2008 was a pretty good year for Yu-Gi-Oh!, and that summer brought one of the most interesting announcements in recent years – the Duel Terminal. The concept was easy to grasp, and that made it more awesome; it was simply the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game brought to the arcades. Better yet, the actual cards are incorporated into it (more on that later). Konami had a legendary track record in the arcades. We had every reason to expect the best form this project. Sadly, it seems that the Duel Terminal is being discontinued, and this is more of a look back to the days when you could still track one down and play a round or two.
It seems that arcades themselves are slowly going under (in favor of console and mobile gaming), but there was once a time when the arcades were the industry standard, and even a cut above what was available on home consoles. While this wasn’t still the case, it still had a certain appeal compared to the home offerings. At the time, Yu-Gi-Oh! games were pretty much bare bones; you play the game and that’s it. There was little story, characters were included, but decks were seemingly cobbled together without thought, and they’d pretty much given up on trying to emulate the show. If there was a good game to be used as a model, it’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour on Nintendo DS.
Fortunately, this game is quite similar to Nightmare Troubadour in terms of gameplay and graphics (like playing field and Monster representations). Another good game that it can be likened to is Capsule Monster Coliseum, which features banter from the characters of the TV show (with the original voices) and battle sequences between Monsters. Combine that together, and you’ve got a pretty good basis.
I think I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll get into what makes this an arcade game from the beginning. First of all, this is one of those games that costs $1 per play. Steep by arcade terms, but immediately worth it when you’re guaranteed a free card with each play. The card selection was actually pretty good, we got a good mix of old and new cards, and even a few exclusives to make things interesting. You have a probability of getting a rare card just like in the packs, so it’s always fun to see what you’ll end up with (even if the glitter coating is a little ugly). There’s also three modes to choose from; Action Duels and Speed Duels (easy and difficult). You can also just choose to take the card if you want less bang for your buck.
I guess now’s when I should talk about the scanning part. Simply put, it doesn’t work. The cards that are dispensed with each play contain a tiny code on them that is intended to be scanned before the duel and give you a card of choice for the battle. On paper, that sounds amazingly cool, one step closer to Duel Disks, right? Well, it never works. You can try scanning it different positions, holding it down, flipping it over, anything – it won’t do any good. In all the times I’ve played it while it was available, I think I’ve gotten it to work once or twice. Even though it was a random weak card, I’d set it aside hoping to do it again, only to never be able to duplicate the success. While this flaw applies one location, keep in mind that these units were pretty hard to come across, so it’s not like you can just find another one.
Onto the gameplay, Action Duel mode is pretty much an arcade game. While not insanely addictive or groundbreaking, it adds some nice variety to the main duel modes and makes use of the arcade format. You and your randomly chosen opponent (from (original to Zexal), square off with your Monsters in a series of mini-games to pick the winner. The card game isn’t really taken into account for strengths (like Capsule Monster Coliseum or Falsebound Kingdom), it’s mainly about your performance against theirs in the mini games, which make use of the button and touch screen in various timing-based exercises. It’s fun but short.
The main event is the Speed Duel. Easy and Difficult are essentially the same, but Easy pushes you along most of the way (for those more unfamiliar), and Difficult provides you with more options (opponents, assistants, decks) and is the more recommended for the experienced fan. Like I mentioned, these choices really are great, while I’m partial to the original series, they’ve got a great selection from all the series’ up to that point. Pick one to duel, and then another to help you out. The assistant really doesn’t do much, but hearing Kaiba egg you on in Eric Stuart’s voice is entertaining as all hell and worth the $1. The decks rotate out and you’re given a good and balanced assortment to choose from (you get to browse through them ahead of time).
Since it’s an arcade game, the duels are greatly abridged with a 10-card deck, 6-card field (split between Monsters and Spell/Trap), 4-card hand, and 4000 Life Points (which is pretty easy to grasp from the show). The duels are fast-moving and even if you get yourself in a jam, it’s easy to get back on your feet. Everything is timed, though, which can get a bit annoying sometimes when it comes to windows for activating cards and such (in Konami’s mind, there’s always a line going out the door for these things). There’s a “Destiny Draw” for both players as well, which involves tapping the button like in the Action Duel to increase your Destiny Bar. When you get there, you get to… scan a card of your choice (though I’ve already covered that). Alternately, you just get a relatively good card sent to your hand instead.
In all, it was a fun novelty and a great idea to take Yu-Gi-Oh! to the arcades. Sadly, it never really seemed to take off, and the scanning feature was pretty much a dud. It’s a shame, because it had so much going for it. Character voices added more authenticity, and helped it feel like you were in an episode. Character decks ranged from nicely authentic to… not authentic (remember that time Pegasus used a Steelswarm deck?). There was even somewhat of a plot behind it (something about the archetypes being introduced in the game). I would’ve liked to see it live on due to additional expansions and additional characters (which kept the experience new). Anyways, I never found this one in an arcade, but my local hobby store actually got one, and it was always a fun time waster. Since then, the machine broke, and apparently these things are really hard to fix. So goodbye, Duel Terminal. If you can find one, it’s definitely worth your dollar.