I tribute summon this Retro Review: Yu-Gi-Oh Stairway to the Destined Duel

I like older games! So I write a lot about older games! The game I am replaying today is one of those games, you just sink so many hours into.  I truly adored this game when I was a little Pinkie, nothing made me happier than just wailing endlessly on Mokuba with my Slate Warrior and Harpie’s Brother! Which now is named Sky Scout! Yu-gi-oh changed..so has my perception of this game? Let’s find out!

Back to Battle City

Stairway to the destined duel is a Gameboy Advanced only game that came it mid April 2003 around the world. In this game you play a nameless protagonist without any sprite of their own.. as you see through their eyes in a visual novel esque way. You  travel across Battle City to defeat duellists and compete in tournaments hidden all over the map. Each day of the week you can travel a bit, and interact with one location. Each duellist you have beaten gives you a choice of a card pack to improve your deck with.These opponents usually are the series staples such as Yugi, Joey and Kaiba. Of course there is also a number  the famous opponents such as Rex Raptor, Weevil Underwood and Mako Tsunami. In total the roster contains 23 opponents you can face and everyone of them uses their themed decks.. which gradually improve like yours as time goes on. Your goal is to find and duel all five Ghouls before having a showdown with Marik for the faith of the world.. but there is so much more to do.

Unlike the story driven GBA games  “The Sacred Cards”  and “Reshef of Destruction” there isn’t much plot to follow. By winning duels and by being  at certain spots on the map in particular days you unlock stuff. New duelists become available if you win or lose against opponents or get specific cards, Rare Hunters, show up at certain days in certain areas. It is all very random and casual. You pick this game up , not because you want to complete it or rush to the ending you pick it up because you want to play a few duels. It should be noted that this is in the classic Yu-Gi-Oh erra. When I say classic I do mean classic. This game doesn’t go much further than the Labyrinth of Nightmare Booster packs which was only the fifth ever series of booster packs ever to be released. It was really the age of the anime and as such I think it works better if you see this as an anime game than a yu-gi-oh tcg game. At least nowadays there are plenty of “more expansive” games to collect cards in. While the options feel quite limited today I must say some elements really pleased me. More so than some later instalments of the series. 

It’s time to D-D-D-Duel

What makes this game stand out is how fast it actually plays. With only 1000 trading cards and effect monsters , and your extra deck being limited to fusions thi game has to make very little checks! It shows.. these duels are paced so nicely! Coming of Reverse of Arcadia, on of the alleged best Yu-Gi-Oh games I must say that dueling in this classic game feels so much snappier. The quick play spells or constant monster effects are sparing so we do not get that “AI”  lag later games have to reveal that they have something activatable on their field or in their hand. Later games have this prompt you press to skip activation points for a certain card. For example the spell card Rush Recklessly can be activated anywhere in a battle. Mystical Space Typhoon is a quick play spell and Solemn Judgment can negate any cardplay. When you know a bit about the card game you can tell when a trap card is not going to be something scary like “Mirror Force”  if your opponent stalls.  While the player can skip triggers.. the AI can not and you see it think to activate a card.  It can result in matches feeling very stally!  So pacing wise..with maybe an exception for Legacy of the Duelist, this is the game to play.

The story based games often also have save points while in this game you can just pick up your GBA,  play two matches while you wait for your pizza to come out the oven and put it away. This is what I loved so much about the game and this is why to this day I love it so much still. There is a simplicity to it that Duel Links used to emulate, but in a much more greedy money hungry way. If you want a good and nice old classic deck..You just have to pick it up and play! Within a minute after booting  the game up you are already in the first turn of your duel and can play some nostalgic matches and little by little improve your deck! All duellist differ enough from each other to also play for a bit longer if you say prefer but the monotone basic graphics might make that a bit of an underwhelming experience in the long run. Dealers choice though! With just 1000 cards to collect this is also THE Yu-gi-oh game to start with when your new to the game. Yes you mis Xyz summons, yes they haven’t heard of synchro’s and hell no there aren’t any pendulum or link summons.. so there is still more to learn.. but this game off all the Yu-gi-oh games I think is best equipped to teach you the core mechanics in a very easy way. I had no rulebook but I learned to play Yu-Gi-Oh just from this game alone bu looking at all the visual clues and text you can get far. 

