Sunday, November 27, 2011

Game Reviews: November 2011

What better way is there to welcome the new year, other than digging out your old game cartridges? Okay, you’re right. Planting your face into the cat’s fluff also qualifies.

Not surprisingly, 95% of all the Game Boy games I own are either Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh titles. I’ve picked out two of them which can be played at your convenience, and with your friends. I mean, with other players.

*** Obligatory Possible Spoiler Warning ***

Pokémon: Trading Card Game (GBC)

This card game is so charming and nostalgic to play. After all, it was made during a simpler time, before a gazillion copies of the same Pokémon card existed. If you played with the original Pokémon TCG cards during your youth, here’s your chance to catch ‘em all without spending a dime.

So, it all begins by putting in your name and choosing a starter deck. Religiously, I select the Charmander and Friends deck. For those of you who don’t know, this is because I have always chosen Charmander when given a choice out of the three basic starters. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because I like the overall Fire type more, since I am also a fan of several Water types. Let’s just say Fire Pokémon tend to be stronger on the offensive side and (let’s face it...) they are cuter. That, and I also much prefer the epic dragon over an overweight seed sack and a bear-toise-cannon.

Despite me favouring Charizard, both Blastoise and Venusaur are both much more useful in this TCG game. Blastoise in particular can rip through opponents like grandma’s underpants. I’m sure Venusaur is also quite functional, but I never seem to draw mine. On the other hand, Charizard has an impressive 100 damage attack, but it’s almost impossible to use because of the massive energy cost required to fuel it. Charmeleon is normally a much better card to have on the field by comparison, so I don’t include Charizard in my duelling deck.

Although you have to admit, when you found out how your pal Johnny had a Charizard card, you secretly wanted to blind him with Clag and steal it from his sticky grasp. No need to deny it, we all went through that phase. Remember the days when Pokémon was as exciting as a unicorn coming to life and eating all your school’s textbooks? The infamous Blastoise kid apparently does.

I seem to have digressed.

You might notice that you are immediately free to go anywhere you like on the map. In this game, there are a few things that are similar to the old R/B/Y format:

1. Gym = Club
2. Badge = Medal
3. Gary = Ronald (Yes, I am profoundly disappointed too.)
4. Poison Club = Science Club

Although you can waltz into any club and talk to the people there, you might not be able to challenge some of the club masters until later in the game.

You can choose to duel any club you like to begin with, and I suggest you start with something easy. Before you challenge the club masters, it would be wise to have some practice fights with the students and other players littered throughout the map. You can gain experience this way with what cards work well and which don’t. More importantly, you will get booster packs with each win, allowing you to gradually improve your deck.

An important element of this card game are weaknesses. Fire does double the damage against Grass, Water does double the damage against Fire/Ground, and Grass does double the damage against Water/Rock. If you’re looking to cruise through the game, you need at least three different duelling decks at your disposal.

I am running a Fire/Fighting deck, a Water deck, and a Grass/Electric deck. There are a few different ways of playing, but my default style is beatdown. Be aware that the same tactic might not be very effective on all opponents. For some variety, my Grass deck relies a lot more on poison/paralysis rather than raw attack power.

Once you’ve constructed at least one decent deck, you can start gathering medals. There are 8 of them, just like there were with badges. (Sadly, anime Gary isn’t in this game to brag about how he pulled 10 Kanto badges out of his butt, so let’s just agree that he is some kind of higher being and move on.) For some reason, having a Poison club is illegal here, so we get a Science club instead. I don’t know if the programmers were trying to imply something with that.

Anyway, as you duel your way through the club masters, try to fight their disciples a few times as well. You will get more Energy cards from the booster packs they give, which becomes critical in building backup decks later. You tend to pull more Energy of the same type as the club you fought. For example, if you are looking for Water energy, you should challenge the Water club students instead of the club master. The same opponent will always give out the same type of booster pack every time you fight them. Incidentally, if you’re having trouble finding the three Fighting club pupils, just talk to the people hanging out in the lobbies of the Rock, Grass and Fire clubs.

