The worldwide phenomenon known as Yu-Gi-Oh! is a strategic battle game originally based on a manga in which players duel with cards. Decks are made of monsters, spells, and traps, and the object of the duel is to reduce your opponent's life points from 8,000 to 0. Each player can customise their deck with forty to sixty cards, and battle length can range from seconds through to 20 or so minutes.
It might all sound like a rather specialist interest, but Yu-Gi-Oh! has made over $18 billion in sales of cards, manga, and video games since 1999, unofficially earning it the title 'King of Games' in Japan, and now, it's duelling onto the current 'King of Consoles' – the PlayStation 4 – for the first time with Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist.
The plot of the franchise is based on the tale of a young boy named Yugi Mutou, who somehow managed to solve an ancient Egyptian Millennium Puzzle. This caused an alter ego to take over his body, subsequently making him an expert at Duel Monsters – the actual name of the card game itself – which, it turns out, can actually solve most of life's problems. Who knew?
In The Legacy of the Duelist the story is told by robot historian INF-N8 – which is basically an excuse for you to play through all five Yu-Gi-Oh! animated series storylines, complete with manga cutscenes which condense the events from the shows. It all looks great in cartoony HD, and by far, it sports the most impressive graphics of any of the associated games released over the years. The icing on the cake for fans is that this version allows you to play Duel Monsters from any era of the shows. This is an important addition, as some players dropped away when Konami continued to add new rules and cards, of which there are now over 6,600 available.
So, how does this newest entry play? In a word: well. Legacy of the Duelist allows you pick cards from any genre; classic Duel Monsters, GX, 5D's, Zexal, and Arc-V, and enjoy a slick game interface that can be tweaked for newcomers or set to professional levels for those who live for the cards. There's a real thrill to building up your own custom deck, and you can take this into any fight or opt for one of the "set" decks that tie in to the story mode.
The cards themselves are nicely rendered, and fans can spend hours just examining and reading through the powers and abilities of the host of incredible creatures, devious traps, and powerful spell cards available.
The Deck Editor is a joy to use, too, and employs a nifty Smart Search function that will recommend cards that are related or linked to the ones selected. This is especially useful if you're new to Yu-Gi-Oh! as you might not know all of the boosts and bonuses that go with a particular card or themed deck. For example, a warrior deck should include the multiple power up and support cards that only warrior cards can take advantage of.
The real fun for those brave enough is that there are player versus player ranked online battles to be fought, and testing yourself against real life opponents is the ultimate duelling rush; as Han Solo said: "Look, good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living? That's something else." Blessed with a thoughtful disconnect mechanic that grants you a win for hanging in there when someone pulls the plug, earlier online efforts like PC title Dueling Network have been refined here to be the pinnacle of online card duelling.
Legacy of the Duelist is the deepest and yet most accessible Yu-Gi-Oh! game to date. The gameplay is nicely balanced in single player, and full on balls-to-the-wall when duelling online, while the progression system uses slight role-playing game elements, such as earning new cards by winning games. Claiming three cards from your opponent's deck following a victory is very satisfying, and alongside this there are Duel Points – or DP – to earn from each and every fight, which you can use to buy card packs from across the five series.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist is the ultimate version of arguably one of the best card duelling games on the planet. Essentially a virtual version of the real thing, it probably won't entice those who don't like the franchise, but for die-hard fans and interested newcomers, this is a game that offers unlimited hours of battling fun. If you've ever enjoyed Yu-Gi-Oh!, you owe it to yourself to give this a chance.