Yu-Gi-Oh Starter Set Review

Yu-Gi-Oh Starter Set Review

Our review focuses on the materials and items you recieve in the set. If you are a parent and have questions about game content, age appropriateness, impact on your child, etc, please visit our The Parents Guide to Yu-Gi-Oh.

Note / Advance Warning : Our review focuses on the packaging, instructions, materials, durability and construction of the game rather than if it is fun or not.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Portal
Gary Polson
23 Nov. 2002
Copyright © Polson Enterprises 2002

The Ordering & Receiving Experience

For a test, we ordered a one of each starter sets from Amazon on Monday morning Nov. 18, 2002 and had them shipped to a home in Stillwater OK by UPS ground freight. Amazon confirmed our order by email and provided an estimated shipping date (November 21, 2002) and an estimated delivery date (November 26, 2002 - December 2, 2002). They arrived as one package Wednesday afternoon Nov. 20th.

The 9 X 12 X 4.5 inch box arrived in perfect condition and very well packed with some packing paper and several inflatable cushions. In addition to the starter sets in contained a few discount coupons including one with a code to purchase Norton System Works 2003 for $9.95 after rebates and other offers. Too bad the same UPS truck brought me that software package the same day from an order I placed with Norton for considerably more.

The box included a one page shipping sheet with my Order ID number and instructions for returns. My total cost was $28.45 ($11.99 per deck plus $4.50 Shipping & Handling). My shipment came from an Amazon warehouse in Coffeyville KS (about 150 miles away as the crow flies).

On the Invoice both card decks have this text behind them in parenthesis "(Toysyus.com LLC item sold by Amazon.com Kids, Inc.)" I am guessing that means they came through Amazon's association with Toys R Us and the Kids, Inc. reference implies a possible tie to 4Kids Entertainment, the licensee for Yu-Gi-Oh.

Overall, the ordering and receiving experience was Excellent as it almost always is with Amazon. I have personally ordered dozens of items from them and never had a problem.

Deck Packaging

The decks themselves come in boxes that are about 3 5/8 in. wide X 5 in. tall X 1 1/4 in. thick. I suspect the actual dimensions are metric. The deck box then has a "hang tag" that extends about 1 inch higher and has a slot across it to allow easy hanging on store displays. The "hang tag" also has a bright white and red Konami logo along the left edge.

Each pack has a colorful design on the front (Yugio Deck features Yugi and Kaiba Deck features Kaiba) and a small "cut out" to allow you to see part of the top card (a foil card), making it a pleasing appearance both in the store or when opening as a gift. The back of the box has a paragraph explaining the game and a list of contents.

"Starter Deck Content:
2 Decks to Collect - Yugi Deck and Kaiba Deck
Each one-player Deck contains 47 common cards, 3 Foil cards, 1 Rule Book and 1 Game Mat"

A bunch of fine print on the bottom of the box concerning the exact cards in the box, trademarks and licenses is mostly covered up by a large white UPC label that looks specific to Amazon, because the box itself appears to imprinted with a smaller UPC label beneath it.

The deck box itself is sealed on each side with a seal to indicate if the box has been opened before (tampered with). All the seals were intact.

Once opened, the contents are nested in a plastic carrier inside the box. It is not really made to carry the items, but keeps them in place inside the box and helps the integrity of the packaging. The cards go in the "bucket" side of the plastic and a recess on the other side holds the instruction manual.

Later, after I used the deck a few times and stored it back in the deck box, I rapidly noticed the plastic bucket type holder that was inside the original deck box no longer holds the cards very well. It held them very nicely when they were still plastic shrink wrapped, but now every time I pull it out, there are a few cards left in the box or spilled on the floor. Plus a few cards seem to want to stick to the bottom of it. I think I have all the cards, but whoops one is still one stuck in the rubber bucket. Most kids are probably going to toss the plastic piece anyway and just dump the cards in the box or rubber band them. Seems like something might have been done pretty economically to make the deck box a little more convenient place for storing the cards after you begin to use them. However, it might be pretty hard to imagine the pressure the designers were under when the decision was made to get the decks to the U.S. in a hurry. Things were probably pretty intense (maybe even more intense that some of these monster fights). Looks like they certainly did a good job, but I hope they "come back" to the packaging at some time and try to do a little better job. Right now, they are focused on rolling out in many other countries, so will probably be while before they get back to us.

