You’ve heard of Yu-Gi-Oh. A cultural touchstone of the early 2000s, it’s hard to imagine anyone invested in gaming culture isn’t at least vaguely aware of Yu-Gi-Oh’s existence. In the realm of video games, Yu-Gi-Oh’s performance has been mixed. With over 50 Yu-Gi-Oh games being released since 1999, the field is packed and competition is fierce (well, not really) but Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution rises from the sea of mediocrity to become the definitive Yu-Gi-Oh experience. By building on the foundation of 2015’s Legacy of the Duelist, adding a wealth of new cards, a few interesting mechanics, and releasing onto the Nintendo Switch, Link Evolution manages to set itself apart.

Fit for Joeys and Yugis Alike

Link Evolution’s greatest selling point for those on the fence is its accessibility. Regardless of your previous experience with Yu-Gi-Oh, you’ll be able to settle into Link Evolution with astounding competenceThe game offers a series of tutorials covering everything from the basics to the newest mechanics, so whether this is your first shot at dueling or you’re an old school fan who doesn’t know what the hell a Synchro-Summon is, the game’s got you covered. These tutorials are deep enough to give you a solid foundational understanding of Link Evolution’s many mechanics but short enough to not bore you to death with TCG jargon. With the addition of a simple, clean UI it really is easier than ever to jump into Yu-Gi-Oh.

Of course, the game won’t teach you everything, there are skills and strategies you can only pick up through sustained play. The hardest barrier to overcome is developing a knowledge of the massive amount of cards on offer. Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution packs in over 9000 (no, really) cards. In any TCG it’s important to understand the tools available to you and your opponent, and with so many tools it can be hard to keep up. Luckily, Link Evolution has a counter-measure to this difficulty. The game offers a series of campaigns (6 in total, of varying length) that pit players against a variety of constructed decks. Each campaign duel offers the player a ‘story deck’, which means you’ll be playing with a themed, constructed deck against another themed, constructed deck. Duels can also be played in reverse, offering players the ability to play with and against a huge variety of decks, offering a solid understanding of the huge amount of cards available. Winning a duel also gives the player the opponent’s deck recipe in many cases, which is lovely for those who need some help with deck building.

Variety is the Spice of Duelling

The flip-side to the difficulty posed with a collection of 9000+ cards is the incredible variety it brings to the game. For me, the best part of any card game is building new decks. There’s a unique thrill in finding new card synergies and devising cunning strategies to take down your opponent. Link Evolution gives you the ability to pull off some seriously crazy moves, with the right build and the luck of the draw you could even defeat your enemy in a single turn. In the case of campaign duels, you can build decks so effective that the enemy is completely unable to fight back. Having some trouble with a dragon-themed deck? Grab yourself a few Dragon Capture Jar trap cards and watch the enemy’s game plan collapse.

Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution

You can acquire cards in a number of ways. Playing through the campaign unlocks different booster packs available for purchase with in-game currency (a currency you earn at a generous clip) and you can earn some cards as rewards for beating specific duels. Every campaign duel has a set of card rewards that you can farm for if you have the patience, and you earn in-game currency at the same time to pick up booster packs. Your card collection grows at an impressive rate, though there are some issues. If you are trying to collect specific cards or a certain number of cards from a specific set, well, it can be frustrating. There is no offsetting of odds to discourage pulling duplicates, and you can end up opening hundreds of boosters without getting what you’re after. I’ve opened 200+ Granpa Muto booster packs and I’m still missing 4 cards from the set. It’s a little grueling. Now I know what you’re thinking, this sounds ripe for some Triple-A exploitation. Well…

It’s No Pot of Greed

Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution has absolutely no microtransactions, no DLC, and absolutely no way to spend more money outside the original asking price. It’s a breath of fresh air in an industry that has been squeezing players for every last penny, and particularly among TCGs it’s shocking to see absolutely no additional monetization. It may be a bit of a grind to collect all the cards you want, but not once have I wished for a ‘time-saver’ transaction to come along and make it easier. It shouldn’t be a unique feature in a game, but in the current Triple-A climate Link Evolution deserves heaps of praise for not stuffing itself with gambling and penny-pinching.

