YuGiOh Cross Duel surprised the world with a sudden soft launch in The Netherlands, Canada and Hong Kong ,and thanks to the powers of modern technology we were able to check out the free-for-all brawl.
For those not in the know, Cross Duel is the second major new YuGiOh title on mobile, featuring 4-way duels and a surprising amount of love for the anime, rather than the card game itself.
Considering the criticisms leveled against Master Duel for its less-welcoming difficulty curve, could this be the proper gateway into life-or-death children’s card games? Read on and find out.
Upon playing your first duel, you’d probably realize that no, YuGiOh Cross Duel is not actually the TCG reformatted for a 4-way format. Instead, it kind of gives lane-based card games like Teppen or Clash Royale a YuGiOh coat of paint- and to it’s credit, it’s actually pretty ingenius at it.
Basically, you have 3 zones for each player- left and right zones are for targeting the players to your left and right, while the middle one heads to the player across from you, passing through the center of the field. Monsters also have a travel time, taking 2 turns to actually reach the opponent’s side of the field before they can potentially score free damage on their lifepoints, and battling monsters they bump into on the way there.
Did I mention you also take your turns simultaneously? Basically, you’ll be setting up your boards every turn free from the other players prying eyes. Things like summon limits don’t exist in Cross Duel, so you could totally drop a board full of monsters, just be careful of bad turns where once your opponents board is visible they suddenly merc your whole field.
Basically, putting aside the urge to write “It’s not YuGiOh!” over and over, it’s a pretty ingenious game design. Monsters lose attack every time they battle, so the idea is that if one monster is being particularly oppressive, it probably won’t be after its first battle.
The travel time also helps you predict what’s coming- while a lack of OTKs is almost uncharacteristically not-YuGiOh, it’s great to draw in casual audiences.
This is further boosted by Spells and Traps in the game. Spells are played directly from the hand before the Battle Phase, and are a great way to course-correct after you’ve suddenly realized your monsters are about to be referred to in the past tense. Meanwhile, Traps are set at the Main Phase, and will activate the moment their conditions are met, such as a monster being attacked.
Again, by casual mobile game standards this is a pretty good mechanic- but the problem with associating it with YuGiOh is that it ultimately just feels incredibly watered down. Some of the Spell and Trap cards are pretty solid in following their TCG counterparts- it turns out Mirror Force is an absolute beast when you have three fields’ worth of monsters to nuke. But outside of attack boosting cards there’s not really much going on there.
The Obligatory “This Isn’t YuGiOh” Bit
So naturally, the biggest gripe with this game is how un-YuGiOh it is. It’s subject to a lot of concessions from the genre- it ignores a lot of the depth of modern YuGiOh and instead just focuses on having the characters on the cards in the game instead. Worse still, they have skills that you can unlock via duplicates, and for the most part they’re pretty generic.
I mean heck, I ran a deck with Ojama King as my Ace monster and two Ojama monsters. But the game never really gives you a reason to do that unless you just so happen to like walls of gross gremlin creatures. Some kind of synergy between cards would have been great for deck building, but it’s just not there in this case. Instead Ojama King (a monster with 0 ATK, mind you) has a few levels of its skill tree instead wasted on generic “When this monster is summoned, it gains 200 atk” abilities.
On a gameplay level just having a reason to build your deck around certain cards would have been a great pull. People already want to have popular cards like Elemental Hero NEOS in their deck, why not reward them for filling the rest of the deck with cards that compliment it too?
Instead decks just kind of feel shoddy and slung together. They’re all just generic beatsticks, after all, you only need to put in the ones that have the most attack buffing skills on them to call it a day.
For The Anime Fans
While that whole section comes from someone obsessively working on the perfect HERO deck, I have to say YuGiOh Cross Duel feels way more directed at people who remember the game from the anime, instead. It’s got an incredible level of polish to it- every monster features its own 3D model and attack, and Ace Monsters like Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Neos even feature the attack point pop-up just like in the anime when they’re summoned.
You can even set Battle Companions to give you voicelines as you play, letting you feel like you’re on the world’s worst date with Seto Kaiba because he keeps forcing you to play card games and trying to show you off to his ex who’s clearly moved on.
It’s honestly the most impressive thing about Cross Duel. The models look really good, and the animations are super polished. Combined with the unique ruleset, Cross Duel certainly feels like you’re stepping into the kind of rules-bending antics of the Duelist Kingdom era.
Admittedly, it comes at a cost. Like I mentioned earlier, Cross Duel features a much smaller pool of cards to draw from, and it’s unlikely to change since there’s a model associated with every monster. We’ll probably get more in the future, but I highly doubt it’ll ever reach the heights of the TCG.
But at the same time, it also feels like that was never the intention- YuGiOh Cross Duel seems very much more a celebration of iconic anime cards rather than every single card in the TCG. You get NEOS because Judai Yuki uses it, not because the game plans to make HEROs a viable archetype.
Mandatory YuGiOh Cross Duel Gacha Comments
Naturally, you do get your cards via a gacha system. The game unfortunately has a way more aggressive gacha than Master Duel, complete with paid-only banners.
Each pull gets you exactly one of each card type (spell, trap and monster), with monsters having up to UR rarity while the spells and traps going up to SR.
Like other card games you can totally use duplicate cards to craft new ones, but the fact you never really feel like you’re earning that much in the way of gems, or the fact that if you’re targeting any one particular card, 66% of your pull will be confirmed useless can be disheartening. The decision to make each pull one spell one trap and one monster is good for making sure players have balanced decks, but it’s not so great when it comes to feeling good to do.
Can’t Escape From Crossing Fate
Ultimately, it feels like YuGiOh Cross Duel is a pretty great mobile game, just maybe not a great YuGiOh one. YuGiOh’s identity is steeped in weird synergies, cool monsters and fast gameplay, of which Cross Duel only really has one of those. Still, after the game launches, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how the game’s community grows into its own thing. I’ve known people who only knew about YuGiOh cards in the context of Duel Links, there’s sure to be the same going forward for Cross Duel once it finally launches officially.
After all, the people who’d whine about the game not just being 4-player Master Duel are just as bad as people jumping into Master Duel and whining about why it’s not the same slower duels like in the anime- that’s simply not what the game is, and to try to force otherwise would be a waste of effort.
What it is, is a pretty unique twist on a casual mobile game featuring characters that just so happened to be cards in the YuGiOh TCG. And as far as that goes, it’s pretty interesting. Mix that with its 2v2 and Raid Battle modes, and you’ve got quite a bit of content for the casual player to enjoy- just don’t have your expectations set too high.
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