Yu-Gi-Oh! became popular at the perfect time in my adolescence right after people stopped trading and playing Pokemon cards and before the nerdiest students got into Magic the Gathering. It was a transition into a more complex trading card game and its excellent cartoon and manga was the gateway drug that made plenty of kids believe in the “heart of the cards.” I had lost interest by the time that the main series had ended and spin-offs like GX and 5D’s had begun airing, but the series played an important role in my childhood. Naturally, I was excited to check out YU-GI-OH! LEGACY OF THE DUELIST: LINK EVOLUTION for the Nintendo Switch as it had been quite some time since I dusted off my Duel Disk. And despite some missteps, this expansive entry made it easy to believe in the heart of the cards once again.
Of course, a lot has happened in the many years since I was a hardcore Yu-Gi-Oh! fanatic. While I once thought that the idea of fusion monsters was out there, there are now everything from synchro and pendulum monsters (which each have several different properties that players will have to read up on before using) and the hilariously named xyz monsters. The game has become a lot more complicated than simply understanding how your trap cards work and when to activate them, although this core knowledge is still needed. The card game has continually built upon its solid as ever base, which is definitely a good thing for those that continue playing it, but it can be hard to grasp at times for a lapsed player.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution Review | A trip through memory lane
The biggest draw for fans of the anime will be Legacy of the Duelist‘s campaign mode. It features all of the legendary duels from each of the six television series and is broken into each show individually, so if you just want to play the story of ZEXAL or ARC-V you can do just that. The lengthiest campaigns top off at over 30 battles and the shorter ones are just a few battles short of that number. With some fun dialogue before and after the fights, this is a great trip through memory lane for anyone with more than a passing appreciation for the anime.
There are also several ways to play each battle as players can use the character’s card deck from the story to make it true to the show or use their own deck that they are building (which is great if you have an awesome deck and want to smash the competition). Once a battle is completed, players can then play it from the opposite side and gain additional rewards that way.
The one disappointment with this mode is that it highlights how random the card game can truly be, especially when there are no difficulty modes for the A.I. opponents. Facing off against somebody as fearsome as Seto Kaiba should always be a terrifying task and a difficult battles, but there were some matches that I just steamrolled him as I got a better starting hand. This sort of randomness is ultimately just part of the card game, but in a story-based mode it could have been in a more set manner to avoid such situations. Conversely, there were plenty of matches where I knew I was going to lose after just the first three turns as the A.I. operates at pretty much a master level when it comes to making moves. Difficulty levels may have been, well, difficult to implement, but they would have made this a lot more balanced and enjoyable. Yu-Gi-Oh! is at its absolute best when you are in a back and forth battle where both players are trading life points and their graveyards are full, and anything that makes that occur more often would’ve been better.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution Review | For the hardcore
Of course, this isn’t just a Switch port of the 2016 release as it has also been updated in a number of ways. The biggest difference is the addition of nearly 1,500 cards, raising the total to over 9,000 (which is an impressive feat even if this isn’t Dragon Ball Z). Basically every Yu-Gi-Oh! card you ever wanted to collect as a kid is in here and there are thousands more that most people never knew existed. To say it is packed with content for those wanting to build their dream deck is an understatement. The rules have also been updated to the “new master rule” ruleset and now Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS is included in the campaign, although it’s a paltry three missions.
The most significant change though is the addition of link monsters, which is why the updated version has the subtitle of “Link Evolution.” Similar to other special monster types like xyz monsters, link monsters can be summoned under special conditions that are laid out within the card themselves (such as discarding multiple effect monsters or cards of a certain type). Beyond typically being powerful, these special cards also have arrows on them that point to the locations of other cards, which will then “link” them and oftentimes provide benefits to the player. If this all sounds highly complicated, it is, and the game’s generally great tutorial does a poor job of explaining the minutia of some of the more obscure monster types. Still, these can essentially be ignored if you’re not trying to play the newer cards, so the choice is ultimately up to the player.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution definitely skews toward the hardcore fan that has kept up with the card game over the past decade, but its campaign still offers a lot for those that dropped out after the original series or are interested in seeing what’s up with 5D’s or ZEXAL. Konami has done a good job of updating Legacy of the Duelist for the Switch, but some additional difficulty options and a revamped user interface for deck building would have been nice. There is so much content here that it can quickly become overwhelming to anyone that doesn’t constantly think about the “heart of the cards.” Despite some minor issues that hold it back from being the ultimate Yu-Gi-Oh! game, this is a fantastic reminder of how enjoyable the card game is and why players fell in love with it in the first place.