Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom is Konami's latest use of Kazuki Takahashi's inexplicably popular manga, anime, and collectible-card game. Though the current standards set by previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games aren't particularly high, The Falsebound Kingdom is one of the most poorly realized Yu-Gi-Oh! games yet, and it almost seems to be testing the limits of what sort of monotonous, dreary games the fans are willing to tolerate.
The Falsebound Kingdom attempts to blend RTS and RPG conventions, but it isn't terribly successful.
Though the standard Yu-Gi-Oh! stories revolve around a group of kids and the adventures they have while playing Duel Monsters, a collectible-card game where the monsters on the cards come to life, The Falsebound Kingdom takes the action to an immersive virtual-reality video game where the creatures of the Duel Monsters game are real. Yugi and his friends are invited to check out a prototype of this virtual-reality game and are immediately trapped inside the game, with the only apparent exit being to finish the game. Inside the game, there is a civil war going on, and whether you choose to play as Kaiba or Yugi will determine whether you side with the oppressive king or the rebel movement, respectively. The story that proceeds inside the virtual-reality world is of little consequence, though the game brims with pretense and presents the story in a very dry, serious manner--the game starts off with a quote from 19th-century Irish philosopher Alexander Irvine, which sets the tone for the rest of the game.
The actual gameplay in The Falsebound Kingdom is one part stripped-down real-time strategy and one part stripped-down turn-based role-playing game. You're placed on a map and given a mission objective. The objectives are straightforward, usually boiling down to basic RTS-type objectives like defending certain positions or simply beating all of your opponents. The game, however, strips out a lot of the standard RTS conventions, such as resource gathering and army building. Instead of having a legion of individual units, you're given control over marshals, each of whom has command over three monsters, and the only way to gain control over new marshals is by completing missions. When you face off against an opposing marshal, the game switches to the combat mode, which is not unlike what you'd see in a standard Japanese console RPG. From here, the monsters take turns beating on the other side until one side is victorious. There's a little more to the game than just moving characters around on the map and engaging in stripped-down RPG fights. You'll often have to occupy towns and use the spoils of war to equip the towns with defenses, armories, and infirmaries for your marshals, and there are a few special group attacks that your monsters can perform under special circumstances, but none of this really brings much significant depth to the action.
There are several core problems with the gameplay in The Falsebound Kingdom. For starters, the pacing of the game is downright grueling--it takes forever for your marshals to get from one side of the map to the other, and the actual combat is shallow and tedious. With its extensive menus and screens full of character statistics, the game tries to give the air of a sophisticated strategy game, but there's not really any strategy to it at all--instead, a lot of the game is both needlessly arcane and one-dimensional, which is a bit of a feat in and of itself.
With neither good-looking graphics nor interesting gameplay at its disposal, The Falsebound Kingdom doesn't have much to offer.
For the most part, The Falsebound Kingdom looks terrible, though there are some pieces of the puzzle that stand out. Though their animations are a little stiff, the actual 3D models for the monsters look pretty good and faithfully re-create the 2D art found on the cards they're based on, and the special effects for the monsters' attacks can look pretty slick from time to time as well. All of the environments, though, from the overview map to the fields where the battles take place, are drab and barren. Basic, grimy-looking textures cover flat planes that are occasionally dotted with a building or some crude landscaping. The game's sound design really shows off the game's anime roots--both the in-game sound effects, which are pretty much limited to the attack sounds while in combat, and the music sound as though they were lifted directly from some second- or third-string piece of Japanese animation.
The Falsebound Kingdom is a game that only a diehard Yu-Gi-Oh! fan could enjoy--and it's likely that even they would prefer a game that more closely adheres to the card game from which the whole Yu-Gi-Oh! license is derived. Anyone who doesn't already have an affinity for Yugi, Kaiba, and the rest of the gang will likely be unable to tolerate the game's shoddy graphics and its dull, shallow gameplay.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is a Japanese Manga. From this a number of anime shows have been made, there is a trading card game and, of course, video games. Yu-Gi-Oh! is on a number of different platforms, including the GameCube, DS, Wii, PS2, PSP, PC and Xbox 360. The game that I am reviewing though is Yu-Gi-Oh! Falsebound Kingdom on the GameCube.
