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Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 (DS) artwork

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 (DS) review

"If you’re a Yu-Gi-Oh fan and know the ins and outs of the rules, you’ll most likely find a decent title in World Championship 2009. But, if your experience with the trading card franchise is non-existent, you’re going to have a much tougher time playing through and enjoying the game."

Let’s get this out of the way: If you’re a Yu-Gi-Oh fan and know the ins and outs of the rules, you’ll most likely find a decent title in Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009.

But, if your experience with the trading card franchise is non-existent like it was in my case before booting up World Championship 2009, you’re going to have a much tougher time playing through and enjoying the game.

In my many, many years of video gaming, I have rarely come across a game that is this newbie-unfriendly. Diving straight into Story Mode, after I chose my avatar and hometown (note to the developer: Ireland does not belong to Great Britain), I was thrown into my first card-based battle within minutes not knowing what to do at all! It seems a bit dumb that they tell you to check out the tutorials once you earn your inaugural win.

The tutorials run by pretty much everything you’ll need to know. An ordinary card battle pits two ‘Duelists’ against each other. Each starts with usually 8,000 Life Points and has their own shuffled decks consisting of at least forty cards. By taking turns to draw cards, they must aim to deplete their opponent’s life bar. There are three types of cards: monsters, spells, and traps. A Duelist can only summon one monster to the field every turn, and each critter comes with ATT and DEF stats that determine how much damage, if any, is dealt. How you utilise spells and traps is nearly always the difference between victory and defeat, and these cards carry effects that can be used to modify the field--examples include raising stats, destroying monsters, or negating other spells and traps.

This mundane exposition is only a small fraction of the first seven chapters in the tutorials. I haven’t covered phases, attack and defence positions, monster levels, how damage is calculated (if any), how to cast spells or set traps, and so on. And even then, there’s a further ten chapters that tackle the more advanced topics such as chains, fusions, counters, Synchro Summons, and the rules of tag and turbo duels.

Put simply, there is so much you have to get your head around, and the game doesn’t really attempt to ease you into it. It expects you to spend an incredible amount of time reading through each tutorial and grasping the rules before you put all of them into practice in a real battle. Veterans of the franchise may not have this problem, but beginners should be given the opportunity to digest the rules in smaller chunks and put those into practice first before advancing. Furthermore, the long list of tedious tutorial chapters looks so uninviting that you’ll probably stop a third of the way through like I did and come back when your ignorance on a certain topic screws you over in a story duel.

That’s not the only thing intimidating to newcomers. How are they supposed to know what constitutes as a good deck? Some beginner’s tips would have gone a long way in preventing the likes of me having to learn first-hand what I should and shouldn’t do. Building your own deck is also more work than it should be. Card packs can be bought with DP, the in-game currency mostly earned by winning duels, and as you buy more packs in the hope of uncovering awesome cards, it becomes more of a chore to sort out your deck as you’ll end up with hundreds and hundreds of different cards. The interface is to blame; it is horribly cluttered, which is surprising considering the DS comes with two screens. The saving grace here is the wide array of sorting options.

It’s because of these factors that make World Championship 2009 completely different experiences depending on who you are. Veterans who are already familiar with the rules and deck-building might not find many problems with the regular duels that crop up throughout the game’s story (at least, until the end where you’re pitted against four consecutive Duelists similar to Pokémon’s Elite Four but without any opportunity of recovering health or saving the game), but I often found myself replaying the same duel three or four times until I got lucky and made a breakthrough before I could progress. I felt that there was a huge degree of luck involved in each battle. One match-up had me cursing at the DS when my strongest monsters on the field all got wiped by one spell activation. I got thrashed. The following attempt, it was me that did the thrashing as that card never came up. And though I found relief in my victory--boy, did I find that rewarding.

…which leads me to probably the best part of the game: the winning. No two Duelists you face are the same. Their decks differ in all sorts of ways--one deck may be Earth- or Water-focused, another full of cards with high ATT, and another with the sole purpose of pissing you off, trying to block all of your attacks until you run out of time. You could attempt to play through the game with the same deck, but should you taste defeat, you might have more luck analysing what went wrong and tweaking your cards.

The game is interspersed with easy box-pushing puzzles and more interestingly, bike racing. Only, they’re not called bikes, they’re ‘Duel Runners’. Several times in the story, you’ll be racing on tracks, be it against the clock or the chasing local authority. DPs can be spent customising your Duel Runner’s appearance and stats, and though it’s far from being the deepest racer (they never tell you the controls, but it’s not hard to work out one button accelerates and another brakes), it is a welcome diversion from the heavy amounts of battling. Also breaking up the duels is the storyline--you take control of an amnesiac Duelist, and apparently, duelling is the way to go to recover fragments of your memory. It’s a forgettable tale but does have its share of semi-interesting characters.

As a FYI, the copy of World Championship 2009 that I received came with three free ‘Special Edition’ trading cards: Infernity Archfiend, Infernity Dwarf, and Infernity Guardian. If that means anything to you, I’m sure there is plenty for you to enjoy in World Championship 2009. Anyone else would be advised to avoid it and consider buying another game, unless you’re dying to educate yourselves on the world of Yu-Gi-Oh.

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Freelance review by Freelance Contributor (June 25, 2009)

This contribution was provided by a writer who is no longer active on the site.

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