Provided that you switch decks so that you always have the type advantage, it should be a breeze to win all 8 medals. The only problem I have encountered throughout the entire game is the Psychic master, who keeps bringing out his damned Alakazam. The annoying thing about Alakazam is that it shifts damage counters around while slapping you about with confusion. And since my main deck is Fire/Fighting, a lot of my heavyweight Fighting cards had to be taken out due to their crippling weakness to Psychic. (In case you didn’t already know, Psychic had no weakness in Generation I.) All I have left to say about Murray is this: Thank Dragonite for Magmar’s Smog poison. And I really hate Mr. Mime.

But I did finally manage to defeat the Psychic master using my Fire/Fighting deck, with some difficulty. Although it could be just because of the deck I used, so you might find it a lot easier.

After you’ve beaten all 8 clubs, it’s time to prepare for the Pokémon League. It’s not actually called that in this game, but it’s essentially the same idea. If you didn’t build your two backup decks earlier, now is the time to do it. If you don’t, the championship battles may prove to be trouble.


There’s a creepy Mickey Mouse cosplayer sneaking around in the club lobbies. He/she/it seems to use only Farfetch’d and Slowpoke cards. They also enjoy destroying themselves with confusion on purpose, but I guess that’s none of our business. When you defeat this terrifying entity, you will receive three rare booster packs along with some mental disturbance. Give that perturbed Mickey Mouse a taste of their own medicine by stalking them all over the map and pummelling them into the ground. >:]

The three keepers of the ‘legendary cards’ are Courtney, Steve, and Jack. They will face you in that order, and you will be given the chance to change decks and save your game after each win. At this point, I would like to point out that none of the legendary bird cards themselves have weaknesses, so you really have to target the other Pokémon in the deck. After those first three, you get to face Rod and his Dragon deck. Woot. Oh, I forgot to mention that the legendary cards are all flying Pokémon, and have -30 resistance to Fighting/Ground, so be careful of that.


Courtney has a fire deck based around Moltres, so you want to use a Water deck. Moltres has a 70 power Dive Bomb attack, which luckily does nothing if the coin lands on Tails. It also has an Ability called Firegiver, which puts 1-4 Fire energy cards from her deck into the hand.

Steve has an Electric deck and is the keeper of Zapdos, so you should be using a hybrid Fighting/Ground type deck. Zapdos has a 70 power Big Thunder attack, which oddly strikes any Pokémon on the field other than Zapdos. (This includes Steve’s own Pokémon, and it’s always hilarious when it knocks out his own benched Voltorb.) It’s ability is Peal of Thunder, which again strikes any Pokémon other than Zapdos for 30 damage. As you can tell, poor Steve’s Zapdos is way too dangerous to play.

On a similar note, Steve sounds very ordinary for the name of a legendary bird keeper. It’s a wonder why they didn’t name the other masters something along the lines of Craig, Bob, Tom, and Mavis.

Steve must be under a lot of pressure to build his whole deck around such a disloyal card.


Jack has a water deck based around Articuno, so you ideally want to use an Electric deck. I used a mostly Grass deck with a few Electric cards thrown in. Articuno has a 40 power attack called Ice Breath. Unlike the other two birds, Articuno doesn’t have any drawbacks. The 40 damage is randomly dealt to the opponent’s side of the field only. Articuno also has an Ability known as Quick Freeze, which may Paralyze the opponent on flipping Heads. I failed to mention that Jack wears a monocle, which means you should never pick him in a game of Guess Who.

Rod uses a Dragon deck, but because there is no dragon card type, he has Pokémon of three different elements in his deck: Fire, Water and Normal. The most irritating thing about it is if he sends Dragonair out to suck away your Pokémon’s Energy. Otherwise, his deck has too many conflicting types, which makes it easy to beat him.

The Dragonite Rod uses is quite a weak card. It has a Healing Ability and a very unreliable Slam attack based on coin flips. Dragonite isn’t a threat even if he somehow manages to bring it out.

Surprise! It’s your bland excuse for a rival, Ronald.

