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PS2 Review - 'Duel Masters'

by Hank on Dec. 20, 2004 @ 1:40 a.m. PST

Marking the franchise's first-ever appearance on the PS2, Duel Masters brings the Duel Masters universe to life with incredible 3D graphics. Players are invited play solo or battle against a friend in this challenging new adventure that also allows them to discover the powers of five never-before-seen creatures.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Atari
Developer: High Voltage Software Inc
Release Date: November 2, 2004

Buy 'DUEL MASTERS': PlayStation 2

During the 2003 Christmas season, I had the chance to work at a retail store, and the "Duel Masters" card game was one of the hottest selling items on the shelf. The kids obsessed about it, much as I had back in middle school with "Magic: The Gathering." Due to this newfound popularity, Atari has decided to recreate this game on the console, creating Duel Masters.

This review will be broken up into two parts; the first part will be a generalized review for everyone to understand what this game is about, and the second part for those gamers who want to know if this will give the same feel as playing the game itself (although I must admit that I have limited experience with the game so I might get a few terms mixed up, for which I apologize).

Some parents have probably seen their children with big stacks of cards and wondered what in the world they were. They could be several things, but the majority of the time, they may be some popular card game that has become a fad at the child's school, which he plays during recess or lunch. One such series would be Duel Masters, which might have cropped up on some Christmas lists this year. Is it a violent game or a game that will affect the child in any way? You can stop worrying because it's just a fun way to pass the time while simultaneously engaging their noggins for something other than schoolwork. A simple way to explain it would be to compare it to poker (without all of the financial hazards), but rather than having to hope for good hand to be dealt, you have your own deck of cards, which gives you a better chance of winning. In other words, it's one kid "dueling" against another to prove whose deck and skill is more superior, without getting into any physical trouble, aside from some mental fatigue from the defeat.

Like poker, this game really involves skill and the luck of the draw. Understanding the rules and having one of the better decks will most likely lead to one's victory. The rules and objective of the game is simple: to defeat the other dueler. To achieve this, you must break all his shields (usually five, determined by the cards he selects prior to the game) and defeat the player. Just think of it as a castle with five different moats to pass before you get to the king. To get through these layers, they must fight the enemies ahead of them (the cards on the battlefield), with certain rules where only certain people can guard, attack, and much more. Just like a transport plane and B15 bomber, one can only guard and take people in and out, while the other will attack the living daylights out of the enemy. Some of these cards are used for defense, while others are used for offense, and a selected few have the ability to do both. There are also magic spells which can turn the tides in one direction and make it favor either player.

For those Duel Masters, you may want to read this section because the rules for the game may have been slightly different from the rules you play. Here is the list of rules I learned from the game:

  1. To summon creatures and cast spells, you need mana, and the more you have, the more creatures and spells you can summon and cast. During each turn, you can add one card to create this mana.
  2. For higher mana creatures, you should turn to mana on the earlier phases since you won't be able to take them out for a while. It's ok to spend all your mana each turn, since you'll get it back during your next.
  3. In order to put out nature or items of your civilization, you must first unlock that civilization's mana, and for this example, you must put at least one nature card into the mana zone.
  4. Cards put out that instance cannot attack that turn due to sickness which is removed the next.
  5. An exception to this rule is the blocker's creatures with the blue circle symbol, who are the only ones capable of blocking an opponent's attacks and protecting your shields. It events out creatures on the battlefield but can only be used once per turn.
  6. Once used, the creature/item is tagged out or put to sleep till the next turn.
  7. You start with five shields, but sometimes new shields can be created. You lose when you lose all shields and your dueler.

The controls in the game are rather simplistic. L2 lets you look at details of the card in hand which will also show the cards special attributes and power (this is how you can tell an enemy is stronger than the other and who would win in a battle), R1 shows the opponent's cards in play, L1 looks at your cards on the battlefield, circle to end the turn, X to choose the card to play or place in mana, and triangle to cancel. Once you get a grasp of these buttons, you will head into the two modes of play.

These modes would be story and arcade. Most player will play story because this is where you run through the tale of the five main duelers: Flynn: Darkness, Rebecca: Water, Trey: Nature, Rusty: Fire, Luc: Light. This is also where you will unlock and gain new cards for your deck. Arcade mode is more multiplayer-based, where you can trade cards with a friend or just duel it out without having to worry about the rules. The main goal of the story is to complete your civilization's special beast, and in order to fully beat the game, you must run through all five of the stories. The last boss for each character is the civilization's creature, but to get there, you need to build your deck, or you may get beaten to a bloody pulp by the A.I.

