Puzzle & Dragons Review – 3DS

Puzzle & Dragons is a free to play match three puzzle game released on mobile devices. The game is a hybrid monster collecting RPG. You use a party of monsters and enter “dungeons”. Dungeons are a sequence of enemy monsters which is where match three comes in. You move an orb freely around the scene to match 3 or more. Hopefully string together a lot of combos for a devastating attack. This moved you onto the next monster and finally to the boss. When the boss is defeated you clear the dungeon. Monsters themselves are mostly standard affair. Some humanoid ones as well as dragons themselves. Each having a form type as well as an element type. The element type relates to the orbs you match up. You get more monsters by obtaining eggs. You can power them up and even have them evolve or transform, becoming more powerful and rarer monsters. Most monsters have at least one attack ability that charges up during battles. Some monsters have leader abilities. When set as the party leader this ability activates. Needless to say it can be very addictive. It was a huge success in Japan and the game has since had a 3DS version released. This was Puzzle & Dragons Z. When it released in Europe Nintendo released as part of a packaged game. The second game being a spin-off featuring Super Mario Bros. For the sake of fairness I will review the games separately even though they come in one package.

Puzzle & Dragons Z

Puzzle & Dragons Z  follows the story of a newly recruited Dragon Ranger which can be male or female. You team up with a cute and very talkative dragon. For this reason I prefer the female character’s design. Her hair style matches the cute little dragon’s rabbit-like ears. Getting back to the story the world has been taken apart into puzzle pieces by an evil organisation who want to rebuild the world. Because you made friends with the cute rabbit dragon it’s up to you to venture into dungeons and put the world back together again. The story reminds me of some other monster catching anime series but with a strong focus on defeating an evil organisation. Most of the characters have a very singular focus. Any kind of story development seems to not affect many of them. They seem to lack any real depth and what makes them fun and interesting becomes a bit tiring later on. While it doesn’t ruin the story it doesn’t make the game stand out either. The game itself starts off fairly easy. For someone who has played the mobile version the introductory part feels a bit too long.

Valkyrie (P&D)

The world is divided into two main segments. One is the hub town where Ranger HQ is located. Ranger HQ is where you enter the first dungeon it also provides other facilities. It’s nice having a hub town but it feels far too static. The town doesn’t really react as much as one would expect. Exiting town takes you to the next major part of the world the over world map. This is divided into separate areas. New areas and areas cleared are highlighted. Entering a part of the map drops you at the furthest dungeon you have unlocked. Within each dungeon is a set of paths in a form of a list. These unlock as you complete each path. You can just go through an entire dungeon in one go. During a path can also jump out. Once you complete a dungeon the next puzzle piece falls down. You repeat process until eventually get to the temple and rescue a Dragon who restores land surrounding your base and opens up the next area.

The path itself is an on rails path ending with a boss. Sometimes you get to pick which route you want. There is also treasure and special opponents that can appear randomly on the map. Some treasure is set rather than random. Once you get the set treasure it won’t appear again. You don’t need more than one. While travelling through dungeon on the top screen you are presented with a first person camera of a 3D dungeon path. Monsters appear in animated 2D style along with anything else you might come across. If defeated while inside the dungeon you are taken back to the base. At any time while inside the dungeon you can also exit said dungeon.The game is very generous and you only lose stuff that you would have won from the current battle. Everything else you get to keep. It makes the game easier but it also means you will still be making some progress even in defeat.

