The year in review will come later. Let's talk dinosaurs for a second.
I've always been a fan of dinosaurs and other ancient animals. Jurassic Park, the dino 'fad' that came with it, and living near Sue (the world's most complete T. Rex skeleton) all made sure of that. I was more than eager to check out two series, Dinosaur King and Fossil Fighters, because of this lifelong interest.
Yes, they are both pretty much Pokemon with dinosaurs. Yes, they are also both intended for young boys, which I am not. Screw that - there is no age limit for enjoying the idea of prehistoric beasts beating the crap out of each other!
That said, after picking up a couple of DK packs at Target one day, I decided to check out the game online. The rulebook made me dizzy. Sure, it'll sell regardless because it has dinosaurs, but I could never see this game becoming competitive; between turn counters, elemental types, and rock-paper-scissors, it's just a tiny bit complex. I can see what they were trying to do, but I bet it doesn't hold a candle to the Japanese card game. You know, the one that works with the Sega system...
...way to hold out integrated technology on us. Again. Does every card game that ties into a video game have to get horribly gimped when it comes over here? When will America learn that Japanese tech alone will sell? (Or vice-versa?)
So why, do you ask, am I pushing Fossil Fighters over DK? One thing is the cartoony aesthetic; instead of having CGI-realistic dinosaurs, the FF dinosaurs look like they would be easily animated. They also have truly wicked paint jobs- Krona has an especially creative one if you like wordplay. It would be easy to animate them via cell shading, even though the video game uses CGI.
It'd also be very easy to turn into a card game. Take a leaf out of Pokemon's book using Prize Cards and a sole attacker; pay using FP, represented by counters. Keep it simple - FF only has 5 elements which are all balanced by a straightforward, understandable system.
There's just one thing I would add: Collectible medals! Seriously, I'd love to wear a Shanshan around my neck. Insert them in the card packs for kicks. Ratios could be 1:1 for normal medals, 1:3 for parallel Lv12 (gold) medals, and 1:9 for Ignosaurus, Frigisaurus, the aliens, and the bosses. Hell, you could make a game scanning barcodes on the backs of the tags...arcade dinosaur fights FTW?
Once, on the Janime boards, there was a discussion concerning what made YGO different from other monster-battling franchises. One poster replied that YGO did not have "that CoroCoro feel."
This made sense to me, even back then, but it often comes up in arguments against YGO being placed alongside Pokémon. It should probably be addressed in detail here, if only so that the issue can be resolved once and for all.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese comic standards, CoroCoro is a kodomo ("children's") serial comic book publication. Two of its most notable titles are Doraemon (not a Digimon) and Pokémon. (Duel Masters is also a CoroCoro property.) In this case, the 'CoroCoro feel' applies to many other series, even if they are not serialized in CoroCoro. The "feel" comes from status as a kodomo series.
So, apparently what makes YGO stand out is that it appeals to the more mature shounen demographic- boys of ages 10-18. Shounen manga is known for high-action scenes, funny plots, and a focus on teamwork. Fanservice is not a necessity, but common (and can be seen in some kodomo series as well). Shounen Jump and pretty much anything else with "Jump" in the name appeals to this demographic.
Besides YGO, several other card games are technically shounen. Digimon, as many people know, was intended for an older demographic than Pokémon. Insofar as I can tell (after looking up stuff on Sgt. Frog- don't ask), Battle Spirits is also shounen. You could have fooled us with the animé, which looks a LOT like Duel Masters. Naruto is from the exact same manga publication as YGO; if the issue is with CoroCoro, the fact that DBZ with ninjas also has a card game makes the argument about YGO being a unique shounen series moot.
There is nothing really special about YGO being a shounen card game as opposed to a kodomo one. Hell, Japan has a few card games with an even higher maturity level.
What's the difference, then?
4Kids is treating a shounen series like a kodomo one - not cool! There have been plenty of other card games in this demographic, but many have flopped over here in the States. Because it was effectively a wolf in sheep's clothing, not only did it get censored like crazy, it managed to slip under the "all (Japanese) card games are for children" radar. Of course it has a different feel than Pokémon; it's not supposed to be Pokémon at all. It's supposed to be a watered-down version of M:tG.
The wolf called YGO was de-clawed, had its teeth filed down, and now has to eat grass like a sheep as well as dressing as one. Yes, this does mean that YGO is officially a children's card game. It is handled by 4Kids. The name alone should tell you that its intended audience is children.
Is it a 'children's card game' in Japan? Not really. Everywhere that has the mark of 4Kids? Congrats. You got a grass-eating wolf. If you can pick it out from the flock of sheep, good for you, but there is nothing that will change it now.
I was discussing this with a few friends over the internet, but it probably deserves its own topic here. After all, the Pokémon video games have an impact on the card sets.
