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By Craig Harris
It's a series that seems to increase in popularity each year it's out. Yu-Gi-Oh has been going strong as a card game ever since it was introduced in Japan almost eight years ago, and it's not really slowing down that much in the US either. On the Game Boy Advance, there are no less than five games featuring the Yu-Gi-Oh branding on these shores, with even more in Japan. Two of these Yu-Gi-Oh games are direct "virtual" versions of the card games, and Yu-Gi-Oh: World Championship Tournament is a follow-up update to this series. The third installment features the same solid and fun strategic with additional cards to change the way players combat each other, and will be used as the foundation for a tournament scheduled for this Summer. But don't expect anything more than the basic of updates.

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Features 100 new cards on top of the 1000 from last year. More than 25 characters to challenge Updated rule set Cartridge save (one slot) Link cable support (two players) Yu-Gi-Oh: World Championship Tournament, like last year's Yu-Gi-Oh! Worldwide Edition and Eternal Duelist Soul the year before that, is a virtual, paperless version of the card game. Players put together a deck of cards featuring monsters, magic attacks, and traps, and go up against other players' decks in a one-on-one battle. Players take turns putting down a single monster in attack or defense position, as well as activating magic powers that could give the player or his monsters enhanced abilities...or take away something from the opposition. Flip-effect cards can change the course of a battle; putting them face down may force the opponent to attack the card, which will activate a special ability that could hurt the opponent, his monster, or help the owner of that card. The match is over when a player's 8000 hit points is whittled away to nothing.

The trend of updating a game for a separate edition is definitely not a new thing in videogames; sports games have been doing it for years. But at least those developers add more features to the game to encourage additional, yearly purchases. There's not much new Konami can include in the Yu-Gi-Oh beyond an updated rules set and the new cards it introduced since the release of the last GBA game, so that's really all that the players are going to get with a re-purchase of this game. But because the game's target is the die-hard players of the series, it's pretty likely that these guys don't mind spending 30 bucks a year to get the latest in the series. After all, players put way more than that down in a single blink on card purchases. And most of those cards are here in the game, at least in virtual form.

These GBA renditions are, and always have been, absolutely terrible ways to learn the rules and strategies of the series. The past Yu-Gi-Oh trading card games on the handheld cater more to the actual players of the card than it is a tutorial. It's a great game to hone skills in strategies and deck desugandan-news.coms, absolutely, but to figure out how the game actually works? Not so good. From the first game on, the computer will prompt options like "Would you like this as part of a chain?" which honestly don't make a whole lot of sense to newbies, and the first hour or so for the novices are spent constantly going from game to manual just to figure out just what the heck's going on in the first few battles.

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So, like the previous two games in the series, for World Championship Tournament 2004 it's best to brush up on the rules before diving into the computer or link-up competitions. It's not entirely difficult to understand all that happens in the card game with this rendition, but just don't expect it to hold your hand. That's where Konami could have improved the series: an interactive tutorial mode is something that has always been missing out this game, and the company's insistence in leaving it out is getting more and more irritating.

At least the company didn't just slap the updated rules and cards into last year's game and call it a day. The studio did streamline a few menus, and cleaned up the interface prior to the battles. And even though the game looks exactly the same within the combat, the sound engine has been given a nice shot in quality. The tunes are far less NES/Game Boy 8-bit in quality and more mirror the standard that people expect out of the GBA's speakers. Everything else about the game, from the in-battle menus to the icons and card artwork and special effects, are identical from the past two Yu-Gi-Oh titles. And since there really wasn't anything wrong or bad about the imagery in the past, it's not a problem in World Championship Tournament. The other "big" inclusion is its ability to play in five different languages -- that bullet point doesn't exactly excite us, even if a guy from Spain can play against a player with his cartridge set in "English" mode.