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Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy is the first game (GBA or otherwise) to come out for the Yu-Gi-Oh! spin-off series. Duel Academy starts the GX line off strong with a clean implementation of the Collectible Card Game (CCG).

In general, the game's visuals come off clean and crisp. Whether you are moving from one duel location to another on the island map or in a duel, the game's images and graphics definitely get the point across. Characters like Jaden and Syrus look just like their TV-series counterparts while the cards, effects and monsters are nice duplicates of what you will find in real-world "Yu-Gi-Oh!" decks. The only issue I have with the Duel Academy's visuals is that the game board, while in the middle of a duel, seems a bit cramped. But this is understandable considering the portable system's small screen.

As far as audio is concerned, there isn't really a whole lot to this game. Like most GBA titles, there is no voice acting and since the game consists mostly of sitting in front of a bunch of cards, there aren't a lot of sound effects. But the game's music does do a good job of keeping you interested and focused on the card game in front of you.


Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy puts you in the role of a new recruit at the Duel Academy. You start your adventure, like most noobs, in the Red Slyther dorm. It is here you will meet many of the Reds from the series (like Jaden). In the lowest level dorm, you will get to challenge a few people to duels in an attempt to earn duel points (which are used to buy cards) and train for your exams.

Basically, the overall story of the game has you going to different locations on the academy island. You will visit the volcano, ocean, dorms and the Academy itself, facing each opponent. Every few days, you will find yourself in an exam where you will have to pass three tests in order to up your rank.

These tests fall under Written Exams, Timed Duels and Practical Exams. Written Exams test your technical knowledge of Duel Monsters. Here you will be quizzed on everything from fusion combinations to your knowledge of monster effects. The Timed Duels test your ability to work under a deadline. Can you get your opponent's life points to 0 by the time the clock reaches zero? These typically come off as a puzzle test. From what I could tell, there is always a solution; it's just a matter of using the right cards in the right manner.

The Practical Exams pit you against one of the teachers. Here you will not only have to face tougher-than-average opponents but typically there is also some other condition involved. For instance, your opponent may not be trying to knock out all your points, but instead have a deck that focuses on building up their own defenses. If you do well enough in your exams, then you up your rank.

Increasing your rank is good because you will move from the Red dorm to Yellow Ra and eventually Blue Obelisk. With each increase in rank you achieve, you will be able to face more opponents in more locations. This increase in duels ups your duel points and your skill. Ultimately, your goal is to earn the rank of King of Games.

When in a duel, the board and layout all look like any "Yu-Gi-Oh!" gamer would expect. Like I said before, this game doesn't introduce any unusual gimmicks; it is by-the-book "Yu-Gi-Oh!" CCG.


Difficulty wise, I found Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy to be the most evenly balanced Yu-Gi-Oh! game to come out in a while. When most games of this series try to add some gimmick to make it more than just a CCG (i.e. Duelist of the Roses, Falsebound Kingdom), Duel Academy sticks to the basics and focuses on enemy strategy and balanced gameplay.

That isn't to say that some opponents don't have a habit of drawing that one card they need to win from time to time. That seems to have been an issue since the first Yu-Gi-Oh! title. But it doesn't seem as frequent as it used to be.

As for the exams, these also come off as fairly well balanced. Though they aren't always a cake walk, Timed Duels and Written Exams pose enough of a challenge to keep you from getting bored. On the other hand, the Practical Exams seem to be when the opponent gets the luck of the draw more times than not and that can get a bit annoying after a while.

Game Mechanics:

An interesting aspect of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy that helps it stand out in the series is the fact that the game is broken up into days and weeks. Most of the days, you will move around on the island looking for people to duel or go to the shop and buy new cards. Not everything is open all the time, though. For instance, the card shop isn't available on Sundays.

Every few weeks or so, whenever your calendar says it is time, you have an exam day. Instead of being able to go to the shop or duel your schoolmates, you go straight to the classroom and take your tests. This whole system was a nice way to break up the game. Unlike games like The Sacred Cards where you just constantly walk around the map looking for matches in what seemed like an endless game, I felt like I had a set goal and the division of the game into days, weeks and months really helped to improve the overall feel.

All in all, I feel like Duel Academy is one of the better and more complete Yu-Gi-Oh! titles to come out in a long time. Any fan of the series should gladly pick this game up. You won't be disappointed.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Microsoft Xbox 360 Project Gotham Racing 3 Sony PlayStation 2 Wild Arms 4

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