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Play two fun puzzle RPGs in one game pack

GungHo Online Entertainment’s Puzzle & Dragons, a bona fide runaway success on mobile platforms, has arrived on Nintendo 3DS—and along with it comes a second, all-new adventure starring Mario! If you enjoy puzzle games with light role-playing game elements then you won’t want to miss out on this two-in-one game bundle, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition.

Developer: GungHo Online Entertainment
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: May 22, 2015
Genre: Puzzle role-playing game
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_Levels.jpgDecisions, Decisions

Once the title screen loads, right off the bat you’re asked to make an important decision: do you want to play Puzzle & Dragons Z, an enhanced version of the classic mobile game, or try the all-new Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. The game tells you that the Super Mario Bros. Edition is recommended for newcomers to the series, so if this is your first time playing Puzzle & Dragons, that’s where you’ll want to start.

Ironically, as I soon found out, the Super Mario Bros. Edition is both easier to get into―with its generous offering of gameplay tips, coupled with its familiar Super Mario setting―and more challenging with its steep difficulty ramp up early on. Despite the toughness of this edition, it’s the more enjoyable of the two included games, so for that reason I suggest diving into this fun new Mario adventure to start!

Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_Goomba.jpgThe Super Mario Bros. Edition is very easy to get into with its no-nonsense, straight to the action approach that begins with—yep, you guessed it—our beloved Princess Peach kidnapped by the kleptomaniac king of the Koopas, Bowser. At the same time, mysterious Orbs begin to fill the Mushroom Kingdom, and Bowser’s magician, Kamek, uses his powers to snatch them up by the dozens. After this light introduction, it’s your job (as Mario, or Luigi) to trek across the Mushroom Kingdom on a search and rescue mission to win back their beloved Princess.

In total, you’ll travel through 8 different Worlds (with 8 more special worlds unlocked after completing the game), each with their own familiar Super Mario theme like grasslands, underground cave, tropical beach, lush forest, clouds, and lava lands. The overhead maps are set-up just like they are in New Super Mario Bros., with individual course dots connected along a main path that will eventually lead you to final boss’ airship. It’s a traditional, nostalgic set-up that long-time Super Mario fans are sure to appreciate and enjoy.

Simple game to learn, challenging to master

Toad is your faithful guide throughout the game, and what a helpful companion he is. Every step of the way he’ll give you walkthroughs and tips to teach you the ropes, and how to improve upon your game. Through Toad, you’ll learn the basic flow of Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition: select your team, battle enemies by matching orbs, recruit new companions and collect loot, and finally, upgrade or evolve your allies. Let’s take a look at each of these gameplay components one by one!

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Have fun selecting your team

Preparation for each puzzle course is vital to your success in Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. You can create teams of six characters, starting with your team leader, then adding four companions and a helper. Your team leader, usually Mario or Luigi in one of their various power-up forms, is most important, as they grant your team powerful “Leadership Skills” that can aid you battle in different ways. This could be by multiplying your team’s damage dealt, or boosting the stats of characters of a specific elemental affinity (like fire, water, or wood).

Next, your companions consist of Mushroom Kingdom baddies, like Goombas or Koopa Troopas, which you’ve defeated previously and have joined your team. There are over 80 different enemies to collect, and as a huge Super Mario fan it was a blast to find and collect all my favourites!

Lastly, your sixth and final team member is a helper character that grants your team an additional Leader Skill. Your helper can be the other brother (say Luigi, if your leader is Mario), or you can recruit some of Mario’s best buddies like Toad or Yoshi. You’ll rescue new friends of Mario at regular intervals as you play, so get set to build an army of all your favourite Mushroom Kingdom characters!

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition.jpgBattle enemies by matching orbs

Each puzzle course you enter will contain numerous baddies, which you must defeat, with each assigned to different elemental types. There are five types in total: fire, water, wood, light, and dark. The first three function sort of like rock, paper, scissors, with fire strong against wood and weak against water, water strong against fire and weak against wood, and wood strong against water and weak against fire. Light and dark are inverses of each other, with light vulnerable to dark, and dark vulnerable to light. The most important preparation you can do is check out what elemental enemies you’re about to face, and then arrange your team to have the elemental advantage.

Battles in Super Mario Bros. Edition are really simple and fun! Matches take place on a 6×6 grid where the objective is to drag and match coloured orbs as fast as you can until a countdown timer expires. Each set of three orbs you match causes your characters of that element to attack; so for example, if you match red orbs, your fire characters will attack. If you manage to chain together multiple combos, you’ll deal massive blows to your enemies—and you might even have a chance to recruit the baddies or steal their loot!

If you need help during battles, you can also use “Activated Skills” after waiting a specific number of turns (dependent on the character), which have powerful effects like healing the entire team or dealing massive damage. I had so much fun constantly mixing and matching my characters to create the ultimate Super Mario dream team! What’s also really cool about this game is just like in the Super Mario games, many puzzle courses have secret exits that lead you to new areas, often containing the rarest characters and items.