You are given a deck of 40 cards to begin with, but in order to win, you need to add and remove cards as time goes on (maximum of 40 per deck), and to do this, you must defeat computer opponents, where you will gain three new cards for each win. If they are cards that will fit well in your deck, you can add them by removing other useless cards, but if they do not, you can sell them to the card store, which will give you credits to buy booster packs. Yet, one downside is that a booster pack costs about 125 points, and if the card is only average, you can only sell it for 10 apiece. You don't get money but reputation points by winning duels so in order to gain some credits to purchase these packs, you will need to sell a good portion of the useless cards and hope that the booster deck contains the cards that you want. One odd thing I find about this is that the booster deck only gives you five cards but in reality a booster pack gives you 10 (thanks to the free booster pack Atari provided). I don't think it would have been much harder to implement, but the developers must have had their reasons. From what I'm told, the cards also seem to be up to date having cards from the most recent "Shadowclash of Blinding Night."

To create the dueling universe, Duel Masters takes place in a regular city. Finding places to duel is a breeze because you can duel at the park, library, card store, restaurant, and more. These places get unlocked as you progress through the game, and in order to unlock all of the places, I believe you'll need to play through all five stories.

Each story requires you to get the nine parts of the element creature card. In order to do so, you will need to battle several duelers in order to slowly gain the necessary fragments. During these duels, you must adhere to the rules mentioned above, and you are allowed to only have five summonable creatures on the battlefield at any given time (total of 10 for both sides). Choose your creatures wisely, for some creatures cannot attack players, only the blue circle ones are blockers, some are capable of only blocking, some can attack untapped creatures, and others can only attack creatures.

You should look through your self-dealt hand and choose what is most fitting for your current situation. Each card has its own cost, and you will notice that the required mana is listed on the right side of the card. To the right of it is a dot system showing the amount of mana you have out, and underneath it, if you are capable of summoning or casting the card (the mana cost in dot form). Above this will be the amount of shields left, and to the right, the amount of mana you've unlocked. After you master this, you will be able to pass levels with ease and attain the necessary levels for your dueler to proceed in the story, making it easier to attain the master status which is needed to fight the last boss, the new "Element" creature.

All I have to say is that some of the creatures look pretty awesome. The 3D sequences and the 2D character designs in load time look quite marvelous. They are quite detailed and truly give the gamer a feel that it's some sort of mythological character. Even though the graphics are nice, it does get repetitive quite quickly, showing the same sequence practically each time that particular creature attacks. You can turn off these cut scenes, but it feels quite odd since the sequence seems like it's still needed. The backgrounds and character models are nowhere near the same level as the monsters. They are not very detailed, and for each stage, they feel almost the same. As for the characters, they rather plain-looking cartoon models which fit the game well.

The game is voiced over, and to me, most the voices match the appearances of the respective characters, which gives me the same feel as watching Pokemon and Yugioh cartoons. What is really nice are the background music sounds, which I personally find quite nice with its upbeat tracks and tones, as well as the monsters war cries.

Overall, Duel Masters is well done for a card game because the "Magic: The Gathering" video game wasn't particular good. High Voltage surely has done its job, but the game is aimed at the younger audiences and may not be the game for seasoned gamers, due to the repetitiveness and ease. A new option that even you adamant duelers probably don't know of is the extreme mode, where you play in real time rather than turn-based. After playing this game, I still personally find Magic a little more fun because the battles seem more realistic, relatively speaking. When a monster fights another monster, I wish they would leave damage and not just die off without inflecting any damage, which allows the A.I. to take out my entire army of level-2,000 monsters when they have only one level-4,000 (higher power levels always win). Also, only certain monsters can attack certain things (on average, in order to attack another monster, the other person's creatures need to have been used during the previous turn).Although I may complain of this, over time you will gain a grasp of the dueling system and eventually dominate the battles with ease. If you are an adamant fan of "Duel Masters," this may be your new best friend. However, due to the repetition and because it isn't at the same level as Magic, this is not my cup of tea. If you are really a true "Duel Master," you may want to add this to your Christmas list for your parents to get you, which will surely save the hassle of having to buy more starter decks, since it seems to give a fairly accurate recreation of the game.

Score: 7.5/10

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