From a mobile hit to a double game bundle on the 3DS.
GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons game, which can be found on mobile devices, is a pretty massive hit. Simple match three gameplay combined with collecting monsters and compelling microtransactions have not only led to the game making GungHo a lot of money, but also to the game teaming up with various third parties for limited edition events that make playing the game all the more interesting. It is a great game for casual players, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the core game would shed all of its microtransactions and limitations to launch on the Nintendo 3DS with two different themes, essentially creating a bundle of casual gaming goodness for Nintendo’s handheld. Still, that’s what has happened…
Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition are two games bundled into one package, each with a different theme but the same core mechanics. Whilst the first title is set in a world filled with dungeons and dragons, a world that will be familiar to anyone who has played the mobile game, the other title in this bundle is purely one for the Nintendo fans, set in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Puzzle & Dragons Z does step up from the original mobile title by adding a story involving a teenager who is given some eggs which hatch into their first dragons as they head off on their mission to explore dungeons, fight monsters and even capture or evolve these monsters to build a powerful team capable of taking on yet more monsters and save the world. An overworld ties the dungeon exploration together, providing an experience which is not that far removed from the Pokemon games. Similarities aside, the overall threads that tie the core dungeon exploration and match three gameplay together add a certain amount of depth that make the game more of a handheld title than a simple mobile game port.
However, the core gameplay remains the same, and it is good. With a team of monsters leading the way, the player will move from one encounter to the next and resolve these encounters with a match three board. Different icons appear on the board, representing different elements. Match three or more of these elements in a row and monsters in your team of that element will attack, with combinations increasing their damage. Different from many match three games, the player is allowed to move the icons anywhere around the board, rather than just one place on the grid. This means that by moving an icon, the player can manipulate all of the other icons on the board, leading to some really massive combos if they are clever, and lots of damage. However, once an icon is touched, the player only has a certain amount of time to finish moving it, adding some limitation.
Opposing monsters are also of different elemental types, and are weak against certain elemental attacks, adding some strategy to the attacks. Some of your monsters may also have special abilities which can be activated after a given number of turns, which mixes things up further. The player will be rewarded as they progress with eggs that hatch new monsters for their collection, and monsters can also be leveled up and even evolved to make them yet more powerful.
Switching over to Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and players will pretty much find the same game, but with a much more Nintendo friendly overlay. The overworld is replaced with a very Mario-like path from one stage to the next, and the story is simply that Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach again. This time, players will be matching fire flowers, mushrooms and the like to do damage to the usual suspects of bad guys from the Mario games, with the possibility of adding them to the team. For Nintendo fans, which generally covers everyone who would buy this game on the 3DS, this particular game will resonate and raise a smile.
The problem comes for the players of the original mobile title, as the removal of the various microtransactions and limitations, such as waiting for stamina to replenish before being able to start another dungeon level, does create a slight disconnect with the game. Never let it be said that such gameplay limitations are a good thing, but Puzzle & Dragons was created for just that and allowing gamers to play the game as if they had a bottomless wallet actually removes some of the appeal. It is too easy to play too much, too quickly and become fatigued with the game. It also removes a sense of accomplishment which is essential for keeping the player motivated.
Still, for those who have never dipped their toes into GungHo’s incredibly popular mobile game, this bundled pair of 3DS games have a lot of appeal. The simple gameplay and collecting is rewarding, and the Mario themed game really pops with its bright colours. The soundtrack on the Mario game is also something a bit special and worth enjoying.
At their most basic, Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition are enjoyable match three puzzle games with a little bit of collecting and RPG gameplay thrown in. However, both games offer something different and a little more than their core gameplay, even if players of the original freemium mobile game will find themselves less excited by the experience.