Back in the late 1990s, my tween son was very much into the collectable card games (and video games about collectable card games) that were all so popular at the time. His favorite was Yu-Gi-Oh! In fact, we would watch the Yu-Gi-Oh! show on Saturday mornings together, just to make sure we were up on the latest dueling monsters and storylines.
So, reviewing the new Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution for the Nintendo Switch had me smiling nostalgically about my son’s card-collecting glory days, as well as mulling all the memorable TCG (Trading Card Game) content that this title comes packing.
If you’re familiar with Yugi and his dueling monster contests, this game will be fairly easy to wrap your head around. But if you’re not … well, let’s take a look.
Just as a point of reference, there have been some 50-plus different Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG video games over the years. And while this new one doesn’t give you gameplay from all of the past titles, it does give you a taste of the franchise’s many story arcs. In fact, there are so many different Yu-Gi-Oh! iterations represented in this single game that even someone who remembers the original can feel a tad overwhelmed at first.
Why? Well, back in the early days, a Yu-Gi-Oh! duel was pretty simple. You had some regular monster cards, some more powerful monsters that were called forth with special moves, and then your basic spell and trap cards. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain this stuff shortly.) But some of the later cards can be packed with so many different effects and status applications that it feels as if you’re trying to memorize a short story with every card you choose.
But worry not, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution gamemakers realized that it might be tough sledding for beginners (I mean, even this game’s mouthful of a title can be difficult to get through), so they made things really simple to ease into. Through a multiple-step tutorial and five different story campaigns, the game’s designers hold your hand and help you get used to using the many decks of digital “cards” and enable newbies to figure out how the competitive card battles work.
OK, so how does a dueling card battle work?
First of all, you’ve got a simple goal: to hit your opponent with card attacks that lower their life points down to zero before they do that to you. Each player begins with a deck of 40 cards. They shuffle and take turns summoning monsters to the board, placing traps and spell cards, and slowly whittling down each other’s life points.
So, for example, let’s say I put down an Axe Raider worth 1,700 points and then match it with a “spell” card that boosts its attack by 300. But if you then whip out a Blue Eyes Dragon and hit me with a 3,000-point attack, I’m gonna lose 1,000 points. But if, upon your attack I spring a Mirror Force trap card, then not only do you lose your dragon, but because of the trap’s special properties, all of your attack position cards are eliminated, too. Bing, bam, boom.
Make sense? Now ratchet that up with more and more complicated loopholes and special limitations and you get the gist of things: the card matchups get tougher, more strategic and more compelling. And again, the story campaigns ease you into all those new complications and twists and turns.
I’ve talked about “monsters” and “spells” so far, but I should add that there aren’t any terrifying visuals or spellcasting in the mix here, just cards with pictures of fantastic beasts and power-ups or traps. It should be noted, however, that those story campaigns I mentioned are also where you’ll stumble upon magical worldview elements some parents may find spiritually problematic.
The central Yu-Gi-Oh! storyline centers around a shy, spikey-haired kid named Yugi, a teen who’s gotten his hands on an ancient Egyptian artifact known as a Millenium Puzzle. Problem is, when Yugi solved that mystical puzzle, he unlocked a connection to an ancient spirit named Yami Yugi—an alter ego who imbues him with enhanced abilities.
There are other Millenium Puzzles in the story mix, too. So other spirits show up to take over players, and eventually characters find ways of grabbing other people’s souls. It’s a mishmash of Egyptian mythology, evil powers and glowering spiritualism that’s woven through this cartoony Japanese tale that was originally the brainchild of manga artist Kazuki Takahashi.
So, do those story bits make this game into something dark and scary? In terms of gameplay itself, no, they don’t. Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution is still primarily about building card deck from some 9,000 unlockable cards and challenging friends to strategic card battles. And they’re fun card battles, to boot.
But the game’s manga-inspired mysticism merits parental involvement and engagement just to make sure any odd spiritual notions are quickly identified, addressed and dealt with from a solidly Christian point of view. Some families will decide that the worldview issues here are navigable, while others may want to steer clear of the latest iteration of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.