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DUEL ACTION/ Yu-Gi-Oh!, a card game imported from Japan, has become

Rachel Sauer

Spencer Davis, 10, and Nathan Benson, 12, begin their duel with a handshake. Then, as the real world fades away, they embark on a hero's journey into a universe of monsters and traps, strategy and strength and mystical names: Flame Samurai, Angel's Mirror, Killer Tomato.

Benson sacrifices Davis' Prevent Rat and summons up a Labyrinth Wall, and Davis' Magician of Faith can't do much about it. He then uses his Great Soldier of Stone and his Sujin to fatally attack Davis' life points.

The duel is over within minutes.

All around them in the gaming room at Compleat Games and Hobbies, other duelists are in the same mystical universe as they battle for control of their fluctuating Yu-Gi-Oh! worlds.

A Japanese import introduced to the United States in May, Yu-Gi- Oh! (most commonly pronounced YOU-gee-oh, with a hard "g") is the newest card game to charge the imaginations and competitive spirits of area gamers. It has surpassed Pokmon, Magic: The Gathering and Dragonball Z in popularity and, with various product tie-ins, is predicted to be one of the most popular Christmas gifts for kids this year.

"It is extremely huge," says Dwayne Simmons, an owner of Dalez Kardz and Komicz. "We're seeing interest from 6-year-olds to 35-year- olds. Gaming in general is getting really big."

Gaming is interactive card play that began more than 25 years ago with Dungeons and Dragons and now includes dozens of games such as Pokmon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and games based on "Star Wars" and "Star Trek." Each game draws players into an ongoing storyline of fantasy worlds and creatures. Most have participants battling multi-faceted forces of evil through strategic card play.

Justin Carmical, who organizes Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments at Compleat Games, says many Yu-Gi-Oh! players are longtime gamers who also play Pokmon, Magic: The Gathering and other games. The games' popularity often is hooked to media tie-ins - Carmical said he expects the Harry Potter game to spike in popularity with the release of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" - and how innovative a new game is.

Yu-Gi-Oh!, with its creative monsters, intricate strategy possibilities and TV show and comic, should be popular for a while, says Carmical.

In Yu-Gi-Oh!, players combat monsters with magic and traps. Using a deck of at least 40 cards drawn from more than 150 possibilities, a player tries to take away an opponent's 8,000 life points. Players buy packs of cards, hoping they'll find the more powerful cards among the nine in the pack.

Yu-Gi-Oh! began in Japan four years ago . First it was a comic by Kazuki Takahashi, about a boy named Yugi who battles evil through his gaming. His grandfather gives him something called the Millennium Puzzle, which grants him the powers of an ancient Egyptian game master.

Now the Yu-Gi-Oh! world includes an animated series on WB Kids, a board game, action figures, a computer game, clothes and other products. The card game Yu-Gi-Oh! is based on the game Yugi plays in the comic and is what draws players to organized weekly tournaments like those at Dalez Kardz and Komicz and Compleat Games and Hobbies.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, more than 60 competitors played in shifts at a back room at Dalez and 28 played at Compleat Games, dueling each other and trading cards afterward. The parents of kids too young to drive leaned against the walls, watching the games.

Before each game, players mingled and compared cards. Erissa Thomas, 21, brought her cards to Compleat Games in a Bertie Bott's Everyflavor Beans bag looped around her wrist. Carlos Chavarria, 10, carried his cards to Dalez in a Fila shoe box.

Once the games got started, judges roamed the rows of tables to answer questions about rules and the particulars of what each card can accomplish. Comments emerged from the low buzz of competition: "I'm just gonna wipe out everything with the Dark Hole card" and "Oh, perfect: Graveyard Keeper's Servant."

Lisa Hlavacek, 16, who convinced her brother, Michael, 24, to get into the game with her, said Yu-Gi-Oh! is always a challenge because there are new cards to learn and new strategies to devise, all based on a player's imagination.

"All of a sudden, you're spending hundreds of dollars on cards," she said. She and Michael play at home and go to Dalez most Saturdays.

Nathan Matz, 24, who serves as a game judge at Dalez, compared Yu- Gi-Oh! to an elaborate game of chess. He said it engages players through strategy, competition and imagination, "and some pretty cool monsters."

For more information, visit http://www.upperdeckenter tainment.com/ yugioh/ or www.yugiohetc.com. Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are available on some of the Web sites, as well as at game and hobby stories, and department stores such as Wal-Mart and Target.

YOU TOO CAN YU-GI-OH!

Want to Yu-Gi-Oh!? A starter deck of 50 cards will cost about $10 to $12, and booster packs with nine cards run $3 to $8. So far, two starter decks and four booster decks have been released in the United States.

More than 20 booster decks are available in Japan. Eventually, U.S. gamers might be able to catch up; the cards' U.S. manufacturer, Upper Deck, plans to phase in more.

Upper Deck also has released a series of six Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Booster Pack Collector Tins, each containing five booster packs and one "Variant" card. Cost is $19.99 to $24.99.

And kids can now play Yu-Gi-Oh! on their GameBoy Advance while watching the first three episodes of the show, titled "Time to Duel," on DVD and listening to "Music to Duel By" (music from the show) on a new CD from DreamWorks. A Playstation 2 Yu-Gi-Oh! game is planned for release next year.

Video games released on older platforms, GameBoy Color and Playstation, sold millions when they were released in April, so look for the new games to do even better.

Take that, Pikachu!

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Copyright 2002
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.





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