Obviously knowing how to play will let you get further. For example the character Mokuba is unlocked by losing five duels. Tiny Pinkie unlocked him right away , as she stumbled to learn the rules she took quite a few losses. Nowadays Pinkie however has much more insight in how to play cleverly. Sending Dark Magician to the graveyard seemed bad when I was young.. but now with Premature Burial in my deck and Monster Reborn, I rather have it in the grave than in my hand. Now I know with Change of Heart I can steal a monster.. but I should not just swing in with it because after one turn I lose control! I better use that stolen monster to tribute summon. I am only one Hunter or maybe two away from facing the “final boss”  and I have yet to unlock Mokuba in my current run. Which does bring me to the downsides of the game.

Trap Hole

This game was made in a time that people didn’t completely understand the whole mechanics behind Yu-Gi-oh yet! It was fairly new and there wasn’t t THAT much of a Meta. You played a deck because you thought it was cool and you made it work. Now people realise to keep their deck very small and utilize your graveyard. It isn’t bad to have monsters be in your graveyard. Combos like stealing a Maha Vailo (who has an effect to gain 500 attack when he is equipped with something)  with Snatch and Steal.. weren’t familiar yet.. but they are now!  As a result I find this run to be somewhat too easy. I only lost to Kaiba, Joey and Ishizu so far and have almost five victories on everyone so far. And that was upon my first writing this post Since my margins have increased a lot further. The Duelists do get stronger as time passes.. but I can’t help but feel they are meant to grow alongside you.. if you are already grown they do seem a bit amateurish. To be fair Joey, Yugi, Ishizu, Kaiba Odion, Pegasus  Bandit Keith and Meric.. heck even Tea for some reason can give a run for your money but if you understand how their deck works , which isn’t that hard..it is pretty easy to build in counters.

Tiny Pinkie for example used to love to play “The Bistro Butcher” which is a 1800 attack four star beater card, which meant you can summon it directly and in 2003 there weren’t a lot of higher beaters out there. It had an effect as well which was super cool! Butchers forces your opponent to draw two cards, which could lead to decking out! Deck destruction in the anime was always depicted as something really brutal and all, but giving them +2  is actually great for them. It’s like paying 1800 life points for Pot of Greed…which is still legal in this game as well., But while it dealt massive damage it also boosted my opponents hand. Now that I know to avoid it and play seven coloured fish instead I take almost to little of a beating. It doesn’t mean I flawlessly win all the time (though my deck is approaching that point)  but yeah.. I know how to play Yu-gi-oh and getting a pack with a chance of good cards after every match is quite a lot like the easy mode. Later games like Reverse of Arcadia. give you money from which you can buy packs! I have a lot of trouble beating that game! Mostly because of the plethora of useless cards to pull with a more finite resource!

I am not sure if I want to call the card reward a negative though.. it does mean I can really see my deck get better after a particularly lucky duel and that made me a lot happier than the lucky draws in later games ever did. It makes the game easier.. but now each duel feels so much more rewarding..So I will keep this as a pick your poison. If you want a challenge you are better of elsewhere! If you want to have fun with deck building and feel like a bad-ass for whooping Kaiba’s butt! This is your game! It is really rewarding for playing and I do really love that about this game! It lacks a bit of love in the translations though! There are a few weird dialogue lines, there are typo’s and Tea gives her sub Japanese name as they forgot to change it. I kinda chuckle at the these.. old retro games did this all the time and I am happy to see it on occasion! But if you want a sleek experience..Legacy of the Duelist once more is the better option. I find these flaws.. to give it some soul!

