Review: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 (Nintendo DS)

yucoverYu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Trading Card Game
Release Date: 05/19/2009

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise. I absolutely love the card game for how much fun it is to play. I HATE the TV show so much that I kind of hate myself for having ever watched a single episode. (I’ve actually watched a couple hundred from the first two series. That’s how much I enjoy the game!)

Anyway, upon hearing that the latest in the Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship series was going to feature a storyline derived from the newest show in the series, I was more than a little concerned that all of the new cards and online content would be overshadowed by the ridiculousness that is turbo dueling.

So, is the first real Yu-Gi-Oh game since 2007 any good?

Story/Modes

While the plot of the game basically follows the plot from the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s (I’m just going to write YGO from now on. I’m getting sick of writing hyphens.), you’re not actually going to play as Yusei. Instead, you create a character at the beginning and the plot revolves around your interactions with the characters from the show.

Basically, you wake up in the Satellite, which is basically the slums of New Domino City. People from the Satellite aren’t allowed to go into the city, so there is a good dose of social class tension going on here. However, the game doesn’t ever do anything with it, as the people have seem to given up caring about the injustice of it all. Anyway, when you wake up, you quickly realize you’ve completely lost your memory. Soon enough you meet Rally from the show, and set off a journey to reclaim your memory…..from dueling.

yu1I really really hate the plot for these shows.

Anyway, fans of the show will quickly notice that your character does pretty much everything Yusei does from the show. That includes sneaking into the city, being arrested, breaking out of jail, and ending up in the Fortune Cup tournament. Actually, Yusei himself does a lot of these things too, but you’ll notice that since you’re the one that gets him out of jail and saves his friends from thugs, he comes off kind of as a nobody. As the main character of the show, its kind of odd that he never does anything of importance. Also, when you duel him towards the end of the game, he’s a pushover. I beat him in three turns and he didn’t even scratch my life points.

All in all, the story is kind of bland. Almost all of the characters are given only marginal amounts of screen time and the lack of the constant commentary during duels during the show really prevents any character from gaining any depth. Thankfully, the plot itself is pretty short, and you can safely burn through it and focus on unlocking stuff for World Championship mode.

World Championship mode lets you you compete against NPCs in one on one duels, tag duels, and in tournaments. However, opponents and modes are unlocked by continuing story mode and by beating opponents there. At first, you’ll only have thee duelists to chose from and you can only play them in single duels. Thankfully, new opponents are easy to unlock, so you can fill out the roster just by playing the game. You do have to beat someone five times to unlock a WC opponent, but the Duel Points you get in compensation are worth it. Also, your card collection and DP carry over between modes. So if you get stuck in the main game, you can always grind here and build a better deck.

Anyway, you’ll also be able to bring the DS online in order download rule changes, free cards, and ghost duelists that can be fought in WC mode. You can also battle online using friend codes or fighting random people from across the world with a similar ranking. While you can’t talk to them at all, you can increase your rank and gain DP.

All in all, the story is pretty weak, but the bonus modes make up for it.

Graphics

While never really all that important to a card game, the graphics for WC ’09 have seen a little improvement over the previous installment.

During card battles, the game mat and cards are shown on the bottom screen while character portraits, life points, and detailed card descriptions are on the top. The cards themselves are blurry and the small 2D representations of the monsters aren’t much to look at. Although, when you summon a famous powerful monster from the show, you get a pretty cool looking intro. Thankfully, the top screen shows clear pictures of the cards and lets you scroll through any text at your leisure. Also, whenever you attack, you’ll get a little bit of animation. The monster won’t move, but each monster has its own attack and there are several different effects.

Still, the visuals aren’t really that impressive. It would be hard to have much more detail when it comes to monsters interacting with each other because there are so many, but that doesn’t prevent this from looking less than good.

During story mode, you’ll run around in 2.5D environment while interaction with 3D characters. These models are slightly worse than something you would find on early 3D games. In fact, the game has the same texture mapping problem that affected almost every character in a PSX game. If a character stays still, you’ll notice body parts vibrating wildly or pixels changing color. For instance,my character had green and black striped hair. While standing still, I noticed that one of the pixels was rapidly shifting between black and green. It was certainly amusing to look at. We’ve definitely seen more impressive 3D visuals for the DS.

When it comes down to it, the game doesn’t look bad per se, but isn’t anything to write home about either.

Audio

Once you boot up Story Mode, you’ll notice quite a bit of difference in the style of music the game uses. You have a lot more of a techno vibe compared to the gladiator themed music of the past game. It doesn’t really do anything but provide some background noise for duels, but its still pretty pleasant to listen to. Sadly, there aren’t that many songs. Given the sheer number of duels you’re going to have, you’ll get sick of the music pretty early on.

