Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories
If you’ve played the Yu-Gi-Oh card game recently, you know that the game is expanding and evolving rapidly to accommodate more complicated rules and maneuvers. But, chances are, you haven’t played Yu-Gi-Oh recently. Why not? Probably because those little pieces of ordinary cardboard with pictures drawn on them cost a surprising little bag of treasure to purchase. Maybe it’s because you think you’re too old for it. Maybe you’re just lazy. Maybe still, you just have no interest at all. But none of that matters in the context of this review. The amount of enjoyment that you could potentially receive from playing this game is not affected whatsoever by any of the things I just listed. You don’t need to shy away from this game because you don’t understand the card game, because you have never played the card game, or because you don’t think you’d like the card game. Why? Because this is not the card game.
Well, alright, to be fair, it’s kind of the card game. See, it actually came out before most of the card game rules were straightened out, so this is kind of the rough draft of the TCG (Trading Card Game). Before all the new complicated rules and cards came out, with their different effects and tricks, this videogame was spawned. Now if you’re into Magic: The Gathering and complicated deck patterns and all that good stuff, this game might be a bit plain for you. It’s very sketchy in a lot of ways but can offer some points that your basic, every-day, not-a-card-gamer gamer will like.
If you’re at all familiar with the television series, you’ll recognize most of the characters. However, some of them have their Japanese names instead of the Americanized ones (such as Jono instead of Joey). This again reminds you how old this game is, as it is from really before the Yu-Gi-Oh craze hit the US. But in somewhat of a surprise move, you don’t control Yugi, the show’s crazy-haired protagonist (at least not yet), but instead you play a mysterious prince who enjoys dueling random old villagers instead of doing any real work.
And that’s really most of what we know about him. We also know his guardian’s name is Simon. This is a weird, little blue guy who plays a sort of chaperone role to the prince. In a rather humorous opener to the game, you are weakly forbade by this Simon to go out and play cards and dirty your royal name. Sure enough, the very next screen you are given the option to completely ignore him and run away, like the little rebel prince you are. But the story gets going when you learn that Simon holds the Millennium Puzzle: one of the shiny, coveted Millennium Items of untold, ancient powers. Heishin, the High Mage, decides he wants to collect all of these items to gain their power. After nearly destroying the entire town, the prince returns home to find Simon clutching to the Puzzle and barely holding on to his own life. He hands over the Puzzle and begs you to protect it, but just then the High Mage himself barges in and demands he receive the ancient item. In a dramatic moment, the Prince must smash the precious Millennium Puzzle in order to keep it from the grimy hands of the power-hungry High Mage.
At this point, things change. The prince and Simon are sucked into the Millennium Puzzle somehow. They are apparently trapped inside for eternity.
In the future now, we meet that famous wicked-haired boy, Yugi, holding that same Millennium Puzzle we just saw smashed back in the past. You must help Yugi win a card game tournament and capture all the Millennium Items inside cards in order to release the spirits from within the Puzzle. Once that happens, we’re back to controlling our prince buddy again and now he’s found that Heishin has taken over everything in his city. Your mission is laid out to you: defeat all the mages that defend Heishin and battle your way up to him and finally destroy the root of all the evil powers.
Exciting, eh? But you won’t be battling your way there with a sword and shield, no. Unsurprisingly, you must instead duel your way to the top. Yes, just like in the show, even people like guards duel to keep out intruders. Honestly, is that the best defense they could come up with? You’ll find that in this world, everyone duels to settle everything. Argument over what toppings to put on the pizza? Duel over it. Get in a fight over a fender-bender? Duel over it. Running for mayor? Duel over it! Yes, if any of these things were in the game, I’m sure this is how it would play out. You can get yourself most anywhere in this town simply by being particularly skilled at a children’s card game.
But how do these duels play out? Well you’re given a starting deck, consisting of a collection of 40 of the most basic cards around. Yu-Gi-Oh TCG players will be shocked at the attack values: they’re all very low. Plus, you only get one or two magic cards, which are a staple in modern TCG decks. Already, the clear distinctions between today’s card game and Forbidden Memories’s card game are being drawn. See, in Forbidden Memories, 40 cards are the max in your deck, and there are few Magic or Trap cards in the game. The Magic or Trap cards that do exist in this virtual representation of the game are rare and difficult to obtain.
