Genre: Card Battle
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: April 24, 2007
Most offerings in SNK Playmore's "vs. series" are fighting games to be sure, but among the punches and hadoukens, you might remember a little gem called SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Like the crossover fighting games before it, this brought together characters from both the SNK and Capcom universes to battle it out — only this time in the form of a trading card game. In an effort to bring back the portable card battling, SNK has released the sequel, SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters DS.
There is a large audience that enjoys card games, or else franchises like Yu-Gi-Oh wouldn't be so popular. However, what baffles me is how one is supposed to build a story around playing a trading card game. Apparently this baffled SNK Playmore, too. In Card Fighters DS, you're just a child who wants to participate in a card tournament. However, when you arrive, you find that Max, the computer system that operates the Card Tower, has taken over all of the card fighters present — except you and your two friends. Max wants to use card battling to rule the world (I have no idea how it plans to do this), but your mission is to fight every card battler in the tower until you reach the top and defeat the super computer.
Admittedly, the card game SNK has devised is actually quite enjoyable. You start out with a deck of 50 cards, composed of a variety of character cards, action cards, and counter cards. You will deal mainly with character cards, since the point of the battle is to reduce your opponent's health from 2,000 to zero. To bring character cards into play requires a certain type of payment called Force. At the beginning of each round, you gain one colorless Force, and when you have a character card in play, it will put off a designated Force.
Balancing your Force is key in Card Fighters DS. For example, you may have enough to pull out another character card, but you could also save that Force to use a counter-card on your opponent's turn. These counter-cards could unfreeze your character cards or lower the attacking power of your opponent's cards.
Another important factor is knowing when and when not to attack. When a character card attacks, it is frozen until your next turn, meaning that you can't use it for defending when your opponent's cards attack. Beginning with a relentless aggressor could result in your vulnerability during your opponent's turn, leading to your ultimate demise.
Aside from character and counter cards, you will have the option of using action cards. These are cards that can be used during your turn, and they have many effects, from adding to the health of one of your character cards to KO'ing one of your opponent's cards.
There is no doubt that Card Fighters DS is fun, but its presentation is horribly done. The basic premise is to work your way to the top of a tower by monotonously battling challengers for 21 floors. On top of that, I find that it is inconvenient and annoying to get new cards. I remember in Pokemon TCG for the Game Boy Color and receiving a pack of cards after each battle, which helped you rack up a good collection fairly quick. However, in Card Fighters DS, you earn money which you must use to buy cards in the shops located on various floors. In these shops, you'll have the option of buying a pack of cards or a scratch card. The scratch card is a more expensive card that you must scratch with your stylus, but it generally offers better rewards than what you might find in a regular pack. Unfortunately, these methods of getting new cards are very time-consuming and make enhancing your deck a chore.
While the actual card game doesn't have the complexity of more popular titles like Magic: The Gathering or maybe even Yu-Gi-Oh, it does have the simple appeal that would be fun to play with a friend. In Card Fighters DS's multiplayer mode, you have the option of either playing a regular card battle, or — my personal favorite — a bet battle, which allows you to bet in-game money, packs, or cards. What's even more interesting is that if you bet a card, it requires the players to bet cards of equal rarity. You can also use the wireless features to trade cards with another player. All of these options are good and all, but it is a disappointment that there are no Wi-Fi abilities. While the presentation of the game is a drag, it would definitely be fun to play some bet battles online.
Speaking of bad presentation, there is something to be said about the translation of this game. I won't go so far as to mention Zero Wing, but there were many times I had to re-read the dialogue subtitles and I still had no idea what had just been said. It's just one of the many knocks against what could have potentially been a good game.
While there's not much to work with in the graphics department of a trading card game, the art is impressive. The characters range from a wide scope of SNK and Capcom titles, allowing for a nice surprise each time you find a new card. The art may be good, but there is no animation of which to speak. You have the occasional lightning flash or gunshot when a character card attacks, but other than that, nothing.
There is one game-stopping glitch that totally renders Card Fighters DS nearly unplayable for completists. In the second playthrough on the ninth floor, there is a character you battle that will simply freeze your game. Considering there are 21 floors in all, that's a good bit of game missing there. This means you will not be able to collect all of the cards without some sort of cheating device. It seems like it's the consumers that were cheated on this one.
I tried so hard to like Card Fighters DS, but I feel it's a good card game stuck inside of a bad video game. The source material was there, and it had potential to be lots of fun, but the method of earning cards is repetitive, you are stuck in a static location throughout the game, and it is basically impossible to complete the game until SNK redistributes new cartridges. I say use the $30 you might have spent on this and try to dig up a Neo Geo Pocket with Card Fighters Clash, which is still your best bet for a good SNK/Capcom card battling experience.