Still, there’s some nice touches done with the score. When the duel starts, the music is kind of easy going. If you start to get behind too far in life points, the music will pick up fast and add a palpable sense of danger to the proceedings. If you get really far ahead, the music will pick up again, but in a different way that allows you to feel confident that the duel will end in your favor. If the life differential starts to even out again, the game music will revert back to the original track. I really dig that. Oh, and all of the songs from the last game are featured in WC mode, so there is actually a lot more variety than before.

yu2There’s no voice acting in the game, but there are plenty of sound effects. Each monster attack features its own sound that do a pretty good job of sounding like they hurt. Whenver a card is destroyed, you’ll hear a satisfying shattering sound. Also, the little thwip sound when you’re drawing cards or cards are being discarded from the deck to the graveyard is really nifty.

The game doesn’t do anything great with its audio, but it does the job pretty well.

Gameplay

If you’ve ever played a YGO game for the DS, than you know what to expect from the dueling aspects of the game. You and your opponent take turns summoning monsters, playing spells, and activating traps in order to reduce the other’s life points to zero. You can set some cards face down to conceal your plans you your opponent, or go in for a straight forward attack. You can lock down opponents with spells or overwhelm them with monsters. There are tons of strategies to use and with nearly 3,000 cards, no two decks will be the same. Still, this isn’t a review of the card game itself, but of its implementation on the DS,

Fortunately, the the game translates well. You can either use the stylus or the buttons during duels. Both work great. Laying down cards is as simple as highlighting the one you want and and choosing and option such as summon or set. Anytime there is a chance you can play a card in response to an opponent’s action, the game asks you if you would like to make any such action. If you’re unable to respond, the option will not come up, limiting needless input that I’ve seen in other card games. All told, the game plays exactly like the cards its based off of. If you like the latter, than the former is right up your alley.

One problem does arise however, which hurts the game. There is occasional slowdown during duels. When you activate a card, the game will occasionally bring up a bar that lets you know its thinking. This can last a few seconds in a few cases and will get really annoying. There was a similar problem in WC ’08, but not nearly to this extent. I guess adding all of the new cards made it that much time consuming for the game to remember what each one does.

When it comes to adding to adding cards to your collection, you have a couple of options. One, you’ll need to acquire duel points by completing duels. You can buy packs of five cards at shops. If you win a duel, you will always have enough DP to buy at least one pack. Most of the time, you’ll be able to afford more. Sadly, the packs in the game are not the same as the packs in real life. Therefore, it can be a bit harder to find your favorite cards if you play the actual card game. Also, you can’t add cards you own in real life to your collection in the game. This means you’ll have to grind your way through the game to build your deck. If this is the kind of thing that annoyed you about 08, you’ll be disappointed here as well.

yu3Deck building is still as cinch. You have dozens of options for categorizing the cards in oder to search for the one you want. You can set it up to show only certain types of cards, specific subtypes, different leveled monsters, monsters with effects, etc. Unless you’re just searching through every card you own, you’ll be able to quickly find a group of cards that go together or have similar effects. This is the best system for this kind of game that I’ve seen.

Rather that pit you solely in duels, the story mode offer a more RPG-like experience. You’ll maneuver around the world talking to NPCs, exploring, finding treasure chests full of DP and cards, and even solve a couple of sliding box puzzles. There’s even a stealth section, though its extremely annoying given that you can’t look ahead at all and guards have eyes like hawks. You’ll more than likely get caught several times before you can get through it.

The game also features a racing mechanic. Early on, you acquire a duel runner. Basically, its a motorcycle with a dueling field on it. Thankfully, you never have to steer while dueling, but you do get to race this sucker as well as customize it with new parts and paint jobs. The racing itself is pretty bland. The tracks are often the same colored wall with a few tuns or some obstacles in the way. These sections aren’t actively bad, but won’t satisfy any sort of racing fix you have. It’s more like a glorified mini game. You can participate in time attacks and races against three opponents with multiple difficulties and a handful of tracks by going to any duel runner shop in the game. The game keeps track of your best times and you’ll even get some DP for your trouble. If nothing else, it gives you something to do in between duels.

As for those of you wondering about how turbo duels are implemented, they pretty much run the same as regular duels albeit with the rule changes intact. You’ll have to use speed spells, which have their own booster packs you can buy, and you’ll have to keep track of speed counters that you need to use said spells. The game lets you keep separate turbo decks so you don’t need to constantly mess around in the deck editor. There really aren’t that many of these duels though, so you don’t need to worry too much.

While the other elements aren’t anything special, the duels are still a ton of fun to play. I’ve played a few TCG games in my time and Yu-Gi-Oh still has one of the best engines around. Those looking for a YGO fix will be satisfied.

Replayability

I have spent well over a hundred hours on WC ’08 and I still haven’t finished unlocking everything. Thankfully, there is even more content to be found in 09.

