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Yu-Gi-Oh! - Stairway to the Destined Duel

by Ben Kosmina - July 21, 2003, 3:20 am PDT


I won with the power of this card because it represents the friendship that I share between my deck and myself!

For the purpose of this review, I've tried to study and understand just how Yu-Gi-Oh works. I really have. It's been a laborious task. But, before the review, here’s a short overview on what Yu-Gi-Oh is. Similar to Pokemon, Digimon, and Beyblades, Yu-Gi-Oh has taken a popular Japanese game of some type (in this case, a trading card game) and turned it into a franchise. Not only is there a trading card game, but there is also a cartoon/anime series where the characters explain in detail how their trading cards symbolize their feelings. There's Yu-Gi-Oh action figures with that notoriously bizarre guy who seems to be the lead character. He has the giant anime blond hair and always seems to be pointing at something. And naturally, Yu-Gi-Oh has spun-off into video games as well, including games for the Game Boy Advance.

Flash back a couple of years, when Nintendo released the Pokemon Trading Card Game on the Game Boy Color. You had a small quest in which you had to prove yourself to someone or other, while collecting and trading Pokemon cards. Yu-Gi-Oh follows a similar premise, except that rather than being a full-blown RPG, it's just cut down to the bare basics. You choose people to talk to or duel with on a map, and then you get down to it -- after the bizzare characters smack talk on how they're going to beat you, such as "My Insect deck has been reinforced beyond your wildest imagination!!!"

Upon starting the game, you'll be greeted by a screaming anime announcer who informs you that you're in "Battle City" and will be battling fellow duelists. You then are given a choice of one of three card decks to own as your main deck, and are sent on your merry way. This threw me completely, as I was expecting a basic tutorial on just how Yu-Gi-Oh works. No such luck. The manual is about 65 pages, with half being dedicated to the rules, but unless you see it in action (or play the Trading Card Game) you'll be in serious trouble from the start. It's like giving a six year old a road rules manual, telling them to study it, and expecting that he'll be able to drive. It just doesn't work.

After much failure, I began to understand just how to play Yu-Gi-Oh. Basically, it boils down to two players battling each other on a playing field with three different types of cards: Monsters, Magic and Traps. Monsters are your attack cards. They can be used to attack your opponent's monsters, or if your opponent has no monsters when you attack, you'll whittle down some of the 8000 Life Points that each duelist starts with. More powerful monsters require that you sacrifice other monsters in place of them, so strategy is required. Will you keep your two weaker monsters, or trade them for a more powerful one that can be taken down more quickly? Magic and Trap cards give you advantages, such as more offense and defense, or the ability to take some new cards. The first person to lose all their Life Points loses, but there are certain circumstances where it is possible for a player to win instantly by collecting a certain set of cards in their deck. This can be incredibly frustrating since computer players also aim to get these cards.

Graphics, although adequate, are pretty basic. Both the Map screen and the Dueling screen are dull and lifeless, and with these being the two screens that you'll see the most of, this is not a good sign. The Map screen consists of twelve different sections, with only about four selectable each day. Most of the map is in various shades of blue, with only a couple different icons to break up the monotony. The Dueling screen isn't much better, with just the cards laid out, spaces for the various cards and piles to be placed, and a scrolling brown brick background. Oh, but the brick background will change if you use certain cards that enhance particular monsters. For example, a card that increases the power of Light Monsters will turn the background yellow. You'll have to excuse me, but that doesn't really rivet me. And with little to no animation (oh wait, I'm sorry, the cards EXPLODE when they're destroyed), there is little visual interest in the game. Unless you analyse the card images, the game isn't going to be of any graphical excitement.

Aside from the cursor movement and selection sounds, the only sound effect that sticks in my head is the bizarre god-like chant that plays when you get five new cards for the week. The music isn't too bad, but dueling songs on average last about 1:30, and considering that it can usually take five minutes to get through a duel, and there is no way to silence the music short of muting the Game Boy, this is unacceptably short. A LOT more effort should have been put into the dueling songs as dueling IS the meat of the game, and players will be spending a lot of time doing it. As it is, the player is left with an irritatingly short song that will loop far too often. There are a variety of short dueling songs, but it would have been better to take a leaf out of Pokemon and include fewer songs that are longer as opposed to more songs that are shorter.

