Maybe I’m cynical, but when I first started Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Wheelie Breakers, I was really expecting a bad game. There is no shortage of bad and broken racers for the Wii console, and the fact that it was based on a card game/anime that has been dwindling in popularity in recent years didn’t do much to inspire confidence. But, I have to admit that this game definitely surprised me. Though you wouldn’t think a kart racing game could mash up well with the Yu-Gi-Oh! Card battling system, the combination works surprisingly well.
On the surface, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Wheelie Breakers is just your typical kart game. You’re able to select drivers, karts, and race against other players. There are three main modes you can participate in: Story, Grand Prix, and Matchup mode. Story mode follows a user-created character who wants to be the best Wheelie Breaker and race rising star Yusei Fudo, who has recently risen to fame from obscurity. The story is not that complex, but fans of the anime series will see plenty of recognizable characters and plot elements.
Grand Prix is a very basic series-based mode that allows you to race various computer opponents of increasing difficulty in order to earn trophies and cash. Matchup is the game’s multiplayer mode, and it allows you to play with up to three friends.
The biggest feature of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Wheelie Breakers has to be the unique way it implements the Yu-Gi-Oh! card system. Instead of picking up items like you would in Mario Kart through question boxes, you pick up cards. These cards are randomly selected from a deck that you have created prior to the race. If you are unfamiliar with the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, this might seem a little weird, because there are several different types of cards involved in Yu-Gi-Oh battles including Spell, Trap, and Monster cards. These cards each have different properties, and while scrolling text at the bottom of your screen will explain what can be done with each card, it can be a little difficult at first to read and drive.
The game boasts more than 150 different cards that you can use in play, but you won’t have access to all these cards immediately. You’ll start out with a balanced starter deck and will have to earn new cards by participating in races and earning money. From there you can build your deck, although you have a limit of how many cards you can have active at one time.
Using the card battling elements of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the game adds a fairly large amount of strategy to the gameplay, which largely echoes the card game upon which this racer is based. Although the cards used in Wheelie Breakers are a lot simpler and easier to manage then those found in other Yu-Gi-Oh! games (such as the World Championship series), using the cards strategically is a must for success in the game, adding a great deal of depth to the overall kart-racing experience.
Speaking of kart racing, that is another area where this game is solid as well. I can’t tell you how many Wii racers I have played where the racing mechanic was just broken. Whether the controls weren’t implemented correctly, the racing system was too bland, or the A.I. was too slow, there seems to always be something that stops other racing titles from reaching their potential. Thankfully, this is definitely not the case in Wheelie Breakers.
One thing that really helps out the racing initially is the framerate. This game actually runs at a very smooth clip, so following the action is very easy. However, the controls are really what make this game fun. The game features two ways to control your vehicle: Nunchuk and Classic controls.
The Nunchuk controls are fairly simple and use the thumbstick to steer and the buttons to accelerate and brake. Cards are selected and used via the Wii-mote’s D-Pad and A button. This system works fairly well but sometimes it is difficult to reach the D-Pad in time to select a card and it feels a little unnatural. However, the second control option (Classic controls), is a lot more intuitive and uses the face buttons for accelerating, braking, and activating cards. The shoulder buttons are used for navigating your drawn cards, which makes for much faster selection.
One boon for both of these controls is that they both work extremely well. Although this sounds a little sarcastic, there has been such a lack of responsive control with regards to racing games on the Wii that it bears mentioning. The control style goes for the arcade approach, so pounding the accelerator and taking sharp turns is par for the course. Both control schemes are very responsive, and I had little trouble zooming around each track and throwing down my cards.
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Wheelie Breakers is definitely an odd title. Just looking at it in a video game store, I would not be inclined to pick it up. However, this kart racing game is packing a lot of features under the hood, and while it certainly isn’t perfect, I was very impressed both with the implementation of the card system as well as the core racing mechanics. If you are a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan you should absolutely pick this title up. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, if you enjoy arcade or kart-style racers, you can definitely have a lot of fun with this title. The learning curve may be a little steep (no tutorial is provided), but the experience may just be worth the ride!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Cel-shaded graphics capture the look of the anime very nicely and animations are quite fast. Tracks are a little bit on the bland side, however. 4.0 Control
Both Nunchuk and Classic controls work well. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is inoffensive, but minimal voiceover is annoying. 3.7
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans will certainly lap this one up, but it’s not too shabby as a Wii-centric kart racer. Fans and non-fans alike should enjoy the different modes and will return to unlock new cards.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.