Yu Gi Oh The Duelists Of The Roses
The game that everyone's calling "the next Pokemon" has finally arrived on PS2, and it's sure to divide players into two distinct camps: fans of the TV show (who will love it) and everybody else (who will likely be confused by it). The Duelists of the Roses is complicated, difficult, and demanding, which won't be a problem for vets of Forbidden Memories (the PS1 game), but if you're new to the franchise, expect a frustrating initiation. The computer A.I. is way out of whack, making it ridiculously tough for you to score even your first win. And the new Fusion system is confusing as all heck. But to be fair, when compared to Yugi's PS1 debut, Duelists definitely offers the better experience; the new board layout adds a lot, making the game feel a bit like chess. There's plenty of strategy involved, and once you get to the point where you understand the defense and attack principles, it's definitely addictive. The big question is whether you'll play long enough to understand all the rules.
As was the case with Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories on PS1, The Duelists of the Roses is a true love it/hate it kind of game. Fans of the franchise will scream bloody murder when they see this score, while casual gamers are gonna think the grade is at least a couple points too high. But here's the bottom line: While far from great and way too complicated for its own good, Duelists is reasonably deep and ultimately pretty satisfying. Players willing to put 20-plus hours into learning the rules of this crazy card-and-board-game hybrid will have a decent time. After all, the monster battles look fantastic and the game's strategic elements make for a surprisingly addictive experience. The problem is, it takes forever to learn how to play the damn thing. Combining monster cards to create a more powerful deck is the key to winning battles, but trying to understand all of the unstated (and seemingly arbitrary) card-compatibility guidelines is a nightmare. Worse still, the steep learning curve will obliterate new players. Weevil, the first boss, is easily as tough as Kaiba, your final opponent. If you've never played a Yu-Gi-Oh! game before, it's possible that you'll lose for a good 10 hours or so before claiming your first victory. Oh, and I have to mention the music--the melodic harpsichord battle tune is fine...for the first few hours. A little variety would have been nice. Fans of the show and strategic gamers with perseverance should ante up; everybody else should pass.
Some card-battling games, like Monster Rancher BattleCard (PS1) and Card Fighters' Clash (Neo Geo Pocket), are fun even for those of us uninitiated into the Brotherhood of Hardcore Trading-Card Gamers. But you won't enjoy Duelists if you don't already know and love the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game. The confusing Terrain and Fusion systems, boring battles, and uneven difficulty make Duelists a frustrating mess. It's unforgiving for newbies; the in-game tutorial doesn't actually teach you how to play, so you're left to crawl via trial and error through its convoluted rules. At least fans of the card game will enjoy watching their favorite beasties in 3D, but the rest of us won't find anything fun here.
Play this game long enough and you'll feel like a complete loser. Not because of the Yu-Gi-Oh! license, mind you--I've actually grown to appreciate Yugi and his card-carrying pals, thanks to the endearing cartoons and the nifty manga. Rather, it's because Roses stacks the cards so heavily against you that you're likely to lose the vast majority of your battles. This isn't a game of strategy. No, it's all about random trial and error, memorization, note taking (how else will you recall that the Princess of Tsurugi combines with a Dark Rabbit to form a Negokal #2?), and frustration. Even curious card-battling aficionados should steer clear-- this is for hardcore Yu-Gi-Oh! fans only.