With even more cards to unlock, enemies to vanquish, and people to battle online with, you can spend dozens of hours on this game and still have a long way to go before you’re really done. If you’re playing only for the story, that will still offer you a good dozen or so hours of gameplay thanks to the need to get better cards.

The real reason to keep playing this game is get all of the cards so that you can mess around create the best deck for you. Either that, or create your own version of the best decks on the pro circuit. Although you won’t be able to use banned cards, they are still in the game since rules change are updated throughout the year.

This is a game that can sit in your DS for quite some time.

Balance

Here’s one of the biggest problems of the game. The best decks center around a general theme. Creating a deck of random cards really doesn’t work all that well. You need a sound strategy. However, the cards are spread around a bunch of packs and it can be a real pain to get the cards you need to create such a strategy with any sort of speed. As such, even early opponents can present a real challenge. While you will come across useless enemies, you’re going to have a real problem if you don’t grind for DP.

yu4Also, just like in real life, there are certain decks that will almost always own most others. If I never seen another Lightsworn deck, it will be too soon.

Once your card collection gets big enough, you’ll be able to do better, but if you want a killer deck, its going to take a serious amount of time.

Oh yeah, and the AI tag partners you get are all morons. They’ve screwed me over so many times that I tend to hate tag dueling with a vengeance. Traps I’ve set will be wasted, and useful monsters sacrificed for one that the computer is about to get killed. The opponents are much better at working together. If you don’t build your deck around your partner’s, you’re going to be in trouble.

Originality

There have been far too many Yu-Gi-Oh games in the past for anything this game comes up with to be considered original. Apart from new cards and the racing sections, there isn’t anything new being added to the series or card games in general.

This game just adds upon a successful formula. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking here.

Addictiveness

This is a hard one to judge. I suppose it all depends on how much you enjoy the card game.

One of the problems of the game is that you unlock stuff by beating the same duelest over and over again. If he’s a pushover, then you run the risk of getting bored. If he’s challenging, you could easily get frustrated. A good way to prevent something like this is to not focus on one person at a time. If you spread out your duels amongst many opponents you’re less likely to feel burned out.

Another problem arises in that most of the booster packs contain only around fifty or so cards. Considering that almost half of these are rares, you’re going to need to buy a ton of packs and suffer through having more than you need of many cards before you get a single copy of a card you actually want. Its even worse if you start getting multiples of banned or limited cards that you can’t use. Unless they change the rules again soon, I can’t do anything with the three or four copies of “Call of the Haunted” that I have. I wish the game would give me something I could use.

The game doesn’t lend itself so well to long sessions of play unless you’re really into the card game. The best way to play it is to play a few duels in burst sessions whenever you get bored or have a few seconds to spare. Even if you don’t spend hours after hours playing at once, you’ll definitely get the urge to play whenever you have a spare moment.

Appeal Factor

While the popularity of the show has dwindled over the years and the series has had less of a mainstream appeal, the card game still has a relatively large audience. It may not be as big as something like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon, but there are a lot of people out there playing Yu-Gi-Oh.

Never once have I wanted to play an online game and not been able to find an opponent. There is always somebody around my rank to play with.

Being that this is newest version of the World Championship series, and its on the DS, this will probably be one of the more successful card games in recent memory.

Granted, card games don’t have that large of an audience to begin with.

Miscellaneous

There are several things that this game could have done to improve upon its predecessor.

For one, you should be able to sell excess cards or cards you don’t want in order to get DP. I have so many copies of some cards already that I don’t know what to do with them. Given that you don’t need to worry about having multiple decks at the ready and you can only use three copies of a card in a deck, the extras serve no purpose.

yu5There really should be a way of editing the banned list. I get that for on line play you need to have that list intact, but for single player purposes it doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t I use some of these cards against AI opponents?

There also needs to be even more of a penalty imposed on those who drop out of online duels when they start losing. Either that, or at least have the rank of the person who stayed in go up a little. I’ve had a hell of time increasing my rank because there are so many people who drop out when they’re losing. It drives me nuts.

While this game is definitely solid, I really wish they did something to improve upon these things. As a sequel, it doesn’t really do much. I suppose all of the development went into the story mode and adding the new cards.

Its up to you whether or not the new cards are worth it.

The Scores

Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Decent
Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Below Average
Originality: Very Poor
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Final Score: Above Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1While its not going to turn any heads when it comes to presentation or originality, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 is a solid game thanks to its source material With nearly three thousand cards to collect, downloadable ghosts to duel, and online opponents to conquer, this game has plenty of bang for your buck. This is the kind of game that you can keep in your DS for quite some time. If you’re looking for something new, you’re not going to get it, but fans of series and fans of the card game will have no reservations for picking this up.

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