The gaming legacy of the Nintendo Wii library is always going to be marred by the everpresent onslaught of shovelware. Every console has it's absolute garbage, but the Nintendo Wii was notable for having long droughts in between flagship Nintendo releases which were filled by mainly derivative schlock trying to get you to buy Wii Sports again. And it should be no surprise to you and anyone else who has owned a Nintendo Wii that Yu-Gi-Oh! 5DS Wheelie Breakers is... ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD?!
Wait, hold on that's not right.
It seems impossible. Everything - and I mean everything - indicates that this should be utter crap. It comes from a franchise that played the tired Saturday Morning Merchandising circuit right at a time when cable television and FCC regulations had already rendered that marketing strategy obsolete and unprofitable. It's a brand associated with the scummiest of barely-regulated child-targeted marketing tactics, a frustratingly determined chop-shop localization company, a booster pack business model criticized for resembling gambling perpetuated by a company that now makes actual gambling machines, and an even scummier foreign distributor that was ripping off their own licensors in a case so open-and-shut their lawyer could only describe it in Duel Monsters terms.
I need to put you in the proper context to truely understand what environment this game is releasing in. Yu-Gi-Oh! is stuck in a quirky transformative moment. At the point at which this game came out, the kids who were raised by shows like this are now clamoring for unlicensed fansubs of Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It's having to compete for it's new target audiences' attention attention with the likes of Sonic X and whatever the hell Dinosaur King is. Other shows coming out like Duel Masters were such blatant clones of the underlying formula that someone at Plastic Cow Productions felt it necessary to release it in US markets with a full-on parody dub. And you didn't even need to step out of the franchise to get a parody since unlicensed parody dubs of the Yu-Gi-Oh! second series anime had already become YouTube's killer app.
The game itself, which today cost a grand total of $2 on a GameStop bargain bin rack, takes the absolutely silly concept of the fourth part of what is now a six-series, three-universe (four if ARC-V is retconning the first crossover movie) franchise to it's logical video gaming conclusion. It was made for an underpowered console that only Nintendo really knew how to make good games for. Consumers made a mental association between "third-party", "Wii", and "schlock" at the same time developers associated "Nintendo hardware" with "poor sales" and "lost profits". There is absolutely nothing between the game, the price, the franchise, the hardware, or even the concept that should ever indicate any sense of quality, enjoyment, or value.
Also it's made by Konami, which would retroactively taint it except for the fact that Yu-Gi-Oh! booster packs are already effectively gambling.
The contestants in this high-stakes, card game related motorsport drive specialized autonomous motorcycles with built-in holographic projectors down a selection of passable if uninspired track designs. Gameplay is far more Mario Kart than Magic: The Gathering, though. Life Points, Speed Counters, and Duel Monsters cards are all words you might have heard from the 5DS cartoon or from playing the real-world TCG or OCG equivalents, but none of them work at all like you would expect due to the necessity of balancing card and motor sports.
The motorcycles you drive work nothing like the animation of which they got the idea from. For starters, you actually drive them. Yu-Gi-Oh! 5DS the animation is very particular that the memetically comical card game motorcycles are actually autonomous, they drive themselves. Here, though, you're definitely expected to juggle both driving and card games at the same time and in real time. It turns the game from an overly complicated strategy game into one that's far more twitch-focused than anything bearing the franchise name should be allowed to have.
The way cards work in this game is far more like a MarioKart item box than a Yu-Gi-Oh! duel. Here, however instead of recieving a single random item influenced by your place along the track, you draw from a deck of around 15 to 30 into a hand of up to seven cards at once. This means alongside your driving you also have to manage incoming card pick ups, scroll through and activate each one at the correct time, and try not to crash when reading through all that Problem-Solving Card Text.
A lot of game mechanics you expect to work one way work the opposite. Your Life Points meter is almost a non-factor. You would expect that going down to 0 would mean game over but instead you just... spin out for a moment before going right back up to the animation-standard 4000. Milling out your deck is a lose condition in both the real-world and animated versions of the card game but here it's just a minor inconvenience. Look, I'm completely out of cards, but the game's letting me race just fine anyway. The actual win condition is just to get to the finish before your opponent does, something that I would have just expected on literally any other racing game.
The plot of this game is pretty much the way every Konami Yu-Gi-Oh! game has handled a story mode. You select your deviantART recolor of the main character from a list of about 15 completely unoriginal schemes, after which you go through roughly the same story beats as the anime it's cribbing from. So, aside from some rather odd implication that my Yusei recolor really wants to meet Yusei for some unexplained reason, the plot runs roughly as follows:
- Random duel with a criminal punk who really should serve as a tutorial, but doesn't
- Arbitrary qualifying tournament, rounds 1 and 2
- Run-in with a police officer that is vaguely similar to the first and third episodes of 5Ds, including the laughable premise that you can get out of being arrested by dueling the law enforcement officer and winning
- Final round of arbitrary qualifying tournament
- Second actual Title Drop Tournament with no pesky plot interruptions
- Final battle with Yusei where supporting characters that were friends of the protagonist now have oddly wavering allegiances
At the behest of a friend who has gotten tired of me criticizing things I've never watched, I binge-watched approximately 96 episodes of the show it's based off (all of them at time of editing), and I plan to watch the rest of it. Since I don't do reviews of video content due to concerns over Content ID harassment, I'll just take this opportunity to stand on the anime critique soapbox for a moment and say that YU-GI-OH! 5DS IS A GOOD SERIES AND YOU GO SHOULD WATCH IT SUBBED IT'S ON CRUNCHYROLL RIGHT NOW
That being said, this game does an absolutely terrible job of translating any of the story of 5DS. Instead it invents it's own odd, half-baked tournament arc that vaguely slots in somewhere between the Signer and Dark Signer arcs. It also seems to forget a lot of the non-dueling context of the show, such as how people who live in this abandoned wasteland called Satellite are supposed to be an underclass. Yusei had to drive through a three-minute maintenance hatch in a garbage pipeline but here you just show up after qualifying for a tournament that you legally shouldn't be allowed to enter!
I haven't watched the cut-down-for-Americans dubbed version, and we should all strive to put it out of our memory, but I'm going to say it's probably 4kids fault why these plotholes exist. If you're buying this thing as anything other than an odd curiosity about a weird moment in a bygone franchise's history, settle up for some freshly baked disappointment. There is literally no reason to play this thing for the story. You'll get a better idea of what this is about by watching an Abridged parody dub, assuming they still exist on YouTube anymore.
I had fun with it. It's a weird entry in a weird part of a weird franchise, which even in it's home country has always had to walk the fine line between legitimate storytelling and toy advertisement. But, despite absolutely everything telling me this should be hot garbage, it's actually fun for the $2 I spent on it. Just don't expect miracles.