So far, the Pokémon games have been all the same at their core: Pick up your starter, catch more monsters, earn badges, stop an evil organization from taking over the world, defeat the Elite Four...pretty much end of game. Not much has changed, and it gets old after a while.
Mind, Nintendo has tried to make the villains a bit more villainous...but they still wind up failing epically. No, really; they tried to capture creatures described in ancient legends, overestimated themselves, and ultimately failed to catch said epic creatures. Thus, "epic fail."
They were on the right track, but given the fail and occasional need for questionable improvisation between versions (making a volcano erupt -> habitat for Water Pokémon?) , it still isn't that different. What they need is something new, preferably with more play value.
Or something old redone to the point of awesomeness.
What if the main antagonist of a Pokémon game wasn't an evil team, but a sentient Pokémon created by an evil team? Yes, I'm talking about Mewtwo, and yes, I think he would make a great antagonist for the next remake of Pokémon R/G.
The game would start out the same way it always has: You play as a rookie trainer in Pallet Town, battling trainers and clawing your way up to the Pokémon League. The first subtle differences would be random appearances of Mew - catchable in this game, just not at the first encounter - and hints of Mewtwo's creation coming from some of the Silph Co. scientists. Mewtwo, at a lower level (53?), would also appear in Giovanni's arsenal in his armored form. An insert of Blue/Gary scared shitless of Mewtwo like he was in the animé would also be sweet, but might mess with the game's continuity. Mewtwo could still fly out of the Gym after Giovanni's defeat.
Fast forward to post-Elite 4 game. A random "bounty trainer" with decently strong Pokémon around your level challenges you and briefly mentions "that monster" and "Pewter City" after his defeat. Revive a fossil in the lab; one of the scientists talks about the diaries in Cinnabar Mansion. Read them. Find a tattered page in an area that was formerly blocked off.
Several more scientists and bounty hunters later, it becomes obvious that something is up. The last few have had their Pokémon go crazy. You investigate the problem, listening to any trainer who might know ANYTHING about this...
...until you catch up to Mewtwo, who (as in the movie) has made himself a palace on New Island (if Nintendo can create 7 islands in FR/LG, they can do that). He has been expecting you, but you're a little too late. A wave (not an expert on this subject...) from a radio tower gives all Pokémon the urge to turn on their handlers, and his chamber is the only place where it isn't currently active. His armor gives him super strength; though only at Lv. 70, he's a lot tougher, and you cannot catch him yet. After defeating him and disarming the wave, he meditates on his loss in Cerulean Cave.
With his badass armor as a hold item.
Love it? Hate it? Think I should shut up? Lemme know!
A while back, Janime (a famous YGO site) posted something wrong that I wasn't pushy enough to correct, but was detectable immediately. I was only in my early teens when I got into YGO, so if my BS radar was going off then, it was flaring like CRAZY when I posted the correct stuff on my own site.
The issue was this: There are two anime-only cards in YGO called "Phoenix (Houou) Formation" and "Suzaku (Sparrow) Formation." The site was telling us that Houou and Suzaku were opposite sex members of the same species.
I must have LOL'd so hard that I didn't even bother correcting them. There are SO many things wrong with that. I see where they were coming from - the Houou card is aggressive while Suzaku is defensive - but the two are different species. Houou is the mythical bird representing feminine power and marital harmony; Suzaku is the crimson bird that rules the southern quadrant of the sky and the element of fire.
To demonstrate how silly it is to mix them up: Imagine if every white tiger got confused with Byakko, another mythical guardian beast. I would need to see evidence telling me otherwise about Suzaku; Digimon and Matsuri Akino (Pet Shop of Horrors) both mark it as a distinctly different creature from the houou.
I like 4Kids's way of dealing with the problem. Despite looking just as peacock-like as the houou, the two are considered different creatures (like the pixiu and qilin are), and Suzaku's original kanji do indeed translate to "Vermilion Sparrow."
So, why am I bringing this up now?
Chinese creatures often have a way of telling the females from the males. In the case of houou/fenghuang, although both sexes are assimilated into the name, it is possible to tell whether one is looking at a male or female bird by counting their tailfeathers; males have an odd number, while females have even. That means that, yes, Skyress from Bakugan is indeed female. ^_^
Another easily-sexable animal is the Chinese lion/shishi/shisa. The surefire sign is that the female has a cub under her paw while the male has a sphere. People are impressed when I can ID which lion's which. Now you can, too!
"My people worked themselves into extinction converting our planet into a navigable space vessel, using similar technology tested and proven on another, nearby planet."
"Why would you do all that?"
"Because it's cool."
Mmhmm. It's also cool to make good cards rare enough to be impossible for your average player to get.
I like shiny things. You like shiny things. So what's wrong with having a lot of shiny things in a children's card game?
