Yu-Gi-Oh!: Nightmare Troubadour review
I summon DS!
Loads of cards to collect
Cheaper than the real thing
Battles are subject entirely to luck
Duels can become repetitive after so long
Must-win Shadow Games don't work as they should
Video games based on a popular franchise don't usually fare all that well, and the idea of taking trading cards and putting them in a digital format is a strange one, so can Konami do right with this title?
I think it would be pretty accurate to describe the game's graphics as "mixed". For every visual aspect it does right there is another that it does wrong. The problem is that the wrongs tend to outweigh the rights, making it slightly disappointing overall.
Out of the various kinds of screens you're presented with I would say the duel graphics are the best of the lot. The bottom screen is used to display the card layout. Here you get to see the various bays your cards can be sat in. There's no special effects here, and the only real animation is flipping and moving cards. However, that is a good thing, as it keeps the gameplay area clear. A shame that the details on the cards are blurry though.
The top screen is where you get to see the monsters in the duel. Indeed, the character models for them are quite impressive and when summoned they do show off some sweet animation with their summoned motions. Wonderful except that's all there is. You don't get much in the way of spell or trap animations or visuals, and when monsters attack they just float them, with some striking line meant to demonstrate an attack. Is this the extent of the DS's ability? No, it's not, so why this is all we get here is perplexing.
When you're not in duels you're wandering around the map, which is a rather boring thing to look at. I'm pretty sure having an actual city to walk around in wouldn't have trashed the game card's capacity nor their budget. The map itself is just flat and lifeless. There's not even much of it so it goes from bad to terrible as you grow more tired of it. Even their choice of colours seems odd and random.
Conversations are set up in a similar fashion to most handheld strategy games. A background is thrown up meant to represent the city and characters appear onscreen to chat with you. The backgrounds are nice, looking very much like an anime city as you would expect, but a distinct lack of variety somewhat kills it.
All the character sprites have been drawn wonderfully, but statues aren't that interesting, which is what the game's entire cast is. There's lip movement and blinking, but otherwise they don't really move. Even when someone enters or leaves a conversation the characters actually fade in and out instead of actually moving in and out.
Unfortunately, the sounds in the game don't even manage to get as good as mixed. If you're looking for an audio treat you may want to look elsewhere.
The music collection that plays along is so drab and boring that it completely fails to build up the experience. There isn't a single track in the game that I would call appropriate or good in any sense. The game's best music wouldn't manage to pass forgettable. What you might have expected to be intense battles may as well not have any music at all for all the current selection does.
The game manages to fail just as badly with its sound effects, or rather the lack of them. What few sound effects are used do little to enhance the gameplay, and they tend to get annoying as they are used so repeatedly. Every single card has the same destruction sound effect; it's a pathetic little noise and it is heard so often that it becomes even more annoying.
If you want to play the game switch the sound off and turn on a CD/MP3 player. Trust me, you're not missing anything you'd want to hear.
The game tries to follow the Trading Card Game closely while having ties to the anime series included as well. This mix means it's more than random opponents but there's no "heart of the cards" to pull you out of losing situations. That said, the rules in the game are outdated by now, so TCG enthusiasts may be disappointed in that respect.
Duels are fought between two people with a deck of cards. The contents of this deck is prepared beforehand, although it is shuffled for every duel so that the card order is random. Each player starts with five cards in their hand.
The duelling grid consists of 10 play bays (5 for each player), which can be used to play cards in. There is also one graveyard bay for each player, where used cards that have been removed from the field usually go. The touchscreen is used for all your commands, and it's quite natural to directly click on cards to use them.
Each player's turn consists of five phases. The Draw phase is where a player draws one new card from their deck. The standby phase is where certain cards activate their effects. Main Phase 1 is where cards can be played and set. While there is no limit on the number of spell and trap cards that can be played and set, a player can only summon one monster through normal means. Battle Phase is where monsters can be directed to attack, with a limit of one attack per monster. Main Phase 2 is simply a second chance to play and set chards. End Phase simply ends that player's turn.
The goal is to defeat your opponent, and the most common method is to remove all 8000 of your opponent's life points. This is done by summoning monsters, playing spell cards and setting trap cards. You use these cards to destroy your opponent's defences and thus leave their life points wide open. Of course, your opponent is trying to do the same so it is a game of tactics. Other methods to win involve reducing your opponent's deck to 0 or through the effect of a special card.
