"The first thing you should know about Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Dís Wheelie Breakers is that itís a battle game first and a racing game second. This means that, despite the racing-infused screenshots, the emphasis isnít placed on the racing mechanics. Rather, Wheelie Breakers places all of its emphasis on the duels that occur between you and other competitors. The fact that the action unfolds on a racetrack is practically a coincidence."
It seems that nearly every popular, family-friendly video game franchise, from Mario and Sonic to Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, will eventually be turned into a racing game. Now itís time for Yu-Gi-Oh! to follow suit. Rather than pummel the Wii with a series of sequels within the existing Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, Konami decided to build one from scratch using some of the ingredients found in Mario Kart and Wipeout.
The first thing you should know about Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Dís Wheelie Breakers is that itís a battle game first and a racing game second. This means that, despite the racing-infused screenshots, the emphasis isnít placed on the racing mechanics. Rather, Wheelie Breakers places all of its emphasis on the duels that occur between you and other competitors. The fact that the action unfolds on a racetrack is practically a coincidence.
Thatís great news for fans of combat-driven racing games, especially those who have been craving a little less racing with their combat. It may not, however, sound that great to anyone expecting a spectacular racing experience. Playing as a new duelist in Neo Domino City, you control a young card battler who is determined to become the master of what is being called a brand-new motorsport. These card battles differ from the turn-based setup most of us are used to, focusing on real-time attacks and real-time evasive maneuvers.
Wheelie Breakers takes advantage of three card types: spell, trap, and monster. These cards arenít all that different from the power-ups of other racing games, but they are a bit more involved. Up to six cards may be held at one time; you collect them by completing laps and by driving through draw points (glowing card icons planted all over each course).
The first two card types are fairly predictable. Spell cards may be helpful or harmful, using familiar power-up-style effects that include speed boosts and speed reducers, the latter being reserved for your opponents. Using a trap card isnít as easy as, say, throwing a Bob-omb or dropping a banana peel. But when the requirements are met (ex: when an opponent uses a magic card or summons a monster), trap cards are capable of launching an automatic counterattack.
By far, the monster cards are the most significant item in the game. With one of these in your possession, youíll be able to summon a monster above your character (who, at the time, is speeding down the road on a motorcycle) and attack the competition with magical blasts that ignite many bursts of color. Your opponents can do the same, all the while maneuvering a motorcycle through an abandoned highway.
That, however, is where the game gets into trouble. Thereís no question that the motorcycles serve a purpose; when consecutive attacks are coming your way, it isnít that hard to evade them by changing lanes. On the flip side, it isnít that hard to attack enemies because the AI is fairly stupid (most of the time, opponents donít bother trying to avoid an attack) and occasionally incompetent (when an opponent lets you slam him into a wall without a fight, he should probably have his brain examined). Thus, you can simply line up your vehicle with the opponent directly in front of you and fire away.
As a racing game, it doesnít take long for Wheelie Breakers to run out of gas. Signs of trouble are apparent from the moment you cruise the first course, which consists of the flattest and plainest terrain you may ever see on Nintendo Wii. There is nothing exciting about any of the courses Ė besides being visually dated (think first-gen PSone), the tracks are devoid of any interesting moments. It doesnít matter how many twists and turns appear Ė and really, there arenít that many Ė because weíve seen them all a million times before. Oh look, a tunnel. Oh look, a figure-eight. Oh look, an ugly building has come into view. Thanks, Yu-Gi-Oh!
Although Wheelie Breakersí steering mechanics work well enough for players to get through the game without going crazy, they are nowhere near the quality youíd expect from a Wii racer. Whether using the Nunchuk attachment or the Classic Controller, Wheelie Breakers doesnít feel right. The game isnít stiff but itís definitely not smooth either. This is particularly noticeable when approaching a sharp turn Ė the only way to avoid hitting a wall is to hit the brake or decelerate. The brake, by the way, was assigned to the C button, which is just above the Z (acceleration) button. Needless to say, this combination feels a bit awkward.
Regrettably, Wheelie Breakers is most disappointing for its lack of speed. No matter how hard you press the Z button, and regardless of how many speed-boosting cards you unleash, the game is unforgivably slow.
Considering the source material (remember: Yu-Gi-Oh! is a card game), that might not turn off the seriesí hardcore fans. Unfortunately, the story Ė one of the core elements Yu-Gi-Oh! fans care about Ė is a total snooze-fest. The dialogue is terrible, the characters are boring, and the music is just okay.
This leaves the player with few options. Wheelie Breakers canít survive on the battles alone. Theyíre not horrible but they are very repetitive and rely heavily on the racing mechanics, which, in addition to the aforementioned problems, are also very repetitive.
If you can endure all of that, then you really are an enormous Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, one who likely didnít need this or any other review to make a purchasing decision. If you canít, youíre better off waiting for the next Yu-Gi-Oh! title to come around. Donít worry Ė another one is bound to appear very soon.
Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (September 21, 2009)
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