From the day it hit the airwaves, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been seeking a Pokemon-sized audience. There have been numerous attempts at bringing the franchise to gamers, and while some have turned out to be decent titles, none have taken the series to a place it hasn't been before. Visuals aside, players could get the same experience from a real deck of cards.
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force, the series' major PSP offering, hopes to change that. Hopes? – no, it does. For the first time the game is successful in bringing Yu-Gi-Oh! to the world of RPGs. Clearer layout, easier to learn, cooler characters, has an improved story, and includes 3D environments with third-person RPG controls.
GX Tag Force begins with your character, an unnamed baseball cap-wearing duelist-in-the-making. Give him a name or click start to use the default name from your PSP memory stick (mine was PSP838. I didn't realize this before accepting this as my character's name, so now all of my virtual friends start off our conversations with, "Hi PSP838!").
Only a minute or two will pass before you're in control of your hero. The game takes place at the card game camp (the Duel Academy) as usual. Exit your dorm and talk to the teacher, who will instruct you to talk to everyone in the room before class begins. This is not just a suggestion – it's a requirement, and is one of several elements that make this game more like an RPG.
Discussions are generally brief and involve more than the silly and monotonous, "Hello, my name is [whoever], let's battle." Characters vary not only in appearance but also in their personality. Alexis, Jaden, and Chazz are a few of the anime series' returnees.
There are few things as unappealing as entering a classroom in a video game, but you'll like this one: you go here to learn the basic rules of the game. It's a tutorial, which I usually despise, but it's integrated into the journey in a way that doesn't annoy the player. The teacher throws out a few guidelines. You perform the moves, and then repeat them as another character to see if you understand.
"Tests, oh no!" I know, it sounds dreadful – but it's easy and is over in a couple of minutes. If you already know how to play the game then it won't mean much, but if you're new to the world of Yu-Gi-Oh!, this is just what you need to get into the series. Previous Yu-Gi-Oh! tutorials were long and boring because they relied on menus and text instead of player actions. Likewise, if you pick up a real deck, you're going to have some reading to do. GX Tag Force eliminates that hassle, allowing players to get right down to business.
Forty characters and over 2,400 cards (yeah, these games are getting huge) await your discovery. On the field characters are presented with big heads and little bodies – another element that is sure to make you think of retro RPGs. The cool thing is that when you talk to these characters, their image comes up full screen with various anime drawings. Whereas most RPGs go for the realistic or super-deformed character look, GX Tag Force accomplishes both.
Map details are still left to a 2D screen where you point and click to select your destination. The backgrounds within each destination are the best of any Yu-Gi-Oh! game, having full-3D details that, while not stunning compared to other RPGs, are standout for the series. You can't adjust the camera, which keeps the game at an isometric view. Fortunately there's no need to swivel the camera because everything you need to see is in plain sight.
Ash Ketchum's Pokedex proved to be a successful item, leading to PDAs and other helpful devices in Pokemon competitors across the globe. Yu-Gi-Oh! has one as well, and its content ranges from deck menu (edit your deck and view deck recipes) to the status of your character and the school event schedule. E-mail can also be read, but just from the game's characters. Similar to the .hack series, all messages received are planned for the story.
Battles occur in a few different ways: through journey advancements, by asking another player, or by being asked to duel. You may also battle outside of the main game in wireless duels against a friend (single or tag duel, single or match mode, etc.).
Following the seemingly unavoidable trend of other PSP role-playing games is GX Tag Force’s annoying load times. The game is not as slow as Warhammer: Battle for Atluma, and it doesn’t have anywhere near the frequent stops of Spectral Souls. But five seconds for every location, a few for each battle, and 10+ every time you end a game – it can be a bit much after a while.
In spite of this flaw, I'd take this version over any other. GX Tag Force is Yu-Gi-Oh!'s best game.
Turn-based strategy via Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. When you break it down, the HP, defense, and attack systems are not unlike console RPGs. The addition of character control and world exploration are a natural transition for the series. The picture is crystal clear, simplifying the act of card placement. Nintendo DS often gets the best options (touch and dual screen functionality, etc.), but for Yu-Gi-Oh!, the PSP’s bigger, wider screen wins out over the DS’s two smaller screens.
The RPG-style graphics aren’t spectacular, but they improve the look and feel of the game. Being able to move around in full 3D, explore locations and talk to others – it’s so much better than Yu-Gi-Oh!’s previous options (just menu selections, no exploration).
Several upbeat tunes that work well in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe.
Strong enough for the hardcore, but GX balanced for all players.
The best Yu-Gi-Oh! game yet, but the concept is a no-brainer. Finally they got it right.
Local battles are quick, engrossing, and without long load times.
A stocking stuffer must for every Yu-Gi-Oh! fan in your family. I’ve been following the series for a while, and GX Tag Force is by far the best. It’s deeper, offers more challenges, and makes the rules crystal clear to newcomers. Yeah, it’s easy for someone who already knows the rules to say that. But I can tell you that the first run of Yu-Gi-Oh! games were not this clear. Chances are that won’t matter ‘cause the majority of this game’s players will be series loyalists. They, along with anyone else who enters GX Tag Force’s world, will not be disappointed.