Genre : Puzzle
Developer : KCEJ
Publisher : Konami
Release Date : February 10, 2004
Buy 'YU-GI-OH! World Championship Tournament 2004':
Game Boy Advance
It's been eight years since the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise was introduced in Japan, and the series is still going strong in that territory. In the U.S., a part of the world known for picking up and subsequently abandoning fads at the drop of a hat, the franchise has maintained a surprisingly strong following - something even Nintendo's own Pokemon franchise cannot brag about. As with most of these Japanese multimedia franchises, there has been a few Gameboy Advance releases pertaining to the series; in the U.S., there has been no more than five different Yu-Gi-Oh games on Nintendo's handheld. Two of these games were based directly on the card game which the rest of the franchise is based around. Championship Tournament 2004 is the third addition to that lineup, releasing almost exactly a year after the first.
Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship Tournament 2004 is not an entirely new take on the already established Yu-Gi-Oh card game rules. It is simply a Gameboy Advance version of the card game, just as the previous card-based GBA Yu-Gi-Oh titles were. This isn't really a full sequel, but more of an upgrade; think of it as being in the same vein as when Electronic Arts releases a new Madden game every year. There are 100 new cards added to the 1000 that were present in last year's game, and any slightly updated rules that were not present in a past GBA game are here for this version. It is obvious that Konami has put this game together for players who are already part of the Yu-Gi-Oh phenomenon, as they haven't done much with this game to garner new players.
Yu-Gi-Oh's basic mechanics are fairly simple: players build a deck of cards featuring various types of monsters, magic attacks, and traps, and take on other players (CPU or human) in one-on-one battles. Each player takes turns putting down a single monster to attack or defend, and they can also choose to activate magic powers that serve to enhance the abilities of the player or his/her monsters. The important card type is flip-effect cards. They can easily change the course of a battle. By putting them face down, the opponent may be forced to attack the card, which will in turn activate a special ability that has a chance to damage the opponent, his monster, or even help the owner of the card. The match ends when a player's 8000 hit points are depleted, or, if both players have hit 0 hit points at the same time, the match is declared a draw.
This may sound like a simple little card game, but believe me, it is not, especially if you haven't played the actual card game. It is very hard to figure out what is going on in this version. Konami isn't trying to sell this game to a new audience at all, so it is understandable that the game won't be as "newbie-friendly" as it could be, but I would prefer there to be something to ease the steep learning curve. As much as I hate to say it with "fad" games like these, this is a fun little game, and it's a shame that most people will not enjoy it very much at all simply because they couldn't learn how to play the thing in the Gameboy Advance version! A tutorial would do wonders with this game. I honestly think it would boost sales, and that should be a good thing for Konami, right? Perhaps I'm wrong; maybe I don't know much about how marketing works, and maybe Konami has released these GBA versions of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game in this manner for some specific reason. I don't know. Regardless of what the marketing department at Konami of Japan thinks, I feel that a tutorial mode would have made this game a hundred times more enjoyable for the average, non-Yu-Gi-Oh playing gamer out there.
For you Yu-Gi-Oh lovers out there, Championship Tournament 2004 is a great way to get your strategies together without having to play with live opponents (though you can do this if you want to thanks to the two-player link cable support). Even better, you can improve your deck building skills. With over a thousand cards available, you'll have a lot to work with. Since the real-world Yu-Gi-Oh cards are horrifically expensive, if you're an avid Yu-Gi-Oh player without the kind of pocket change the real game requires, thirty dollars for a GBA game so you can play around with deck building is a small admission price compared to what you would have to pay to get your hands on the real cards themselves.
Even if you have played the Yu-Gi-Oh card game before, you'll still need to brush up on the most recent rules set by Konami if you want to play through this game smoothly. The game does make it easy to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, but it definitely does not take you by the hand and show you what to do step-by-step. Yu-Gi-Oh veterans will love this take on the series; younger fans who aren't so hot with the rules or players who haven't touched their cards in a year or two will have some trouble with this one.
While I have made sure to point out that World Championship Tournament 2004 is really just a small upgrade and not a true sequel, I must point out that Konami has made some nice, if small, changes to the interface and overall look and feel of the game. The menus are easier to use and look a lot nicer. The pre-battle interface is much more cleaned up. Most importantly, the sound quality has made a huge leap: the songs are much closer to the standard of what should be expected from a Gameboy Advance game. Besides the aforementioned changes, though, everything is identical to the other two Yu-Gi-Oh card GBA games.
I'm not a big fan of Yu-Gi-Oh; if I'm going to play a card game, I would rather play something more fun and in-depth like Magic: The Gathering. Still, this is a fun little card game, and it holds up well on the GBA. It was a little hard to adjust to since I'm not an avid Yu-Gi-Oh player, but once I got the hang of it, I did find myself enjoying the game quite a bit. It's a shame that the lack of a tutorial will keep so many gamers from enjoying the fun there is to be had on this cartridge. It may not be the best card game around, but it's a lot of fun nonetheless.