Game Mat

When I opened the deck box, my eyes first turn to the Game Mat. Its pretty weak. Just a piece of paper imprinted on one side that unfolds to about 9 1/8 by 20 1/4 inches. It is imprinted with the proper position of the cards on the field. One mat is used by each player. In real life, few players use the mat once they learn the positions. They just lay the cards down. I recall seeing several green felt mats that roll up for use with some card cames. Something like that would be much nicer, but also add to the cost, including shipping cost as it would be bigger), plus they would take up a lot of room in the store. Maybe room for a third party "add on" here. It seems like the real loss here is their lack of using the other side. It could have easily been imprinted with some story, tale or lore surrounding the game, some images, or other materials. It would have still fit in the box and made the game a bit niftier for almost not cost except the graphics and color printing which amortize to about a fraction of a cent over a zillion copies.

A Quick Look at the Cards

I flipped through the cards. Each deck has the three "Foil Cards" as promised. "Foil Cards" are just like normal cards except parts of the artwork is printed on a reflective foil and they look really nice.

The first thing I notice is "this is a young mans game". Even with my glasses I have serious difficulty reading the "description" section of the card. The description area is below the large graphic of the monster or other character. I had to break out my magnifying glass. The font is very small and thin. Looks like there is plenty of room for a "large print" edition for us old folks. If the person who is going to be playing the game struggles to read:

this sentence on a 17 inch monitor with whatever sort of glasses they use from a couple feet away they use I would suggest forgetting buying this game with the intent to play it
Those with some vision problems, may still find the character images interesting and collectible, but playing the game would be difficult unless they want to memorize the descriptions. Memorizing many of the descriptions would be relatively easy, but several of them contain numbers (add so many points to or subtract them from a monster or other card or a life score). Those would be tougher to remember, especially if the card belonged to an opponent and you had not seen it before.

Instruction Manual & Instructions

The instruction manual is very well done. The graphics are excellent and explanations are very plain. Although some (including us) point out it is 35 pages long, the pages are pretty small (about 3 1/4 by 4 5/8 inches) and include many graphics.

I was a bit disappointed in the "soft sell" in the manual. It talks about several card types that are not yet out and card types not represented in the Starter Deck. Makes me feel like I need to run out and buy them now or when they come out. I am already thirsting for them because they sound neater than my cards and I have not even used my cards yet. Those card types include: Fusion Cards, Ritual Monster Cards, Counter Trap Cards and Monster Tokens (actually tokens, not cards).

The manual points out the possibility of creating a "Side Deck" from which you can use to modify your strategy between duels in a match. However you must have 15 cards in a "Side Deck". Kind of inconvenient the Starter Deck comes with 50 cards (40 for a playing deck and only 10 left over). I have to run out and buy 5 more cards to have a "Side Deck". Somehow I am not gullible enough to believe things just "happened" that way. It is obvious the "Side Deck" rules and Starter Deck size were made to encourage me to buy more cards soon. I don't like that!

However, the Instruction manual is incredibly well done. They did a wonderful job with it. The small page size makes it fit easy in children and teens hands. It is very colorful and well illustrated. It even has three blank pages in the back to make notes in. The only thing I would change is I would put a blank line on the inside cover and encourage the kids to write their name there so when they lose it they have a bigger chance of getting it back.

In the U.S. the cards come from Upper Deck. Their web site does have a many of the instructions on it, but web site version is much more difficult to follow and understand than the manual that comes with the Starter Decks. I think they missed out by not putting a copy of the manual online in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format. We have worked with virtual pets for over six years and think there must only be a couple kids in America that still have their original instructions. Many of those firms provide them online. For example see several of the robotic pets on our Virtual Pet Instructions Page. Yu-Gi-Oh needs to do the same!

