Everybody's talking ‘bout the new kid in town - which, in the case of Konami's latest Yu-Gi-Oh! outing, is you. Dropped smack dab into the middle of the Duel Academy amidst of all the GX characters you love and hate - or maybe don't know jack about - you'll slowly but surely work your way up from the depths to the pinnacle of the dueling world. But be prepared to spend some quality time with your PSP, since making friends and influencing others isn't easy - or quick.
Tag Force is a decidedly lengthy and deep card battle tour de force. It simultaneously invites hardcore fans and series newcomers to the table, featuring an in-depth, step-by-step study in every aspect of card duels, set within the confines of your studies at the Academy. While longtime fans may find the pace a bit slow to start off, there are dozens of dueling options during the day when you're not stuck listening to the teachers' occasionally obnoxious lessons.
The story mode is broken up into three sections. Part 1 is a three-month exercise in going to school, finding a partner for the upcoming tournament, and working to establish a solid deck; Part 2 is the Tag Force Tournament itself; Part 3 follows the Shadow Riders storyline arc of the first season of the TV series. As you might expect, there are a seemingly limitless amount of duels in which to engage during your quest - so settle in and plan accordingly.
Starting off with the most simplistic of decks, you attend class, establish relationships, and duel everyone in sight in order to earn cash, cards, and levels, all to build up your stash. As the name implies, the other important aspect is finding a tag partner, which you'll need once you reach the big Tag Force tournament. Therein lies our biggest gripe - your tag team partners will make far too many questionable decisions with no override ability. Finding a good partner is the key to success - but figuring out just who that is may drive you to the brink of madness.
Dueling is, naturally, the heart of the game. Its presentation is impressive enough, although we could have done without the overwrought and unskippable cutscene animations each time your opponent draws, summons, or otherwise executes a move (thankfully, you're not forced to watch your custom character do the same). Yes, they're short, but when in the middle of a 30 minute or longer duel, they quickly become tiresome.
While there's no internet-based online multiplayer (although ad-hoc is supported), Konami is promising the ability to download cards and recipes. There aren't any available as of yet, but when they arrive they'll certainly be of interest to completists and collectors everywhere.
Sporting an immense amount of notoriously addictive card wars, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Tag Force is a no-brainer for fans and a decent introduction for the curious. You could easily sink weeks into the game and still come nowhere near unlocking all of the goodies that are available. So get out your decks, prepare your strategy, and summon your monsters - it's time to get your game on.