Forbidden Memories is the newly released PlayStation adaptation of Kazuki Takahashi's popular Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, whose roots lie in manga and the extremely popular animated series of the same name. In the tradition of other card-game-to-video-game translations, Forbidden Memories features a relatively smooth card battling and deck building interface, which, in combination with the animated 3D battles, should appeal to fans of the series. Players who are new to Yu-Gi-Oh! should be prepared for quite a bit of work, however, to get the most out of this game.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is the story of Yugi, a typical spiky-haired youth who loves to play the hottest new game on the block, Duel Monsters. In what at first seems like a blend of the popular PokÃ©mon and Magic: The Gathering card games, Duel Monsters pits two players against one another, armed with cards that depict fantastic creatures and powerful magic. What makes Duel Monsters so unique is that it's based on the Shadow Game--a mystic ritual involving actual monsters and spells that was performed in ancient Egypt 5,000 years ago. Thus is it revealed that Duel Monsters is more than just a simple card game, and so unfolds the story of Yugi, the heir to the pharaohs' dynasty.
The game's branching storyline is told in a series of scrolling-text dialogue boxes that are accompanied by artwork that will look familiar to anyone who has seen the animated series. The characters feature clean, strong lines, and the artwork is generally well done. The game's battles take place on a tiled playing field set on a black background--a no-frills surface that allows for a fast-paced game. When two cards do battle, you have the option of watching the action proceed in 3D, where the cards' depicted artwork is rendered in fully polygonal and animated fashion. The two creatures don't fight each other, however--one is simply the target of the superior card's aggression.
Accompanying the storyline and card game are a handful of melodies that provide a pleasant background, as well as a few tension-inducing tracks that provide much-needed emphasis for some of the story sequences. Aside from a handful of background songs, the game is rather silent, with very little in the way of additional sound effects. While nothing is truly astounding about the game's visual or audio features, they convey the subject matter adequately and allow you to concentrate on the game.
The majority of your time with Forbidden Memories will be spent playing the Duel Monsters card game with a variety of CPU-controlled opponents. The game is played between two players utilizing a pair of 40-card decks. Each deck is filled with cards that represent creatures, items, spells, and powers. These cards are played on the aforementioned dueling field, where two ranks of five spaces are allocated to each player, allowing for five monsters and five spells apiece. Each player takes turns drawing a hand of five cards and playing one or more creature cards or spells cards at once. Playing a single card per turn is allowed, but at least initially, the strongest attacks and defenses are fusions of two or more cards. When two compatible cards are played at once, they fuse to form a third, often stronger, card that fills a single slot on the field. Magic cards can also be combined to produce an exceptionally strong spell. Both players use their creature cards to attack, supplementing them with magic and other cards, in the hopes of exhausting the opponent's life bar or supply of cards, both of which result in defeat.