Ronald has all the inherited legendary cards in his deck. But like Rod, he has way too many different Pokémon types in his deck to duel properly. He should prove to be quite easy to defeat, no matter what sort of deck you use. As long as it’s a well built deck, you’ll have Ronald howling in submission in no time. I don’t like the way that last sentence came out for some reason.


Congratulations, you have now inherited the four legendary Pokémon cards! The credits will roll, and you’ll soon be able to put them in your decks.

You can go back and fight the four card masters at any time. When you win, you’ll be able to walk into the champion hall and pick up another random legendary card. Remember to save before you walk into the hall where the card is, because that way you can reset to get the one you want. (Again, Articuno is the only one that I think can actually be used.)


There’s also the Challenge Cup, which is held on occasion. You will fight three random students to win a Promo card prize. Save just before you enter so you can choose the right deck in the first round.

And now, here is the main deck and two backup decks I used. The Pokémon are more important than the support cards, as I didn’t exactly spread those very well between my three decks. But, they all work fine.

Wild Fire Deck


Icy Water Deck (aka. Articuno Will Peck At Your Face)

Toxic Nature Deck
*For Electric/Grass, just add two tablespoons of Electabuzz and a pinch of Lightning Energy.
Finally, a few of my personal recommendations:

Magmar Lv. 31 – Basic Pokémon, offers Smokescreen or chance of Poison. Has turned the game around for me.
Rapidash Lv. 33 – Agility can do damage and provide invincibility on Heads.

Articuno Lv. 35 – Paralysis chance or huge Blizzard damage.
Articuno Lv. 37 – Paralysis chance when played, randomly deals 40 damage. Great fun.
Blastoise Lv. 52 – Hydro Pump eats people.
Lapras Lv. 31 – Water Gun deals up to 30 damage, or Confusion chance if needed.
[If you don’t have 4 Lapras cards, Poliwag is the poor man’s alternative.]
Horsea – Smokescreen has been known to take down several enemy Pokémon.

Pinsir Lv. 24 – Powerful basic Pokémon. Chance of Paralyze.
Tangela Lv. 8 – Basic Pokémon with chance of Paralyze or definite Poison.
Koffing Lv. 13 – Heads means Poison, Tails is Confusion. Everybody wins!

Hitmonlee Lv. 30 – Can dodge walls and hit benches, or do big direct damage.
Hitmonchan Lv. 33 – Good to start out with a Jab. Lower energy cost than Hitmonlee.

Trainer Cards
Professor Oak – My hand sucks, get me another one.
Bill – Bring me more cards!
Super Potion - All your damage counters were futile.

Yu-Gi-Oh : Dungeon Dice Monsters (GBA)

Does the name ‘Duke Devlin’ ring a bell? Here, I’ll give you some hints.


I don’t really see the appeal of Duke Devlin, given that there are far better looking characters in Yu-Gi-Oh on offer. In my opinion, the list goes Kaiba-Bakura(Yami version, because the regular one is far too limey)-Joey-Yami-Marik judging on looks alone. But Duke supposedly invented a slightly different variation of Duel Monsters, which he called ‘Dungeon Dice Monsters’.


The first thing that I noticed when I got this game was the opening sequence. Duke is grinning like a maniacal, demonic leprechaun. Yami Yugi is even scarier, with his terrifying grin flashing onto the entire screen. It's one of those openings you really don't want to witness just before bedtime. Meanwhile, Kaiba is looking pretty condescending with the words 'Burst Stream' slowly creeping into the background. I see that they have captured his character perfectly! Looking at the game poster, Kaiba's dire facial expression completely sums up how successful this game was. Or maybe he just feels unclean about being forced into posing with Duke Devlin.

If you are familiar with the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, you will pick up the rules of this game very quickly. And if you don’t know about Duel Monsters, I’m slapping my head in confusion at why you own this GBA game.

It is likely that you have been eagerly watching the Yu-Gi-Oh show on television, or at least have been following the Abridged version with utmost devotion. You may recall the short story arc where Yugi and friends actually go back to school and are challenged by Duke Devlin to his new game. Sorry, what I meant to say was that Joey stuck his stupid mug into a beehive and ended up losing spectacularly. Have some more images to jog your memory.


