Card games on motorcycles - Actually, it's an improvement
In this day and age, I still remain faithful to Yu-Gi-Oh!, playing the video games because I don't have enough money to buy 10 booster packs a week to make a half-decent deck. I've played Nightmare Troubadour and Spirit Caller, both for the DS, and, while they were worthwhile games, there's no doubt that several issues were present. Despite 5D's premise of "CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES!," World Championship 2010: Reverse of Arcadia takes the cake. Not just as a Yu-Gi-Oh! game, but it's a fairly good game in general.
Reverse of Arcadia, or RoA as I'll refer it from here on out, takes the storyline of the first season of the 5D's anime, and adapts it so you, the protagonist, have a bigger part in the story. One thing I noticed here is that while Yusei Fudo, the protagonist of 5D's, takes a backseat to the action, he still plays a very large role, unlike Yugi and Jaden in their respective DS games, who were pretty much out of the entire picture.
At the beginning of the game, you start off as a member of the Arcadia Movement - an antagonist group that was somewhat prevalent for the first part of the 5D's anime. But is that the case? You struggle to find out who you are (doesn't take too long!), and then you fight against the Dark Signers, the main antagonists in Season 1.
One thing I noticed and really liked about the story is that they actually bothered to explain plot elements. I've never seen the 5D's anime before, and, because I noticed Nightmare Troubadour was INCREDIBLY streamlined, skipping important plot points, I was afraid I would have no idea what was going on in this game. That was not the case. While the explanations are relatively short, the game reminds you of the plot and moves on.
A relatively high customization factor is present in-game. Like a few previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games, you have the ability to customize your character's face, hair, and Duel Disk. In this game, you not only can do that, but you can change hair color, outfit, and outfit color, which adds to the charm of the game. Finally, there are sets of "Fixed Text," which will play phrases on the top of the screen when an action takes place (EX. "Gimme a hand! Monster Summon!). Unlike in the anime, where this could take up several minutes, these take no time whatsoever, and you don't even have to look at them. There are many "sets" of dialogue, such as "Cool Person's set," but you can mix and match any number of phrases from any set to get a unique experience.
Unlike other Yu-Gi-Oh! Games in the series, which have a little icon exploring a literal map (no 3D objects in sight!), RoA has a pretty large explorable environment. For the most part, this environment is designed very well, and you can examine objects. By no means is this ground-breaking, but it's a new touch for Yu-Gi-Oh! games (to my understanding, WC 2009 had this as well).
For the most part, 5D's focuses on Duel Monsters, a card game established 10 years ago. Now, it would take forever to explain this game to you, so unfortunately, I must skip out on the occasion. Most people buying this game would be familiar with Duel Monsters, anyway, but the game offers a very good tutorial at the beginning to get acquainted with the game. It's a little hard to understand at first, but easy to play after a while.
Dueling is the biggest gameplay factor, and there are 4 Duel types. Firstly, there are 1 on 1 Duels, your standard Card Games. Next are 1 on 2, where the opposing team are huge jerks to team up on you, and you take every other turn. Tag Duels are 2 on 2, where you and your partner share Life Points, Monster Cards, Spell and Trap Cards, the Graveyard, and Removed from Play Cards. Finally, there are CARD GAMES ON MO- Er, I mean, Turbo Duels, where you and your foe race on a Moto-er, Duel Runner. They are the same as normal duels, except Spell Cards are out of play, instilling "Speed Spells" instead, where the number of turns (each turn you get a Speed Counter to expend towards spells) could easily decide the outcome.
The look of Dueling has improved as well. In previous games, the Top Screen showed monsters in 3D graphics, whereas the bottom showed the dueling field from the top down perspective. They eliminated the 3D graphics, instead showing Artwork of the Card when in battle. The top screen also shows a card description (depending where your cursor is hovering over) or the foe's "Duelist Stats," which could give you a feel for what to expect. It's great that they eliminated the constant 3D things, because the renders often looked very ugly. Some features are kept relating to this, however. When certain cards are summoned (like the Dark Magician or Stardust Dragon), they appear on the field in a different 3D summon pose. These always looked good, and they continue to do so.
Besides Dueling, the game throws in some other mini-games - Stealth, Puzzle, and Racing. It doesn't do a great job at any of them, but they aren't really poor either. The true purpose of this is to divert the game from Card Game after Card Game, and prevent it from getting too tedious. Stealth and Racing are very simple, and Puzzles can get annoying, but at least they prove a challenge. Racing gets really customizable, with different parts that you can buy, but these are usually expensive, and since it's just a two button control (A for Acceleration, B for Brake, Control Pad to turn), it doesn't help it much.
Other than the 5D's story mode, there is World Championship mode. You can duke it out against other duelists, or people online, and have a very good time. If you find yourself in a place in Story Mode where you can't backtrack nor beat the duelist(s) there, you can save, go to WC Mode, rack up some money, buy some new cards, and rework your deck.
There are some other features that improve this game over previous ones.
- There are a huge plethora of Duelists to duel against, so you have a huge amount of variety.
- Levels are excluded from this game, making it easier to advance in the storyline without Dueling 100 people to access the next event.
- Duelist Points, the game's currency, are much easier to acquire in this game, allowing you to buy more packs with ease.
- Upon the completion of Story Mode, you can restart your game, keeping all your cards and progress in WC Mode.
Still, few games are perfect, and Yu-Gi-Oh! games aren't one of them. While the translation is good, they often go for very long and clunky phrases which people normally wouldn't say, especially a bunch of teenagers. Many of the 3D sprites that you see of characters are just deplorable. I normally don't harp on recolors, as many games do have them, but the vast number of recolors with very little change starts to get ridiculous (Her hair's gone from Blue to Indigo! Recolor?). The game, surprisingly, doesn't operate as fast when dueling. At times, it operates fairly slow, to the point where you just want to restart because it's not worth it to wait 10 minutes for 2 turns. This is a huge flaw in the game, and at times I could be more inclined to play Nightmare Troubadour, which (outside its many problems) had a fast dueling system. The soundtrack, which usually is pretty decent in Yu-Gi-Oh! games, borders on mediocre and awful, incorporating many techno tracks that feel screechy and out of place.
Despite these flaws, Konami has made a big improvement for Yu-Gi-Oh! gaming on the DS... but they could still do better. RoA is still entertaining, and deserves a good look from any Yu-Gi-Oh! fan.