The first time I saw Yu-Gi-Oh! was also the first time I had this epiphany. I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing; what appeared to be a bizarro world version of Cloud Strife was plastered on the front of card packs, allegedly for the purpose of battling and collecting, not unlike the card version of Pokémon. I didn’t understand it; in fact, I didn’t want to understand it. I was a relic from an ancient time, unable to identify with modern entertainment. Old timers like me aren’t welcome in this new fangled world single syllable nonsense. Of course now, in 2007, I’ve found myself reviewing Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2, so it looks like I’ll finally have to give this unfading phenomenon a fair shake.
Oh! My God
All of that being said, I expected to waltz right into the story mode of this (supposed) kids game and clean house. Forty five minutes later I’ve just lost my fourth consecutive match (after three reloads) and I’m ultimately bewildered by the concept. My ego has suffered through more embarrassing setbacks, but trying to access this game was like trying to scale an impenetrable fortress. I had no clue what I was doing, what was going on, what anything meant, or, more importantly, how anything worked. It was like the end of 2001, after so much effort and a genuine desire to understand, I was actually smarter before I turned it on.
I returned my machismo to my pocket and decided to crack open the instruction manual, hoping for some sort of clue as to how to actually play this game. This proved to be an ironic experience, as the instructions offered absolutely zero instruction. Oh sure, there’s plenty of information about game setting, button assignment, and how to setup multiplayer matches, but the mechanics of card battling (read: core gameplay) were totally absent. Eventually I was able to find the in game database as well as several small tutorials from Bastion, but their impact was minimal at best. For beginners, Yu Gi Oh! seems like a convoluted mess. Without the proper context I was left without the slightest clue of where to start, let alone win a match.
After some intense googling and even a few youtube videos, I learned this particular incarnation of Yu Gi Oh! was based on New Expert Rules, which means absolutely nothing to me, but might be helpful if you’ve played previous titles in the series and are wondering what’s new this time around. Ultimately, as with any card battling game, everything boils down to an advanced form paper, rock, scissors. The end goal is to level your opponent through a series of well strung chains via specific spells or summons, but it’s all about exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. I just summarized eight paragraphs worth of mechanics in two sentences, but truth be told, you don’t really need an explanation of the core gameplay to decide whether or not you should buy this game (for yourself or your child).
Which brings me to my next point, no one other than die hard Yu Gi Oh! fanatics are going to care about this title. Many of Yu Gi Oh! titles have been released for smorgasbord of consoles/handhelds/real-life, including the first incarnation of this game on PSP less than a year ago, and it should only provoke the interest of the hardest members of this core. It’s not going to appeal to anyone else simply because it isn’t supposed to. Where as you or I might see a convoluted game of cards wrapped around a story composed of utter nonsense, the intended audience sees another opportunity to play a game they love, regardless of how stale or rehashed it may be. It’s Yu Gi Oh!, and that’s good enough.
It doesn’t help that the appeal is further restricted through other less than accessible means. Even in story mode, playing the AI wears thin over time. There’s a handy adhoc mode for battling your friends or trading cards, but it’s a far cry from what a true infrastructure mode could have done for this title. Rather than open the game up and give the player access to duels from all over the country, you’re going to have to rely on other friends to pick up the game as well. Essentially holding down the amount of time one might spend with the game, this has a tremendous impact on the overall value of GX Tag Force 2 – especially considering Konami had ample time to shove an infrastructure mode into the second generation of the series.
Paradox – or – Nothing I say Matters
Then again, if I was twelve years old and a fan of the series, I would go nuts for this. Once I find out there are nearly 3000 cards to collect I wouldn’t even notice a lack of online battling or other potential shortcomings. Nihilistic as I may sound, whether this is a good game or a rewritten cash-in doesn’t even matter. The casual PSP consumer will pass it right by, the uninterested will remain uninterested, and the Yu Gi Oh! elite will devour every morsel. Just to pretend my review has any relevance, and because my boss will be less than pleased if I skip it, on with the rated numerical value of GX Tag Force 2