Neverland Card Battles Preview: It Doesn’t Get Much Nerdier Than This

I never thought I would enjoy “Bejewelled,” ever, under any circumstances… but then “Puzzle Quest” came along. I never thought I would enjoy a trading card game, and then “Neverland Card Battles” for the PSP came along. Blending familiar elements of trading card based games like Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic the Gathering with traditional RPG elements seems like an unholy union of nerdiness, but it’s actually a fun, well put together combination of two unlikely bedfellows. “NeverLand” is presented in a manner that isn’t overly complicated, where it borrows from both of the contributing genres just enough to feel familiar to fans of both, while presenting a fresh, new layer of gameplay to newcomers. And, best of all, the game allows you to play a traditionally multiplayer card based battle game solo, which offers a whole new level of appeal to someone, like myself, who wouldn’t dear openly admit that he was that nerdy to another human being.

“Neverland Card Battles” is an import-port of a Japanese-only title that was released back in 2003 for the PS2 called “Cardinal Arc.” You play as Galahad, and you have been summoned by the tomb keeper, Egma, to help save the world from the evil god Hellgaia who is trying to break out of his tomb and wreak havoc on Neverland. The reason you, and a handful of other characters - The Dominators - have been summoned is because you posses a mystical deck of Spectral Cards that were given to you by your Uncle, and they will allow you to do battle with Hellgaia’s minions.

I warned you it was going to be nerdy.

While the story is pretty basic, the gameplay is not. Everything takes place on a playing field made up of squares, which you are trying to control, because the more squares you control, the more power you have in battle. On the field, it’s Galahad versus one enemy, but, depending on the cards you have, you can summon other characters to claim spaces on the board for you, as well as fight for you. There are a whole range of different cards that can be drawn (over 200 in the game), but you can only play with a deck of 30 at a time; card types include spell, base, and character cards. You only have a limited amount of uses for each card per battle before the deck needs to be reshuffled. Most of this should sound familiar if you play trading card games, and, if you haven’t, it sounds more confusing than it actually is.

Galahad advances around the board, claiming territory and attacking until the main challenger is defeated, which, for the sounds of it, can take quite some time - depending on the size of the board and the power of the enemy, the matches could take up to an hour to complete. However, there are natural breaks in play which make the game an ideal fit for portable, pick-up-and-play gaming. For gamers who are looking for something new to take on the go, there isn’t anything else like this out for a handheld gaming system.

Over the course of the game there are 18 different battles with 16 different opponents, which, given the time it takes to complete a battle, make this game quite the value at $30. Given that the PSP has become home to many PS1 quality ports, it’s great to see a PS2 game making it’s way to the handheld. The graphics look amazing, and while the controls will take a battle or two to get used to, “Neverland Card Battles” seems like it would be a great game for anyone looking for a new experience on the PSP. Add in the fact that the game supports ad-hoc multiplayer, and, as long as you feel comfortable admitting your nerdiness to another person, you can take on your friends in battle. Over all, “Neverland Card Battles” seems like it will be a great little package for the PSP when it hits store shelves in October.

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