Monster cards form the basis of the strategy. Every monster has an attack value, defence value and a summon value. Monsters can be played in either attack of defence positions, which determines which of the two stats is used in battles. Defending monsters can't attack but if an attack position monster is destroyed by another monster then the difference in attack points is subtracted from the opponent's life points.
The summon value is displayed as a number of stars. Monsters with four stars or less can be summoned freely without any cost (sans the 1 summon per turn limit), but monsters with a higher star level require tributes to summon. A tribute is another active monster card is taken and sent to the graveyard, which puts in a sacrifice system into play. This forces a sense of balance into the game. Stuffing your deck with powerful monsters can easily backfire if you end up with a hand of monsters you can't summon.
Some monsters need to be summoned by playing a special ritual card. These monsters tend to be really powerful, but the problem is that you need two specific cards in your hand at the same time to summon them, and since they aren't that much stronger than normal high level summons then it's wasteful to bother.
There is also the ability to fuse monsters together to summon even stronger monsters. Fusion monster cards are kept separate from the main deck, and require that you have all the necessary monster cards either in the hand or on the field and a card that allows for fusions. While less restrictive than ritual monster summoning fusion summons are still fairly awkward to manage.
While some monsters are basic creatures with nothing more than attack and defend to offer, many also possess special abilities that can help turn the tide of battle. Some monsters gain attack points based on what other monsters are on the field, while others will negate the effects of traps. This adds another element to proceedings as you have to be aware of just what each monster brings to the field.
Spell cards and trap cards can have pretty similar effects but there's one clear difference between them – spell cards can be played and activated right away while trap cards are waiting for an action before they can activate. The purpose of spell cards is to give an immediate beneficial effect to the duelist. You can bring back defeated monsters, power up certain monster types, increase life points and more.
Trap cards are designed to counter actions of the other duelist. Traps can destroy monsters freshly summoned, prevent attacks or negate spell activations. That said, traps can be countered themselves, although there is a hierarchy here. Traps have levels, and so a lower level trap can't counter a higher level one. Unlike monsters there are no consequences to filling a deck with higher level cards to feel free to do so.
So far it sounds like there's an immense level of strategy involved, but there is a drawback. The game relies on a lot of luck. You might get a hand of really awesome cards, or you might find yourself in a position where you have no useful cards (having several monsters that require tributes without any monsters to offer as tributes is a good example). Even worse is when you work hard to summon a powerful monster, only for your opponent to use a card to destroy it instantly. Setting up a good deck can minimize this, but even the best deck can fall victim to luck.
The worst part is here though, in the form of shadow duels. For the most part these are just like regular duels, except losing one of these means death. Losing a regular duel isn't that terrible since your virtual life didn't depend on it and you could always have a rematch against the opponent. However, Shadow Duels must be won, and when the duels rely too heavily on luck it becomes irritating, especially if you haven't saved for a while.
Most cards are purchased from the shop, but it's not as simple as actually buying individual cards. Instead you buy packs from the shop and get a set of random cards from the specific series. This emulates real life buying of trading cards, and also emulates the frustration when a player is going for a specific rare card and keep getting all the lame common ones.
You'll probably end up spending just as much time customising and fine-tuning your deck as you will actually duelling. Fortunately the system is set up well enough for this. The menus are well designed, although as your collection grows it can still take some time to change even one card. The touchscreen is used very well here, as it's a natural motion to be clicking and dragging items around.
Of course, it's one thing to know how battles play out, but how about getting to those battles? Unfortunately, anyone expecting to actually explore anywhere are bound to be vastly disappointed. YuGiOh's idea of exploration involves moving a cursor around a map on the touchscreen. The colour of the cursor shows you if there are any duelists nearby. Once an opponent has been found the duel can begin.
Yes, it really is as boring as it sounds. The maps are limited and really rather boring. It's a nice idea to use the touchscreen to move the cursor, but it's wasted when this part of the game is something you'd want to spend as little time as possible doing. Would it have hurt Konami to have an actual city to explore?
Overall a subpar game. It manages to capture the complexities of the TCG quite well, but also the major luck factor that will put many gamers off. It gets repetitive too (especially once there are few cards left to add to your collection). YuGiOh fans might find something here, but otherwise stay away.
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