The concept of collectible card games (CCG) is nothing new, in fact you have probably heard of most of the heavy hitters such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and of course the granddaddy of them all Magic The Gathering. While most of these games all share similar traits there are a few intricacies that separate them such as their level of complexity.
When Upperdeck first entered the scene in 2004 with their VS. series it was extremely well received by fans of CCGs. Now Konami has teamed up with Upperdeck to deliver a portable interactive version of Marvel’s addictive trading card game, but does it translate well into the virtual space?
The biggest barrier to entry in a game like this is actually enjoying the real-life counterpart of playing these games. If you are not a fan of CCGs then this isn’t going to change your mind, but if you are this is a nice way to keep all your cards in one spot and be able to play anywhere at anytime. You can also duel with AI opponents which eliminates the need to find another player who has invested as much time and money as you.
The core concept revolves around attacking your opponent until all of his endurance points are diminished. Think of these as hit points in an RPG and you get the idea. For the PSP version Konami has even introduced a storyline that you follow throughout the game. It is even accompanied by still-art cut scenes that progress the story. While it isn’t the most engaging experience ever conceived it does do a nice job of breaking up the monotony.
Now for the confusing part, that is unless you actually play CCGs in real life. Each turn in the game is divided into four phases-draw phase, build phase, combat phase, and recovery phase. During the draw phase each player is allowed two cards from the deck while the build phase allows you to recruit, store resources, and prepare for battle by setting your formations.
This is where the combat phase and the bulk of the game take place. The idea is to stun or damage your opponent which is done by having an attack card that deals more damage than your adversary’s damage points. Deal enough damage and you will achieve what is known as “breakthrough damage” which will decrease your opponent’s overall endurance. Each player begins the game with 50 endurance points and the first to drop the other player to zero is declared the winner. The final phase is called recovery and it is pretty self-explanatory. During this time you are able to revive on character that is stunned.
Most of the strategy involved in these games comes from building your decks, and Konami has answered your prayers in this category. In addition to the thousands of cards available in the game itself you can also buy booster packs for the game through its WiFi connection for $2.50. If this sounds outrageous to you, and who knows maybe it should, than feel comforted in knowing that you have access to plenty of cards on the UMD, you just have to spend countless hours in the single-player to unlock them all.
If all of this sounds confusing to you, as well it should, then Konami has included a tutorial that will help you get your feet wet. The problem lies in the fact that honestly you will still have to dive head first into this to truly understand the concept. This is also marred by the fact that trying to squeeze that much info onto the tiny PSP screen causes hard to read text thus making it more confusing that it really has to be. However, if you can get past the tiny text and convoluted menus there is a deep and involving game just waiting to be untapped.
Once you have mastered one of the two single-player campaigns Marvel TCG also offers one of the most robust online modes ever available on the PSP. All the modes are included here – ad-hoc, LAN, and even infrastructure though it is only through the online mode that you can really dive into what makes Marvel a must-own for fans of CCGs. Through the online mode players have access to tournaments, exclusive cards, and even have the ability to trade cards with other players. Add this to the ability to buy new decks and you have a virtual economy that will continue to thrive if Konami continues to support it and players continue to embrace it.
Marvel Trading Card Game is a tough sell to those that are not into CCGs in the first place and it can even prove a harder sell to those that are. The poor visuals and hard to read text further alienate this game from users, but if you can manage to look past these shortcomings you will find a unique and truly engaging experience that is well worth your thirty bucks. While getting past the complex battle system and trying to understand the ins and outs of the game can prove confusing at first, the reward for mastering the game really pays off. Recommended for fans of the CCG and only the fans.