Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force – PSP – Review

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.


Review
Scoring Details

for Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force

Gameplay: 7.8
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.


Graphics: 7.0
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).


Sound: 7.5
Several upbeat
tunes that work well in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe.


Difficulty: Medium
Strong enough for
the hardcore, but GX balanced for all players.


Concept: 7.0
The best Yu-Gi-Oh!
game yet, but the concept is a no-brainer. Finally they got it right.


Multiplayer: 7.5
Local battles are
quick, engrossing, and without long load times.


Overall: 7.7
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.