Puzzle & Dragons

To progress in the path of dungeons you have to defeat the monsters that appear in front of you. Combat itself is a match three puzzle same as the mobile version. The objective being to defeat the enemy monster before their turn to attack. On top of the enemy monster is a counter. When that counter reaches 0 they attack. This deals damage to a single health bar. To attack you pick an orb and move it around for a short time using the touch screen. Matching three or more for an attack or to recover health. The best option would be for both. The more combos you pull off in one move the bigger the bonus is added onto the attack and health recovery. The orbs are defined by different elements each with its own colour and one for health recovery. Light, Dark, Wood, Fire, Water and recovery hearts. In game you can have the chart showing what the weaknesses appear on top screen while battling. Most details are on the top screen with the bottom for the puzzle element. On bottom screen you also have access to special abilities. Over battle you build up skill points which you use for abilities. You can also view map of current path you are on which is handy when choosing a route. Also certain events that appear on the path require specific orbs to be cleared. This can be to open a chest or to select a certain route. So before entering a path of a dungeon you have to make sure you got the right monster team.

To begin with you are given a small team of a few dragons covering the basic elements. During dungeons you collect chips and eggs from defeated monsters. Eggs can be hatched for new monsters or used to level up current monsters. The monsters level up through combat as well. The chips are used to transform monsters. All of which takes place at the ranger HQ. The monsters can have multiple possible transformations as well. So you can pick the slightly cuter transformation. So there is plenty of different monsters for making a team of your preference. A lot of monsters have a leader skill which can be a huge advantage depending on the dungeon. Often will be switching up or have multiple teams depending on type of player you are. I have two teams. One with all the elements and is more set. While a second team is for dungeons with limited elements. It tends to change a lot based on the available elements. It’s also worthwhile noting you select a helper and gain benefits of their leader monster skill.While it is very tempting to pick only ones you like the look of you only ever see the monsters in front of you battle. You never see the backs of your own team of the helper’s monster. Your team is just a set of face portraits most of the time. In a lot of ways it’s a bit depressing you don’t see them more often but it also means your less likely to care what your team looks like.

Alraune (P&D)

Outside of the dungeons there are other stuff you can do around the hub town. During the game you get requests from those living in the town. These require you to enter dungeon and get something. Most of these remind me of major Nintendo games series. They don’t provide any more depth about the world itself. They are easy to find thanks to NPC that points out those in need. The other thing you can do is to use a relic or rune at the shrine and do a special dungeon. Runes and relics you get in-game are for finding monsters that help with levelling monsters or transforming them. Runes are single use only but Relics can reuse all the time. Relics are mostly through internet or orb codes given out through Nintendo’s social media sites. In the Ranger HQ talk the characters behind the counters to download a present. Another person is to scan orb codes. A daily rune you can get once a day from the hero’s Dad located at the Shrine. This gives you access to a dungeon based on what day it is.  Even further into the game you get random lottery type machine. You spend some of the in-game money to get random stuff. Sometimes this can be an egg or chips for upgrading. I have also gotten daily runes from this. You can also trade the dragon shards to get some extra goodies. This does include legendary dragons. Can only have one of those in your party. You also get to enter the Colosseum. This allows you to do timed dungeons either having a fixed team or your own team of monsters. At the end you get a rank.This goes on the card you send out through streetpass. The streetpass card also sends out your current monster team. The monster leader will be a helper that appears in games you streetpassed. You can also connect locally to others who have the game.

As a monster collecting RPG this isn’t too bad. While it lacks certain depth regarding the monsters themselves with the combination of match 3 puzzle it works well. It’s very addictive game that can appeal to a lot of different gamers. It’s easily a game you could spend ages with.

Puzzle & Dragons

Score

Quality: 3/5

The puzzle element and the monsters are the strongest part of the game. The storyline feels a bit weak and the interaction with monsters is limited.

Fun: 4/5

Like all puzzle games it is addictive fun. With the added bonus of monster collecting you could spend ages with the game. It can also drag at times.

Cute: 3/5

Like all monster collecting games you have a mixture of monsters. The only thing you can do with said monsters is battle them.

Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition

Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition follows the story of Mario saving the kidnapped Princess Peach. That’s pretty much it for the storyline. As a result it feels like you get into the game much faster. You do get hints from Toad. The lack of storyline makes it so you can keep on going. The world itself is a Super Mario Bros. styled map. Each dot is presented with a singular dungeon. Completing each dot in the world opens up the next world which has its own separate over world map.

