Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution (Switch) Review
I’ve played a ton of card games over the years, but none have ever quite grabbed me as much as Yu-Gi-Oh did during its initial popularity explosion of the mid-2000s. It deftly balanced simplicity in its ruleset whilst having substantial depth and complexity, the card and creature designs were visually appealing, and it was accompanied by a string of great videogames on the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS during the decade. I jumped into Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution having not played the series in around 11 years, but I was pleased to find the core card game to be as enjoyable as ever and supported by a robust package of content sure to please even the most ardent of Duel Monster fans.
For those unfamiliar with how the game is played, here’s a quick run-down. Each player begins with 8,000 life points. There are some special ways to win, such as your opponent running out of cards to draw, or by particular card conditions, but normally you will achieve victory by causing your opponents life points to hit zero. This is done by playing Normal or Effect monsters on the playing field to attack your opponent’s creatures or life points. You’ll also make use of a variety of spell and trap cards for added effects that come in all sorts of flavours, from equip cards to direct counters to field-wide effects.
Over the years the franchise has added new types of special monsters that can be summoned. Adding to the Ritual and Fusion monsters available in the game’s early days, players can now utilise Synchro, XYZ, Pendulum and Link Monsters, the last of which is a new addition to the game since it last appeared on the PS4 and Xbox One in 2015. These new types of cards have complex summoning conditions and require cleverly designed deck themes and strategies to use effectively but can be devastatingly powerful when used with careful planning.
There’s a lot to get your head around here, particularly if you are a complete newcomer to the series. Fortunately, a comprehensive interactive tutorial takes you through the implementation of each mechanic step by step, helping to break down a complicated set of rules into manageable bite-sized chunks. As someone who has been absent from the series for an extended period, this mode was essential in bringing me up to speed on all the new types of cards as well as refreshing me on the basics. There are so many different card effects in this game that a tutorial will be able to cover them all, but it’s a decent starting point before heading into the single-player campaigns.
Link Evolution boasts an impressive array of single-player content to sink your teeth into, being split up into campaigns following the various anime series that will take dozens of hours to see through to 100% completion. It starts out with the original animated series and moves through GX, 5Ds, ZEXAL and ARC-V, as well as a small number of missions covering the latest series VRAINS. You can tackle these in any order you like, but it’s recommended you attempt them in order as the newer and more complex cards are introduced as you go. Each campaign starts with a scripted match to show you the ropes of the new card types you’ll encounter, and you’ll likely find yourself quickly bamboozled if you haven’t progressed your way there sequentially.
The campaigns recap the important beats of their anime counterparts, letting you assume control of various characters throughout the story. Each duel will allow you to choose a story deck, which reflects the deck used for the match by the character in the anime, or you can select your own custom deck. Choosing the story deck will normally result in a more difficult challenge, but it’s the most enjoyable way to play and feel like you are truly playing through the show. After winning, most matches will allow you to flip the roles and let you play as your opponent using their deck. Some of these can be particularly gruelling, requiring a near-perfect draw to overcome the finely crafted deck you were just using the match before. Beating tough opponents will also unlock their Duelist Challenge, tasking you with taking on the ultimate version of their deck in some truly difficult matches.
Each victory throughout single-player typically rewards you with a new deck recipe, allowing you to recreate the deck you’ve just used during a duel if you’re not up to making your own, but delving into the building of a great deck is truly where the heart of the cards lies. There are over 9,000 cards to unlock which is a rather mindboggling number of cards, themes and strategies to be at your disposal. Thankfully the Deck Edit screen does a good job of conveying the information you need to get your head around everything. A truly welcome feature is the option to view card relationships, allowing you to see other cards which have a related theme or functionality. It’s a simple tool that is supremely helpful to find potential deck strategies and card combos that you would otherwise struggle to discover amongst the overwhelming amount of options.
You’ll add cards to your trunk through campaign matches, Battle Pack duels and purchasing them from the card shop. Battle Pack duels are a great opportunity to put your creativity to the test within the same restrictions as your opponents, challenging you to either work with 50 cards given to you from a set, or to craft your own deck by drafting 45 cards from 3 rounds of pack openings. These can be used against AI opponents or taken online and are great for if you haven’t built your own supreme deck to challenge the best of the online world yet, and as a bonus, you get to keep the cards you’ve used afterwards.
The card shop also offers dozens of booster pack sets to buy using currency you earn from completing duels, and currency is earned at a generous pace with no microtransactions to speak of. Unfortunately, the game won’t tell you a complete list of the cards available in that set, and viewing deck recipes won’t tell you where to find the cards you need either, which is immensely frustrating if you’re just one or two cards short of crafting a deck you’re desperate to use.
There are a few niggles like this which are disappointing for a collectable trading card game. When opening booster packs, cards won’t show their rarity or any kind of holographic print, which dampens some of the excitement of opening boosters and removes what would be a great shorthand indicator of how potentially powerful or useful a card is. Likewise, you won’t be told if cards from the pack you opened are new or duplicates, which is borderline impossible to keep track of yourself in a game with over 9,000 cards. Opening packs in a card game should be a tantalising moment full of anticipation followed by the joy of rare pull, but there’s no flash or pizazz here, and it dulls the experience of filling out your collection.
It adds to a slightly underwhelming presentation. Duels themselves look ok but lack the character and flair of other more recent entrants in the genre. Some powerful monsters get fancy short 3D summoning animations but outside of that the field looks bland even compared to the Duel Links mobile game. It runs well in docked and handheld mode and touch screen inputs are welcome, but sometimes the onscreen buttons can be just a little small for fingers. If you’ve got a Switch compatible stylus it’s worth having on hand. The only other complaint I have is that online matches at this stage are sparse and can feel a little slow, but those factors are mostly outside of the game’s control.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution brings together almost everything seasoned Yu-Gi-Oh players could ask for, and also serves as a great entry point to the series for complete newcomers or lapsed fans. The staggering number of campaign matches and challenges is impressive, and the absurd card count means there’s no end to the combinations and tactics you can come up with. It’s undeniably a more complicated card game than it once was and although that can be a little intimidating at first, persevere and you’ll find one of the most rewarding collectable card games around.
+ Packed with content
+ Thousands of cards to experiment with
+ Core Yu-Gi-Oh gameplay is still fantastic
- Can be intimidating for newcomers
- Some presentation and deck building niggles
- Online matches are hard to find