Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links (Android) Review

By Shane Jury 02.03.2017

Review for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links on Android

Debuting in the pages of popular Japanese manga book Shonen Jump way back in 1996, the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise began life as a series focusing on a wide range of gaming ideas. These usually took the form of shadow games, created by the protagonist as a means to punish evil-doers, but soon developed with the most popular game of them all: Duel Monsters. Beginning as a basic card game that used monsters, spells and traps to varying degrees, the game has evolved over the years with each new iteration, introducing new elements and conditions to vary up matches. With Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links, Konami has gone back to basics with the game and adapted the cast of the very first series of the show into a free-to-play mobile game, for both Android- and Apple-operated systems. Will mobile gamers find an easy match, or trigger a field of trap cards along the way?

The plotline in Duel Links is kept relatively lowkey, but features the whole main cast of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series in a virtual duel world, there only to casually duel each other and not to stop an evil menace of any description. Starting up the game prompts a choice between Yami Yugi or Seto Kaiba as the avatar representative, and this can be changed easily upon unlocking other characters later on. Each character is excellently voiced by their original English voice actor during duels, and many interact with specific dialogue when pitted against one another. Character designs are lovingly rendered with high definition visuals, and the duelling effects, including monster-specific cutscenes and depictions of their art on the field, give the impression of a high budget game. Even the music is energetic and lively, changing as a match progresses and representing key characters with their own battle melodies. There are also a bunch of unknown NPCs around the duel world to face and gain points from, with a time limit on how often they spawn.

The duelling ruleset itself is of the Speed Duel variety. Namely a variation on the classic layout, but with three monster and three spell and trap zones instead of the normal five; four cards to hand at the start rather than five; and 4000 lifepoints, not 8000. Each player's deck is reduced to a minimum of 20 cards also, and there is no Main Phase 2 after a player's Attack round. These changes have been made to the core concept to better fit the quickplay nature of mobile gaming, and works far better for that purpose than the full ruleset would have allowed, if slightly jarring to adjust to for long-time players of the franchise.

Screenshot for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links on Android

Duel Links has been completely built around the mobile phone gaming concept, and it truly shows when in use. The entire game can be played with one hand, and the virtual world can be navigated with simple swipes and taps. The duelling field is easy to use with clear icons and guidelines to follow, and the auto-duel mechanic is a godsend for simply grinding up points in later levels, even if the AI can be spotty at times. Options allow for customisation on how quick the gameplay is, and how much battery the game uses, which is handy for power consumption regulation and weaker phones in general. In fact, Duel Links seems to take very little mobile data allowance to function during the main game, despite not operating at all without an online connection.

This online reliance brings advantages, namely the choice to match against other players worldwide in either friendly or ranked matches, the latter of which brings more reward for higher tiers. Connection stability depends on the Wi-Fi strength of both sides as always, but the speedy nature of the adapted interface lends itself well to quicker and less frustrating duels. The option to surrender during duels, both off and online is there, but quietly discouraged by a complete lack of reward at the end, as opposed to runner-up prizes after a loss.

Screenshot for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links on Android

As a free-to-play game, Duel Links works the monetisation angle in through Booster Pack purchases and the Duel Orbs mechanic, the latter of which bypasses the cooling off period for more opponents to appear. Applying real-world money to virtual card purchases would be cause for worry in any title, but Duel Links is fairly generous with the Gems required to do so in-game. Mission rewards are plentiful, and the tutorial menus reward practice and patience. Each Booster Pack gives only three cards now, instead of the traditional five, but unwanted cards can be traded back in for credit, and the minimum deck count being 20 helps keep numbers down. Only true beginners would feel slight pressure to use money in this game, and even then, the tutorial and generous early game rewards should be enough to alleviate that.

To substitute for a lesser narrative, the Mission Level acts as a progress indicator, and a means to unlock more game content. There's the Card Trader where trades can be made for rare cards using gold acquired, the challenge of the difficult-but-highly-rewarding Vagabond character, and many franchise favourite opponents like Joey Wheeler and Maximillion Pegasus to be fought and used. Each individual character can gain levels through experience, with each increase rewarding coins, cards, and specific abilities that can turn the tide of a duel if chosen carefully. Editing decks is simple and quick, with robust search functions and even online recipe sharing.

Screenshot for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links on Android

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links embodies many of the mobile platform's strengths as a games host, but sadly does fall prey to a few weaknesses also. The dependence of always having an online connection would provide issues to players of a less supported area, and although there are consolation rewards to make up for it afterwards, there has been plenty of maintenance downtime. The chatroom function, whilst a big advantage in seeking out new friends and opponents, is also currently victim to spam messages that scroll along the top of the screen outside duels, and with no way to switch this function off.

As for the card game mechanics, themselves, there are a vast number of cards missing from the game or yet to be added in; not a major issue per se, as it is likely the developers wanted to start simple and gradually expand on the game as many free-to-play titles do, but series veterans wanting to use their favourite cards straight off the bat may end up disappointed. Luckily, a great number of these issues can be solved in future updates, and the product as it stands now is undoubtedly worth a look for series fans and newcomers alike.

Screenshot for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links on Android

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Although not the first Yu-Gi-Oh! game to reach the mobile space, Duel Links is easily the best example of playing to the strengths of the host hardware and interface. Marred only by connection issues and AI difficulties, the superb visuals, authentic and strong voicework, and a compact duelling system more than make up for it. A worthy choice to fill those waiting periods.

Developer

Konami

Publisher

Konami

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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