REVIEW: Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution

Monday, September 9th, 2019

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Title Yu-Gi-Oh!: Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution
Developer Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher Konami
Release Date August 20th, 2019
Genre Card Game, Strategy, Simulation
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating T for Teen – Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity
Official Website

It’s odd to realize I’ve been playing Yu-Gi-Oh! for almost two decades now. I got into the well-known card game just before it came stateside from Japan, and was instantly captivated by the art and overall style. I’ve watched firsthand as the game has evolved over the years, going from simplistic and easy to pick up to quite complex and incredibly fast. Like any card game, it’s changed a lot over time, and that’s part of why this Yu-Gi-Oh! game was so exciting. Not only is it the first Yu-Gi-Oh! videogame to hit a Nintendo console in a while, it’s also the first in recent history to feature up-to-date mechanics for the latest style of summons, Link Monsters. The question then, is whether Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution is the best game in the series, or just the latest?

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For reference, the last Yu-Gi-Oh! videogame I played, Zexal World Duel Carnival, came out some 6 years ago. I say “I played” cause there have been other releases since then on PC, PS3 and Xbox in various regions, but I don’t like playing card games on consoles. I prefer portables, and feel that’s the ideal way to play a series like this. So I never played the original Legacy of the Duelist, but worry not, I’m still very up to date with the game mechanics. That’s what happens when you judge the game in your free time. So my hope with Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution was that it would let me get into the game without too much fanfare, unlock the cards I wanted quickly, and give me sufficient replay value. And I can say the game mostly delivered on all of those fronts.

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There are essentially 3 main modes in the game – Single Player, which consists of Campaign and Duelist Challenges; Multiplayer, which lets you face opponents locally or online; and Battle Pack, which lets you draft random cards to build decks. There’s also a card shop where you can spend hard-earned in-game currency to buy more packs. I spent most of my time with Campaign Mode, which features iconic battles from every Yu-Gi-Oh! series, including the original, GX, 5D’s, Zexal, ARC-V and VRAINS. Every consecutive series after the first introduced and focused on a new Summoning mechanic, starting with Fusion, then Synchro, Xyz, Pendulum, and finally Links. Each mission has a bit of story, followed by a duel. Here you have a choice between using a story deck faithful to what was used on the show, or your own constructed deck or pre-constructed structure deck. The upside to using the story deck is they totally ignore the restrictions of the Forbidden and Limited list, letting you sometimes use multiple copies of some of the most powerful banned cards in the game, such as Pot of Greed. The downside is that they are so faithful that they often are chock full of mostly useless cards. I found it was fun to occasionally use a story deck, but more often I used my own decks, especially once I had unlocked enough cards to build a half-decent one.

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Playing through Campaign Mode to 100% completion takes a good long while, and I’d estimate I spent 70% of my overall playtime with it. The only exception to that rule is the latest series, VRAINS. To my surprise, this mode only had 3 missions, compared to 20+ for the others. Worse yet, there was absolutely no story for VRAINS, which was a bit of a letdown. And though you’re seemingly welcome to tackle the series in the order you prefer, I almost wish Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution had forced me to play VRAINS first. The reason being this mode explains Link summons, and how they changed pretty much every core aspect of the game. While I was already familiar with the changes, I can just see the confusion older players unfamiliar with the current mechanics would face. It especially would have made sense, given how short that particular Campaign is. But that complaint aside, I was mostly happy with Campaign Mode. It’s just as silly and challenging as the TV show might lead you to expect, and features tons of unique decks to battle against. While I was most familiar with the original show and 5D’s, it was fun seeing how they changed things up with each series. From ancient Egyptian spirits to motorcycles to dimensional travel and more, there’s a lot of interesting ideas represented by the Yu-Gi-Oh! series. They may not be perfectly explained or make the most sense, but that’s honestly the charm of most anime series. That sheer creativity coupled with great artwork makes for a heady brew.

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Once you beat all the missions in any of the Campaigns, your fun isn’t over. There’s something called Reverse Duels, which lets you play the iconic duels from the opposite side, oftentimes as the villain. There’s some really cool story decks you can use here, such as Pegasus’ Toon deck or Strings’ Slifer the Sky Dragon deck. What makes these interesting is they aren’t restricted by what cards were available when they first debuted. You’ll find more recent cards in these classic decks, so long as they make thematic sense. The only thing you won’t find are Link Monsters, which are entirely relegated to the VRAINS Campaign. So, if you want to use this new mechanic, you should play those missions first and buy a lot of Playmaker’s packs. I should mention, by progressing in the Campaigns, you’ll unlock packs for a variety of characters in the card shop. These will feature cards often used by those characters, as well as totally unexpected archetypes. Given that there’s some 9000+ card pool in the game, you’ll have your work cut out for you acquiring the maximum 3 copies of everything, especially since I found the RNG for the card shop was a bit diabolical. Sometimes you’ll unlock stuff with ease, but when I was fishing for multiple copies of cards I already owned, things got ridiculous, as in spending thousands of in-game cash on packs, only to not get what I wanted. I’d almost swear the game worked to stop me from getting what I wanted. And while this is a feature common to all the Yu-Gi-Oh! videogames, it’s exacerbated by one small detail – the lack of a code machine. Previous games allowed you to input an ID found on the bottom of physical cards to unlock them in the game for a price. I would have loved that feature here, as it would have made getting playsets of all the cards I needed much less time-consuming.

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Duelist Challenges have you face off against iconic characters as well, but this time they’re better-equipped. They’ll use more powerful themed decks, sometimes what you might expect them to use, other times not. A good example is Bandit Keith using a Pendulum / Scrap deck, or Alexis Rhodes using an Ice Barrier deck. I loved the unexpected quality of these match ups, and overall found Duelist Challenges more difficult and satisfying than the battles found in Campaign Mode. The one quality common in both is that often your AI opponent will have much better luck drawing their key cards than you will. Sometimes to an unfair degree. That said, it’s nothing a bit of strategy can’t solve. The Heart of the Cards might work in the show, but here you’ll need to rely on your tactical planning. Plus, it’s not all that hard to trick the AI opponent into making missteps you can capitalize on.

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The last mode I’m gonna mention is probably my favorite. Battle Pack lets you buy random packs and use what you pull to make decks. You can either hand pick cards from a pool or choose to just play with a random assortment. Then, when you’re all done playing a few rounds, you get to keep all the cards you pulled! I personally love this mode, since it relies less on using competitive and often boring Meta decks and rewards you more for creativity and flexible thinking. While it does cost 2000 points to play a few matches, compared to 200 or 400 per individual pack in the card shop, I find it’s well worth it. Especially since you can use your drafted deck to face local opponents, AI foes or play people online. While I’ve 100% completed Campaign, I’ll be coming back to Battle Pack for a long time.

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More Duels on Page 2!

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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