With the massive popularity of collectible card games with the kids these days, it's no surprise to see them enter the electronic gaming world. At first touted as a knock-off of the immensely popular Yu-Gi-Oh!, Duel Masters has grown into its own success, spawning a collectible card game (of course), a cartoon show, a comic book, and now a video game. Available on PS2 and Gameboy (with two sequels also out on for the Gameboy), Duel Masters now offers an electronic version of its card game, with a little story to go with it. Consider it a little mix of the regular card game and the cartoon show. If you're already a fan of the title, the game will indeed suit your appetite. For those who know nothing about it, though, the game won't appear very extraordinary.
There's really no complicated storyline. Left a deck of cards by his brother, the main character sets out with but one goal, of course to become the greatest duel master in the world. A straightforward, if ambitious goal. (Yeah, I didn't say I played it for the deep plot either.)
It is, of course, up to you to conquer the world now with your strategic card-playing skills. You're given a deck with 40 cards with which to battle with, each card featuring a creature or a spell. Your opponent has five 'shields' which you must break down (before they can do the same to you), at which point you can strike a final blow to finish them off. Wait, it's not that simple though. Duel Masters puts a little interesting twist to the card battling formula by adding a mana pool, which you must place cards into to build up enough mana to play a card. Different creature cards will require different amounts of mana to be played. This increases the strategic component of the game, as you must decide how you want to build your deck. You'll have to decide what cards you want to sacrifice into your mana pool, what creatures have low mana requirements to battle with, and what powerful cards you'll want to have at the end to strike the winning blow with. Already sounding a little complicated? Never fear; there's a good tutorial at the beginning, and the AI at first consists of simple-minded villains who won't be too hard to beat.
Duel Masters is turn-based, but there is an extreme mode for the brave and more experienced. There are no turns in extreme mode, although the player is limited by a depleting mana pool. This can get rather bewildering for the inexperienced, as the game flies by much more quickly in a more chaotic fashion, but it should be fun for the avid fan. Visually, there's nothing out of this world to see. The game doesn't go out of its way to give any particularly stunning graphics, and sticks to its cartoon feel.
Duel Masters is certainly a genre that's been done before and possibly better, but there's no denying its addictive quality. Hey, sometimes you just want to rule the world with cards, y'know? It's not hard to get a hang of the game, though it seems complicated at first, which should make it more appealing to younger players and the uninitiated. Also, a few twists and unique additions give it an interesting, new touch. Ultimately, though, Duel Masters is mainly a game for the fans.