To sum up what Yu-Gi-Oh! is, it is about battling monsters. Each player has cards with monsters on and every monster has different stats. You play your cards and try and beat your opponent. This game is slightly different though to the others (and the anime) as I'll explain below.
Yugi and his friends are trapped inside a virtual reality game that is completely out of control and it is up to you to save them. You can play as one of two characters; Yugi Mutou or Seto Kaiba. Each character has two different storylines which basically involves using their monsters to battle other monsters as they make their way through the Kingdom.
At the menu you get a choice of story mode or challenge mode.
I chose to play the game in story mode with Yugi (the other option being Seto). It goes through a few text screens which discuss the story and how you and a few others (Yugi's friends) will be testing out a video game. The idea of the game you are testing is that you will join the resistance and fight against the empire. It is after this point that you become trapped in the game and there are more text screens which explain things to you. There are still images included with the text, but it is rather boring reading through it all to know what is going on.
After being shown a map and going through a few more text screens the game begins...or so you think. It is time to choose the teams for battling! However, you are given three people and each has three monsters. All the highest level monsters have already been chosen so there's nothing to really do here. So the only option is to continue and start the main game.
After showing the characters and what they are saying it then shows you an area with villages on. It kind of reminds me of Sim City the way the piece of land is as it appears to float in the middle of nowhere.
The idea is to take over random villages on this map. You have to guide the characters over to each one. Guiding them is simple enough; you click them, move the cursor and select the village and tell them to move there. However, you then have to wait for them to walk there and they don't walk that fast, which is very annoying and boring. You have a time limit when on the map area and seeing this timer only makes the game feel slower as you see how much time you are wasting. Once you have finally made it to a village you have to battle.
You have three monsters and so does the enemy you're fighting. Each one has different stats and a health bar. In other Yu-Gi-Oh! games the monster with the highest stat will win against a monster with a lower stat and the opponent would lose the difference from the overall health. You take it in turns to play certain cards in an attempt to defeat the opponent. Once either of you reach zero health it is game over. In this game, no matter what the stats, when you are hit your monster loses a certain amount from their health/stats.
In theory this fighting system should work quite well. The better the stats, the higher the skill and the more damage they can do. Sadly, it doesn't quite work that way. The amount of damage done seems random and every so often you will see an attack yet it will tell you that you missed. On top of that, the opponent seems to have the unlimited option of fully healing their monsters then having a turn afterwards.
At least the game makes the stats clear as they appear in a box by each monster. These boxes are highlighted and the cursor appears over the top of the monster whose turn it is so you can clearly see who is about to attack.
The first time I played I only had one monster with the option to heal and I only had one potion to use. Annoyingly that monster died before I found that out so I never got the chance to use it or see if it counted as a turn or I was still able to attack afterwards. It wasn't long before my other monsters were suffering serious damage while the opponent had three monsters with full health. The second time I played the game I managed to buy more potions and equip them to certain monsters. Using the items counts as a go. When you decide to heal you can chose to heal any monster you want which is useful, but at times it seems really unfair that this counts as a go as often I heal a monster then the opponent attacks it and kills it anyway.
This then brings me to my next point. Whose turn is it? I haven't worked out any pattern for whose turn it is, it seems totally random. If I am lucky enough to get a monster of theirs to low health and have a turn before they can heal I have a chance of killing that monster, although often I end up doing little damage on that turn, they don't quite die and they heal anyway. After that they usually attack me, do massive damage and kill off a monster with low health.
I don't know if there is a time limit or damage limit, but it is often shortly after a monster dies that the battle ends and usually it is my monster that has died and they win. There have been times when the damage seems equal and we've both killed one from the other side. I have killed one of theirs before they killed mine yet sometimes they still win the battle and I can't work out why. During one game, I think I won one battle out of about ten and I don't think any monsters were killed during it. I couldn't see any obvious reason why I'd won that battle and lost the rest.
The battles do get harder though. It's rather easy to win the first lot of battles, but later on it seems to be total luck whether or not you win and it was during these later ones that I only won about one out of ten battles.