Control for Yu-Gi-Oh is quite good, as the interface is clear and you're always presented with confirmation before you make any drastic in-game decisions. So you can't accidentally destroy all of your own cards. That being said, this game is definitely aimed at Yu-Gi-Oh fans as opposed to the average gamer. The jargon in this cartridge is mind-boggling and will leave most players' heads spinning. I consider myself to be pretty smart, but most of this game is damn-near incomprehensible. I've only just started winning matches in the past couple of days, and I've had this game since it came out. If you play Yu-Gi-Oh regularly without any problems, then congratulations, you're a shoe-in for a law degree or something similar.

But will the game itself last? If you're a regular Yu-Gi-Oh player, the game will probably seem too short once you defeat the Ghouls gang and battle all the championships. You could collect all the cards if you wanted, but with over 1000, it seems like more of a chore than a means of having fun. On the flipside, casual gamers will have trouble even meeting a Ghoul member, and will probably lose if they do. The nasty thing about losing to Ghoul gang members is that they steal your rarer cards, which will probably frustrate players even more (especially after hearing scathing comments from regular duelers like "You'll be burned badly if you think you've got an easy duel ahead of you!!!"). Casual gamers will have trouble completing the game unless they have the patience to persist, because sometimes the game relies simply on the luck of the draw.

Overall, Yu-Gi-Oh Worldwide Edition: Stairway to the Destined Duel is recommended for Yu-Gi-Oh fans and Yu-Gi-Oh fans only. If you're a casual gamer who thinks this sounds interesting, you're probably better off waiting until the next inevitable version rolls around when you might be lucky enough to have an in-game explanation. The graphics and sound are rather bland, and novice players will spend a lot of time blundering through their mistakes until they figure out how to play the game through trial and error. Not much fun at all.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
4 5 8 7 4 5

Awful, awful, awful. There's the occasional graphic of the duelist with a two frame 'talking animation' where only his mouth moves. The most colour you'll see in the game will be when you see what your opponent looks like, and when you see the cards. Players are staring at that Dueling screen for most of the game -- surely SOMETHING could have livened it up.


The music is short and repetitive. The sound is bland and just plain odd at times, and there's no option to turn any of it off. If the dueling themes were longer, the game would have benefited greatly.


One thing I can't complain about is the interface. It's clear and does what it's supposed to. You want to set a monster down? Go ahead: in the attack or defense position? Your opponent used a magic card: would you like to use your own card to defend yourself? There's definitely been a lot of work put into the interface.


There's a game in there somewhere, but it's so complex and detailed that most players will have difficulty understanding it without a tutorial. Yet in a true stroke of genius, there's no tutorial. The learning curve is non-existent; the game plunges you in head-first presuming that you're already a master dueler.


Ignoring the ludicrous difficulty of learning the game, once you get the hang of it, you'll discover that there's not really that much to do. Defeat all the Ghouls and their leader, and defeat the duelists to beat the championship. That's it. You could collect all the cards if you want, but really, what's the point?


An average game that's certainly not beginner-friendly, Yu-Gi-Oh Worldwide Edition takes effort to play, and it’s not really worth it, either. From the looks of it, the audience it's aimed at will skim through this in a couple of days, whereas the rest of the world will struggle to win a match.


  • Ideal for fans of the Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game
  • No mess, no fuss interface
  • Over 1000 different cards in the game -- plenty of variety
  • 1:30 is far too short for a Dueling song.
  • Computer opponents seem to be incredibly good, even at the beginning.
  • It gets pretty damn boring looking at the same screens every time.
  • No in-game tutorial? Not even an optional one?
  • Requires a degree in Yu-Gi-Oh physics to understand
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre RPG
Developer Konami
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Yu-Gi-Oh! - Stairway to the Destined Duel
Release Apr 08, 2003
jpn: Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters International
Release Apr 17, 2003
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