Puzzle & Dragons is incredibly popular in Japan. The game was released as a free-to-play game on smart phone devices and was financed from the sale of in-game items and currency. It managed to rank up over 31 million downloads, and eventually saw a release in America and some European countries. Eventually, a version was released for the 3DS in Japan and was soon followed by a Super Mario Bros. Edition. For the Western release, Nintendo have bundled both games together, making it quite an attractive purchase for both newcomers and veterans alike.
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Marion Bros. Edition takes the standard “match 3” puzzle formula and combines it with RPG gameplay. The aim of the game is to battle enemies by matching blocks and converting them into attack points. Instead of swapping two blocks at a time, players have to hold and drag a block across the touch screen. While dragging the block, players have the freedom to move in any direction, and as they move the block will switch positions with the other blocks in its path. This allows players to string together multiple combos in a single turn. The game even encourages strategically planning by giving players an infinite amount of time to plan their approach. As soon as you begin dragging a block however, a timer begins counting down. It’s an interesting contrast as one moment you’re casually planning out your turn, the next it’s a frantic race against the clock. It keeps the action flowing smoothly while also giving players the chance to have a breather.
Blocks and enemies also have an elemental affinity which leads to some strategic gameplay. The elements include fire, water, wood, light and dark, and each has its own weakness. For example, fire enemies are weak against water blocks. This is taken one step further with the game’s party system. Occasionally, enemies will become your allies after being defeated, and you can assigned them a spot in your party. Each party member will have an element affiliation and an attack stat, which are used to determine how much damage your opponents will receive. Allies also possess special abilities – some can change block types, others can cause direct damage to an enemy, and some can increase your defense. The idea is to mix and match different combinations depending on the course. Some courses, for instance, will not have light or dark element blocks, so you’ll want to replace the corresponding party members with someone more suited for that level. It’s fun to experiment and discover which match-ups work the best. It is both simple in design and well executed.
Throughout the game, players will acquire special items which can be used to transform allies into more powerful forms. These forms will generally take longer to level up, but you will be rewarded with more attack power, better abilities, and allies with duel elemental affinities (i.e. fire and light affinity). Sadly, it can be a bit of a pain to acquire the special items as they’re awarded randomly and not consistently. This is a shame as at later points in the game you are often just that little bit too weak to complete a level and feel a bit cheated.
The gameplay for Puzzle & Dragons Z and Super Mario Bros. Edition is almost identical. Thankfully, the games have a lot of different aspects which set them apart. Puzzle & Dragons Z for example, has an in-depth story, an open hub-world environment to explore and is darker in tone. Super Mario Bros. Edition is a bit simpler and features a linear grid-world that’s similar to the old school SNES Mario games, right down to the point where there are even hidden courses to discover. Of particular note is the work that’s been put into creating the Mario Bros. Edition. Everything from the sound effects, to the characters and visuals is a nod to the franchise and empowers feelings of nostalgia. Most players will prefer one or the other, but they’re both worth playing and complement each other.
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition is an interesting take on the “match 3” puzzler. It has a high emphasis on strategic gameplay, is fast paced and also simple enough that anyone can play. Combined with the fact you’re getting two games in one, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition is a perfect entry point for new fans and has a lot value for returning veterans.
Strategic gameplay | Feelings of nostalgia from Super Mario Bros Edition | Fun discovering abilities of different party members
Difficult to acquire special items | Sometimes feel cheated during later stages | Gameplay is identical in both games