The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! is one that has been going on since 1996 in Japan with the original Manga by Kazuki Takahashi introducing the world of gaming to manga readers everywhere. The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is best known for it’s childrens’ card game, introduced as Duel Monsters in the English adaptation, which is based on the original card appearing sporadically in the original Manga until it became a mainstay in Yu-Gi-Oh! duelist. Since then, the series has gone on to spawn a massive legacy consisting of multiple spin-off manga and anime series, as well as numerous video games, released by Konami. Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal World Duel Carnival is the latest video game localised for the 3DS handheld and is based on the Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal Anime series that is currently airing over here.
For those unfamiliar with how Yu-Gi-Oh! is played, the trading card game is a two player duel between duelists. Each duelist has a deck of 40 or more cards and battle monsters, spells and traps in order to damage their opponents life points down to 0. The main idea of the game is to construct a deck with a strategy that best combines cards of each type in order to defeat your opponent as easily as possible. In ZeXal, players can build a deck, or use one of many pre-made decks, to do this. What makes ZeXal a little more interesting, and strange, in comparison to previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games in this area is that players can no longer buy cards from a card shop, but must instead use the cards that they are given as they progress throughout the game. This makes it a little more difficult to build an OTK (one turn kill) Lightsworn deck as you must first obtain with the cards, by defeating an opponent, that go into a build like that.
Much like in previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games, ZeXal features a story mode and a free duel mode for players to take on. The Story mode of the game is incredibly light on gameplay time, but can be completed for multiple characters, each with their own storylines. The downside to the story mode is that each of the characters stories individually are pretty short. If you’re good at the card game and playing the meta-game, you can win all your duels in a few minutes and fly through a single characters story in about an hour and a half. If you’re not as good, this might take you about two hours. But, ultimately, there are a multitude of characters to burn through in the game, and you can save your deck recipes or make new ones as you unlock more characters. For instance, you start off with three characters to begin with, Yuma, Shark and that other person, but you unlock another four or so characters after you finish the game with one of them. While you don’t get to play as -every- single character, there are a lot of them. Players that like to play through a game and reach the end once or twice may find this title to be a bit lacking, but for completionist players, having multiple storylines is definitely a massive plus. It kind of feels like a visual novel with a card game thrown on top.
As we mentioned, moving through the game in ZeXal feels a lot like a visual novel. Howevewr the gameplay has this kind of rhythm where you’ll be dueling and winning twice, and then game will do a visual novel-esque storyline moment where you need to get through a story duel to progress further. All of this is to gather three heart-chips in order to face off in the tournament and ultimately win. This tournament in the story is usually tied up in some kind of personal drama that the character you’re playing as has to battle through and the tournament is the way they need to do that. As the title of the game mentions a carnival, it kinda makes sense that the characters are going to be in the tournament, but it feels a bit strange that the characters aren’t really in it for themselves but are instead there because of the power of friendship or revenge or etc.
The gameplay in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal is pretty much your standard Yu-Gi-Oh! gameplay. Summon monsters, set traps, play the phases, etc. But what makes this different is that the flow of the battle feels a little disjointed. This isn’t because they’ve changed the way that duels are played, but, it’s more that you need to tap the screen to confirm everything and anything that happens. This ranges from magic and traps being played, to the characters talking on the top screen. It’s kind of a nuisance when you have to tap the screen or press A to advance the gameplay when the game gives you the option of holding the B button to skip prompts. This is because you have to let go of B for it to read, so you’ll always tap the screen and then have to deal with a prompt anyway. This feels like a bit of a step back from previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games, given how much more fluid the previous battle systems felt. This is especially true for the 5DS line games on the previous generation of DS hardware.
Even stranger is that there are no monster sprites in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal, at all. This is so strange as the sprites have been in the Yu-Gi-Oh! games in some capacity since the DS editions of the GX games. The 3DS cartridges hold more data and the 3DS itself has more graphical firepower than the last generation of handhelds, so it’s a bit odd that they couldn’t -at least- dump the monster sprites or models from the previous game into this one. We were incredibly pumped up to see some duel monsters spitting out of the screen finally, only to see that the only things coming out in 3D were pictures of the duelist you’re playing as and versing. Or whichever VN element is playing at that moment.
Continuing the tradition of the music in Yu-Gi-Oh! games, ZeXal features a pretty awesome soundtrack to duel to. You can’t really complain about it as the tunes are really catchy and bring out the intensity of a duel. The only downside to this is that the musical tracks available within the game are incredibly limited in number, and by limited, we mean there are like 30 awesome bits of music available in the game! There is no voice acting though, but that is to be expected in a Yu-Gi-Oh! game. But still, great music!
Overall, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal World Duel Carnival is a pretty good Yu-Gi-Oh! game that fans of the series’ will want to pick up. While it certainly has less features than its predecessors, that doesn’t make it a bad game. If you’re more interested in a story than a dueling experience then this might not be the game for you, however, if you are looking for a new kind of challenge in the Yu-Gi-Oh! world, then this is the game that you will want.
Rating: 4500/8000 Life Points.
Yu-Gi-Oh! ZeXal World Duel Carnival is devloped by Konami. It retails for around ~$60 (EBGames has, like, the only online listing) and is rated G for General Audiences. Definitely suitable for all ages.