NS Review: Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition – Nintendo 3DS
Puzzle & Dragons, for those who don’t know, is the super popular free to play mobile game that everyone has been playing in Japan since 2012. And now, thanks to a partnership between Nintendo and developers GungHo Online Entertainment, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition comes to the West – a double pack of this match 3 puzzle phenomenon featuring the Mushroom Kingdom super stars.
That’s right – it’s another match 3 puzzle game, but this time it features an RPG twist as you battle through dungeons, command monsters and master a range of Orb types to defeat enemies and progress from stage to stage. Featuring a story about a villainous organisation called Paradox, who cause an earthquake to tear up the land into puzzle shape pieces, it’s your job as a new Dragon tamer to fix everything by beating puzzles and collecting world pieces from areas where the power of Orbs is the strongest.
The premise for the puzzling itself is as follows. At the start of of each stage you must put together a team of monsters, including a leader Dragon with some specialist skills. You’ll get to chose a Helper too – someone with his own monster and skills that will help you in each battle. You can change this leader and team members before each battle / puzzle – something you’ll be doing regularly as you come up against different enemies.
Your team of different coloured creatures join you in each puzzle stage and as you clear Orbs of one or more of the 6 different matching colours, they attack the enemies within, thereby reducing their HP. Every monster has an elemental attribute; fire, water, wood, light or dark, which gives them an advantage over other monsters, e.g water is stronger than fire, fire is stronger than wood, meaning more damage is dealt. They’ll fight back of course though; each time their count down reaches zero they’ll take a swipe or a bite, but you can claw back some of your own HP by clearing heart Orbs that linger in the puzzle grid too.
Orbs are cleared by matching 3 or more of the same type, horizontally or vertically. To do this, you move an Orb freely around the grid as much as you like within the time allowed and it swaps positions with others as it goes. It feels far too random to me – I really struggled in planning and then achieving the results i wanted on each move – often clearing Orbs at random, rather than as intended.
Clear five or more orbs in a line to launch a group attack and clear many Orbs in the same move to create combos. The more combos you can pull off, the more damage you will inflict. It’s particularly satisfying when you manage this as the enemies get pounded by your team – even more so if you manage to include a flashing, triple damaging ‘Z-orb’ within your line.
As you take down the enemies on each puzzle your own monsters level up with XP points and sometimes the enemies you free along the way become your allies to use within your teams. During battle, as your individual monsters fight, they soon become powerful enough to use one of their special skills. This could be swapping out orbs for other colours, shuffling the play field or unleashing super strong attacks. Use them at the right time (it will take some practice!) and these moves will come in handy.
Randomly you get the chance to open a treasure chest between battles by clearing an orb challenge. For example, get a required number of combos within a set number of turns and boom – you’ve got yourself some ‘chips’ you can use to evolve your monsters, thereby changing their skills.
So yes, there’s lot’s to get to grips with there. With the Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition version of the puzzle experience the story is a little more straight forward – Bowser’s taken a fancy to a bunch of mysterious Orbs and used this as an excuse to kidnap Princess Peach. Orbs are overflowing through the Mushroom Kingdom and Kamek is abusing their power, gong on a rampage – time for Mario and friends to use the power of the Orbs to come to Peach’s rescue.
The puzzling itself is the same though – but with a little bit more of a familiar setting. It’s presented rather nicely too – familiar Super Mario sound effects and a clean, hand drawn art style with some effective 3D. Your team leader will be Mario or Luigi – Ice, Boo and Racoon powered up versions and different coloured Toads make great Helpers. On the world map you visit a Toad house to convert an allies power into EXP, in order to power up another ally. In this game, these allies are Goombas, Koopa Troopas and a whole host of other familiar Mario enemies – a strange concept indeed.
Puzzle & Dragons doesn’t have the instant pick up and play, casual approach that the recent Pokemon Shuffle has – Super Mario Bros. Edition appeals to me the most out of the two games, but there’s more to learn and more to dedicate play time to here than in the Pokemon free to play title.
Overall, the puzzling itself is quite a daunting process – and so I did find the nice long tutorial that introduces the game features one by one particularly useful. I’m gonna need to keep on playing before I get to grips with it all properly; I often attacked with little or less than the expected or hoped for effect – something that’s particularly noticeable in Score Attack mode. Here you use a pre-set team against one high powered enemy – you’re going to need to use and understand your team attributes and ability to pull off multiple combo’s well here.
OK, I think that about covers it. I’m off to pick up where I left off – it’s an intriguing, well presented, addictive puzzle game experience that certainly should be tried and one that i’m keen to get to grips with – just give me a bit more time to master it all before I can recommend it to anyone other than the most experienced puzzle fans.
Have you played Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition? What do you think? Let me know @wesearp on Twitter or in the comments below.
Game provided for review by Nintendo UK – Thanks!