Duel Masters: Sempai Legends
Game Info
GameBoy Advance
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Fantasy Violence
The Good

• Addictive CCG gameplay
• Lots of cards and ways to make your deck
• Link play against your friends

The Bad

• Graphic style seems weak compared to source
• Audio is forgettable


Duel Masters follows a steady stream of collection-based media properties taking hold of a popular trend started by Pokemon and furthered by Yu-Gi-Oh. Big on CCG (collectible card game) properties, Wizards of the Coast has taken the anime-based game to the GBA. Duel Masters has players collecting cards and battling opponents (much like Yu-Gi-Oh) to get further along in the story. Duel Masters: Sempai Legends story is pretty simple - as a young duelist, you get a special card from your grandfather for your birthday only to have it stolen. This, of course, sets you on your path to find the card and the person who stole it.

Once you get into the game, which won't take long outside of the opening story portion and a tutorial showing even people who've never played the CCG how to get into the game, you'll find yourself walking around the gameworld, looking to get into duels, which tend to occur randomly outside of the towns. Of course, you could rush onto the next location to try and move the story along, but you won't get far without realizing that you need to build some reputation by defeating opponents. The first such incident is when you have to win a local tournament to get an investigator to look for your card. If you don't have enough reputation, expect to spend time dueling other players. When you do duel other players and win, you also get a booster pack of five additional cards and there are places in the game to trade cards or duel other duelists for special cards.

When it comes to the actual duel, many CCG fans will find familiar territory. The duel starts with a coin-toss and a draw of five cards for your shield and five cards for your hand. Think of the shield cards as a defense against direct attacks on the duelist. Each player then takes turns drawing a card to their hand, placing one card per turn into their mana pool (this can be skipped in later turns) and then casting spells or summoning monsters with this mana. Each card requires a certain amount of mana and on mana of their color to be used. Since each of the monsters has different numerical worth (think of it as both attack and defense points) and type (some can only defend, while others can automatically kill anything they lose to, etc.), players need to devise strategies based on what is in their hand and what may come up in their deck.

Once you have monsters on the playing field, you can send them to attack you opponent's monsters or his/her shields during your turn. If they have monsters that can defend, they'll block your attack. If not, you can directly destroy your opponent's shields. But, take care not to try and rush your opponent as when you attack, your monsters become "tapped", or used, for the turn, which can leave you open for retribution. So, a good balance of attackers, defenders and even some spells to aid you can make any duel winnable. Also, it would do you good to pay attention to any additional effects your cards have when playing them. Some automatically die when victorious in battle, while others require a sacrifice when summoned.

Before too long into the game, you'll be collecting more and more cards and you're sure to want to customize your deck with your new cards. Paying attention to deck balance is always a consideration. The cards come in five types (fire, nature, water, light and darkness), each which has weaknesses and bonuses when creating theme decks. Players will need to understand this to get the best out of their deck and even then may find some duels harder than other due to an unlucky draw. With that said, any fan of CCGs will be absorbed with the easy-to-get-into gameplay behind Duel Masters.

The visual package for Duel Masters is pretty good, only "hampered" largely by personal preference rather than any actual flaws. What I mean by that is that the graphics prove to be colorful, clean and easy to see, especially with all the detail and information one has to take in while playing out a card battle. In battle, you'll be able to tell what monsters you have on their field and the information on your card's isn't hard to get at a quick glance. On the downside, though, is that the design and art in the GBA game feels like a pale shadow to the anime and collectible card game. The characters look more like the effort of fan art and the card art is woeful in comparison to the excellent art found in the actual card game. I understand the need to simplify things for use on the GBA, but even the fact that all the spells use the same art seems a bit disappointing. With that said, though, the graphics do what they should - carry the solid gameplay through.

Audiowise, Duel Masters is pretty bland. It dips into the standard GBA pool of sound effects and lackluster music to provide an okay background to the gameplay that won't detract from your enjoyment, but it sure won't add anything. If your concerned with having some audio to your experience, you may just have to turn the music down and play something else while you play.

"So, is there a lot to do?" Well, the main story mode won't take you too long, but it does have two difficulty modes - playing on the hard mode will open up more areas. Also once you beat the game, you'll open up the Duel Room, where you can play against any other character in the game. Also, there is link play so you can try out your decks against real-life players.

So, is this a game for you? If you like Duel Masters or CCG-type games, the gameplay behind this title will keep your attention for a while. If you have other friends who play this title, the multiplayer is a great diversion. If you aren't a fan of Duel Masters, you're probably going to want to skip or just rent.

- - Kinderfeld

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