Like the Pokémon games, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelists of the Roses is essentially a computerized trading-card game. Unlike Pokémon, however, Duelist of the Roses is distinguished by a peculiar historical-fiction context and a startlingly steep learning curve. Yu-Gi-Oh! newbies be forewarned: this game is better suited for die-hard fans.
Not only does the game’s story stray from the Egyptian setting of the cartoon show, it strays into a fictional history of the War of the Roses, a 15th-century civil war for the English throne. In this version of events the war is fought with cards, not swords and bows, and series-protagonist Yugi is actually Henry VII. There’s lots more real and adapted history in the game, but it’s really just stage dressing for a series of card battles. Players can choose to fight for the side of Yugi and the House of Lancaster or for the rival House of York. Either choice leads to different opponents and cut-scenes along the way.
The gameplay itself falls between the simplicity of rock-paper-scissors and the complexity of chess. Players blindly deal monsters off a deck against what your opponent pulls and the stronger monster wins the hand– the winning opponent gets the balance of points between the winning and losing cards from the losing player. When a combatant’s life points are gone the game is over. Duelist of the Roses introduces a leader card to the game, which players use to store their life points and to earn special abilities. Also new is a terrain map that will influence the power of the cards being drawn. For example, pulling a water monster near the ocean will pack more power than a fire monster.
What makes the game so hard is that the computer opponent is an ultimate master of the game’s many arcane rules and the in-game tutorial is a little rushed. The game is forgiving to losers; one needs simply to try the battle again and hope for better luck. The graphics and sound are a little disappointing, but it is the first time we’ve seen these card monsters in 3-D. —Porter B Hall