Let me actually introduce you to the GBA game in question. Here are the parallels which Dungeon Dice Monsters has with the original Duel Monsters card game:

1. Deck = Dice Pool
2. Life Points (2000) = Heart Points (3)
3. Cards = Dice
4. Magic/Trap Cards = Magic/Trap Crests
5. Maximillion Pegasus = Duke Devlin

Dungeon Dice Monsters is played on a gridded board, with each player positioned at opposite ends. You get three Heart Points each, which resemble those Heart containers from Zelda. They are held by your Die Master, which basically means that each player is represented by a stocky gumdrop wearing a traffic cone hat. If your opponent manages to attack your Die Master directly and smash out all three Heart Points, then you lose the game.
The key difference between Duel Monsters and Dungeon Dice Monsters is the movement required to travel around the ‘dungeon’ you create. In order to destroy your opponent’s Heart Points, you need to summon monsters to the board to attack their Die Master. Unlike in the card game, you cannot simply play monsters, magic or trap cards instantly. No siree Bob.

You have to use dice.

Each player selects a pool of dice to duel with, which is much like configuring a deck of cards. Here, each dice represents a monster that can be summoned per turn. Some monsters also have special abilities which can act as effects, magic or traps. I recommend that you choose mostly low level monsters, as it will be much easier to build your dungeon and summon them to the board.

Each turn, you get to roll three dice. Instead of the numbers 1-6, each side of these dice are marked with Crests, which are symbols that you collect for different reasons. These include varying multiples of Summon Stars, Movement, Attack, Defense, Magic or Trap. The quantity of each Crest printed on the sides of a certain dice will vary for different monsters.

Now for the most interesting part of this game. The most critical part of Dungeon Dice monsters is summoning monsters to build your dungeon. When you roll three dice on your turn, the goal is usually to pick three monsters of the same level from your pool. If you roll at least two Summon Stars of the same number, you get to choose one of those creatures to summon onto the board.

When you successfully roll two or more Summon Stars and choose the creature to summon, there is an option to switch between several different box net shapes. The sides of the dice fold out to become a path or ‘dungeon’ for monsters to walk on. Depending on what style you want to play, you can spread your dungeon outwards or build a straight line. Your selected monster will appear in the middle of the box shape you choose as the dice unfolds. Yes, it’s like Thumbelina. But with dice.

Don’t forget to scream ‘DIMENSION THE DICE!’ at the top of your lungs whenever possible.

Anyway, now that you have monsters and dungeon paths clogging up the board, it’s time to learn about the other Crests. After you are done summoning monsters and building the skeleton of your dungeon, you have to accumulate Movement, Attack and Defense Crests. To do this, it is advised that you have a few higher level monsters in your dice pool with the Crests that you need on them.

Your aim is now to roll these dice to collect relevant Crests only, which will enable your monsters to move towards your foe’s Die Master, attack their Heart Points and monsters, and defend against attacking monsters. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.)

Note that even your most powerful behemoth with 70/70 will fall to a crappy level 1 monster when attacked if you don’t have any defense Crests saved up in your pool. Yeah. Kinda unfair, huh? For each attack or defense order, you must pay the corresponding Crests or risk losing your monster.

By the way, if you turn the battle animation on you get to see some horrific fiery deaths. I don’t know who came up with this feature, but seeing monsters vibrate awkwardly before exploding into flames just doesn’t seem very kid friendly. Oh, and when you have some time to waste, take a look at the attack animation for Cocoon of Evolution. Creepy.

There are also Magic and Trap Crests, which can be used to pay for monster abilities. But seriously, no player ever uses these in the GBA game. I don’t use them either, because it’s just easier to win if you concentrate only on moving towards your opponent’s Die Master.

There are a few little things to watch out for, like Warp spaces and mysterious treasure chests. For example, some chests have an attack boost in them, while others obliterate all the monsters on the board. (Yes, it was Bandit Keith who summoned the atomic blast which wiped everything off the board.) However, the effects of the chests don’t trigger unless you move a monster onto their square. So to be on the safe side, all you need to do is stay away from them.

