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Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links – Android

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links – Android

Platform: Android

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment

Release Date: (AU, SG) October 27, 2016, (JP) November 17, 2016, (WW) January 2017

Genre: Card Games, Real-time Strategy

Nerd Rating: 9.5 out of 10



The term “power creep” refers to the process in which new content outclasses previous content to the point that the old content is only played for nostalgia or as a joke. Power creeping also refers to the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” card game. I will confess that I have not played Yu-Gi-Oh! for a couple of generations due to such power creeping. However, if I could play it again, for nostalgia’s sake alone, I would. Especially if it was easily accessible, affordable, and contained the gameplay and cards I grew up with. And so, I discovered Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is truly a return to the roots of Yu-Gi-Oh! with all the quips and micro transactions of a normal, free, for-profit mobile game. And it works incredibly well. Delving into the actual duels, the application attempts to make the game more accessible to gamers by having all the card interactions happen nearly automatically with input from the player. This does not mean the strategy in the game has been taken out. On the contrary, it removes ambiguity and player misinterpretations of cards, while setting a very clear set of rules to base strategies on. The actual activation of the cards, positioning, and attacking is still left to the player. Thus, there will never be a dispute on what “damage calculation” is. By taking the resolving some of the less-than-clear aspects of the game, they have actually improved the it for older players and made things much more accessible for new players.

But the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links was created for mobile platforms, and it’s free, so it must be either a monetary flush-fest or simply a skin on the last Zynga game right? Ease yourself, as the only truth to that line of thinking is the fact it was made for mobile platforms and it’s free. Konami manages to handle this adaptation in an incredible way.

First off, despite being free, there are no external ads.

You will never have the Google ad bar scrolling on the top or bottom of the screen, or deal with fifteen-second waits after every duel for an ad to finish. There are only two actual instances in the game where ads make an appearance. When you start the game for the first time each day, an update log pops up containing information on whatever sale they are currently running in the card shop that you can ignore for the rest of the day. The second is the community chat. The biggest issue in the game are the spam bots in the chat claiming to get a player free in-game currency. However, this chat is neither annoying nor intrusive and is extremely easy to ignore.


I am broke... but not in cards.

I am broke… but not in cards.

Instead of using ads to make their money, Konami has stuck to the addictive progression formula to encourage its players to buy card packs. But, this is not the old pay to win formula a lot of mobile games fall victim to. As a broke man-child, I can say that getting more card packs to create more decks is very satisfying. But more cards do not necessarily mean more power. The reason is simple, there are too many cards and there is too little room for there to be a “best deck.”


While still providing an ample number of cards, Yu-Gi-OhDuel Links accommodates the mobile platform by essentially cutting everything in half. This means only one main phase, the old 4000 life points, a starting hand of 4 cards, and, most important, a 20-30 card deck limit. So, those who wish can buy literally hundreds of packs, but each deck will still be at the 20-30 card limit, and the only thing that can increase after a certain number of cards is variation, not power.

Dropping brutal one liners with brutal skills.

Dropping brutal one liners with brutal skills.

Other than scaling the game down to mobile, Konami also adds another change to the game, character skills. In Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links you play as one of the characters from the original series. More are unlocked as you play, and you can switch between the decks you’ve made for each one as you please. Upon reaching level three with any of the characters, you’ll notice the reward is a weird yellow orb thing with a white symbol on it that means, as far as I can tell, nothing. When you go to build or revise your deck for that character, you’ll notice a thing in the top right that says “Skill Not Set” in yellow. You realize what you got was a character skill. Character skills are essentially Konami’s way of literally putting “The Heart of the Cards” in the game. There are skills that every character can obtain through drops, and skills unique to certain characters, but all of them have a visible impact on the game. This does not add any sort of cheapness to the game, but instead, another layer of depth, as you can begin to build your decks around the skills each character you unlock has. Thus, choosing a character is not simply aesthetically pleasing, but has a physical meaning in the games mechanics.

Always a lovely day in Duel World.

Always a lovely day in Duel World.

On the subject of aesthetics, Yu-Gi-OhDuel Links has a very nice GUI. The main area of the game, “Duel World,” is a three-dimensional environment with little two dimensional bubbles that pop up, contain the faces of reoccurring cannon fodder NPCs, exclamation points, and occasionally “legendary duelists” (duelists from the series that eventually become playable in the game). In addition, there is the navigation UI, all labeled and easy to understand. All of this can get a bit cluttered, especially if you have a ton of the bubbles on screen at once, but it is not too bad.  As far as the actual duels go, the graphics are surprisingly fantastic, playing out as if Kaiba Corp. itself had made the game.

Now, there are things that could be improved, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is no exception.

The game could be visually improved by having field spell cards visually change the field, and by having an enlarged version of a cards graphic pop up every time you hold down on a card. Also, when certain cards are played by certain characters, for instance Blue-Eyes for Kaiba, they get an introduction graphic that is both awesome, three dimensional, and disruptive. It can be turned off, but until you figure out how, it can get annoying. The last GUI addition to the combat I would recommend to Konami, would be fully animated holograms when a monster is in play, instead of just the picture with the option to turn those images off or on. But that would be so cool it would be ridiculous, and extremely tedious to do.

However, considering each card has a floating hologram of its graphic when on the field, as well as the fact that there are animations for practically everything, the level of detail that is there is already amazing.

Finally, I need to issue a strong warning about Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links – It is addictive!

Unlike a lot of mobile games, it does not put time stops between your game play. You can duel, and duel, and keep dueling until you die. Even when dueling against NPCs, there are stages upon stages of challenges to keep you occupied, and there is nearly no time that some special event is not happening. Bonus experience, bonus rating, special Legendary duelists appearing, and unique cards are continuously machine-gunned at you to a possibly crippling degree, and it is great. There is always something to do. The game takes a decent amount of battery out of your phone, so, unplugged it may not last more than a couple hours. But find a socket to suck the life out of and you can just keep going and going.

Overall, I think the creators of this game put in a lot of time, thought, effort, and heart into this game. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links was given more quality than a mobile game deserves, and I’m honestly very happy about it. It might be one of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! games around, free or not, and I would recommend almost anyone to try it, and hopefully the community will become more than spammers.

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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One Comment

  1. Poseidon
    Poseidon says:

    Very detailed and thoughtful first review! Well done! I haven’t played Yu-Gi-Oh in ages but I may have to check this game out.


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