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_Transform.jpgRecruit new companions and Collect loot

Once you’ve cleared a puzzle course, you’ll get rewarded with tons of potential loot, such as coins, power-ups, and new characters to recruit. There are so many of my favourite Super Mario characters to collect in this game, like Cheep Cheeps, Piranha Plants, Hammer Bros., Thwomps, and Boos, so I couldn’t wait to collect them all.

You’ll also acquire a vast collection of iconic Super Mario power-ups, such as P-Wings,1-Up Mushrooms, Super Leafs, and more. If you’re really good at matching orbs in battle, producing high combos increases the odds of defeated characters dropping loot. It’s a satisfying reward system, as each power-up you collect feels as though you’ve really earned it.

Upgrade or evolve your allies

After battle, you’ll have lots of fun venturing into the local Toad House located in each world where you can feed your characters power-ups to transform them into stronger forms. Each time you transform your characters, not only do their stats tend to improve, but you’ll also gain access to upgraded or entirely new Skills, and their level cap will double.

My tiny Boo, for example, got upgraded into a full-screen sized King Boo, complete with miniature crown and protruding tongue. Even cuter, I transformed my Blooper twice, and its final form is a Blooper Nanny with two baby Bloopers. Transforming your lower class characters into their evolved forms is essential as you progress through the game, so acquiring those power-ups is vital!

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_Dragons.jpgPuzzle & Dragons Z – Battle 5 sky dragons and piece together the world

Puzzle & Dragons Z, the second game of this two-in-one pack, takes the classic gameplay from the hit mobile version and adds a full JRPG storyline. In it, the world of Dracomacia is broken into multiple puzzle piece shapes by the evil group Paradox, and it’s up to you, a new Dragon Tamer, to battle through dungeons and free the legendary Skydragons (who have the power to rebuild the world).

Zed City is where you call home, and it contains important areas for your quest, like the Ranger HQ, where you report for new missions, and the Dragon Lab, a place to hatch eggs you collect in battle. These eggs produce new monsters, of which there are more than 200 to find, bolstering your team’s power. The city also has the Shrine of Light: a place you can use runes or relics to access special challenge dungeons in an alternate universe to gain new items and companions.

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_RangerHQ.jpgFrom a gameplay perspective, Puzzle & Dragons Z is set-up almost exactly same as the Super Mario Bros. Edition. You select your team in the same manner, and are still required to match coloured elemental orbs to attack your enemies. The only real difference is that in Puzzle & Dragons Z your team has a shared skill point gauge, which you can spend on any of your team member’s Skills. It’s a more flexible system overall, as you can choose to focus on healing exactly when you need it, or use an attack Skill when the timing is right.

Puzzle_&_Dragons_Super_Mario_Edition_DragonTamer.jpgI had a good amount of fun with Puzzle & Dragons Z, but overall felt that Super Mario Bros. Edition was the better game of the two. This is because the story in Puzzle & Dragons Z is very generic (evil organization threatens the world and only you, a young boy or girl can save it!) and has the effect of slowing the game’s pace to a crawl. Add in the need to return back to Zed City after completing each level to hatch your eggs (in the Super Mario Bros. Edition you acquire new allies immediately after battle), and the gameplay slows even further. In comparison, the Super Mario Bros. Edition gets you straight to the puzzle battles (easily the funnest aspect of the game) and keeps you there nearly the whole time.

Final thoughts

Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. is extremely easy to recommend to puzzle fans who own a Nintendo 3DS. With two games in one, you’re getting a double dose of exciting puzzle game action, and each one of these games will take you weeks to play through. The gameplay is so addicting that even after you do complete the games, you’ll come back to find new companions, evolve your existing ones, or simply to enjoy the fast-paced, fun puzzle solving.

Taking the proven Puzzle & Dragons game mechanics and mixing it with the charm of the Super Mario series proves to be a winning combination here. Seeing your favourite, familiar characters come to life in beautiful 3D is a big drawing point here, and the thought of capturing a new Mushroom Kingdom baddie has kept me coming back week after week. If you’re looking for a fun new challenge, do yourself a favour and give this game a try!

+ Challenging, deep, and addictive gameplay
+ Super Mario Bros. Edition is a great twist on this classic series
+ Companions are detailed and well animated

– Puzzle & Dragons Z adds an unnecesary JRPG storyline that slows down gameplay

OVERALL

Gameplay: 4.5/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Sound: 4/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5

Overall Rating 4.5/5 (90%)

Have you played Puzzle & Dragons on mobile? Let me know in the comments section your thoughts on this new version!

Thinking about trying out Puzzle & Dragons for the very first time? Be sure to tell me below what you’re looking forward to the most!