Publisher: Konami

Developer: Konami

ESRB: E10+

# of Players: 1-2

Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 05/22/2007

Official Game Website

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    Also available on:
  • PC
  • PSP

Marvel Trading Card Game Review

When a game is developed for a multi-platform release it’s hard to determine the console it was designed for originally. When I first read about the Marvel Trading Card Game I knew it had to be developed with the Nintendo DS as the primary console. But when the game was released for the Sony PSP first I knew my guess was wrong. Then as the Nintendo DS version was delayed I knew something wasn’t right in the Marvel Universe. Well, now that the game has finally been released my dreams of a great Trading Card Game with touch-screen controls were crushed.

The premise of Marvel Trading Card Game is the same as any other trading card game (TCG). You compete against another player in a battle of cards. The cards represent your attackers, defenders and assorted powers/skills you can use during “combat.” All of the combat and action in the game is played out by tapping the cards to activate the skills of the cards. The loser is the first player that runs out of energy or has the lowest amount of energy at the end of combat.

The Marvel Trading Card Game plays very similar to the outline above with only a few changes. The changes are mostly superficial and impact the descriptions of the various categories in the game. For example, in Magic you have to use mana to cast spells or summon attackers/defenders. While in the Marvel TCG you need resource points to summon attackers/defenders. As you play more resources you earn additional resource points to call upon more powerful superheroes. 

Marvel Trading Card Game screenshots

The way combat works is still a confusing part of the game to me. My brain is still used to the Magic way of combat, which is completely different that the Marvel TCG. In Magic, once you’ve declared an attacker that character is then in use for the rest of the round, unless you had another card to allow you to use the character again. But in Marvel TCG the combat phase allows a superhero to be both an attacker and a defender.

The Attack and Defense value of your superhero will determine if your attacker will become stunned during combat. If the attacker is stunned then it cannot defend against the other player’s attackers. But the breakthrough damage you take against your endurance points (health) is based upon the difference between the attack and defense values of the attackers/defenders plus the recruiting cost of your superheroes. Now unless Magic has changed recently this isn’t how combat damage is totaled. After several games I still couldn’t get use to taking damage for the recruiting cost of my characters.

There are a few additional rules that are unique to Marvel TCG which are explained in the in-game tutorials. For example, you cannot have more than one character of the same name on the playing table. The game will let you power up that character by discarding another copy of the same superhero card. Another feature in Marvel TCG is the ability to use Reinforcements and Team Attacks. Reinforcements allow you to increase the Defense value of your superhero by using a supporting character in your back row (called a support row).  But to perform Reinforcement both characters must have the same team affiliation. Each character in the game belongs to certain affiliation which is usually based upon their storyline. For example, Spider-Man is affiliated with the Spider Friends while Wolverine is affiliated with the X-Men. Team Attacks uses the same team affiliation principal but, as the name suggests, for attacks. You can use another character in the front row to perform a Team Attack to increase the Attack strength of your superhero. 

Marvel Trading Card Game screenshots

One big issue I had with the game was due to the pacing of the “chain.” The chain is an order in which effects can be played by the players. If you can use a card, then the effect of the card is placed on the chain. The chain then waits until the next player or card that can be played to be placed on the chain. The problem with the chain in Marvel TCG is that it never seems to end. Cards in your hand or in your resource field are potential cards that could be added to the chain.

Now this is a trading card game for the DS, the system that supports two screens, Wi-Fi and touch-screen controls. But what we get with Marvel TCG is a port that has been crammed into a DS with only minimal support for the advantages of the system. The game is played out via the book layout with the left screen (top screen) showing your selected card while the right screen (bottom screen) showing the card table. The card table view is way too small to see more than four cards at a time. The game must compensate for the shrunken size by placing some cards out of your view. You have to tap the touch screen to move the screen to the left or right to see the entire game board. Once the chain starts to trigger it becomes next to impossible to figure out what’s happening on the screen because of the layout. It seems as if the developers were forced to match the original layout of the PSP version instead of developing the game for the strengths of the DS.

Marvel Trading Card Game screenshots

One similarity with both the PSP and DS version is the difficulty. The game feels completely out of balance due to the cards you start off with compared to the computer’s deck. You might go several rounds before you can layout a single character while the computer will have three to four characters already in play. This can put you behind right away only with no chance of recovery. No matter how many games I played it seemed the computer always had the same cards on the table ever time. This becomes increasingly frustrating due to the limitations of the game board since everything is stuffed onto one screen.

With great potential comes the possibility of great disappointment. Marvel Trading Card Game for the DS can definitely be considered a great disappointment for TCG and Marvel fans. The game should have been customized for the advantages of the DS instead of being just another port from another system.  Instead we end up playing a game with a frustrating interface, hard to see game board and unbalanced difficulty. Only hardcore fans of the regular Marvel TCG should check out the DS version. The rest of you can keep playing Pokemon or even the lackluster SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters.

Review Scoring Details for Marvel Trading Card Game

Gameplay: 4.5
You start the game off at a disadvantage and it never seems to change as you progress. No matter how many good cards you have in your deck the computer always gets the best cards out on the board immediately.

Graphics: 5.5
The game doesn’t have the same visual flair of the PSP version with the best part of the graphics being the cards. You will see the entire card on the left (top) screen whenever you select a card on the game board.  All of the action on the right (bottom) screen is way too small to make out.

Sound: 5.0
The music and sound effects are a constant repeat of the same tracks and effects. Playing the game with the volume turned all the way down isn’t a bad thing.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Getting used to all of the various rules is one of the hardest parts of playing a TCG. The Marvel TCG tutorial does a decent job of explaining most of the rules for the game. Playing against the computer is constant struggle of watching the computer use the best cards all the time.

Multiplayer: 7.5
The Multiplayer options are plentiful in Marvel TCG. The game offers the standard multi-card game mode that allows two DS owners to play against each other.  The game even includes a true Wi-Fi mode where you can play against other games around the world, either on your friends list or using the matchmaking service.

Concept: 4.0
This game missed a great opportunity of being the de-facto portable version of the Marvel Trading Card Game. But I guess it was easier to just port the game to the DS instead of enhancing the game for the DS.

Overall: 5.3
There is a song I like called “Where have all the good times gone?” and Marvel Trading Card Game leaves me asking just that question. Sure playing some TCG can be frustrating but the majority of the time it was always fun. Marvel TCG for the DS is a disappointment when it comes to showing off how fun a TCG should be. You end up with a game that is hard to see, difficult to understand and hard to play which equals to a fun factor of close to zero.


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True Believers will be in for a pleasant surprise with the Marvel Trading Card Game for the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately the surprise is a big letdown for owners of the DS

Reviewer: Aceinet

Review Date: 06/26/2007

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