The movie released in theaters in North America, Europe, Australia, but not in Japan. The movie was shown on Special Screenings in Japan on November 3rd, 2004. The movie then aired on TV Tokyo on January 2, 2005. The Japanese version is known to run 11 minutes longer.
The English version of the movie was completely edited when it first appeared in theaters in the US, but the Japanese language version (released in Special Screenings on November 3rd, 2004 and later aired on TV Tokyo in January 2nd, 2005) differs in content, uncut, and is complete with cards in Japanese. The Japanese version is in 101 minutes and the English version is originally in 90 minutes. Many scenes in the English version were omitted, switched, and some were altered.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light hit Special Screenings and on TV Tokyo in Japan after Yu-Gi-Oh! (second series anime) ended there. Thus, Yami Yugi already returned to the Spirit World, the Millennium Items were sealed away forever, and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX already began broadcasting in Japan.
The original Japanese story calls for the Pharaoh's past to take place "3000 years ago", but the English translators misread this as "3000 BC". The English version thus puts the story 5000 years ago, but some believe this was intentional: nothing is known about Ancient Egypt 5000 years ago, and therefore the non-existence of Pharaoh Atem cannot be proven (or disproved).
In the United States, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light is the only part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe to have the text on the cards included. Unlike the Japanese original version, the English Dub of the TV anime series completely edited the text out of the cards due to FCC regulations, expanding the art on them to fill the gap. The cards in the movie also retained the visual rarity that their real-world card game counterparts have, with the rarer cards having gold lettering on them to match those of an Ultra Rare card. In addition, the Life Point counters used in this duel are the same used in the original Japanese series. However, there are portions throughout the film in which the cards are displayed with the picture and text mirrored backwards. Due to cards being displayed this way, you can see that it says [Spell Card] under each Spell Card's name. In Yu-Gi-Oh! second series anime, and the movie itself Spell Cards are still called Magic Cards.
Much like the early Pokémon theatrical releases, the movie released limited-edition promotional cards in the Movie Pack alongside the tickets bought for the movie. To further stretch the card game tie-in, the Exclusive Pack was released in card shops to help garner interest in the movie. The DVD versions stated that there were 4 promo cards included in the DVD; however, most versions instead came with a "Pyramid of Light" card and a fee was required to be sent to 4Kids Entertainment to be able to receive those cards.
Although the musical score (background instrumentals) was released for the Japanese version of the movie, the score for the English version was never officially released. Joel Douek, one of the series' composers for the dub, unofficially released these tracks on his YouTube account and FTP.
In the beginning of the movie, a group of archaeologists discovered Anubis's tomb. Their appearance is similar to the archaeologists who discovered the Dark Puzzle in the first episode of the first series.
Though elements of the Dawn of the Duel story arc from season 5 of the show are used, the plot of this film greatly mirrors that of season 4. An ancient enemy arises and uses the Pharaoh's power against him in some way, they wear powerful stone and use its card counterpart to surround the field and prevent any interference, Yugi is prevented from using the God Cards until the end, after the enemy loses the final duel from a combined attack of 3 Legendary Monsters they take the form of or combine with a great beast to attack Yugi and his friends (Joey even uses some of the same monsters to fight both), the enemy uses Pegasus to manipulate Kaiba when he seeks him out for answers, Pegasus later shows up to provide background information and other answers for Yugi and/or his friends, and Yugi and the Pharaoh are separated for a sizable portion of the story and are only reunited once the enemy suffers some form of defeat and loses what was originally going to be the source of power for their attack on the world.
The "Dagger of Fate" was a plot device added to the English version to give meaning to Yugi throwing it at the eye inside of the Millennium Puzzle. In the Japanese version, the dagger was never mentioned at all before that scene and Yugi just needed to find a hard object to throw at the eye and break it.
Despite the movie debuting in 2004 for the US, the cards still have the lore from when they were first printed in the US. Some cards like Magician's Valkyria have the incorrect typeface for things like the name possibly due to the fact that the card didn't yet exist in English, though this also occurred for Toon Summoned Skull, which was definitely released before the movie.