Genre: Card Combat
Release date: Available now
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 is an open-world trading-card game. It might have a learning curve for newcomers, but it does have depth that any strategy player will appreciate. Every card is viable, and there is a myriad of ways to customize your card deck to complement your play style. As you get adept at utilizing all the options of monster, spell and trap cards, gameplay becomes a battle of wits with a dash of luck, and it’s quite satisfying to put yours to the test. Though the focus of the game is on dueling, that doesn’t excuse it from it’s otherwise overall shallowness. It’s plagued by a throwaway story and a lifeless city to explore. Mini-games act as alternatives to dueling, but they are nothing more than frustrations.
The story, based on the cartoon series, is virtually nonexistent. You work your way up from fighting lowly thugs to competing against Jack Atlas himself (the main antagonist) in a tournament. All the memorable characters are here. What is not, however, is anything resembling personality. Instead of fondly recollecting individuals, you can save time by grouping them by friends, enemies and pedestrians. Everyone only talks to state the obvious, or to move the story along; it’s never a personal experience for any of them.
Matching the carpet with the drapes, you also get a drab city in which to run. There is nothing to excite the explorer in you. The buildings are in place for obligatory purposes (you can’t enter most of them), and the many avenues only lead to blocked-off areas or dead ends. Color is dominated by a monotonous gray palette with few sparse diversities. Luckily, the card game itself is fun and addictive, and the game throws you into one at every opportunity.
If nothing else, dueling will keep you hooked. Personalizing your tactics makes it all the more interesting, provided you have the patience to build a deck from scratch. As with these kinds of games that are based on the luck of the draw, you might find yourself giddy, or cursing your bad fortune. You can run into some tough challenges that you’ll have to retry many a time, but they’re beatable if you don’t give up. As aggravating as it gets at times, there’s something that drags you back to defeat that smug opponent to show him you’ve got the stuff to be Yu-Gi-Oh! champ.
So it’s kind of disappointing that developer Konami ended up going the opposite direction with the mini-games. There are racing segments that are somewhat fun, in which you are mainly driving to escape and avoid pitfalls on the track. It’s linear in that regard, and they are over before you know it. If you lose, you’ll quickly be wishing they weren’t in the game at all, because they are a distraction from the main attraction. You can customize your vehicle, but the driving is clearly an afterthought; you don’t race nearly as much as you duel. The other games, such as the ones in which you move boxes to get to the other side of the map, are embarrassingly bad. If the developers wanted to make the card game more fun by comparison, then they have succeeded.
Stardust Accelerator is passable only when you look at what makes Yu-Gi-Oh! so popular. Konami only had to incorporate the cards and the rules (that have been in place for how many years now?) and they would’ve been golden. Everything else is below par and not worth your money. I can’t shake the feeling that they were going after the quick buck. This is nothing new in the business, but this game is best left to the fans who just have to have more of Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s card canon.