Game Review

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal World Duel Carnival Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

Is the first 3DS entry a Dark Hole or a Monster Reborn?

Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh series has a long and successful history in digital form, perhaps never more so than on Nintendo hardware – a relationship that stretches all the way back from the original monochrome Game Boy right up to Zexal World Duel Carnival, which is both the first 3DS Yu-Gi-Oh title as well as the newest entry in the series.

After naming a generic male avatar that will vaguely represent you in the game’s Free Duel mode, the game asks a simple question – “Do you know how to duel?” — with an equally straightforward yes/no response. After choosing the appropriate answer the game then tells you the difficulty setting and hint display options it’s auto-selected for you, as well as informing you that these can be changed later if desired. This is a good first impression for both existing fans as well as newcomers as both sets of players can go into the game facing a challenge that’s fair to their current skill level, without permanently locking anyone into a setting that they’ll either find too tough or mindlessly dull.

The main menu then pops up with its own round of brief-but-useful explanations and players are then left alone to either ease themselves into the Yu-Gi-Oh! experience with the structured decks of Story Mode, or dive straight into the endless possibilities of Free Duel mode, or simply switch between the two as the mood takes them; it's useful flexibility.

Story Mode is the more structured of the two possible play options, and in this mode you take charge of one from a selection of up to twelve unlockable characters (a distinct reduction from the possible forty available in the original Japanese release) that each possess their own unique pool of cards; you then go through a brief and largely generic plot that inevitably involves playing a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh! against a variety of opponents before progressing through to the tournament proper. The storylines here are paper-thin and of little interest to even ardent series fans, so it’s a relief to discover that these sequences are not only infrequent but also easily skipped.

While Story Mode may be lacking in the plot department it more than makes up for it by being an excellent introduction to the card game, as well as a good warm up for lapsed players. The preliminary rounds allow you to battle anyone from a wide range of possible opponents that all have their own unique decks and playstyles, and losing results in nothing worse than the option to try again or pick another person to duel against. This freedom, coupled with the ability to change the difficulty up or down at any point – including mid-battle – gives the confidence to experiment with deck building and tactics, safe in the knowledge that you won’t find yourself endlessly caught in an unwinnable situation against an adversary.

Battling in a well established card game is an intimidating process at the best of times, so it’s good to know that Zexal Word’s duelling interface is well thought out and clear. The 3DS’ dual screens are used to great effect, with the top screen containing character portraits and card details while the lower screen is reserved for the all-important play area; that's where your eyes will be gazing most of the time. Both the regular D-pad and buttons or the touch screen can be used to control the action, with neither offering any real advantages or pitfalls when compared to the other.

Yu-Gi-Oh! uses a system of monster summoning, tributes, traps, spells and all sorts of other weird and wonderful effects to make reducing your foes life points to zero as interesting (and as difficult) as possible, so it’s good to know that by default the game requires your confirmation to proceed when an opponent pulls off a complicated discard/special summon/spell combo. This gives you the chance to read the card text and work out exactly what’s been done instead of helplessly watching a flurry of cards get shuffled about with no real idea of where it all went wrong. You’re also prompted to activate trap and spell cards if you have the opportunity to do so, so there’s never that nagging feeling that you’re missing the chance to turn things around or have the need to tediously re-check every card before proceeding on the off chance you can use it. More confident or skilled duellers can turn off all of the help text, confirmations and prompts if they find them more annoying than useful.

Card games generally don’t have any great visual appeal while playing, and Zexal World is no exception to this rule. Card art is recognisable but low resolution and the character portraits have a very limited pool of expressions that can easily be exhausted in just a few turns of the first match. Thankfully this title comes with an extensive selection of play mat and card protector art already unlocked, meaning players that could use a bit of a visual refresh can customise both the play area and the card reverse to their liking. It’s not a huge step forward but it lends a bit of visual flair and personalisation to the duelling.

Players that wish to break away from Story Mode’s themed deck building can dive right into Free Duel mode any time they wish, and it’s here where the real meat of the game lies, with unrestricted access to well over 5500 cards and eighty opponents with which to do battle. On paper there’s little replayability here as all cards and cosmetic enhancements are unlocked right from the start, so the only reason to keep coming back is if you enjoy playing Yu-Gi-Oh. On the other hand with everything at your fingertips right from the get-go there's the option to hit the ground running and enjoy a customised experience.

There’s one fly in the TCG ointment that we've saved for last – for whatever reason Zexal World has no two player options whatsoever. Neither local multiplayer nor internet matchups are supported in any fashion, which is an utterly baffling decision in a competitive card game. So while your options for duelling against the CPU are numerous and well thought out, with fair AI, there’s always that disappointment that your carefully-crafted deck and cunning strategies can never be tested against a human opponent.


If you like trading card games but struggle to find willing friends to play with, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal World Duel Carnival boasts a wealth of distinct CPU-controlled opponents and a trunk filled with thousands of cards. However, the lack of any form of multiplayer is as baffling as it is detrimental to the competitive nature of the game, and with both single player modes having almost everything unlocked from the start the only reason to continue the experience is simply playing for playing’s sake. Overall this is a good digital representation of the core card game, but players looking for anything more than that won’t find it here.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (42)



TwilightV said:

It's a shame so much of this game's content was cut from the overseas release.