What IS a negative though is the huge amount of RNG. For example there is a contest called the target competition in which you are given two duelist you need to face and defeat.  All duelist randomly walk across the map like you and I am not  fully sure if everyone is there every day, but whether or not you find that specific guy  or not really depends on where you decide to stroll too. The same goes for the elimination tournament.. it will be held on Fridays on a “secret” location If you aren’t on a space adjacent to a tournament on Thursday.. you can not compete. Not that winning tournaments does much anyway you just get a more “weighted” back with some chance to find rare cards. Yet again this reward is RNG. I was lucky to get a Jinzo very early on which really made dueling easier and I really want to use it against Odion just for a laugh! Yet the rare hunters that show up..start on random days and the one you do encounter is… you guessed it RANDOM! This is forgivable since the game is basically made to just pick up and play but if you want to beat Meric and get it over with.. you really should know.. in this game you are playing with more RNG than anime version Joey Wheeler.

Like i said earlier the textures can be a bit boring as well. The overworld map is  fine but its just a map with some icons on it and your duel background is just a pyramid wall. Monster art is only visual on a basic attack animation and cards are just represent as rectangles in their colour with a black square. This can make it easy to not notice a monster has been tributed and you attack into a to powerful monster or you  swap your monsters and thought Battle Ox was left and Giant Rat was on the right.. while in truth it was the opposite and you see your Rat kamikaze against Alligator Sword by accident. Again though I am not really sure if I mind I like having  to check the field and be on my guard.. it keeps my head in the duel. In Legacy of the duelist where you can see every monster crystal clear it is easy to check your messages in between an opponent thinking if it should activate Rush Recklessly on your draw phase but here.. if I look away and miss Mako tributing his 700 attack point fish for a 2300 attack ocean monster and attack into it.. it could lose me a duel. The lack of animations can get kinda boring but it also keeps the pace of the game up. This game is my favourite paced yu-gi-oh of the all.. so I am not sure if I would trade that away. As long as I keep playing this game in short bursts this is fine!

King of Games

All in all I do not think Stairway to the destined duel has aged all that poorly!  It is not a game you’ll want to play to play some modern yu-gi-oh.. but I am going to be honest here.. modern day Yu-Gi-oh is not fun to play anymore anyway. One Turn Kill Decks,  Turns that last half an hour due to all sorts of activations and combos, flooding the field in a single turn.. it has turned Yu-Gi-Oh away from a battle field where people deal blows each turn.. to people tossing stuff on the board and them making it go boom in a single turn maybe two. This to me is the Yu-Gi-Oh i like to play.. a style that would linger up until the early synchro days.
This is nothing to the actual trading card game.. but this plays pretty darn close to how the anime feels. If you want to feel like an anime character without having t o deal with stupid changing banlists, (I do not know why some games did that)  and take on the King of Games of old.. if you want to learn how Yugioh works.. this is still my highest recommendation! Jus run Seven Coloured fish over The Bistro Butcher!

It is intuitive, you keep oversight , characters look and act like themselves and there are a few hilarious glitches and exploits to take advantage of! Tea introducing herself with her japanese name but after that going back to Tea.. using cards to break the return to owner effect of Change of heart .. and other fun stuff is there for you to try.This is one of those games that might be to easy but you can just play with a more gimmicky deck! There is a lot of fun to be had with this old cartridge and I will be playing it on and off for a while I think!
I will go play a few matches and play my own Blue Eyes White Dragon! Let’s go WHITE LIGTHNING ATTACK!

Do note that this review is from a very specific standpoint! There are plenty of reasons why this game could score much much lower. For what this is however, being a callback to the purest and classic Yu-gi-oh , with a retro feel to match I do very much stand by my view! What is your favourite Yu-Gi-Oh game?! Have you even played any?! I am considering buying Legacy of the Duelist for Switc and reviewing that for you was well. Want to see that happen than please consider supporting my Kofi page!


3 thoughts

    1. There were a few instalments of this series.. but it got complicated soon pretty fast with ban lists! It really stopped being easy beyond the world championship 2005 game IMO. But cool if you have it! It really is a game I loved so much! I had to revisit it !

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I still need to play the Switch Yugioh game too . I’ve literally never opened it , bought it on Black Friday and forgot about it . It does look pretty fun though and most of my friends liked it .

        Liked by 1 person

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