Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition
Developer: GungHo Online Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition is the latest game in Nintendo’s puzzling free to play game structure on the Nintendo 3DS. GungHo Online Entertainment has taken the Puzzle & Dragons franchise, known to be riddled with microtransactions, given us two new games for the price of one from the franchise, and removed all free to play elements. Can this free to play turned pure double pack stand up on its own?
As the title suggests, there are two games within Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition, which are Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. Puzzle & Dragons Z is a localisation which was released in Japan as a standalone title in 2013, while Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition was released at around the same time internationally this year as a standalone title in Japan, and bundled with the localised Puzzle & Dragons Z elsewhere.
The base gameplay of both these titles has you with a party of six characters (dragons in Puzzle & Dragons Z, Mario characters in Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition) battling enemies through dungeons, with a boss battle at the end of the dungeon. Each monster has its own attribute of fire, water, wood, light, or dark, with water being super effective towards fire, fire towards wood, wood towards water, and light and dark super effective towards themselves. To battle, players must slide orbs on the touch screen within a given time limited to power up their monsters. When an orb is moved over another orb, that orb replaces the position of the moved orb. Match at least three orbs in a column or row to remove them. It sounds a little convoluted, but after sticking at the gameplay, there’s quite a rush when you hit 15 consecutive matches in one go. After your turn, the enemies then get a turn to fight you through a collective health bar. Monsters also have with them skills that are able to be used after so many turns have passed which can do a number of things; heal yourself, turn one orb into another, or give you more time to move the orbs around.
A large component of the game are the monsters themselves, with over 250 monsters in Puzzle & Dragons Z and over 90 Mario characters in Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. If you’re lucky, defeating a monster can you an egg or a block depending on which game you play, which can turn into an ally. These allies can be evolved and upgraded through the collection of items, or sacrificed to power up your favourites. It provides a considerable amount of depth, and makes you care after your allies as they turn into bigger beasts.
Puzzle & Dragons Z takes this gameplay, and adds it to an RPG world, where you, a Dragon Tamer, goes out to save the world against the evil Dogma, who’s using evil powers to take jigsaw-like pieces out of the world. This RPG world falls flat, with conversations, plot, cutscenes, they all get in the way of the gameplay. I don’t particularly care for all of these things, as they’re done poorly; there doesn’t need to be an excuse for the gameplay. Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition goes a more traditional route, and take the Puzzle & Dragons gameplay and puts it to the “Bowser stole Peach! Go save her!” route, which works fine in a Mario context. The story doesn’t get in the way of the puzzling elements here.
Puzzle & Dragons Z holds your hand a little bit and provides players with a gracious learning curve, while Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition just drops you right to the thick of it from the get-go, introducing new dungeon elements earlier than in Puzzle & Dragons Z and boss battles that have you on the edge of your seat, one attack away from failure. This makes sense, with Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition being released in Japan two years after Puzzle & Dragons Z; the original context of the games has assumed you bought this one because of the last one. That’s why the double pack works well besides the two for one deal; play Puzzle & Dragons Z to get a feel for the gameplay, and move on to Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition for a bigger challenge.
For a puzzle game, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition does a good job, with the enemies doing little battle animations. It doesn’t do a great job though, with some enemies like the simple Goomba almost looks like his model is simply flipped. The music from Puzzle & Dragons Z fits and is generally pleasant to the ears, while Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition rehashes the same old Mario tunes.
Knowing Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition came from a free to play model leaves me feeling a little hesitant with the games themselves. I found myself asking “Because it’s based on F2P, am I going to run out of content quickly?” That wasn’t the case, with massive amounts of dungeons to crawl. The worst offender of not transitioning away from free to play model has to be characters dropping from foes after battle; in both games finding a new character seems to be a rare occurrence, and after that you find yourself with an overabundance of that very same monster. I can see how this would work in a free to play structure, how if you want a shot at getting a new character, you might need to spend a little. You can’t spend anything extra in this game however, and for better or for worse, it’s a little frustrating.
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition provide tonnes of content for the price of one game. Dismantling the shackles of traditional free to play gameplay, GungHo Entertainment provide players with solid gameplay. Not much can be said about the story, and for an RPG, that’s a little disheartening. Unlike an RPG, this doesn’t matter all too much, and time and time again, you’ll be returning to these two titles for that sweet, sweet puzzling gameplay.
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition is available now exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS