Put your strategies to test in card battles with all sorts of spells and monsters at the Duel Academy!
You are a freshman at the Duel Academy and the new term starts with a bang. You are late to your first day and together with your friends Jaden and Syrus you will face the different hardships that Duel Academy holds. You will meet the different students of the academy and eventually make new friends and rivals. This is a game of friendship and intrigue and of course Yu Gi Oh! Duels!
The story in this game is based on the anime series Yu Gi Oh! GX, but you don’t have to watch the series in order to enjoy the game – at best you will recognize some key plot points and events, which of course is amusing if you enjoy the series.
Yu Gi Oh! GX Spirit Caller as a game is basically a roleplaying game where you play as a student in the Duel Academy. In the game you’ll get to play lots of Yu Gi Oh! – a turn based card game that you play with collectible cards versus another player.
Even if you don’t know what Yu Gi Oh! is, you could still enjoy this game if you accept the idea of playing a virtual card game within a video game where different cards represent different monsters and spells. Each card will affect the flow of the game in one way or the other and there are many special cards that allow for basically infinite possibilities when it comes to strategies and play styles.
The creatures depicted in Yu Gi Oh! shows creative diversity. Much if it seems fantasy or fairytale influenced but there are enough robots, spaceships and aliens to build entire decks based on those themes if you’d want.
Even though the protagonist does attend an academy, this game makes a good job at keeping the focus off of the tedious school-related stuff like homework and classes. Instead the focus lies on the story, events and duels between students. There are however tests you have to take every once in a while where you must answer ten questions with multiple choice answers – I bet that these tests are made hard to emulate the feeling that you haven’t done your homework. You could of course actually read about Yu Gi Oh! related stuff and pass the tests, but thankfully this is not required to beat the game. If you do well enough on the tests you will eventually rewarded with some rare cards.
You have an overview of the local area on your lower screen where you use the stylus to walk from one place to another in search for interesting people to interact with. While you walk around the campus and surrounding areas you will meet students, teachers and other people you happen to cross paths with. Most of these encounters will result in a duel, while other encounters trigger a short conversation. You will be walking around looking for random encounters often in this game because that is the only way to progress through the game. You need experience points to advance in ranks and a certain rank must be met before the story progresses, and dueling is the way to gain experience points. Even if you lose the duel you get a small amount of experience points, which is nice. Thanks to this, no duel is a complete waste of time.
You will soon learn the tactics and what cards the different people on the campus use. They all have their distinct play styles and you will start to figure out how to beat them – not only do you get experience points when you win a duel, but also money that you can use to buy new booster packs and build a unique deck of your own. The starter deck really isn’t any good at all and ultimately the game is about building and trying different decks and strategies to win your opponents. You will notice that your opponents upgrade their decks from time to time too and there are many hard opponents out there.
As mentioned the story events depend on your progress in ranks, but sometimes you must also manually set off an event in order to trigger the next story arch. This means that there is a risk to get stuck in the game – if you don’t know whom to speak to, at what time and at what place you won’t be able to progress through the story. Most of the time you can resort to trial and error tactics and simply try all the options that are available to you. As such, this is a weakness in this game. They could have included a clue or two here and there to push the player in the right direction, but there are no such clues.
As there are 1442 different cards in the game you will have enough space to experiment and you need to spend some time and effort into learning and memorizing some of the most used cards’ effects and how they work. As you might have guessed collecting and deck building quickly becomes a necessity and you can spend hours on just studying cards and experimenting with different synergies between them.
There’s also a mentor of sorts in the game that will have a comprehensive game manual of rules that you can read, and he also offers a wide range of puzzles and challenges within the rule set of Yu Gi Oh! that you can challenge yourself with. The more puzzles you solve, the more will he reward you. Personally I found these challenges far too hard – but they are a nice brain tease if you need a break from doing regular duels.
As a neat bonus you also get three actual Yu Gi Oh! cards included in the game box. Since I personally don’t have had the opportunity to play and collect these cards I can’t vouch for how valuable or useful they are in the actual real-world Yu Gi Oh! community. But it sure raises the novelty of the overall presentation and getting some extra collectibles is always welcome.
The duels can easily be controlled with the stylus or the regular buttons. Stylus controls allows for quick controls in that you won’t need to scroll through all of the options to get where you want as you simply point and click your way through the interface. The AI is very smart and never plays particularly bad – it utilizes the given cards and decks very efficiently and you will sometimes end up losing to opponents that are considered weak because of their luck or your misfortune.
Other features of this game are the Wi-Fi duels and trading. You can meet a friend locally in a duel and you will gain “vs. experience” and money from these duels too. Trading with a friend works effortlessly. You can also play online on the world-wide ranking boards. The game will try to match you up with a challenger of equal level – but let me warn you; If you are a beginner in this game you will have to accept that there are bigger fish out there!
The graphics in this game are good. Some monsters are nicely rendered in full 3D on the play field. Most other are ordinary animated sprites with that distinct 3D rendered into 2D look that most often looks uninspiring. But generally it keeps a nice style.
Naturally the style of the game is faithful to the anime, so expect lots of bright and saturated colors and equally colorful characters.
The intro song is awesome – a super catchy anime j-rock styled theme song that will get your fighting spirit up. Nice! The rest of the music in this game is okay too but since you most likely will spend prolonged periods of time playing this game you will grow tired of the music eventually.
There is also sound effects in the game, but they’re very generic and they only act as indications on events in the game; for example when you summon a new monster to the game or when you lose points.
Yu Gi Oh! GX Spirit Caller is a game packed with stuff to do and it has a nice storyline to keep you playing it for a good while. Overall this is a great game that offers lots of variety and challenge.
If you hope to become a world-wide Yu Gi Oh! champion you will have a lot of work to do – you’d probably have to play the game hundreds of hours to get all the cards and create the deck that you want. But don’t be discouraged – you can transfer cards between different Yu Gi Oh! titles and thus your cards from this game can be moved to the next game in line: Yu Gi Oh! World Championship 2007.