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Joseph Rositano
29 Sep, 2007

Marvel Trading Card Game Review

DS Review | Our Spidey-sense is tingling.
If you’ve ever been a collector of trading cards, you’ll agree that the hobby can become quite costly. Sure, it starts off with a simple starter deck to introduce you to the game, but before you know it you’ll find yourself surrounded by an endless number of booster packs. Perhaps this is why videogame adaptations have proved successful: once you purchase the game there is no ongoing cost and it’s far easier to obtain the rarer and more powerful cards. However, videogame adaptations aren’t necessarily a superior choice.

For those unfamiliar with the tabletop game, MTCG uses Upper Deck’s popular Vs. System. The Vs. System sees two players take turns attacking each other until one of them loses all their endurance points. As easy as it sounds, there are quite a lot of specifics that follow this basic formula. Firstly, there are four different card types: character, location, equipment and plot twists. Character cards are the most important cards in your deck as they are used to attack your opponent. However, in order to give them a distinct advantage you’ll likely need to utilise equipment and location cards. These cards give characters enhanced abilities which range from a general increase in attack and defence strength, to flight and attack range. The more strategic focus in the game comes from plot twist cards. Plot twists have a wide verity of uses and because you’re allowed to utilise multiple plot twists in a single turn, they can completely change the outcome of an attack. For example, if you were being attacked by a rival character that had a significant advantage, you could play a plot twist card to lower the their attack strength as well as another to increase your defence.

At the start of each turn you need to place a card in your resource row. The idea behind the resource row is that it gives you points which can be used to play character and equipment cards. Once you start a new turn, your resource points are automatically reset and the process starts over, allowing you to play progressively stronger character cards. Because of this, battles are drawn out and often last anywhere between 20-40 minutes each, depending on both players’ decks and skill levels. However, it also allows players to prepare strategies against their opponent because plot twist cards can actually be activated from the resource row. This keeps them safe from being discarded either accidentally, or due to an opponent’s influence.

  
Hit me.

Hit me.
Close
Once a character is placed on the field, there are also a number of tactics to consider. Firstly, you have to take into account their basic attack and defence strength when attacking an opposing character card. Secondly, there are two different field rows which the character can be placed on. These rows will affect the way the character can attack. If, for example, you placed the character in the back row, it will be unable to attack your opponent if there’s an ally in front of it unless it has flight ability and/or ranged attacks. Additionally, if there are multiple characters from the same affiliation on the field (eg. Spider-Friends, Brotherhood, etc), they can work together to team attack or defend one another.

Unfortunately, this leads to a few complaints. Firstly, the game rules are quite complex. Even though there are a handful of in-game tutorials, they aren’t entirely utilised efficiently as they’re basically just a big slab of text making the game less friendly towards a wider audience. Also, due to the size restrictions of the DS touch screen, the field layout feels cramped making it difficult to keep track of what’s going on. In order to combat this, the developers have designed the game to be played with the DS turned sideways like a book. When players tap a card on the touch screen, the top (or now left) screen gives a detailed view of the card so players can easily read the card’s text without leaving the action.

MTCG has quite an expansive range of gameplay modes. Arguably the most important mode is the game’s Story Mode, which is set across multiple Marvel franchises such as Spider-Man and X-Men. As you play through, you’ll unlock new booster packs that you can purchase to customise your deck, along with different character avatars and placemats. Additionally, there’s a Challenge Mode which pits you against one-off AI opponents and small puzzles which accompany tutorials. The small puzzles usually throw you into the middle of a battle where you have to achieve a certain goal within a single turn such as depleting your opponent’s endurance points by team attacking.

MTCG supports multi-card play for up to two players and features an online mode. Unfortunately, these modes only allow for head-to-head battles which is a shame given the PSP and PC versions allowed user-created tournaments as well as interoperability between each other. On the positive side of things though, it’s still fun to play with friends and the experience is as enjoyable as the single-player modes.

  
We never were that good at creating our own decks.

We never were that good at creating our own decks.
Close
Visually, MTCG isn’t the best looking game around. As mentioned, the field layout is cramped together making it difficult to keep track of what’s going on at times. It’s largely due to the game’s tendency to rely on flashing icons and colours to signify the beginning of a new phase but unfortunately, they just don’t stand out too well if you’re not completely focused. Thankfully, when you select a card on the touch screen a fairly detailed close-up of the card is displayed on the top screen. Sadly, its resolution isn’t as good as the tabletop version. The soundtrack isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it features some appropriate for the theme rock-style music. While there is a fair amount of aural variety, it all starts to sound the same after a while.

Overall, while Marvel Trading Card Game for the Nintendo DS does a reasonable job of recreating the real life game, the experience is slightly hampered by a cramped layout. The visuals and in-game audio aren't entirely impressive, and the game rules are a bit too in-depth to be enjoyable for a wide audience. But if you’re a fan of the tabletop game or Marvel Comics, the single-player and multiplayer modes could keep you entertained for quite a while.
The Score
If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics or the trading card game itself, then you’ll want to pick this title up. Others should keep in mind it takes a bit of patience to learn the basic rules.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 Comments
6 years ago
2nd opinion:

I picked this up some time ago and played story mode till completion, having previously played a few casual games with my brothers from a starter deck.

THE NEGATIVE

1) ITS NOT NEWBIE FRIENDLY - the tutorials are LONG text paragraphs, full of game jargon that confuse/bore you less then 1/2 way through.

2) DECK CONSTRUCTION is nowhere near as efficent as the YU-GI-OH DS drag and drop method. It has far fewer sorting options too.

3) The ICONS are small - and sometimes require a 2nd hit to confirm (rare but it happened)

4) Its far to easy to pass over and miss a turn phase in rushed clicking of the next button

Sound pretty bad?? Well thats about it for the negatives from me, and none of them are game-breaking, just interface issues.

POSITIVES
The game rules appear to be accurate - The AI is well balanced - Its WI-FI CCOMPATIBLE - Its a HELL of a lot cheaper then buying the real game (although 3 expansions behind as of now, and no DC decks, I'm really hoping for a sequal) - UNLIKE the PC version, all the cards from its contained sets are present (you have to buy boosters with CASH in the PC version, as they run $$ winning tournamanets and host servers which need funding from users) - FOR ME, the games structure does capture the feel of heros battling, with powers, fist-a-cuffs and arcobatics abounding and was simply good value.

Overall? The interface and newbie friendless could use some refinment - but after you get throgh the inital (steep) learning curve, value for money fun abounds - 8.5 /10
6 years ago
Oh, I might add, those screens shots a pre-release and vary abit from the final release.....
6 years ago
Unfortunetly, those were the only screens avaliable from gamespress. icon_sad.gif
6 years ago
I'm really impressed by the AI in this game, actually. I've seen what abortive attempts at M:tG AI look like and MTCG has done really well by comparison. Of course, it probably helps that the computer is always given straightforward (and powerful!) decks.

...There's a couple of holes, mind you. The AI doesn't know how to deal with rule-changing cards like Storm, Weather Witch (back-row enemy characters can't attack). They often don't use character special abilities that might otherwise win them the game. And they keep attacking into Bishop...

And yeah, the screenies look quite different from the final game. Plus it's probably worth mentioning in the comparison to the PC/PSP versions that you don't have to shell out real money for multiplayer cards in the DS version.
Quote
We never were that good at creating our own decks.
You will kneel before (my) Kang(s)! icon_lol.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  3/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $79.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Strategy
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  4

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