As you might anticipate, Dungeon Dice Monsters has no storyline. It’s nothing but an endless duelling campaign where each character gets two lines of dialogue and a little portrait image. To the game’s credit, some of the script is amusing and many of the dodgy throwaway characters from the manga are thrown in. (Even Johnny Steps!)
But this also takes a lot away from the experience, particularly when you find yourself fighting against so many generic characters like ‘Minion 1-3’ or ‘Thug A-F’. Kaiba, Yugi, Joey and the all the other main characters we know and tolerate are not given any extra attention at all. The only unusual event that occurs is when Yami Yugi materialises out of a black hole or something just to play a dice game with you.

After winning each tournament, you receive a small sum of Gold to blow at Grandpa’s dice store. He only sells dice by the way, which you might find incredibly hypocritical if you watched the series. Looking at the dice, there are a few that cost a ridiculous amount of money compared to the little Gold you receive. Doesn’t Duke Devlin care that Grandpa is hitting small children with highway robbery?

Despite all these lesser faults, the major thing that lets this game down is the CPU opponents. They have NO IDEA what they are doing most of the time. Often, they don’t even know how to defend their Heart Points. They just randomly move one of their monsters next to their Die Master, instead of trying to attack the creature that’s already halfway done with killing them. The CPU also doesn't understand how to build a dungeon strategically about half the time, and in 9/10 cases their monsters never even get near your Heart Points. I have also noticed that the CPU will recklessly attack monsters that are far too powerful and throw away all their summoned creatures for no apparent reason.

The bamboozled CPU makes this game far too easy, so much that it becomes the dice equivalent of playing chess with a duck. Every now and again the CPU plays a good game, but it is almost impossible to lose here (unless the game decides to cheat by giving you nothing but worthless dice rolls).


Dungeon Dice Monsters itself is actually quite a neat idea, but would be fairly difficult to play without a computer or console. The physical game was released a few years ago, complete with game board, dice pieces and monster figurines. It didn’t exactly take off, probably due to the complexity of all the elements. The GBA game does offer link duels and dice trading between friends, so I think it would fare much better in a multiplayer setting. I’d also like to see a bigger monster pool.

Here is the dice pool I played with:

Of course, I am running a Dragon dice pool. This combination of dice is virtually invincible if you can summon Lord of D next to your Die Master where no monster can touch him. But normally, that isn’t necessary. Stacking +10 attack and defense bonuses by summoning only level 1 Fairy and Parrot dragons means you don’t have to waste time hoping to summon a high level monster. Once you’ve summoned all the level 1 dragons possible, all you have to do is roll level 3-4 dragons to collect the Crests you need. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to summon one, but by that stage of the game you don’t even need any extra monsters.

The strategy I use is the good old ‘boxed in’ trick. Whenever I summon a low level monster, I choose the linear box shape to create a straight line down the middle of the board. This allows me to cover more ground faster, and claim a bigger summoning area. As I approach the opponent’s end of the board, I branch my dungeon out around theirs to prevent them from creating any more paths forward. This severely limits their summoning space, as dungeon paths cannot cross over one another. (I believe Duke Devlin explained this on the show...)

At the beginning of the match, I only roll level 1 dice to grow my dungeon as quickly as possible. By the time I start to run out of level 1 dragons to summon, usually my dungeon has spread from one side of the board to the other, both vertically and horizontally. If the duel is going badly for me, I can always summon Lord of D in an unreachable spot to protect all my monsters.

Lastly, I strongly advise that you do not build a dungeon path around your Die Master. Make sure that only one square on the board has access to your Die Master, and occupy that space with a Fairy dragon. All you have to do then is summon Lord of D, and nothing can get to your Heart Points. Flying creatures move half as fast and can’t be targeted for attack by ground monsters, but monsters can travel under them. Parrot dragon is a flying type, and is best summoned closer to your opponent’s dungeon path. Leave most of the Fairy dragons to block your own Die Master, unless you prefer to use the faster movement for attacking.

And what has Yu-Gi-Oh taught us in our impressionable youth?

*Awesome. >:D
*Too bad it was edited out from the Japanese version.

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