For a small die-hard section of the video game fan base, the Neo Geo Pocket was a special piece of hardware. Yes, its varied library offered some of the best portable fighting games ever made, a couple memorable sports games, and even a few solid puzzle titles. However, there’s one reason to own the Pocket: Card Fighters.
Call it the little game that could, Card Fighters Clash was a simple, engrossing, intuitive experience which would suck hours of a player's life before they realized the real world was catching up to them. The DS sequel, actually the third game in the series, doesn’t have the same addictiveness.
Part of that comes from the ridiculous story that fails to connect with either of the previous Card Fighters. While those would follow a young kid wandering around town to tournaments and playing against friends to earn new cards, this DS rendition places the fate of the known world on the cards. It’s a monumental step back from the casual tone fans are used to, and a number of hilariously awful translation issues only add to that.
No longer is the interface a free-roaming city. Instead, everything takes place in a 21-floor tower that must be conquered one level at a time. A point and click movement system is frustratingly limited, eliminating the chance to find little special treats in the game world as in prior Card Fighters.
Actual card-based gameplay maintains the familiar style with some tweaks. A new color system prevents players from sending in a powerhouse card from the start. Players are now forced to build up the specific colors required to place the character into the ring depending on their requirements. The strength of the cards is separate from their attack damage, requiring significant changes to strategy if you found yourself hooked on the older editions.
The goal remains the same, though. Each player is given a number of hit points, generally either 2,000 or 3,000, and must use attacks wisely to take that number down to zero. Preventing that from happening are cards based on SNK and Capcom characters. These are both mainstream (Resident Evil, Metal Slug) and obscure (Red Earth, Last Blade). Each has a specific attack power that can be defended against with another card. If a defensive card isn’t picked or is unavailable, the attack goes through the player, sapping their HP.