Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kaijudo: Duel Masters Reborn?

Let me tell you a story: A few years ago, there was a card game that was starting to become popular in Japan. With the growing popularity of Yugioh in the United States, Wizards of the Coast saw it fit to try their hand at importing a card game. That card game was Duel Masters. Duel Masters was a card game that played like a streamlined version of Magic: The Gathering and Wizards of the Coast brought it in to develop interest. They also brought in the TV anime to help it along and had huge presentations all across the country.

The game did pretty well and was quite fun. Not only did it have the look and pedigree of a good game, this baby had the chops to go with it; beautiful artwork on attractive cards with a set of rules that allowed flexible strategy and resisted the "Snowball effect" many card games fall into, where the player in the lead gets to press their advantage simply because the rules make it too hard to hit back. It boasted revolutionary ideas such as using any card as a mana source and a life-point counter that didn't use the deck or require something to write life points onto as well as benefiting the player who is getting damaged, something many popular games have copied since. All you need are the cards; no coins, dice or damage counters and certainly no silly dark boxes. It also carried something called the "Kaijudo Code", a list of rules that encourage good sportsmanship between players.

However, like many card games by Wizards of the Coast that isn't Magic nor is wrested away from their control, Duel Masters was quickly dropped. It certainly didn't help that the TV show received a gag-dub... This was 2005.

While the game didn't last very long, it still stands out for me for having such an excellent design. It's like Magic, only better and more streamlined. I dunno, maybe WotC was jealous that someone had built a better Magic? My first love for cult-classic card games is Magi-Nation, but the badly-botched reboot of that series has dashed my hopes for a revival against the rocks, so now it falls to Duel Masters to try again.

Fast forward to now, and Duel Masters has remained popular in Japan. The anime ran at least six seasons there and was popular enough to be showcased alongside giants like Mega Man. With the resurgence of Yu-Gi-Oh thanks to 5d's as well as the introduction of games such as Cardfight!!Vanguard, Bakugan, Monsuno, and the much-reviled Redakai, Hasbro has decided to once again throw their hat into the ring and create a new franchise: "Kaijudo".

Wait, "Kaijudo"? Or, more specifically, "Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters"?

Okay, what's going on here?

Well, Hasbro is making a new cartoon series and universe based on the rules of the same card game as Duel Masters, creating new characters and cards and, of course, changing the name. Why? Who can tell. Maybe they're trying to ride this trend of franchises with three-syllable names that sound Japanese, like "Bakugan" and "Yugioh"(Both actually Japanese) or the likes of "Monsuno" and "Redakai"(both complete gibberish in Japanese as far as I know as neither originated in Japan). As for how the new show looks...



I can't say I'm very impressed by the makeover. Rather than being a show about playing a card game like the original, it looks an awful lot like Bakugan... or Magi-Nation's failed revival... Or Huntik which didn't really take off in the first place. It doesn't inspire much confidence.

And still, why the need to re-brand it? They clearly aren't fooling anyone with a name like "Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters" and WotC(Owned by Hasbro) was responsible for the original run of Duel Masters in the US, so why? A rumor I've heard is that the choice was made to make it different due to scarcity and price of old Duel Masters cards and to allow new players a chance, a statement I find very ironic coming from the makers of Magic: the Gathering, a card game that is nearly 20 years old and possesses the "Legacy" format which permits the use of nearly every card printed over that 20 years. Many people who play now weren't even out of their diapers when many of the best cards came out.

Well, they do boast that they are keeping "The best parts of the original Duel Masters" for "Kaijudo", but I worry it might be another attempt to portray Magic: The Gathering as being superior, but we'll see, as Hasbro has been pretty good about the shows they've made by themselves lately.

Still, we'll see just how many of the "best parts" show up. Here's what I think are the best parts of Duel Masters are that Kaijudo will need in order to hold a candle to it.

#1: The Shield System:

By far the best concept from Duel Masters, rather than a set life-point total, you take the top five cards from your deck and set them in front of you, your "shields". Rather than dealing damage equal to their power, a monster whose attack gets through instead breaks a "shield". Once all five "Shields" are broken, the player must still be attacked directly, meaning one essentially has six life points. The "shield" card is then added to its owner's hand. This means that the person taking damage basically gets a free draw which might give them the edge they need to turn things around. Some cards can even be played for free upon being destroyed as shields, which means each Shield is a potential landmine. For example, my autographed "Holy Awe" can stop an opponent's attacks cold if it is struck first. Shield Triggers are definitely a requirement for Kaijudo to properly work the shield system. To balance this out, more powerful creatures can often break more shields. This system that helps prevent the "snowball effect" by rewarding a player who is losing is one balance factor I love about Duel Masters.

#2: Playing any card as a mana source.

Back in the days where the field was dominated by Land Cards and Energy cards, Duel Masters brought forth a system where any card in your deck could be played as a resource card. This freed up space to allow one to play their favorite cards and it meant that even if you were hit with a dead draw, at least that card could still be helpful. This use of cards as resources has been copied by the likes of Hecatomb and the World of Warcraft TCG. It's a flexible system that causes the player to consider whether to dump a powerful card into the mana zone or save it for later.

#3: The Artwork:

Let's face it, Duel Masters has incredible artwork from a variety of really talented artists and in order for Kaijudo to live up to that, the artwork would have to be just as epic. It really depends on their budget and who they are willing to hire, but if Kaijudo wants to stand a chance against the stellar artwork of the remarkably-similar-to-Duel-Masters Cardfight!!Vanguard, it needs artwork that can stand out. I'm not sure how the artwork for Kaijudo will measure up, but a look at the "Tatsurion" artwork above doesn't inspire much confidence...

#4: The Kaijudo Code:

As silly as this may sound, I believe the Kaijudo Code is necessary to teach the new generation. I have been driven away from card stores and tournaments by people who are sore losers or insist on staking cards on the outcome of a game. Also, many card game shows feature the card game in question bringing out the worst in people (Seto Kaiba, Jack Atlas, and Aichi Sendou to name a few) and I think that sort of negativity is bad for the TCG community. Encouraging a little good sportsmanship isn't such a bad idea and, who knows, encouraging fair play and honesty might help cut down on all the shoplifting going on...

Well, Kaijudo officially comes out in June, so we'll just have to see what manifests until then. Could it be a true resurgence? Or could it be like Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I'm worried that it's the latter, but I wouldn't mind a pleasant surprise. If Kaijudo is made right, then casual gamers can mingle it with their older Duel Masters cards to bring back the memories of a better time. Until then, we'll just have to wait and see(An play with our old cards, of course!)



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monsuno Video Review and Giveaway!

Well, I've finally finished my Monsuno review! How does it measure up? Watch the video and find out!

Along with that, there is also a giveaway I am doing with a couple Monsuno provided to me by Jakks Pacific.