It's possible to have too much of a good thing.
YGO is a prime example of this. All too often, its rarest cards are, well, junk. Shiny junk, but still junk. Other times, they are so critical to decks that they reach 50 dollars + upon release.
Do I even need to explain why this sucks?
Other card games do this right. The X Rares in Battle Spirits, for instance, are well-worth their rarities without being too broken. The same goes for the LvX cards in Pokemon. In addition, the chase cards in Pokemon, while not complete junk, are mostly fun, like the 2000 Movie Promo reprints.
Something shiny and rare should be decent to play with. Not broken, but not crappy, either. Making staples super-special-shiny just to juice profits does not help the metagame - it creates an insane gap between the rich and poor players.
The Japanese sets have the right idea. The Secret Rares were usable; the Parallel Rare and Ultimate chase cards were cool. No insane rarities, pretty much rational. Save the super shiny foil for collector's items, not cards that will make or break games.
Bear this in mind when designing your own card games, K? ^_^
I like dragons. It's an interest that gamers tend to have. However, the emphasis on dragons in YGO has always bugged me; almost every theme seems to have one, and today, my suspicions that Konami was very highly dragon-centric were confirmed in the most vomit-inducing way possible.
They messed with Rainbow Dragon.
This just took my favorite dragon in the game and made it look like a pile of shit. I realize that they were probably basing off of that drawing of the Piasa bird, but EW. Even the Piasa would have looked more awesome than Sin Rainbow Dragon. Just...ugh.
One of the things that I really liked about Rainbow Dragon was that it had feathery wings. (Another thing was that it was an amphiptere, Quetzalcoatl, divine serpent...whatever ya wanna call it.)
Seriously, Rainbow Dark and Chthonian Emperor Dragon were not enough? How shilly can you get, Konami?
Moreover, it looks like all 10 of these cards are gonna be freakin' dragons. BIASED MUCH? Where the hell's a GRYPHON? I realize that it's their sandbox and they can do what they want in it, but they are pushing it by making all the Sin cards dragons. There have been only one or two unicorns, and a sprinkling of other fantasy creatures, but dragons seriously overwhelm the fantastic animal population.
For instance, there is not a single gryphon.
We have been waiting for a Gryphon for over ten years. The Winged Dragon of Ra looks like a gryphon on its tablet. "Gryphon Wing" and " Gryphon's Feather Duster" both hint that, somewhere, there must be an effing gryphon. Gallis does not count; close, but no cigar (note: its name implies that it should actually be chicken-like, of all things...O.o). How hard is it to pull a P.T. Barnum and stitch a lion and an eagle together? Hell, they've already done it on the cards mentioned before; draw that creature again and make it an actual monster. It demands life.
I seriously wonder why the hell I even bother blogging Konami's latest craptacular dragon cards. Somebody wake me when they start making cards like the ones from SOD-FET.
So, besides the mind-scarring bath products, I found something else interesting and Bakugan-related: Collectible dog tags.
I love dog tags. I love the chains that come with them. The clasps aren't super-fragile (like some jewelery latches are), and you can put all sorts of cool things on the tags. They also don't look particularly girly, despite the fact that they are indeed necklaces.
This is certainly not the first time I have invested in such dog tags. Somewhere, floating around in the mire of chaos called my bedroom, there is a Megatron tag and trading card. There is also a Birdramon tag that I need to re-find. Point is, they're cool, so I was excited to see trading packs with Bakugan characters. ^_^
I got a pack...and pulled a "Luminous" (i.e. glitter finish) Preyas tag + a bunch of Dragonoid stickers. Not bad, but I dunno...it feels like they could have done something besides glitter. Glow-in-the-dark tags would have been AWESOME. It's also kinda weird that the trading card didn't match the tag, but I suppose that was done for variety's sake. More randomness = more cash.
Also, for some reason, they left out Runo and Julie's monsters entirely. Is something NOT cool about tigers and golems, or do I detect a hint of sexism? Hrrrrmmm...
On a side note, someone needs to use this tag + trading card strategy to promote Claymore...C'mon, SJ. You know you want in on this. These things are made extra cheaply in China. XP
No, I did not mistype anything: Bakugan now has bath sponges, body wash, bath bombs (at least, I think that's what they were), shampoo, toothbrush holders, sponges...etc. No, I was not on drugs. I was at Wal-Mart.
To demonstrate how easy it is to break even in Pokemon, I went out and got an Arceus tin today. I will also be blogging my YGO-playing brother's pulls; there is a VERY slim chance that he will come close to breaking even.