Princess Peach

The dungeons themselves work pretty much the same way as Puzzle & Dragons Z but now have a Mario theme. You walk along a path and encounter enemies, alternate routes or a ? block. To continue you have to play the match 3 puzzle game. The screen layout is the same. Only major difference is that you get 3D models. Some of the routes require you to take a monster that has ability to change orb types. Because that orb wouldn’t normally appear inside the dungeon. Once a dungeon is complete the next dot becomes available. Sometimes this can be an alternate dungeon. Eventually you face off against the World Boss. The big difference here is the actual difficulty of the game. The bosses and enemies later on are a lot more powerful. However you get extra lives and the game pretty much expects you to lose lives. You gain more lives by collecting 1-up mushroom by getting a ton of combos or ? blocks. As you would expect you need a team of monsters and Mario characters to help you through a dungeon.

Monsters while being Mario themed work very similar to Puzzle & Dragons Z. There feels to be a lot less variety in types of monsters but there are interesting combinations. That might not make much sense at start but later on you will see what I mean. This time the monsters in your team are separated into two categories. One set are the Leaders/Helpers. These are main characters from Mario games. Completing certain dungeons will unlock new characters or more likely a variation of Mario and Luigi.  When you enter a dungeon you select one to be a helper. Interestingly enough you can not have for example two variations of Luigi when entering the dungeon. The helper must be a different character. The second lot of monsters are the common enemies in Mario games. Most have one ability with some having a special awoken ability. During dungeons over a certain amount of turns during battle the skill becomes available to use. You get monsters by collecting blocks in dungeons. At end of the dungeon these blocks release a monster. You can use said monsters to level up other monsters or Mario characters. To do this you need to head to a Toad’s House.

Super Mario Bros.

Toad’s House is the closest thing to a hub in this game. All the stuff inside the house relates to the monsters. Each part unlocks as you progress through the game. As mentioned before one is to use monsters to level up others. Another gives ability to improve the skill level of the skills and abilities of both monsters and leaders. You also can transform the monsters to make them more powerful and most gain a secondary element too. Both levelling and increasing skill level require special coins and other items  you acquire from inside dungeons. You will need to replay a lot of the dungeons for this reason. Also inside Toad’s House is the lottery. You spend coins by tapping ? block. This gives you a random special coin or item needed for transformations and levelling up skills. The final one is to awaken abilities of monsters. You won’t get access to this till much later in the game. The only other thing in the game is Score attack. Which is accessed via the world menu. Your score for this mode is added to your player card. Like Puzzle & Dragons Z you send this out via streetpass. You also send out a selected Mario character as a helper.

As fun as this crossover is I feel it’s not as fleshed out as it could have been. It’s hard not to compare this game with Puzzle & Dragons Z. Even though it does certain things differently at the core both games are the same. Once you start comparing it feels like this game just doesn’t have the same volume of content. It doesn’t but that doesn’t make this game any worse. Only thing is after playing it I think it would have been better if another Nintendo series was chosen. One with larger amount of characters and possibly monsters. That said it’s still a fun crossover game.

Super Mario Bros.

Score

Quality: 3/5

This game might not have as much as Puzzle & Dragons Z. What it does have is of the same quality. I don’t feel it’s any worse than Z.

Fun: 3/5

With the harder difficulty and lack of variety with characters and monsters it’s just not as much fun. I’m more likely to only play this for a short time.

Cute: 3/5

Like before there are variety of monsters. Due to style these are slightly more cute. Most of these are fairly cute but you can’t do anything cute to them or with them.

Ending Notes

Both games are addictive and a lot of fun. It was a great idea to package them together as if they had been separate games would be much harder to suggest them. Both have their weaknesses and strengths but overall provide the same experience. Both games together provide plenty of match 3 content. Both are equally addictive and can provide interesting challenges and bit more depth than you might expect.

Tamadra (P&D)

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