On the plus side, the battles are more interesting than the travelling. You see each monster attacking, although after a couple of battles it's not as interesting as they always fight the same way.
Often the game will end before all of your or your opponent's monsters are dead and you have to go back into the battle. If you are close to killing them or plan to use the same character this is annoying and a waste of time. However, if you plan on healing the monsters or using a different character to battle them again it is quite useful, but it would be good to chose whether you wish to continue or not. When you go back all monsters are at the same stats as when you last battled (unless you have healed your own in between).
You get to pick which monster you want to attack when it is your turn. You press the button that is clearly shown in front of the monster to attack it, which makes it simple to fight and it is probably the best designed feature in the game.
What are not so well designed are the other options in the battle mode. You can select defend, but when I did that a monster attacked me the next go and I still got a lot of damage. If it did attempt to defend itself it didn't show it. You can also select escape. I figured this would exit the battle and I'd be escaping it. Seems not. Instead I just forfeited my go and the battle continued. I wouldn't have minded so much had I not only had one monster left fighting three (with high health thanks to their healing). I hadn't even wanted to go into that fight as I'd already fought these monsters at least twice before that and lost two of my monsters. Once you lose them they don't come back unless you have a life restoring potion for them.
The manual states that you can retreat, but the button it states shows as Escape and doesn't exit the battle. There is a wait option where you forfeit your turn so it doesn't make sense why the escape did the same thing.
If you win the battle you gain experience points and your monsters can level up, meaning they should do better in battles.
After the battle it goes back to the map and the characters begin walking towards the village you told them to before. The problem with that is the character you've just fought with is sent a few steps away, he walks forward straight to the village and the battle begins again. There isn't always time to click him and select a new place for him to walk to. Even if you do manage to click them the chances are another character will reach the village if they are walking and you'll have to fight with them instead. Needless to say, it is very frustrating and you find yourself in battles you know you can't possibly win and never meant to start. You can make characters walk and stop nearby so they won't do that, but sometimes you'll have set them to walk a long way and forget about them or you'll have told them to go there the go before and not realised how close they are.
There are some villages which you can take over and get some gold without having to battle. You are able to use the gold to buy items and other things, but you can only do this at certain times and with certain places.
At certain points during the game you get more text screens as you learn more about the story and what is going on. It gives clear goals, but completing them is often harder than it sounds depending on how the battles go.
Judging by my comments so far you'd probably assume the game is rubbish and I didn't like it. For some reason, something makes me want to play it again just to see if I can actually find a way to win the fights or see what happens later on. There's something about the game that makes you want to keep playing. It's rather repetitive, but you can't help but want to kill all the opponents.
As I mentioned at the start there are two gameplay options. The story mode and the challenge mode. The challenge mode consists of seven battles which are fought in the same way as during story mode. You have to win all seven of the battles to complete the challenge. I haven't played this mode, but considering the battles in story mode I'd say most will probably be about luck rather than stats, especially as your stats don't change between battles (so if you have hardly any life and no items left in one battle you'll start the next battle with hardly any life and no items).
If you have a good amount of items and monsters with high stats battles are more enjoyable, but if you have low level monsters or dying monsters the game quickly becomes boring as you constantly die and you have to start again.
The graphics are decent. As it is on the GameCube and anime it obviously isn't really realistic. It is obvious what things are and they are fine for this type of game.
The music really annoyed me as it is just one tune that keeps replaying over and over and it's not even a good tune in the first place. There isn't really any other audio in the game, just the music playing continuously. Luckily all TV remotes come with a great button on that mutes the sound.
It certainly doesn't have the best battle system and you do waste a lot of time waiting for characters to walk to places, but it does have a few good points. I'd say fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! will probably enjoy this game more than gamers who just like anime style games, fighting or similar games. It's not the worst game I've played, but there are a number of things that could be improved and it's not a game that will appeal to a wide audience. However, it is rather addictive once you start battling and using different items and characters/monsters and I imagine Yu-Gi-Oh! fans would happily spend many hours battling and trying to get their monsters stats up.