Genre: Card Battle
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Publishing and development giant Konami has released the latest edition of its popular card-based strategy game, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2, which includes over 2,800 cards with which to duel and introduces the ability to compete in tag duels. In addition to the basic story and duel modes, you can unlock and play six mini-games as you progress, and the game is also packed with three limited edition official game cards.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise appeals primarily to younger audiences, some of whom will most likely require some assistance to understand how to play the PSP game. This could be a deal-breaker for some, since that's the game's intended audience. Deck and card management is always an important element, but fortunately, the PSP series has always included an excellent card management feature; it can initially be quite intimidating until you learn how to use it correctly. Unless you have a pretty good understanding of how to play the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, you should expect to spend some time learning the basics. You can just jump in and learn from your mistakes, but TF2 includes a tutorial mode and a learn-as-you-go tutorial system that can help speed up learning the game's numerous features. Additionally, pressing the "start" button on the PSP will bring up a comprehensive context-sensitive help screen that does a very good job of answering any questions you may encounter while playing.
After creating a new profile, you have the ability to start a game in story mode or enter the free duel mode. In the former, you will again find yourself as a student at the Duel Academy, where you need to interact with other students and teachers and generally seek out characters against whom to duel. My only complaint regarding story mode is that there is an excessive amount of character dialogue, but this tends to be the norm for games developed in Japan. Free duel mode lets you bypass all of the story content and play a normal duel or a tag-team duel. If you don't like the pre-selected opponent, you can select who you'd specifically wish to duel, or let the game randomly select a different one for you. You can also choose to just watch as the PSP plays itself in a normal duel, which can be useful when you're just learning how to play.
The reward system in TF2 is quite extensive. Besides incorporating a standard character leveling system, playing card games provides you with the opportunity to earn duel points (DP) that you will primarily use to purchase new decks at the student store. Additional cards can be obtained by winning duels, while others can be found by just roaming around the campus and other story locations. Another way to unlock new cards is through using the UMD recognition mode, which has to be one of the most creative ways ever devised to reward console loyalty. When prompted, you remove your TF2 UMD and replace it with another UMD. It doesn't matter if you use a game like NBA 08 or Hot Pixel; as long as TF2 has not seen it before, it will reward you with new cards. Kudos to Konami for adding value to my existing PSP library in this manner. TF2 even includes the ability to download new cards, deck recipes and rules from the official website.
In keeping with the nature of most card-based games, TF2 is not only about gaming, but it is also about card collecting and trading. The title sports an excellent card album mode that allows you to page through and organize your collection as you see fit. If you wanted to trade for a card that your friend has on his or her PSP, simply connect through the network menu, and any cards placed in each player's "trunk" are made available to trade through Wi-Fi.
In addition to competing in duels, TF2 offers players over 100 challenges to complete, which will vary greatly and include goals such as causing a certain level of damage in a single game or winning a game with only one copy of any given card in your deck. These statistics are not only tracked for each player profile, but also for each computer player against whom you battle. All stats are made available for review through the main menu.
You won't find too many changes in the graphics since the first Yu-Gi-Oh! Tag Force. Most of the art and overall design of the game are in tune with the popular television cartoon series. When dueling, the cards are easy to recognize and read on the PSP's widescreen display, and although the interface can often be visually busy, it is organized well enough to be practical once you've weathered a few battles. The music and sound effects are bouncy and not overly distracting during gameplay, although the music can become a bit repetitive. You have the option to adjust volume levels for both music and sound separately, which is nice when you're ready to suppress the soundtrack.
With TF2's multiplayer mode, you can duel through either Ad-Hoc mode or USB connection (huh? read on…). In Ad-Hoc mode, you and up to four friends can team up for some competitive dueling, as long as your PSPs stay within approximately 30 feet of each other. With the USB mode, you can connect using a USB cable to a PlayStation 2 to play against someone who has Yu-Gi-Oh GZ The Beginning of Destiny for the PS2.
The story mode in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2 may be a bit dialogue-heavy for most gamers, and younger players may need some help with learning how to play, which could cause some issues, since the game primarily caters to a much younger demographic. Veterans of the series will enjoy the enhanced play modes and the new tag dueling. Fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! television series and card game will be happy with this offering, which gives you room to grow and features galore.