Reviewed: April 18, 2004
Released: March 16, 2004
Konami is known for making some pretty successful games, such as the Metal Gear and Silent Hill franchises. What the record shows is that KCEJ has a penchant for crafting long-running and successful gaming franchises. With the pre-existing franchise of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Konami’s work is cut out for them in their latest Xbox exclusive.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dawn Of Destiny falls into a thriving subgenre of rpg/puzzle games: the card battle game. And, let’s face it, you’re either a fan or you’re not likely to become one at this point.
When Magic The Gathering came on the scene a few years ago, it was only a matter of time before video game developers thought to mine the phenomenon for all its worth. If you ask me, it’s wearing thin. Arcane rules and seemingly endless new monsters, artifacts, spells, and traps make it a cash cow for the companies producing them, and an obsession for eager card fiends. I myself have a hard time getting into this kind of stuff, but that’s my job, right? So here goes.
Dawn Of Destiny is based on the popular kid’s anime and includes all of its major characters. The strange thing is that the game doesn’t feature any of the show’s content as a background for the game in the form of the obligatory story mode. The characters are here simply to tie the card game to the TV show.
The interface is clean and simple, and in keeping with the lore of the TV show, the motif is Egyptian and suitably ominous, implying a grave importance to the duels. Menus are intuitive, unlike the actual game rules. Believe me, once you get into an actual game, unless you’re quite familiar with it already, your head will spin. Thankfully, the consistent and fluid navigation will make things a little easier.
While there’s no character building in the traditional sense, players do build up their deck. Your card deck is what makes or breaks you. Like a gunfighter of the Old West, your reputation and prowess are built upon your ability to craft a mighty deck ready for any opponent’s strategy. I get the feeling that the original incarnation of this game was relatively simple, but over time – probably in order to justify selling more cards – the rules have grown to match the card pool. The game itself contains over 1,000 of the latest ones available.
Dawn Of Destiny is all about magical creatures and contraptions, which are put into play during the course of a game sort of like a cross between Stratego and Gin Rummy. All cards fall into one of three categories: monster, trap or spell. Where it gets really complicated is in the situational variables presented by other cards. Spell cards can affect the abilities of your monster cards and even the field terrain. Whereas trap cards can affect – even neutralize – the attacks of enemy monster cards.
In addition to your main deck, you can also have a side deck of up to 15 cards with no more than 1 copy of limited cards and 2 copies of semi-limited cards in your deck at any time. When playing Duel (Triple) mode, you can exchange cards between your main and side deck as your strategy dictates. Are your eyes starting to glaze over yet? How about when I mention that the game manual includes a chapter called “Phase Flow of the Entire Duel”. Since when does a game need a flow chart?
What I don’t get is that for a game based on a popular TV show, it does nothing more to make use of those assets than show static characters (okay, they blink occasionally) whose mouths move comically while word balloons – yes, word balloons on the Xbox – tell you how either sad a character is for losing or glad he/she is for winning. Where is the DVD quality animation? There’s not word one from any of the voice cast for the television series on this game. Pretty strange, as KCEJ was obviously able to secure the official license from Wizards of the Coast. I can’t figure out why considering that this game is basically only for fans of either the card game or the show (or even both).
Because of the anime (i.e. cartoon) style of the show, the Xbox isn’t exactly being pushed to its limits by the character models here. It’s nice that each of the familiar monsters, spells and traps of the card game are rendered in full 3D – beautifully brought to bear in the viewing of a given card’s info during the building of your deck and the battle phase of a duel. But beyond that, you only look at 2D cards being flipped around and laid out on a 2D “duel field” (yeah, there’s names for everything).
So, aside from a 3D menu interface, and the inexplicable 3D scene that floats about in the background during your duels, you’re basically playing a 2D game, albeit one that looks very polished and clean, with a vivid color palette.
This game doesn’t allow online multiplayer, but does make use of the System Link. This makes little sense for the average fan of the game, who more than likely are unable to lug their TV and Xbox around to their friend’s house to hook up for a quick game. This misstep hurts the game more than any other oversight.
There are no actual cut scenes in the traditional sense other than dynamic 2D overlays of the principal characters and monsters that remind me of playing games on my old Game Boy or PlayStation a few years ago. There’s an animated intro when you boot up the game, but beyond that, forget anything resembling the frenetic action of the TV show that inspired this effort.
The way I figure it, the sound department got to punch out early on Dawn Of Destiny. What few sounds are used are pretty generic even for a game of this kind. The music is practically nonexistent. I’m not saying it’s inconsequential, but since most of the game involves the card duels, the developers seem to have forgotten about the tunes, opting for simple melodies that easily fade into the background.
The sound effects are equally uninspiring, I’m afraid. But, to be fair, how many sound effects are involved in the picking, flipping and laying of cards? Still, it seems so easy to add the option to play your own soundtrack so you can slay someone’s Mystical Elf to the dulcet tones of Iron Maiden. Yeah, I’m a metal head.
Because there’s no real goal to playing this game in the traditional sense, the replay value is essentially infinite. Unfortunately, the multiplayer portion of Dawn Of Destiny is identical to the single-player mode; only you’re more likely to be playing alone because of Konami’s lack of online play.
This sort of game is crying out for online play, especially when you consider the whole downloadable content potential. Imagine playing others online after having acquired rare and valuable cards. After all, everyone playing each other even through the system link option is playing with the exact same pool of potential cards in their deck which kind of defeats the purpose.
If you’re a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh! then you don’t need me to tell you to get this game. But if you’re wondering if this game will get you into the franchise on the ground floor, you might want to get online and read up on those rules. With any luck, your 11 year old nephew will lay some tips on you.
The game itself doesn’t offer anything more than what you get from the paper card game. But with Dawn Of Destiny, you don’t have to spend the cash that it would take to acquire the over 1,000 cards available in the game by hitting up your local card shop. And it’s a great way to get acquainted with the rules. Once you’ve got it down, you can start hustling games at your neighborhood playgrounds for lunch money.
So, I wouldn’t really bother getting this game unless I was a hardcore Yu-Gi-Oh! player and wanted to practice my gaming skills against the box. But even then, I’d wait for this thing to hit the bargain bin or at least until Konami wises up to the online potential.