So, and I never thought I’d say this, good job Konami. By selling the game as a complete experience and allowing the player to grow their card collection without dropping extra cash, Link Evolution has defined itself, in my humble opinion, the best online TCG on the market.

A Complete Experience

Link Evolution contains all DLC previously released for Legacy of the Duelist and also includes some new content exclusive to the new release. The titular addition is link monsters. Link monsters have a few unique quirks. They can only exist in face-up attack position, and they possess abilities that utilize their position on the board to confer certain benefits. The link mechanic is a tad complex at first, but once you can get to grips with it you’ll find it incredibly rewarding. Like all additional mechanics, link monsters expand the toolset for duelists and gives you a selection of new cards to experiment with. The only downside here is that the link monster campaign, VRAINS, only features 3 duels. It is a shame to see such a short campaign included amongst the other five that are significantly longer and richer.

Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution

A large amount of cards and mechanics makes heading into online play a daunting experience. Though once you are over those nerves the online is quite impressive. I didn’t experience any connection issues or online-specific bugs, and it’s exciting to see some of the more unorthodox decks other players have crafted. The campaign provides a solid foundation but online play allows you to master the finer points of Yu-Gi-Oh, either by being completely demolished in a few turns or taking your opponent to task with a deck you personally agonized over and crafted.

Platform Does Not a Great Game Make, But…

The Nintendo Switch is the ideal platform for Yu-Gi-Oh. Legacy of the Duelist’s 2015 release was good, but it’s not quite as easy to sit down and play Yu-Gi-Oh on a big screen (didn’t stop me putting in 300+ hours) as it is to pick up and play portably. Link Evolution’s release on the Switch is a stroke of genius. You can pick up the game for a few duels to pass the time, or you can tuck yourself up in bed (or the sofa for those with a bit more pride) and play for hours. You could dock your Switch and play on the TV, but the portable option is without a doubt the best way to play. On a smaller screen, you’d be forgiven for worrying about reading card descriptions, but the high resolution and clarity of the Switch makes it a breeze.

Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution

There are some quirks unique to the Switch release of Link Evolution that may irk you. Specifically, in docked mode, the game can sometimes go into a slowdown. FPS can drop significantly and on one occasion the game did freeze up on me in docked mode. These issues didn’t impact my experience all that much, as I only played in docked mode for this review, but they’re worth mentioning for those who are considering picking up the game. If you want to play in docked mode primarily you may experience some performance issues.

Not Perfect, But Close

Link Evolution has some cracks in its otherwise pristine armor. Some bugs carry over from the 2015 release of Legacy of the Duelist. Some cards don’t function as they’re supposed to (though the impact is minor for those I came across). Particularly, cards which activate in specific phases of battle have some issues. There is also an unfortunate lack of settings to adjust. One of my biggest bugbears is the lack of an option to disable unique card animations. Some iconic cards have fancy animations that play when you summon them, and whilst this little touch is charming at first it quickly becomes an irritating break in the pace of duels. It would be a simple fix to just add the option to switch these animations off but unfortunately, it just isn’t there.

When you consider some of the issues with card acquisition and these minor bugs and annoyances, it’s frustrating. Link Evolution is without a doubt the best Yu-Gi-Oh experience on offer, but there are caveats to consider. If you’re a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh or you’re just looking for an excellent TCG for the Switch, Link Evolution is a winner. The price tag is a tad higher than perhaps it should be, but with no additional microtransactions or DLC, it’s safe to say Link Evolution is a complete package well worth your time and money.

Looking for more reviews of Switch games? Check out OpenCritic. Or for more reviews from Culture of Gaming take a look at our reviews section.

THE GOOD
Great Tutorials for Newcomers
No Microtransactions
The Definitive Yu-Gi-Oh Experience
Switch Portability
Incredible Variety of Cards
THE BAD
Minor Bugs and Annoyances
Issues with Card Acquisition
Performance Issues in Docked Mode
8.5
Great

Review Summary

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