Back to the Cards

Once you drop a few cards and start putting them back in the deck you figure out these are not like everyday "playing cards / face cards" where each card does not have a right side up or upside down (cards are double imaged). Yu-Gi-Oh cards have a "right side up" to get all the monsters and other characters "right side up". When the deck is face down, if you sort them till the small white "Konami" printed on one corner of each card is in the top left corner of all the cards, then the deck is "right side up".

Similarly, each card has a small piece of what looks like shiny foil in the lower right hand corner. If you have the cards face up, you can sort of thumb through them to make sure that bright spot is in the lower right corner of each card to make sure the cards are face up. It does seem a bit odd they picked that corner vs. the top left corner. When we spread out a deck in our hands like we were playing a normal card game we can normally see the top left corner of each card. Perhaps this is a point that escaped them in translating the game or maybe there is some other issue I do not understand.

I suspect the bright piece of foil I mentioned above might actually be mark to aid in the spotting of counterfeit cards? On closer inspection, it appears to be a small holograph. I rapidly looked at several of them and seem to possibly be unique to each specific card. Just like U.S. money now has several anti-counterfeiting features that are hard to duplicate, this small piece of foil is probably for the same purpose. It would make it difficult for me to just scan some cards and print them off on cardstock as real. The foil would be difficult for individuals to copy, without destroying an existing card.

Each card also bears an eight digit number in the extreme lower left corner. I understand these were one time used to enter the card into a game console so it knew which cards you really had.

The cards very by deck (the exact one they shipped you), but some cards are in each Yugi or Kaiba Deck. For instance Yugi has Blue-Eyes White Dragon (the strongest monster).

My particular Yugi Deck included Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Lord of the D and The Flute of Summoning Dragon as "Foil Cards". My other cards included: Hane-Hane, Dark Assailant, Judge Man, Ookazi, D. Human, Trap Hole, Just Desserts, La Ginn The Mystical Genie of the Lamp, Sogen, Uraby, Terra the Terrible, Mysterious Puppeteer, Castle Walls, Destroyer Golem, Rogue Doll, Dark Hole, Mystic Clown, Mystic Horseman, Battle Ox, Reinforcements, Swordstalker, Ancient Telescope, and many more. I liked the well thought out cards, like Ancient Telescope which allows you to see the top 5 cards of your opponents deck and they must return them in the same order (is like a telescope and you see what is getting closer).

I am sure it is part of the whole image of the cards, but many of the graphics are relatively dark. They are trying to indicate sinister mean evil monsters (unless they are on your side). Most of the graphics have a few bright spots on a generally dark background. I would have brightened up the backgrounds a bit. Under magnification, even the darker images like Swordstalker and Kojikocy show considerable detail The images are really nice and would be easier to see them and their detail if they were a bit brighter.

In the extreme lower right corner each card has 1996 copyright mark assigned to Kazuki Takahashi.

The reverse of all the cards is sort of a light brown whirlpool effect. In addition to having Konami in white print in the top left corner, a "toned down" Yu-Gi-Oh logo is in the lower right corner with the text "Trading Card Game" beneath it in a very small font.

Card Construction

The cards themselves feel a bit "flimbsy" compared to normal playing cards. They are a "bit" smaller. If you lay one of them on top of a normal playing card you "see" about 3/32 inch of white all the way around the card. This is the standard size for trading cards, trading cards are just smaller than playing cards. Yu-Gi-Oh cards are actually a little thicker than playing cards (at least the playing cards I had). I compared them with a deck of Gemaco Traditional Series Playing Cards. This deck is a used deck from a casino I picked up at a trade show. They are pretty high quality playing cards. I measured the thickness of 10 Gemaco Playing Cards with a vernier caliper as .112 inches while 10 Yu-Gi-Oh cards (no foil cards included) .128 inches, making them about 14 percent thicker. But the Yu-Gi-Oh cards are cut from what "feels" like much less expensive stock.

