Release Date: November 04, 2003
Following in the tradition of poorly made Yu-Gi-Oh! videogames, Konami's latest title, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom, is a testament to just how shoddy a game can be and still be purchased if only the name on the box is recognizable. The Falsebound Kingdom is no exception to this unfortunate rule. While it is the first and only Yu-Gi-Oh! game on Nintendo's GameCube, even avid fans may want to avoid it as nothing about it actually feels authentic to the source material.
Most fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! will go into The Falsebound Kingdom expecting a digital recreation of the card game. Those people will be sorely disappointed. Instead of featuring a story revolving around the popular Duel Monsters game, players will be forced to sit through endless text screens explaining a new virtual-reality game where the Duel Monsters are real. Once Yugi and friends start to play this game they immediately become trapped inside the virtual world, and their only recourse is to finish the game. You can choose to play as either Yugi or Kaiba through the simulated civil war that is occurring within the game. Depending on who you play as you'll be on a different side of the war; Yugi represents the rebel movement while Kaiba sides with the oppressive king. But regardless of which path you choose, the plot is still boringly serious and pretentious.
I had high hopes for the Falsebound Kingdom, the premise of its gameplay is certainly interesting; half real-time strategy and half role-playing game. Unfortunately, the developers didn't do a very good job on either front. The overworld takes place on a generic and barren map, where you are given simple objectives like conquering your opponents or defending certain locations. Don't expect any of the staples of the RTS genre, such as amassing armies or resource gathering. Those types of gameplay elements are simply stripped from the equation.
Instead of opting for a unit based control system, you assume the role of marshals. Each of which commands three monsters. You can earn new marshals by progressing through the game and completing objectives. The combat system in The Falsebound Kingdom is mercifully streamlined compared to the obscure card game the title is allegedly based on, but is far too simplified to be much fun for anyone. You'll pit your monsters against an opposing marshal's monsters and take turns damaging each other until there is a winner. The main problem here is that each side has a certain amount of points that are spent to move or attack, and once these points are used up you'll be a sitting duck for your opponent. This can make for some incredibly mundane combat sequences, to say the least.
Luckily, there is a bit more to the game than just moving around a map and initiating battles. You'll also be charged with occupying towns and beefing up their armories, monster infirmaries, and defenses. By combining certain monsters in combat you can bust out with some pretty nifty group attacks. You can also set up various structures in a town to help defend it from oppressive enemies. But none of this stuff really enhances the game as a whole. The Falsebound Kingdom does have its moments from time to time, but the majority of the experience is dull, repetitive, and mundane.
The storyline events in The Falsebound Kingdom take far too long to get going -- finishing missions and completing objectives is an exercise in sheer tedium. Simply moving your marshals around the map is unnecessarily time-consuming. And once you actually engage in combat, the "action" remains slow and encumbered. Diehard fans of the franchise might get a kick out of the game's willingness to endlessly display screen after screen of various monsters and their unique statistics, but at the end of the day, you're left nodding off due to the downright boring gameplay dynamics.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom looks as bad as it plays, and if you've read this far you know that's saying a lot. There are occasional 3D models during combat that look respectable, and the various moves that the monsters in the game can execute don't look half bad either. But everything else is unapologetically generic and feels ripped right out of a Yu-Gi-Oh! game on the GBA. The environments take an overly minimalist approach, the textures on everything are crude and blurry, and the art direction is practically non-existent. And if you want some cool cut-scenes to lubricate the strenuous process of playing The Falsebound Kingdom, well, forget about it cause the only cut-scenes here are of the static, text-heavy variety.
Konami didn't put much love into the sound department, either. A few musical tracks can be heard during the majority of the experience, none of which stand out in any particular way. The incessant instrumental score would seem more at home in a 16-bit no-name RPG. Of course, all the requisite sound effects you'd expect to hear in an RPG are present, such as the thuds, clashes, and clanging of monsters gone wild, but they pretty much sound exactly the same regardless of which monsters are actually fighting. Oh, yah, and no voiceovers, either. Enjoy.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has been an unmitigated success in so many forms of media that videogames based on it are nothing less than inevitable. The manga, anime, and collectable card game based on the property have been selling consistently at an alarming rate and is showing no signs of slowing down. But when it comes to videogames, Konami just can't seem to get it right.