Duel Links is Konami's mobile version of the popular trading card game Yu-Gi-Oh!.
The Duel Links format departs from the TCG(Trading Card Game) rules, instead using a quicker, compact system: Speed Dueling. Notable differences include:
4000 LP to start
20-30 card limit for Main Deck
Only 3 Main Monster & Spell/Trap Zones
Starting hand of 4 cards
No Main Phase 2
Speed Dueling dramatically shifts priorities for deck building when compared to the TCG. Currently, Duel Links includes both the original generation and GX, meaning newer summoning mechanics (such as Synchro and XYZ) are not yet available. Despite this, a wide variety of play styles have emerged, some of which capitalize on the lower quantity of resources. Cards such as Straight Flush and Ojama King move from mediocre to devastating in the Speed Duel format.
Further distancing itself from the TCG, Duel Links introduces the usage of Skills, which allow for advanced play style customization and a dynamic metagame. Their effects can be as simple as increasing LP, but can also bend the game mechanics themselves, such as redrawing your starting hand, drawing a card of your choice, or bringing in cards from outside your original deck.
Duel Links is the first Yu-Gi-Oh! title to contain a fleshed-out PvE environment that directly complements the PvP setting and vice versa. The player has access to a wide cast consisting of characters from the original anime. Players typically duel these characters to gain XP and level up, granting access to currencies, special cards, and Skills. Additionally, players have access to the Gate, allowing you to duel a specific character from the anime, each with their own unique decks and prize pools.
A Duel Assessment system has been implemented that grants a score based on certain actions or conditions met following a duel, such as destroying a certain number of monsters or dealing over 9999 damage in a single attack. Randomly generated rewards are granted based on this score, encouraging the player to create specific decks to maximize their DA score.
Duel Links’ competitive aspect uses a ladder system separated by tiers ranging from Rookie to King of Games. Tiers are further separated by divisions, ex. Gold 1 to 5, Legend 1 to 3. Players duel opponents from around the globe in real time, with three minutes allotted per turn. Consecutive wins lead to promotion while successive losses lead to demotion. Regardless of ladder standing, a player’s total number of wins grants increasing rewards, such as Gems or Tickets, which can be traded in for a powerful card of the corresponding rarity.
As of late, Konami has greatly refined the game to be very friendly to free to play players, despite using a gacha system (a form of random drawing). The primary currency, Gems, are used to purchase card packs consisting of 3 cards each. Packs can be bought from prearranged lineups, organized into Boxes and Mini-Boxes, at 200 and 80 packs total. Structure decks are also available, reminiscent of TCG starter decks, prebuilt and ready to go.
Each box has a finite amount of a certain card, decreasing in quantity by rarity; cards rated Ultra Rare will only have 1 copy, Super Rare with 2 copies, followed by an abundance of Rare and Normal cards. Upon depleting the entire Box, or whenever the player chooses, a Box can be reset, allowing the player to obtain duplicate copies of a Box-exclusive card.
Large amounts of Gems are available through a variety of ways, such as constant events, free giveaways, leveling up characters, and more. Purchasing Gems with cash is made enticing via deals such as guaranteed high rarity cards in special bundles. At the end of the day, you’re still essentially gambling for the card you want, which could be in either the first pack of a Box or the last.
Another currency available for purchase are Duel Orbs, which can continuously generate or refresh the number of NPC’s to play against. The regular refresh Orbs are given for free in copious amounts, so whaling for Duel Orbs gives no conceivable advantage over non-IAP players.
Secondary currencies include Gold / Stones, used at the Card Trader, a rotating shop with its own card pool. Here you can also upgrade standard cards to foil versions, which have slight PvE advantages but are mostly aesthetic.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has truly survived the test of time, in no small part due to its colorful visuals and effects. Duel Links went the extra mile and brought in the original voice actors for every character, making the nostalgia trip magnitudes richer.
Regarding customization, card sleeves and playmats are unlockable for most characters and signature monsters. Added goodies for veterans include alternate art for classic cards such as Dark Magician and Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
Duel Links improves upon visuals of past games in several ways, such as by adding pop-out effects to monsters and creating unique summoning animations for signature monsters.
The musical score is not to be ignored; from Joey’s energetic number to Odion’s Egyptian theme to Alexis’s elegant piano exposition, the audio of Duel Links emits a mood for all occasions.
Frequent events guarantee there’s always something worth logging in for; the game is rarely sitting in its vanilla state. A common example is the Duel-a-Thon, which encourages duels on a daily basis in both PvE and PvP. Other events involve being able to unlock a new character or special dungeon-type systems. Rewards include an abundance of Gems, Orbs, and occasionally exclusive cards.
There is a daily login bonus by default, but its rewards are fairly paltry. Consecutive logins don’t grant significant bonuses, though this doesn’t take away from long-term play.
Granted the massive amount of cards, characters, and generations to pull from, Duel Links has a long future ahead of it. With GX releasing a little over a year after initial launch, it can be estimated that newer generations will roll out within similar time frames.
This last summer, Duel Links was given its own feature at the Yu-Gi-Oh! WCS, an international tournament, garnering further attention on a global scale.
Perhaps most important is Konami’s attention and commitment to improving Duel Links through post-event surveys and subsequently implementing the best suggestions.
Konami has managed to trim away the complications of the TCG and refine the Yu-Gi-Oh! experience into a compact, mobile experience.
Duel Links' accessibility is two-fold. In the literal sense, thousands of cards are available at the tap of a finger, allowing for seamless deck building and customization from anywhere with internet connection. Additionally, the balance team is incredibly skilled, releasing new cards in a way that allows for all players to be competitive, regardless of IAP status.
The game is a far from a mere cash grab, with Konami pulling out all the stops to take us back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons. The sights and sounds of Duel Links go beyond doing the original series justice. Rather, it is a reimagining around a pocket virtual world, being visited by or menaced with new characters all the time.