Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition
Puzzle & Dragons has been a force to be reckoned within the mobile realm for some time, having released in 2012 by GungHo Online to hordes of gamers on the go looking for a new puzzler to set up residence in. Combining the fun of casual match-three puzzle games with a series of microtransactions that players didn't balk at as often as they should have, it was one of the landmark applications to have on your device for quite some time. Of course, given its status as a free-to-play game, there were those who weren't so keen on giving it a try. Enter Nintendo and the decision to publish Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. You've got two complete games on one Nintendo 3DS cartridge, meaning a complete experience for players light on cash in the long run and looking for a budget. Is it worth picking up and diving into with the free-to-play alternative lurking on the App Store? The short answer is "absolutely."
To Catch Them Is Your Real Test
Puzzle & Dragons Z is the meatier of the two options, serving up players a male or female avatar for their Dragon Tamer that'll serve as the protagonist in their game. You receive a "D-Gear," much like a PokÃ©dex, for use when it comes to collecting and training the many monsters you'll meet on your journey through the world. It's a tried and true role-playing trope that's served gaming well over the years, and feels right at home on the handheld, especially considering the dearth of story or reason to get involved with GungHo's mobile iteration.
The game itself is quite straightforward, as you face off against several monsters with quite creative designs here and there by matching orbs and strategically implementing special moves once you're all charged up. The monsters themselves aren't anything special -- static portraits that take on a few animations from time to time -- but it's all quite gripping. Just try and stop after your third or fourth matchup and you'll see that you'll be practically tearing yourself away from the system. I'm speaking from experience.
To Match Them Is Your Cause
Both the Super Mario Bros. edition and Puzzle & Dragons Z are based on one core idea: matching three or more orbs on a small grid that's used to damage your enemies, heal you, and pull off special combos. Depending on which elemental orbs you match, you can do a different amount of damage to enemies. You'll have to determine what their elemental weaknesses are before launching an assault, especially since you're liable to take a big hit from groups of enemies at once. You'll want to make sure you have a decent-sized team when it comes to launching an offensive as well, because you can really wreck your opponents with special abilities and well-timed moves. It's a whole lot more than just sliding around orbs, which becomes abundantly clear after a while, as it should.
If that's not enough, you have to worry about the gauge constantly counting down from the moment you put the stylus to the screen and make a move to swap some orbs around. You can also choose which enemies you want to attack by using the D-pad, as well as the allies you head out into each dungeon with. This nuanced gameplay allows Puzzle & Dragons Z to transcend the typical matching play style so many associate with free-to-play endeavors, and part of what makes it such an enjoyable adventure.
It's-a Me! Puzzles!
The Super Mario Bros. edition of Puzzle & Dragons is a much more watered-down, family-friendly version of Puzzle & Dragons Z and as such is a great place to start, especially if you're unfamiliar with the series. It's chock-full of friendly Nintendo faces and a very Super Mario Bros.-like level selection screen, complete with friends to recruit and challenges to complete. It can be quite challenging on its own despite being bereft of much of a deep storyline. Come for Mario, if you will, but stay for Puzzle & Dragons Z.
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons is an excellent option for those looking to further expand their 3DS library or even those curious about GungHo's mobile versions of the game. Both halves of this package are fun and entertaining ways to spend a few minutes here and there, and you'll love seeing what they have to offer.