NoirUsernameHere said:

Sucks, I really wanted to try out a Yu-Gi-Oh! game.. If it got a better review I would've gone for it. Ah well.



eleccross said:

No multiplayer?! Okay if it's over $30 when it comes to America It's just dead to me



eleccross said:

No multiplayer?! Okay if it's over $30 when it comes to America It's just dead to me



shinokami said:

@torotoid64 Zexal is not exactly the most popular entry of the series, but the new one: Arc V is actually pretty good, even for character designs



shinokami said:

What's the point of buying this if there is no multiplayer? That's dumb, I mean its not even good for deck testing because:
1) Its outdated
2) Dueling Network

and I'm pretty sure 80% of the Yu-Gi-Oh! fan base are adults now.



BakaKnight said:

Wait... so no need to buy packages, all cards unlocked from start OoO;

This YuGiOh game sounds like the perfect one for an ex-fan like me, a lot of free possibilities to go with against many CPU opponents for when I want to play this (for me) nostalgic game.



Tsurii said:

So...the only really bad thing about it, is the lack of MP? I'd actually get it tbh. I always enjoyed playing those games, but I never really felt, that I NEED to play with other people (I'm not good enough anyway )

6/10 seems fair, tho. Something like that is a huge dealbreaker for most people (probably everyone other than me and 2 or 3 other guys xD)



Phantom_R said:

This is a real insult to what past Yugioh video games have been. It's great that all cards are unlocked from the start, but the selection only goes up to Shadow Specters, which is at least 2-3 sets behind. Add the lack of DLC and shocking absence of multiplayer and this is a big, big disappointment.

The story mode sounds fun, but Konami is trying to charge full-price for this and it's download-only, so I'm never going to find this in the bargain bin...



Hy8ogen said:

No multiplayer on a game based on card games? I think the dev wants this game to fail.



CanisWolfred said:

Yu-Gi-Oh video games only really served as a cheap alternative/practice mode to the actual card game. I may pick it up, but I'm not entirely sure. I think I still have an XBLA one one with characters I actually like...



DarkKirby said:

Yuma be like:
Why bother with the Heart of the Cards when I can just literally change the cards in my hand with my powers?



ColdingLight said:

Let me explain to you guys why you shouldn't buy this game. Short answer is because it's a downgrade. The biggest most glaring flaw this game has is No online play. Let me give you a obvious but great analogy. Imagine playing Pokemon B/W and/or its sequels and enjoying all the online capabilities and then playing Pokemon X/Y and finding out it has absolutely no online play whatsoever. Would you tolerate that? Hell no you wouldn't. The Ds Yu-gi-oh games had online play so you would THINK that this one would have it right? Well, you'd be strangely wrong. Also, this game is incredibly late. I believe there's already a new Yu-gi-oh series out. Truth be told, this game should be 10 dollars. (And even that's a stretch...) I don't know how much it is in PAL regions I assume the typically 40+ dollars which is a complete ripoff. Also, A minor nitpick is you can't even make your own character. (A feature that was in previous titles.) You play as the shows characters, however you can customize your decks, which is surprisingly pointless. You may as well just play with locked decks since you can't play with them online or even locally. I wanted this game to be localized and while I got my wish (More or less.) I didn't know it was a gimped piece of crap.



WYLD-WOO said:

Not only is this game not on-line.... What's most shocking is the amount of content lost compared with the original version, due to problems with localization.



Iggly said:

Quite a shame, I wanted to try out a Yu-Gi-Oh game since I never had interest back in the DS era. Lack of multiplayer is very strange if you ask me.



Noboty said:

So, basically, this is a low-quality, single-player title that's also a watered-down version of the original that is also out obsolete (since the next game in the series is already out and with new cards). Yup, skipping is the best choice for me.



ryanator008 said:

It's still better than Millennium Duels, where they made it so hard that your only chance of winning was buying one of the DLC decks. It has online multiplayer, but people keep quitting/stalling, so it's not very fun.



BSFsontails1012 said:

No online play or DLC?! If it's $30 or more, forget it. At first I was like, YES A YUGIOH GAME!!! Now, I'm just, I'm good. I miss those world championship dueling games for DS... I still have the 2010 and 2011 ones.
One thing that bothers me as much as no online multiplayer is no customizable characters or storyline for your customized character. Those were GREAT in the world championship games, but since those are gone, I might as well wait for the next (hopefully) Yugioh game.



ueI said:

"this mode you take charge of one from a selection of up to twelve unlockable characters (a distinct reduction from the possible forty available in the original Japanese release)." This made me do a double take.
Is America not getting this game?



Mega719 said:

I'm a bit surprised this franchise is still going i feel old just remembering my experiences



KnightRider666 said:

Why can't Nintendo give is a new Pokemon Trading Card game with all the up to date cards and DLC for future cards? Also, online multiplayer too.



slidecage said:

man how many people are going to cry about no ONLINE. its been known for months the game would not have any ONLINE MODE. get over it



Shotgunryugan said:

"After naming a generic male avatar that will vaguely represent you in the game’s Free Duel mode"

Actually that generic avatar is your key to make everyone's deck editable in Free Duel(So you can duel against your own decks), you have to unlock him in story mode though, then duel everyone in story mode with him so that you unlock that option.