Those of you who talk to me often know that I love "Battle Spirits." Though it was made by an American (a guy who also worked on M:tG, Avatar, and Duel Masters, if memory serves) it has enjoyed quite a bit of love in Japan. The cards are well-designed in a number of regards; the game seems like it would be a fun and fast thing to do before Anime Club meetings. I am watching this game like a hawk because it inspires me. It makes me go, "hey, I could do that."
The same cannot be said for the anime. Oh, the poor anime. I realize that it is helping to sell cards, but good Goddess Shrub-Niggurath...there is a reason that nobody is subbing it.
Not the first time I've watched this, but thoughts...
~The monsters look awesome. That's about all that does. I'm not 100% against blending CGI and traditional animation, but in this case, it kinda clashes. It worked in Kara no Kyoukai; it does not work here.
~Why do the cards somehow...vanish in a non-magical tournament? ~Another art clash: I would have expected the character designs to be more...elegant. The cards (and the tournament setting, for that matter) have a classy, almost gothic feel; the rest of the anime is very much CoroCoro-style.
~The mouse is adorable. I don't know exactly what's going on with it, but it's adorable.
~That is a DAMN NICE PARKING GARAGE. I'm not sure whether to love it because it's got an awesome car elevator or hate it for being a bit unrealistic, but DAYUMN. It makes Chicago garages look like crap!
~So the mouse can't go to school, but J gets to carry his cat around like a Bond villain. OK.
~Does every kid have a shiny gem animal? I want a shiny gem animal...
~"Meganeko?" Is that her name, or is Bashin just calling her "glasses girl?"
~Is Bashin supposed to be...'special?'
~What does soccer have to do with anything, and how much hair gel is that guy using? OK, I get that he's a famous soccer player, but...that hair will haunt my nightmares as much as (some) futanari does. X.x
~The lines look...too thick. Sunrise, are you trying to copy Toei, there?
~Oh, VERY subtle tweak to the 'Spirit' mark on Mr. Soccer Player's back. I see what you did there.
~Those cards in the back of the BS Center look an awful lot like YGO cards...I should not even need to explain what is wrong with that.
~Wellllll, now that I look, J's cat could be a Digimon...
~Oh, wait, no. It meows to start a painfully long arena construction sequence.
~It looked like a Purple People-Eater to me...
~The monsters themselves actually look pretty cool. I dig the texture on Eyeburn.
~I'm not sure whether the turn skips are a good thing or a bad thing. If I recall, this game is supposed to be pretty fast...
~Gowsilvia is a very cool card. I'm not just saying that because it's a mechanical kirin-dog. XP
~What's with the pop singer? I know she's singing about living and a new world, but...holy crap, is this going to be like Canaan?
~It's sponsored by McDonald's. I'm scared.
And now, the final verdict...supported by YT comments:
"I play Battle Spirits and don't pay attention to this movie, Battle Spirits is the only game that has impressed me enough to buy it and I was NOT dissappointed, I recommend this to you"
"When will the day come when a trading card game is so big the Staples Center is sold out and NBC broadcasts the finals live? Screw Wimbledon, I want to watch Battle Spirits. LOL"
Fun game, lame anime. We mean it. BUY THE GAME. Also, I need a 'sensei' to teach me how to play it; my area SUCKS for games. I've already ranted about my local game store; I may, however, take a couple of decks there and see if anyone is interested.
I finally remembered exactly WHY I hate buying YGO packs: It's nearly impossible for one to break even.
What do I mean? Well, when I get a Pokemon 3-pack, the cards I pull (as well as, often, the promo card) allow me to pay for the pack, if not make a small profit from it. This is because Pokemon has great character value; sticking in a Darkrai, Dialga, Cresselia (the new Arceus one is GORGEOUS) as a guaranteed promo sells very well on both the first and secondary markets, and depending on your pack luck, it's possible for one to earn back what one paid for. If nothing else, the promos and collector coins will retain their value; besides making one's own deck, one can customize their Pokemon game rather easily with mats, sleeves, etc.
YGO doesn't have that level of character value going for it. Or, well, maybe it does, but Konami certainly isn't utilizing it to its fullest potential. The promo Il Blud from my Crossroads of Chaos 3-pack doesn't sell as nearly as well as the Cresselia could (sorry, I'm keeping the Cress), despite its playability. This has been a consistent problem with Konami for as long as I can remember.
There is no doubt a way that they could make things like this pay for themselves. You could always stick in something like Crush Card Virus, a card that was withheld from places besides Japan for over 5 years. Do not BS me with "that card is broken and should not have been released anyways;" you do not have enough character value to make your customers break even from your product.
Trust me, Konami, you want to do this. A happy player base = more money for you. Letting the customer win now and then (meaning on a roughly 50-50 basis) makes them want to buy your cards.
Your resident lover of weird creatures, foods, etc. Likes going outside and looking for faeries in whatever form they choose to take. Is fascinated by parasites, worms, snakes, and anything with wings.