It's hard to think of another trading card game that dominated the playgrounds of the 90s like Yu-Gi-Oh! did. Pokemon made a good attempt, but it wasn’t as in-depth enough to truly compete with the heart of the cards. There have been many video games made in the series, including the truly superb Forbidden Memories on PlayStation 1, however, for mobile, Duel Links is a fantastic way to enjoy the classic card game.
Duel Links take on the format of Yu-Gi-Oh! Speed Duel. The field only has three monster and spell slots, duelists have 4,000 LP, Decks are 20-30 cards and there is no second main phase. There are a few other differences, but those are the main ones. As the name suggests, it normally makes for a much faster game, which is perfect for mobile.
Besides these different rules, the gameplay unfolds much the way a regular duel does. Each turn, the duelist draws a card, summons a monster, sets some traps and spells, and then goes to the battle phase and attacks. With the introduction of the later Yu-Gi-Oh! series, Duel Links has seen a big change in the way things work. Link Summoning expanded the field to include the two link zones for the mechanic, and the introduction of the Synchro, Xyz and Pendulum Summoning mechanics added new layers of strategy. Most of those work for the better, however, Pendulum does feel like it limits the field a bit too much, with two of the three spell slots needed to pull it off, but it's still nice that fans of those mechanics can now use them.
Playable Duelists are selected from across all the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime generations. The likes of Jaden Yuki from GX, Yusei Fudo from 5DS and Yuya Sakaki from ARC V are all up for grabs. The most common way to unlock new characters is to complete missions, which leads to higher mission stages which will reveal some more tasks to unlock the new characters. The missions are usually along the lines of using this many spell cards or summoning this particular rank of dragon. Nothing too arduous and it can force the player to build a new type of deck for a bit and experience more of the game, which is pretty cool.
Every Duelist can pick one skill out of their pool to use during battle, which can be a huge boon to tactics. This can range from standard skills like increasing starting Life Points, right up to the broken-sounding ability to believe in the heart of the card to draw any card you desire. The skills are unlocked in two main ways; upgrading specific characters, or getting them as a random drop from rival duelists.
Of course, one of the most important components of a Yu-Gi-Oh! game is deck building. Cards can be unlocked in a variety of ways; levelling up, event drops, or most commonly, buying them from the card shop. The shop has pre-made decks that can be made based on various themes or skills, such as a Silent Swordman deck. They also have boxes, each of which has a set pool of cards available, and each pack contains three cards.
New cards are added fairly frequently and card ban lists receive regular updates, so decks will need tweaking from time to time. But what about players that aren't the best at deck building and just want to duel? Well, besides using a character's default deck or the shop's pre-made decks, Duel Links have a few official decklists that can be followed to make a playable deck. These are serviceable, however, the decks or players who place first to third during in-game tournaments also get added to the decklist options, so even those who haven’t heard of the word “meta” can make a pretty successful deck.