about Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny was how it looked. I was honestly astonished about how bad it looked. I've seen better graphics on handheld Yu-Gi-Oh! games then were presented in this title. Characters are stoic and are most of the dialogue scenes are presented in 2-D. 3-D scenes only occur during battle, and they consist of repeated scenes of opposing characters drawing and placing cards. Most disappointing of all, however, was the complete lack of card animation. Since the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are supposed to represent living creatures, card animations are fairly important to the overall experience. But Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny opts instead to feature scan-quality pictures of cards with no animation whatsoever, and I think the game suffers for it.
Another unsatisfactory element of this game had to be the sound. Most specifically, the lack of it. This game needs voice acting. Characters frequently move their mouths while talking to your character, and when all there is to accompany it is silence, the whole thing feels more than a little awkward. And when the music finally does cut in, it only appears in small looping tunes that were best left unheard. I can say that the sound in this game is by far the worst element of the game.
I have to admit that I was happy that Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Beginning of Destiny attempted to take the videogame series in a new direction. However, I feel that this game represents a classic case of one step forward, two steps back. For all its positive efforts with varied gameplay and the new story elements, the core gameplay remains the same as it has always been, and the poor look of the game and the terrible sound quality really make this game a missed opportunity.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer