Saturday, August 31, 2013

Level Up: Yu-Gi-Oh Dungeon Dice Monsters

With this review, Cheap Dam-Month will come to a close. So far I’ve talked about 3 card games all based on somewhat popular anime series. So, following that trend, it would be no surprise that I finish off Cheap Dam-Month with the “king of games”, Yu-Gi-Oh. Konami has had many video games based off of its card game on almost every console since the Game Boy Color. But where I find the series shines is the monsters, so I prefer this game with more of a focus on leading an army of monster. Here’s the only non-card game this month: Yu-Gi-Oh Dungeon Dice Monsters for the Game Boy Advance.
Dungeon Dice Monsters uses dice pools of 15 dice each player choses (these are like your “deck” and you get them by winning matches or buying them). Every turn, the player choses 3 dice for a single role to see what crests they get. Most of the crests go into a crest pool to move, attack, defend or use special skills later on. However, the most important one might be the summon crests, which follow different rules. Once you manage to role two summon crests of the same level in one turn (as they can’t be pooled), you can summon a monster or item from the dice that came up as summons.
To summon a monster, you also need to place a path. Each path is composed of 6 tiles laid out in shapes that would make dice when folded up. All the paths you place must connect to each other, which all connect back to your starting point: the Dungeon Master. Eventually, you’ll need to summon monsters to connect your path to your opponent’s so you can attack him, and vice versa. How you make your paths determines how easily he could get to you and how much space you could have for summons (remember, you need 6 spaces in some specific shapes). Grasping this concept is key in this game.
Once a monster is placed, you can move him around the board via any path he can reach and attack enemy monsters (all of this uses crests, so there’s a little bit of item management too). Your goal is to reach your enemy’s Dungeon Master and attack it 3 times to win.
Now, I have the real version of this game and unsurprisingly there are a few major differences. However, these seem to have been done to match what was shown on the Anime. One thing that’s different is that your dungeon master can’t attack, so he can’t retaliate as a last defense (which I miss). Another big difference is that, in the video game, each monster has a unique die and you can no longer use it after summoning that monster, while in the real version you have one kind for each summon level and could role them  at any time. This hurts the game because it’s possible that the game comes to a stalemate because both players summoned all the monsters with certain crests and can no longer reach or attack the dungeon masters. However, the biggest flaw with the game is how long everything takes. As with Digimon Digital Card Battle, to advance in the game, you need to play through these long tournaments of several opponents (without saving in between), and a single match can already be pretty lengthy. Beyond that, there are a bunch of animations for every time you roll, summon a monster, fight and do other things. Some of these you can skip, but others you can’t and there’s no option to remove them completely (like in Monster Rancher Battle Card). This just adds a lot of filler time.
So that’s Yu-gi-oh: Dungeon Dice Monsters, and, I’ll admit, it’s not for everyone. Unlike the card games which are (mind the pun) a bit two dimensional, this game adds a bit more strategy and depth to the whole collect, trade and build game play that might a bit too much for some people. That being said, those who are looking for something a bit complicated might enjoy it… if they can look past how long a single gaming session can last due to the tournaments. And like with Digimon Digital Card Battle, every change made to a game I really enjoyed just kind of made it worse (again, I know it was to resemble the show, but I’m sure the card games don’t resemble anything that happened on there). However, there aren’t as many changes, some may think they’re better and the core game still makes it pretty enjoyable. All and all, it’s a good game, but if it didn’t force you to play for as long as it does, I’d like it a lot more. I give Yu-Gi-Oh: Dungeon Dice Monsters 7 levels out of 10.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Level Up: Monster Rancher Battle Card GB

We are still celebrating Cheap Dam-Month. At the start of the month, I mentioned that most of the real versions of these games were fads. However, this one would be included as I know no one that played it. I saw it for sale in card shops, but never bothered with it. I somehow ended up with a copy of the video game version though, so let’s look at the only game this month that I haven’t played the real version of. Here’s Monster Rancher Battle Card GB for the Game Boy Color.
Monster Rancher Battle Card is played with 3 chosen monsters and decks of 50 cards mostly composed of attack and defense cards for your monsters. See, though your monster have a pre-set HP the other games, it may only attack if you have an attack card in your hand for that monster. For example, if I have Mochi on my team and a Mochi’s Slap attack card in my hand, I can use it. However, if all I have are Golem and Tiger attack cards in my hand, only they may attack, and Mochi will have to sit out the round. You may attack once with each monster per turn if capable.
However, most attacks also require guts points. At the end of every turn, the player may discard any number of cards from their hands for one guts point each. (Note: your hand refills to 5 cards every turn). Tiger’s Charge attack, for example, requires two guts points before he can deal the 4 damage. So kind of like with Digimon Digital Card Battle, you have this strategic decision to make between keeping a card, and sacrificing it to use other cards. The best move will be determines by your unique play style.
There are also defense cards that you can activate after an enemy has attacked to reduce or nullify any damage that would be dealt to your monster. However, like attacks, most of these are powered by guts points, you often have to choose between defending now and attacking later.
And finally, there are All Monsters and Breeder cards. These act kind of like the trainer cards in Pokemon: some increase your attack, some damage your opponent directly and some can heal your monsters, among other things. There are other strategies involved too (like making a combos, different kinds of attacks, etc…) but I’m now getting into specifics that you’ll learn along the way. A match is won when an opponent gets all three of his monsters KO’ed or is unable to draw a card.
Graphically speaking, the game is really good. It has an odd, old-world style, but I think that’s reflective of the main series, so I can’t really complain about it. Other than that, the over world sprites are great, easily comparable to the ones from the Pokemon Trading Card Game, but with more unique designs (since monsters seem to really exist in this world). The cards are well detailed and do a great job at uniquely depicting what each chard does, even with the limitations on space and color (though again, I haven’t seen the real ones, so I don’t know how faithfully recreated they are). Where this game shines though is the fact that you see all your monsters on the field and they are exquisitely drawn. There are only a handful of monsters in this game, but they did a great job for all of them. They also have animations for each attack, which from my memory looks pretty good, but if you’re like me, you shut off the animation because it just takes too long.
I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed Monster Rancher Battle Card GB considering I almost never heard of it before playing this game developed by GRC and published by Tecmo. The main difference between this video game and other card based ones is that it moves quickly due to having to burn so many cards from your hand to do basic stuff and the small amount of HP your monsters have.  The big downside to this game is that, compared to most other “collection” games like this, you don’t seem to have many cards to collect, so it seems like you’re stuck using the same ones (and collecting new monsters is a rare occurrence). If you’re looking for a lengthy find-and-collect game with long epic battles, this might not be the game for you. If you want to play something fast and unique, then you might want to check this out. I give Monster Rancher Battle Card GB for the Game Boy Color 8 levels out of 10.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Level Up: Digimon Digital Card Battle

And Cheap Dam-Month continues this week with a look at Digimon! Yeah, with how often I’ve talked about Pokemon, it seems appropriate that I finally follow up with what was known as their big competitor. I’ll get into what I think of the series as a whole some other day, but for now I’m just here to talk about the card game. So let’s look at the only non-handheld game this month: Digimon Digital Card Battle for the Sony PlayStation.
Digimon Digital Card Battle is played with decks of 30 cards made of up of Digimon and Option cards. The game field is comprised of an active Digimon and your hand of 4 cards (which gets refilled at the start of your turn) that are visible to your opponent. At the start of your turn you may discard a Digimon for an amount of Digivolution points. If you have enough points and a higher level Digimon of the same color as the active one (example: a Red Champion to be placed on a Red Rookie), then you may spend the points in order to change your Digimon into the higher level one. (Unlike the Pokemon card game, it does not keep the damage that has been dealt to its previous form.) After that, you choose an attack, which are color coded red, green and blue. Generally, red is your most powerful attack but is often the target of enemy skills, green is medium but usually a safe bet, and blue is weak but uses special skills.
Once both sides have picked an attack, you may choose to use an option or Digimon card from your hand, or a blind card from the top of the deck. These can increase the damage you deal, give your Digimon more HP or any number of effects that can greatly change the outcome of a battle. Once all that is set, both Digimon attack each other (starting with the player whose turn it is). Once a Digimon’s HP is reduced to zero, it (and all previous forms) gets discarded and the player who knocked it out gets a point. A game is won when a player gets 3 points or his opponent has no more Digimon in his deck.
Choosing a Digimon to send out is a bit interesting in this game, since you don’t need to start off by sending out a Rookie: if you have no Digimon on the field, you can send one that’s a higher level, but at the cost of cutting its attack and HP in half for each level you skip (1/2 power for champion, ¼ for ultimate, etc…). Though if you really don’t like what you got, you can choose to discard your hand at the start of your turn and draw a new one. Skill points have also been implemented in this game: you’ll get partner Digimon, and as you win matches, they get experience points and new options you can attach to them. These partner Digimon can actually be quite useful in an otherwise unimpressive deck.
You may be wondering how is it that something like the partner Digimon were implemented in real live. Well, they weren’t. As a matter of fact, this video game has almost no resemblance to the actual card game: Digimon needed specific combinations to Digivolve, your hands weren’t shown, the decks used more cards, etc… The Digimon card game was actually one of my favorites, so I’m disappointed that it’s been replaced with a glorified RPG battle system. Instead you’ll often find using the same attack over and over again is the best strategy. The only kind of cool thing about the game play is deciding whether to sacrifice a Digimon for its ability, Digivolution points or to keep it to use in combat later (which can make or break your victory).
I can’t really think of anything more to say about Bandai’s Digimon Digital Battle Card. It took what I think was a great card game, and turned it into a more strategic version of the regular RPG system of “choose attack and wait”. The graphics aren’t that impressive: most of the game is laid out in menus, except for during the attack phases, which seems to just reuse graphics from Digimon World. I find the music repetitive, dull and all kind of samey-sounding, so the Digimon’s battle cries are not worth keeping the volume up. There’s a story, but it honestly makes no sense: something about a tower, and Digimon being evil, but CARD GAMES are what decides the fate of the world (Pokemon trading card game worked because there weren’t real Pokemon). It’s like every step was taken to make it a boring experience: adventuring has been replaced by tedious menus, the music is boring, the graphics are nothing new, the game play is just waiting and repeating the same actions and the story drags on. It’s not a bad game really, it works well and there is some potential in the game play, but it only just passes. I give Digimon Digital Card Battle for the PlayStation 6 levels out of 10.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Level Up: Pokemon Trading Card Game

Well another August is here and it’s time for a theme month. This year’s theme is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but it’s also inspired by one of CR’s shows on That Guy with the Glasses called Cheap Damage, where he looks at various table top, card and other kinds of games. Though I’m not expert in that field, I do remember playing some of the collectable games that were giant fads while growing up. And, what do you know; most of them were turned into video games! So this year I’m kicking off Cheap Dam-month with Pokemon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy Color.
The Pokemon Card Game is played with decks of 60 cards of 3 types: Pokemon, Trainer and Energy. The trainer cards allow you to do things that you can’t normally do on your turn. These include dealing more damage with your attack, drawing extra cards or healing your Pokemon, for example. You may use one per turn. The Pokemon are what you fight with. You need one Pokemon as your active and you can have up to 5 others on the bench to either be switched out or come in once the active Pokemon has been KO’d. The energy cards are used for the attacks: most attacks require you to “attach” a certain number of energy cards of a certain type (displayed next to the attack name) to a Pokemon. The white star is “normal” and any energy card can be used for it, while the others need an energy card of that matching symbol. Once your active Pokemon has enough energy on it, you can choose to attack once at the end of your turn. The opponent’s active Pokemon takes the damage indicated next to the attack, but a lot of attacks have additional effects, so be aware of its conditions. Once a Pokemon has more damage than HP, it is knocked out and it and all cards attached to it get discarded. The opponent who knocked out the Pokemon may take one of the “prize cards” set aside at the start of the match. A game is normally won when a player draws all of his prizes, but you can also win when your opponent has no more Pokemon on the field or when they cannot draw a card from their deck.
Of course, one of the biggest things about Pokemon is the fact that they evolve, and that has been implemented in the card game. You may only play down “basic Pokemon” (the first stage of any evolutionary line) in an empty slot. Once a turn, if you’re holding the evolved form of a Pokemon you have in your field, you may place it on top of that Pokemon. The evolved Pokemon keeps everything attached to the previous form, but is cured of attack effects and can no longer use the attacks of its last form. And though not every Pokemon has them, you should check your Pokemon’s weakness and resistance (which effects how much damage it may take), retreat cost (the amount of energy cards you much discard to switch your active Pokemon) and Pokemon power (which are free to use abilities).
Now, with all that said, the best thing about the Pokemon Trading Card Game video game is that everything I just said would also apply to the actual card game. So, if you’ve play it before, transitioning to this version should not be a problem (keeping in mind there have been many additions to the card game since this was published). It’s great how they were able to authentically recreate the experience.
Pokemon Tading Card Game is interesting when you think about it; it’s a video game version of a card game based off a video game. That being said, it’s a great recreation of a great card game that used inspiration from the video game really well, but knew when to take liberties. The basics are simple, and as you’ll play, you’ll learn how to balance a proper deck, what the better attacks are and how to adjust for your strategy. The problem is if you’re already familiar with the game, you might not get all that much game play out of it: I built 2 decks as quickly as I could and wiped the floor with everyone until the elite 4, and even then I just slightly edited one deck to win. The link cable feature could have offered good competitive play at the time, but if you had all the stuff for it, you probably had the actual cards. The best use of the game today is for anyone who wants to play the card game, but can’t find anyone around to play with or finds card collecting to be too expensive. The over world graphics look comparable to the first gen games and the recreation of the cards are almost flawless. The music is only alright though. Basically it’s a game that didn’t aim to do anything complicated and succeed beyond expectation. I give Pokemon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy Color 9 levels out of 10.