“You won’t be battling your way there with a sword and shield, no. Unsurprisingly, you must instead duel your way to the top.”To receive new cards, you have to win duels. After winning a duel you will get a grade for how well you won (S being the best, A being great, then down to D being the worst). Yes, in this game, not only do you have to win, but you have to win well. This rating will help determine a single card that you will receive to add to your collection. Different duelists will give you different cards, but you can also buy cards too. You buy them using the star chips that you also receive from winning duels. You can win up to five, again based on how good of a win it was. Saving up is quick and easy, so buying cards to beef up your deck should be simple, right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
That would be waaay too easy. In fact, this is one of the most annoying details about this game. See, any card that’s even remotely good is priced at 999,999. Yep, for some ungodly reason the gamemakers decided to make it virtually impossible (barring out anyone crazy enough to play this game literally 24 hours a day for about a year) to buy anything good. This leaves all the pissed-off gamers to wonder “Why!?” Why bother to even include this card-buying system if you won’t even give us a chance to buy something good or rare?
You’ll want to buy these powerful or rare cards because they’re also hard to get from duels. Since the card drop system often seems to be completely random, you will often complete a perfect, S-rank game, and be rewarded with a common, garbage card that you already have 17 of. Getting good cards requires you to play literally hundreds of duels in Free Duel mode, since there’s no way you’ll get anywhere just playing Story mode.
So yeah, getting cards requires a lot of dueling, but to be honest, it’s not so bad at first since dueling is pretty addictive anyway. You draw your five card hand, and you can only play one card per turn. This is unique to this game, and requires you to be a lot more careful with what you play, since once you throw something down, your turn is over. But what makes this game so unique is the fusion system. See, unlike the current card game where you need special cards to fuse, you can pick any two, three, or more cards and fuse them. Now, it won’t always work of course, but surprisingly often, you can fuse some beasts together to make a monster that is a force to be reckoned with. This becomes a huge part of what decides if you’re going to win or lose the whole duel, since it’s one of the only ways you’ll be able to get powerful cards.
But someone new to this game would have absolutely no idea what monsters to fuse. Don’t worry, that’s why Duel Master K was born. A brilliant way to learn the game, this animated dude sits in Free Duel mode and will always duel you when challenged. The key is that he uses the exact same deck as you no matter what, so while playing him you learn lots of fusions that you can make with your deck as well as general tips to give you the upper hand. This excellent addition will help new Yu-gi-oh card gamers out big time, and is more fun than a boring tutorial anyway.
Another thing you have to look out for in this game are the Guardian Stars. This is a weird system that again, you won’t find in any other Yu-Gi-Oh games. Every card has two different Guardian Stars, and you pick which one you want to play it on before you play it. Based on a little chart of a dozen or so little Guardian Stars, each Star is strong against one and weak against another. When dueling, if the Guardian Star of your attacker is strong against the Guardian Star of the opponent’s monster, then you will get a 500 attack point boost. Similarly, you lose 500 if your Star is weak against theirs. This is another little unique point in this game that will sometimes pop up at the least-expected times.
So that’s basically how the game plays. The goal of course is to attack their Life Points using your monsters to run it down to zero. Magics and Traps will provide little effects, like some direct damage to your opponent’s Life Points, or added strength to one of your monsters. As I mentioned earlier though, there are few Magic or Trap cards in the game and they are very rare, so don’t plan on getting these often.
Graphically, the game is rather impressive. Throughout the story events are shown with detailed backgrounds and characters. Dialogue screens have flat pictures of the characters slide in and occasionally change facial expressions to match what the text box says they’re saying. This however, makes you wish you could hear them. There’s no voices in this game though, and little sound at all. There is music to duel to, but it’s mostly dull and repetitive. Sound is definitely an aspect of the game that shows its age.
All in all though, you can’t help but enjoy some of the unique qualities of this game. It features many qualities that even other Yu-Gi-Oh games don’t have, like an interesting story, cool graphics, and easier to learn, fun rules. Modern TCG fans will probably either love it for being simple and different, or hate it for being old and unlike the current game. Casual gamers will probably get caught struggling through many tough duels only to receive a weak reward at the end, but they may just enjoy themselves and keep going until they finally win that powerful monster. Many of the later Story Mode duels will offer a steep challenge, and they will require even experts at the game to really work hard to win them. But despite some of the frustrating moments, I enjoyed playing through to the end, and most gamers willing to give it a shot would too.