Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2007
Genre: Card Battle
Release Date: March 20, 2007
Have you ever played a game that frustratingly manages to miss what seems to be the key point amongst its intended audience? Imagine a Disgaea without its plot, only a goalless grindfest. Imagine a Starcraft II that locked players into a certain pace (or worse, a turn-based Starcraft II). Now, imagine what is supposed to be the year's definitive Yu-Gi-Oh game, the official software of Upper Deck Entertainment's 2007 World Tournament, failing to implement the entire potential of the card game. Then you'll start to understand just why, in spite of vast improvements from the last version, Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007 is a failure — if you think of it as a card game. Taken on its own, Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007 is a surprisingly good title with a sizable amount of the content.
For those who have never played Yu-Gi-Oh, imagine a collectible card game with no resource cards (actually, cards become their own resources for related cards). Basically, players build decks consisting of three, possibly four, types of cards (monsters, fusion monsters, spells, and the infamous trademark Trap Cards), which are then used to battle it out. The game is really quite popular and incredibly intricate. Unless a card is specifically banned or restricted by Upper Deck Entertainment, it remains useful for the entirety of the game's lifespan, unlike Wizards of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering, where only the latest six or seven releases are legal at any one time, and at least two entire releases were banned on arrival.
Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007 implements all of these basics and all of the details of the rules, and little more. Where the game both succeeds and fails is in how well these rules are implemented, for it is here that determines if the game will last 100 seconds or 100 hours for fans of the card game. Unfortunately, it is here that the holes in the game are introduced. Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007 is limited to 1,600 cards, which is a lot by any means, and for any casual fan who sticks to recent sets, newer cards are the emphasis. Furthermore, Upper Deck did take the time to choose and collect themes, so if you want an Elemental Hero deck, you will find most of the fusion and internal manipulation that defines the Elemental Heroes to be available. Unfortunately, the limits are very obviously there, and the odds are quite high that you will never be able to complete that tournament-winning deck you used last year.
Things are made more frustrating by the fact that the above statement applies even if the cards are there. For some reason, the Forbidden and Limited lists in Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007 are severely inconsistent with the lists in the official UDE list. Many cards that are officially semi-limited (only two allowed in a deck) are marked as fully limited, and some that are limited or semi-limited are listed as Forbidden. You get the idea. Needless to say, the number of errors on the list brings into question whether a serious comparison between the trading card game and this implementation was made to ensure it follows the official rules in full. Stranger still, it is possible to unlock the ability to place Forbidden cards in your deck, but given that this game is official to the World Tournament, this seems highly strange indeed. It is possible to download the UDE set off of the Nintendo Wi-Fi network, but why it was not made default is not reasonably explainable.
If the card lists drop the game to "poor implementation" status, the features of the game itself elevate it most excellently, however. From a well-done Wi-Fi implementation complete with voice chat, a decent enough avatar customization system, a card shop based on how you might get cards in the real world, and even being able to connect to previous Nintendo DS Yu-Gi-Oh games (using two DS units, of course) to download your entire deck from the older games to the newer ones, and touch-screen controls that almost work better than physically holding the cards, the game hits on most every base — except one.
See, you acquire packs of just five random cards extremely slowly, since you collect Duel Points rather slowly. This pretty much makes building decks from scratch very nearly impossible for a significant period of time, which brings on serious frustration. No tutorials or advice is provided for building a deck, making the creation of decent decks a difficult task for novice players without the assistance of a cheat device. It is further unfortunate that the nature of the game makes a wide variety of cheats difficult or impossible to detect; most commonly, people will hack simply to save time gathering the cards for their uber deck, but during Wi-Fi play, I found one person who managed to instantly win a battle. Hopefully something can be done to catch the hackers (at least in online play), but unfortunately, one can easily understand why the deckhackers do so, given the slowness of gathering cards in this game. Overall, in spite of the tutorials added, this title is not friendly to new players who do not possess hacking devices.
The presentation of the game is rather lacking. Graphics are sparse, with poorly animated images for every card and a clear focus on function over beauty — text is highly readable, the board is neatly set up to fit the screen perfectly, etc. The game's inconsistent art style (much like the actual TCG) does not help things much on this front, though all images neatly match the original card art. (Polygonal models for some monsters, however, introduce the question of whether or not reducing the graphics would have allowed for more cards.)
Sound is pretty much a no-show, with only three music tracks during any duel (two of which are shared by all duels and will grow old fast) and sound effects straight out of the 16-bit era, which sometimes don't even make sense given the card art. (Why does a sword-wielding image have a thunderbolt sound?) Unfortunately, with the cartridge format, it is difficult to imagine Konami doing much better on the graphical front for this game without using inordinately expensive cartridges.
Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2007, overall, is a fairly solid success for portable implementations of one of the most popular TCGs on the market. Too difficult for newbies, but lacking too many cards for old-hat masters, the game finds and neatly settles into a perfect niche among newer yet established fans who like working with what they're given and/or don't necessarily have the money to buy the game's infamously costly booster packs. While its niche appeal is clearly limited amongst fans, Konami has certainly figured out how to make card games work absolutely beautifully on the Nintendo DS, using all the capabilities that make the system unique (and even yanking a page or two from the Wii, sort of!) to blow every non-physical-cards version of the game (including those on other systems) out of the water. With more presentational polish, following the official UDE rules more tightly, and some other enhancements, Yu-Gi-Oh World Tournament 2008 could very well be more enjoyable than next year's versions of Pokemon. (You know they're coming.)