The follow-up to the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters game came on the Game Boy Color a year later in 1999. At this time, the Duelist Kingdom arc had just completed in the manga, so instead of moving forward, this game covers the same material, as sort of a quasi remake of the first game. Despite the short time difference, I think this was a warranted choice, as the improvements on the system jump and the forethought that came with the ending of the series would allow for a vastly improved experience.
To start, the game nearly doubles the amount of cards from the previous game to 720, much of which is based on the contemporary cards used in the manga. The advent of Ritual Cards is also a game changer for getting more powerful monsters onto the field. While much of the graphics are recycled, the use of color really improves the aesthetic of the game; all of the sudden, the card images are a lot more defined.
The opponent selection is done in a more linear fashion with more tiers of enemies so you know exactly what you’re going up against. To be honest, I preferred the more mysterious exploration of the island from the first game, since it was relevant to how the characters found opponents in the story, but it’s a minor nitpick. On the plus side, there are more opponents, in addition to all returning duelists from the first game. Appearing as challengers on the island are the Meikyū Brothers, who were major challengers in the manga. Unfortunately, Ghost Kotsuzuka is still omitted, but they’ve still done well for being almostcomplete. The game moves on by defeating each opponent in a tier five times each, and progresses in a way that somewhat parallels the storyline. Active thought was put into ranking the duelists according to their skill and status, so it feels pretty authentic. The “boss” of course is Pegasus J. Crawford. Afterwards, there game offers more opponents relevant to the series. Obviously, Dark Yugi is available to challenge, however, the other Millennium Item wielders seen previously in the series are also also present here; Shadi and Dark Bakura. The final “boss” is Ishizu, whom was only recently introduced in the newest arc as the latest Millennium Item wielder. While her appearance doesn’t relate to the story (which has already been concluded at this point), it’s nice because it segues into the next series, while making it a mini-quest to challenge the Millennium Item holders. Not to mention it lends itself to a sequel (which sure enough would come the following year).
The music is less repetitive and well done than the last, but there’s sadly less variety, as in different themes for different stages. All three of the normal tiers have the same theme, which is a bummer. It’s only in the boss stages that individual themes really accent the struggle. The gameplay is probably the area where this game shines the most; this is still the simplest ruleset that the game has to offer, and makes for the most smooth experience (and I’m playing this in Japanese). The ability to play Magic (and now Trap) Cards alongside Monster cards is now an option. The abundance of cards also allows for more specialized decks. As in the last game, Konami’s liberties have carried over. Life Points are still 8000, which works to extend the duels to an interesting amount (since the game’s not quite as sophisticated as the manga). Also, different alignments have advantages over others, which is an abridged variation of the field advantages seen in the real game. The only downside is the lack of Effect Monsters, with were prominently in use at this time. While Magic and Trap cards yield similar effects, it helped keep the game strategy based as opposed to reliant on brute force. Though aside from that, Konami did a great job adapting the rules.
The difficulty is usual; starts off easy enough and increases gradually as you accumulate better cards/strategies. One improvement over the last game is that the first tier opponents weren’t as mind-numbingly easy as before; it still requires some conscious thought to get by. There’s much less repeats in the decks. And while they do have variety to combat the alignment weakness, most do remain somewhat faithful to the actual characters’ cards. Also, while you can keep playing and free dueling after the main events of the game, it’ll really only get easier, to the point of you being unstoppable once you’ve got enough cards. There’s really no nasty enemies in this game, they’re all pretty fair.
In conclusion, I think this is simply the best Yu-Gi-Oh! game. It accurately replicated the setting of the story, and more importantly, the rules that were being played with. Yu-Gi-Oh! games kept getting dumbed down in games down the line; plot went out the window for simply dueling the same opponents from the anime/manga. The worst crime, in my opinion, is conforming to Konami’s real life rules. While that may have a place in some games, I think it’s disappointing that Kazuki Takahashi’s superior competitive rules were immediately thrown out the window simply because the other option was more marketable as a tie-in. If you’re a fan of the series, I recommend this game. If not, you might just enjoy the gameplay the way it’s presented here.