As a lifelong fan of Yu-Gi-Oh, Legacy of the Duelist sounded like a dream come true. No other game from Konami has allowed fans of the show to play through every single series Yu-Gi-Oh has put out (minus Arc V, but the show isn't even available to us yet). While the game did fulfill a lot of what I was looking for in a Yu-Gi-Oh game, some aspects cause the experience to turn frustrating extremely quickly.
As I said before, Legacy of the Duelist has four different campaigns, one for the original Yu-Gi-Oh, one for GX, one for 5D, and one for Zexal. I'm sure a majority of the people who bought the game only did so to play the OG campaign, but as a fan of the entire series to this day, I was happy to see all of the shows included as campaigns.
Each campaign goes through the main duels of the shows, throwing out most of the filler along the way. While that might seem like a gip, each campaign has around 20 duels to participate in, making each show feel full and complete. Before actually starting a duel, you are presented with the story leading up to it, in the form of a slideshow. Fans might get a kick out of reading all the dialogue, but some drag on for so long, even I started to not care about the plot. While context and story are important, I don't want to wade through five minutes of exposition before getting to an actual duel.
There is DLC for the game, in the form of extra duels. For example, if you purchase the 5D pack, you get the important battles from the second season of the show. For others, you might get duels that the campaign had to cut in order to make each one contain the same amount of battles. You get a decent amount of extra duels for the price you pay ($4.99) so it's worth checking out if you want to see more from the campaigns.
The campaign has a special little touch that I absolutely love. For each duel, you can choose to use your own custom deck, or the deck the protagonist used against the particular opponent in the anime. Now, the decks you are given aren't 100% recreations, but they are really darn close. This is such a cool aspect of the game, that really made me feel like I was playing as the protagonists as I progressed through the game. Whether it was fusing Elemental Heroes with Jaden or Synchro Summoning Stardust Dragon as Yusei, I always felt like I was acting out the animes.
There is a downside to this though. For every duel, the protagonist's deck is structured in a way to make you win in almost the exact same way they did in the anime. For example, in Yugi Moto's first duel against Kaiba, he won by gathering all five pieces of Exodia the Forbidden One in his hand. In the game, Yugi's deck is completely filled with draw effects, helping you draw as many cards as you can until you gather all five pieces. While an interesting concept, more often than not I felt like I was fighting against the gimmick of each deck, as apposed to it helping me win. If I didn't draw the right select cards to get my big monster out, there was no way I was winning the duel. Instead of letting the player organically win however they utilize the deck, more often then not, the player is forced down this narrow path to the one strategy that might make them win.
I say might because the AI in this game is... inconsistent at best. There are three routes any duel could possibly go down, you steamroll the AI, the AI steamrolls you, or it's a close match that makes each card draw count. Except in Legacy of the Duelist, that third route almost never happens. Like any good card game, it's completely random what cards you and your opponent will be dealt. The main problem is your opponent also had a main combo/set of cards they will use to try to defeat you. So, just like you, if it doesn't draw what it needs, it literally doesn't do anything against you. There were a handful of duels where I won, and the opponent only set a few traps or spells for the entire match. The AI also seems to freak out if you get your big monster out super early, and it has no way of destroying it, to the point where sometimes they would pass entire turns without doing a thing.
The flipside of this are the duels where the AI would get a perfect opening hand, set off their big combo, and I would have nothing to retaliate with because I don't have the key card I needed. I'm not asking the game to take the randomness away, but forcing the player to win most of the time in a specific way, as opposed to letting them use the protagonist's decks however they saw fit, becomes frustrating extremely quick.
The presentation is minimal, but serviceable for a game where you will spend most of your time staring at cards. There are no cutscenes to speak of, but the character models in the slideshows look crisp in HD, and right out of the shows. The game contains about three songs, one on the main menu, one that plays during every duel (so get used to hearing it) and one that plays if you win/lose a match. While I did wish there were multiple songs that played while you dueled, Legacy of the Duelist is one of those games where you won't lose much if you mute it and play your own music.
There is something big about the presentation that I have an issue with. Besides loving the animes and the games, I also love to collect Yu-Gi-Oh cards. So, one would think it would be a dream for me to have a game where cards from four different series all come together. You would be right, except each and every card is party obscured by a big "Legacy of the Duelist" stamp in the corner. It's not even a small stamp, most of the time it ends up obscuring apart of the card's art. I can't even guess what the reason would be for doing this, just to make the player remember they are playing Legacy of the Duelist? While this might seem like a stupid complaint to most of you, it really does catch your eye every time you play a card. Making the vast catalogue of cards look crisp in HD? Hell yes. Making a portion of their art be covered up by a stamp? Hell no.
There is a nice little touch to the presentation, where if a character attacks with their signature card, like Dark Magician for Yugi or Flame Wingman for Jaden, the monster will appear in 3D and do their attack. While I know how unreasonable it would be for every monster in the game to have an animation like that, I do with more main cards from the character got the treatment. I can't say how many monsters in the game actually do this, but I've only seen it happen with a handful in all my time playing.
This is the first Yu-Gi-Oh game that contains important duels from every series of the show (again except Arc V, which is understandable since the show is still going on in Japan) and let's you use a recreation of the protagonist's deck. It's a fantastic piece of fan service with just those two points alone, and this game is one of those must buys for fans of the series.
Legacy of the Duelist also includes multiplayer, and for a guy who has never actually dueled an actual human before, it's quite an experience getting my butt handed to me online. I haven't consistently played multiplayer, just a match here or there, and only one time did I lag out. At this point, I'm sure multiplayer is only used by people really good at the game, but at least the matches were consistent and never ended prematurely or lagged.
For 20 dollars, you get the most fan service-y game made for Yu-Gi-Oh enthusiasts. Now, fan service usually conjures up thoughts of a shallow experience that only caters to die hard fans, but that's not what Legacy of the Duelist is. Quite the contrary, you get an insane amount of content in the base game alone. Four full campaigns to go through, duelist challenges, mirror duels, deck crafting, and multiplayer make this package worth it for any Yu-Gi-Oh fan. I would even go as far to say any fan of card games should check it out, while things like Synchro Summoning and Pendulum cards take some time getting used to, it's actually a very deep and rewarding experience. Plus, the DLC is decently priced, and adds more content than you would expect.
Legacy of the Duelist is not a perfect experience. In fact, more often than not, I wasn't progressing in the game because I was stuck on a duel in every single campaign. It's a frustrating game sometimes because the AI is inconsistent, the campaign is skewed towards winning a certain way, and if you don't really know what a lot of the cards do, there will be a tough learning curve. Maybe my love of the series has made be a bit biased though, because I would still call this one best Yu-Gi-Oh game out there, just for the experience of playing through all the different shows and getting to use the protagonist's decks. It's a love letter to the series that any fan, whether they stopped watching after original Yu-Gi-Oh, or kept up with the series to this very day, should at least check out.