Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel Stories is the newly released Game Boy Color 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. 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 Pokémon 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. In Dark Duel Stories, you interact with the characters from this storyline, whom you directly compete with to achieve a higher rank in duelist society. The farther you go, the closer you get to a confrontation with the four Rulers of the Heavens, the keepers of the fabled Millennium Items.
Dark Duel Stories is more of a straightforward card battling game than Forbidden Memories, its PlayStation counterpart, with less of the story-driven feel, although it compensates for this with a few interesting twists on the gameplay. In this version, monster statistics are relatively static, not affected by cosmology, instead highly reliant on attribute modifiers in the form of magic spells and items. While you can still combine cards in the middle of a duel to form more powerful creatures, monster cards can be deconstructed into their component body parts in between battles and then mixed and matched to create more powerful entities. Beating the CPU opponents will not only give you a new card, but also add a new construction part to those you have available so that eventually you can make hundreds of different cards, each with different attributes, artwork, and flavor text. Continued successful play against human or CPU opponents will increase your duelist ranking, which in turn lets you access more powerful cards, which are available both from trading and through the game's password feature.
The graphics in Dark Duel Stories are composed mainly of animated portraits depicting the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe's popular characters, as well as a collection of fairly attractive re-creations of the physical card collection. Considering the Game Boy Color's limitations, Yu-Gi-Oh! does a good job of making its relatively simple interface and card images look as clean and easily recognizable as can be expected, although sometimes the color palettes used for some of the art can seem fairly drab. There are a handful of musical selections throughout the game, for both the Campaign's dialogue screens and during battles, and they hold up fairly well.
Dark Duel Stories is a much easier game to get acquainted with than Forbidden Memories, although once the card construction aspect is taken into consideration, it remains nearly as deep and satisfying for those who enjoy experimenting and number crunching. Dark Duel Stories comes recommended to avid enthusiasts of the Duel Monsters card game, as well as players who are interested in trying out a new card game with plenty of replay value.