Duel Masters first arrived on the GBA and was met with some success. Now the card battle game is available on the PS2. Duel Masters is based on a hit card game from Japan that made its way to the states in the past year or so. It is a true card battle game for the PS2 and is arguably the first to actually accomplish this, as other card-style games were always wrapped up in a board game or battle grid of some sort. Duel Masters is just pure card gaming excitement, if that is what you are looking for.For those unfamiliar with the card gaming craze, here is a brief history. Duel Masters is based off of a card game known as Magic: The Gathering. Basically, you build a deck of cards that you use to defeat your opponent. This is accomplished by summoning mythical beasts to damage and conquer your foe; a simple concept that leads to very in depth strategic possibilities, which have fueled this style of gaming for over 10 years. With the success of Magic came countless other card games including Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and, within the past few years, these games have landed in video game form.
Since the entire product is based around the card game, I’ll quickly go over a few points of the game within the game. Basically, each person builds a deck from his cards. Duel Masters is a pretty simple game so the card types are pretty minimal. There are creature cards, which are used to attack and defend against your opponent’s monsters, and spell cards that create different game effects. Each player at the beginning of the game puts out 5 cards face down on the board. These cards are called “shields”, and your opponent tries to eliminate the shields, so he can attack you directly and win the game. This is done by summoning creatures and attacking your opponents. Play alternates through a series of turns until one player is the winner.
I was definitely pleased with this title because the interface and game play is so much easier to manage on a full screen instead of a tiny GBA screen. Not being completely familiar with the cards, I had to spend some time reading them, and it is much easier on the PS2. This speeds up the learning curve a little, but to an inexperienced Duel Masters play, it still takes quite a bit of experience before the game starts to run at a decent speed. The game otherwise has a similar feel to the GBA titles. You wander around from place to place engaging in a seemingly endless line of duels. Winning these duels gains you reputation and more cards to bolster your deck. At first glance, there appears to be an RPG element here, but, in essence, it’s just a guided tour from place to place, duel to duel. Oddly enough, the game sports a 2-player mode, but it is extremely clunky, considering seeing your opponent’s cards kind of defeats the purpose of the game. Also, there’s no online support. This style of game screams for online play, but alas, it is not to be.
The same problems plague this game plague most other card games on console systems. The game just flat out gets repetitive. Duel after duel, tournament after tournament begins to wear on you after a little while. It’s just not the same as running into a boss in an RPG. The bosses in this game only have different cards… not quite as impressive. You end up waiting for something different to happen, but it never does. That’s one reason why the replay value isn’t so high. After hours and hours of building up your card collection, are you going to start over? Not likely…
The graphic presentation is done rather well. Some of the character animations are done with a nice cel shaded look that lends itself well to an anime style. As for the duel scenes, the monsters have some cute animations and are well done for the most part. Also, there are some nice anime style cut scenes that happen throughout the game. The characters are true to there TV show counterparts to lend an even greater connection to the series, which is a good thing to be sure. Even the loading screens display detailed pictures of the card art from the game, which is sometimes lost when a real card game is transferred to a video game.
As nice as the graphics are, the sound was less than spectacular. The soundtrack is lame and repetitive and I had to turn it off shortly after I started playing. The sounds the monsters make during the duels are fine, and the sound effects are OK as well. The soundtrack is the real downer here, as it kind of ruins some of the feel that was captured with the graphics. My advice is to turn the radio on, and turn the volume down on this game.
I have to give Duel Masters credit for being a true card fighting game on the PS2 console, something that had been hinted of in the past, but never really accomplished. As far as card games go, its good, and delivers what you would expect, but the genre itself leaves much to be desired. The worst part about the title is its repetitiveness in game play and in the soundtrack. The lack of online play is another major stumbling block that needs to be overcome in the future. If you are a Duel Masters fan or a hardcore card gamer, then this may be a solid choice for you, but fans of action/strategy/RPGs should best look elsewhere.
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