Anyway I actually don't care at all for the multiplayer, heck I bought Pokemon games for the single player(Besides all you see these days is Brave Bird...Ahem Talonflame and Rotom W).

I'm most disappointed at some of my favorite cards not being in the game, like Change of Heart, that card has saved me from so many duels

I don't care that it isn't up-to-date, the last Yugioh game I played was Duel Transer on the Wii, so I need to try out the new Xyz cards(Heard they break the game).

Still waiting for it to come out here in the US in September though.
I will say the game should have gotten a $20 price for the western versions, the cut content, while not important, it's still a lot less of a game compared to the Japanese version(I miss the Japanese voice acting the most, for whatever reason I always like the way they pronounce DRAW!).



Gorlokk said:

Ooh, this looks like the GBA games! I don't care about multiplayer. I just want to play against computers, that's all I need.



Ispheria said:

Who the heck decided on no multiplayer and everything unlocked in the beginning? Those are possibly the two worst decisions they could have made. The multiplayer should be obvious. Having all the cards unlocked is just a really bad design choice. The reason it worked for the previous games is because it set up a learning curve for the player. Instead of overwhelming the player with an excessive amount of data, they fed the player info little by little by having them unlock cards the more the played. The more time the player invested in the game, the more they possibilities they had, the better they could express themselves in their decks, the more invested the player is.

But by throwing all the cards at you at once, the players will either spend hours reading every card's description or rage quit cause there are over 5,500 cards. Or they can already know what cards they want in their decks, but those people probably are fans of the game and would want to play against actual people, which you can't do in this game.



Naoiko said:

Will be passing on this. Thank you so much for the review =)! Great job! thumbs up



zornthgrt said:

Sounds like they really didn't want to bring it to the west. So they halfassed it to save money. Now if it doesn't sell well they can use it as an excuse to not bring over future titles



Kisame83 said:

The only detriment to me is that I really don't like Zexal.

While the lack of multiplayer is puzzling for a 3DS game that focuses on playing with others (especially when the DS games had wireless multiplayer), it isn't a deal breaker to me. Those DS games ran so slow over the network, and were plagued by players disconnecting (both rage quitting and server kicks), that I only went online as a novelty. I probably spent more time with e Tag Force series on PSP, which was ad-hoc only. Realistically, I spent most of my time with these games in single player as it is.

I'm curious if the loss of those GameSpy servers may have impacted the ability to implement wireless connectivity. I know 3DS wasn't generally impacted, but I wonder if there are extra development steps that Konami opted out of at the late stages of development. Anybody know about that?



bafn said:

I would definitely get this game. They haven't related a game for a while. I think all this needs to be is for them to get some traction. If this does well they will be able to make a much better game. Also we would get it a lot sooner than a year after it was released in Japan.



ValentineMeikin said:

Konami, You hacked up this game royally 'for localization reasons'... and it's took so long that Zexal is over already...
Way to show the fans how much respect you have for them.
To think, once, Yugioh World Championship was it's flagship property. Now, it's been gutted, literally and figuratively.

Konami, how the **** can you call it World Carnival when it's one player only, never mind that you dummied out over half the cast!



TheNumberHunter said:

OK I just downloaded it and have to say... it's the best Yu-Gi-Oh game ever.
I don't understand any of the criticism, it's exactly what you'd want in a TCG video game.

All the cards are unlocked at the beginning- no lame starter decks or stupid virtual "card collecting" (which isn't nearly as satisfying as the real packs), plenty of pre-made decks that are fun and easy to use, plus you can play as Zexal characters OR your own avatar, and there are even options to adjust the difficulty. The story isn't up to par with the DS games but I really didn't enjoy having to walk around and explore to advance the story and thankfully there aren't any gimmicky tag duels.

The only downsides are the lack of multiplayer (but that's what the cards are for, the video games are more about playing against the computer when you can't find a duel in real life) and the lack of physical release in North America.



RabidPikachu said:

I downloaded the US release on Christmas and am satisfied. Sure it's a down grade from the DS titles but it is 10 dollars cheaper than the DS titles so you get what you pay for. I'm not too sad about no online dueling with other owners. I'm only sad there's no character creating or story to go with it. Other than that I'm happy and would recommend this only for fans of the anime or card game noobs.



XCWarrior said:

@TheNumberHunter @RabidPikachu You two are like the only ones that commented about actually playing the game, and both seem to like it.

The game is currently on sale, anyone else have opinions on the game and is worth it for $10? Was a fan of the original cartoon, had one of the GBA games, but haven't played in awhile. The lack of MP really doesn't bother me, the cut in content hurts but I bet its more content than the GBA game I played long ago (and hopefully smarter AI).



Priceless_Spork said:

I didnt even know about the 3ds game. I loved the yugioh wii game even though I never thought I would like a game like that. I loved playing it online while I could. That sucks there is no online.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...