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Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2
Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Card Games/ Strategy/ Board Games

Graphics & Sound:
The Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomenon continues with Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2, arriving less than a year after last year's Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force. There are very few upgrades to the graphics, although some new scenes during battles help to liven up the action. Certain cards when played will unleash a short anime-style cutscene similar to the scenes that play before each character takes his or her turn. The problem is that most of us will end up disabling the in-game animations to speed up the battles. My first serious session in "Tag Duel" mode lasted over 45 minutes and after you've seen each animation more than a few times, it gets a bit stale. The music falls along similar lines with the difference being that nothing has changed at all from the first game. Exploring the game's world this time will look very similar, although the characters are new in many cases. There are new cards as well, with almost 3,000 featured. If the new cards and characters are a hook for you, then you'll be happy with the new features, but there's nothing to make casual fans pony up cash for this new installment.

Only incremental changes differentiate Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2 from its predecessor. The ability to play against new characters and access Tag Duels from the beginning of the game is nice. The multiplayer this time allows four players to join and play turn after turn of Yu-Gi-Oh!. 2-on-2 or 1-on-1 action is available and if there are fewer than four players, the CPU will take up the slack. This Network Mode includes a trade feature that allows you to swap cards between systems and give up cards that your friends need to make their perfect deck. The Free Duel Mode features similar variations but without the multiplayer aspects. For a more structured experience, there is still Story Mode where you explore the campus and work your way through a long list of worthy contenders. Unless you already have a big group of friends with loose cards, Story Mode is how you'll build your decks and perfect your recipes. You can also play a series of mini-games to earn additional points, but these won't appeal much in the long run to people excited about the core, card-playing action.

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2 features new ways to grab cards and earn points outside of battle. The merit and award points that you'll gain in battle are valuable, but it is also possible to earn cards directly in two ways. One is to hook up Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force 2 through a USB connection to a PS2 running a copy of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX The Beginning of Destiny when that game arrives in a month. If you're short a PS2, the other way to obtain cards in Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 is to use the UMD Recognition feature. This involves inserting other PSP games that can be recognized and that generate unique cards. UMD movies won't work, and if you try to use the same game twice, you'll get an error. Good old paper cards are still lots of fun and each copy of Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 comes packaged with three limited-edition cards. Obtaining cards in the game is really critical since there is no way to bring over your decks from last year's Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force. Not only does this leave us with few reasons to switch, but it forces players that have been developing their game over the past year to start from scratch with Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2. You get new cards, of course, but you lose a lot of the traction by having to replace decks and recipes.

This year's crop of characters put up a good fight and the Tag Duel mode creates some interesting variables. Normally, you can suss out another player's deck and predict the type of strategy they'll use. This allows you to block them and take away valuable cards. Tag Duels are in some ways a disadvantage strategically since you may find your recipe broken up by your partner. It's not like you are sharing one deck, after all. The best scenario is to partner with another player that uses a complementary strategy. If your style of play involves drawing for sweet-spot cards and you partner with someone that builds on slowing or stopping the flow of play, look out. If you don't choose a partner that uses a similar type of card, you'll also find yourself in a bind. Playing Tag Duel with the CPU isn't nearly as much fun as playing against humans, but that isn't new news. The new Destiny Draw feature allows for a last-ditch, "hail mary" strategy at the end of the game when all hope rests on pulling a key card.

Game Mechanics:
Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 retains all the smart navigation features and shortcuts of the previous game. Getting around during battle is easy and you can quickly switch between the various discard piles. As cards are drawn, you have the option to scan the description and look over how the card will change the direction of battle. If a play can be made against a drawn card, you'll see a pop-up asking if you'd like to play a card and you can immediately see what cards can be activated by watching for special symbols that appear as you move the pointer on your screen. The Deck Editor has some unique navigation features, but once learned is an easy place to get around. Building the perfect deck eats up time, but you'll never truly master Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 unless you build custom decks. The other online feature included here is a download for new recipes or add-ons, but as of this writing, the list of downloads was thin.

The bottom line for Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 is that it doesn't make much sense for anyone other than a hardcore fan. Getting new cards and characters is fun, but the lack of transfer between this game and last year's title is a real downer. True online play via infrastructure would have helped Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 stand out much more. It would have been a great addition and there just isn't enough to make Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Tag Force 2 a must buy at this point unless you're just starting to get into the whole Yu-Gi-Oh! thing.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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