Yu-Gi-Oh cards feel like they were cut out of the top of a cardboard box of the nature of the ones that hold jig-saw puzzles, actually they feel a bit thinner than that. The Gemaco cards feel like they are some sort of "coated stock", especially on the "face up" side of the card, while the Yu-Gi-Oh cards feel like "cheap cardboard". The deck of playing cards is much slicker on the face side, allowing them to slide across a table when dealt. Yu-Gi-Oh cards are not required to slide in normal use.

If you hold a single Gemaco playing card in you hand and begin to flex it in a horseshoe shape along either axis (bending a flat card into cupping shape), it flexes pretty good. You can bend it quite a ways and it springs back into shape. That is not true of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Their "cardboard like" construction takes a permanent crease and the card remains bent.

The corners of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards are cut slightly rounded. They round slightly further very early in their use. Overall Yu-Gi-Oh definitely feel less sturdy than the Gemaco playing card deck. They also "feel" like the surface will not wear as well. I anticipate some hard play with kids would be much rougher on them than similar play with playing cards.

When I tried scanning a few of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards I found them very hard to physically "pick up" off the smooth glass of my scanner. I tried one of my playing cards and it was much easier. When you scoot a playing card to the edge of the scanner and press against it from the edge, the card bows up a bit and is easier to pickup. The stiffer Yu-Gi-Oh cards do not do that. This finding might have some implication to those playing the game on a glass table top. They may find it difficult to pickup the cards.

I am not trying to paint the picture that Yu-Gi-Oh cards are made of junk. They are built of similar materials and construction as most other trading cards. It just seems like when we pay such a premium for cards like these on a per card basis, they could all use a little better materials. These seem like the same (maybe even a bit thinner) materials used in baseball cards long, long ago.

The cards are nicely colored by type (yellow for monster cards, green for magic cards, violet/purple for trap cards, brown for monster effect cards. The character images were very striking and well done. I liked the names of the cards and the good job they did of indicating the special characteristics of the card. The symbol in the top right of the card for its attribute (earth, water, fire, wind, light dark) is a Japanese character. I can read a little Japanese, but seems kind of odd they did not replace it when they "translated" the game to English for the American market.

Card Content & Images Examined for Improper Content

I saw absolutely nothing on the cards that would raise any sort of moral, nudity, sexual or other improper issues on the cards with my family (and I am a prude). They look fit for all comers in that respect. I do understand the Japanese version of the game has some problems in that respect, but the game was "sanitized" for the American audience. A few of the cards certainly conjour up some violent actions, like Rude Kaiser, a beast warrior, "with an ax in each hand, this monster delivers heavy damage." A few parents might find that a bit unsettling, or even the use of Kaiser in its name. I found absolutely nothing objectionable in the images. I think very few parents would have any issues with the cards in terms of content or images, much fewer than would have problems with some of the other trading card games floating around out there. Parents may well have issues with the amount of money spent on the cards, time spent with the cards, etc. Those issues are discussed on our The Parents Guide to Yu-Gi-Oh page.

Keeping Score?

I am supposed to be doing all this adding and subtracting of monster Attack and Defense points and keeping track of Life points but nobody gives me any paper or a pencil. Seems like a small pre-printed score sheet with some logos on it and maybe even a short pencil (w/logo) would be a nice touch. We all know these products carry very heavy markups. Right now they appear to be spending about nothing on mass marketing (are letting the game pull through the channels by interest). Spend a few cents of that marketing money to make it a better game. Looks like there is room for some third party add ons here, but they will have trouble getting a license.

Wrap Up

Overall I was very pleased with the cards and the service I received from Amazon. We pointed out a few shortcomings with the decks above, but those are far overweighed by the captivating nature of the cards, the story and the game. Kanami and all the associated firms did a great "roll out" in America. Much of that probably has to do with the game already running very strong in Japan for a few years. Most of the bugs were already worked out of it.


Please let us know if you found this review helpful or have any comments or additions you would like to share in the areas covered by this review (card construction, packaging, materials, durability, etc) E-mail us at polsong@virtualpet.com.

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