Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. (3DS) Review
The 3DS is a failure. This handheld's battery cannot withstand nine hour sessions of Puzzle & Dragons Z. That is a problem. So is the draw to Puzzle & Dragons in general.
Critically, Puzzle & Dragons is embarrassing. Asset sharing-esque anime design should be catastrophic. Images indistinguishable from the glut of late '90s card/monster dealing properties (Bakugan, Mega Man Battle Network, even Pokemon) cycle through the screen at large, terrorizing a match-em-up of menial progress wherein a twist of luck is preferable to skill. Yuck.
Unwillingly enslaved to colored gems
Yet Puzzle & Dragons is narcotically charged, or maybe the cartridge unknowingly secretes nicotine from technology still unexposed. This is interactive equivalency to awful, sugary pop music. The lyrics are empty, down to the level of near parody the likes of boy band LFO - where New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits and Chinese food made them sick – and yet Puzzle & Dragons, like those chorus-filled songs, calls out. It reaches. It pulls. It tugs. It works with little understanding as to why.
The formula is unchanged outside of eliminating tired, paid meters and other money-sucking design functions.
This is free-to-play syndrome.
Puzzle & Dragons started around the legions of people spending their days (and money) crushing candy on mobile. The formula is unchanged outside of eliminating tired, paid meters and other money-sucking design functions. GungHo Online must sorrowfully clinch their millions-per-day bank accounts whenever someone uses a potentially paid feature in this single purchase 3DS translation.
Match orbs, kill stuff, level up, move. How mundane... and embarrassingly effective. Puzzle & Dragons enacts tired lore, with a fantasy land snapped into pieces while the government's Dragon Tamers use a young recruit to piece things together. They are fighting Paradox, evil people who enjoying being evil because of evil reasons after falling out from starring roles on Power Rangers or Japanese tokusatsu shows such as Ultraman.
Samurai, dragons, and blobs, oh my!
But there are monsters. So many monsters. Dragons, dead samurai, blobs of colored stuff, adorable puppy kittens, adorable puppy kittens who evolve into ultra mega level 90 carnivore death machines; you can likely see the draw. This is all done via color matching systems. As a formula, it's existed for decades. Sega's Columns popularized the colored swap-em-up, but failed to include leveling systems. The search and hunt for loot is emphatically charming no matter the dressing. There is zero connection to the world, towns, characters, or story. It's about stuff and only stuff.
The fixation on the material, even when said material “exists” in a fantastical digital file, is a lunacy of the first-world.
Therein is where free-to-play monstrosities nab people. They pray on have/have not culture. Even in this form, so too does Puzzle & Dragons with embedded sharing and trading systems. Either help comes from Street Pass friends who also purchased their copy or help does not come at all. The psychological impact, from both the consumer level and simplicity of this gameplay model, is fascinating to some extent, depressing in another. The fixation on the material, even when said material “exists” in a digital file, is a lunacy of the first-world. We're so fortunate.
A wild Mario Bros. game appears
So why not slap Mario on the back-end in his own starring version? Nintendo has relegated their mascot cornerstone to the status of a gateway drug. It was okay when Mario taught kids how to type; now he peddles iOS software. There are positives. Mario's edition carries a pleasing, hard-edged cartoon aesthetic. First-person Mushroom Kingdom backgrounds are a joy to see. Pipes, platforms, bricks, coins; the POV experiment, even without direct control, is pleasing.
Funny enough, Mario's end is intended to be the teacher, a six level tutorial. Only it's dreadful. The execution is such that helper Toad spits up buckets of text en masse, little of it particularly clear, with even less of this information standing out as relevant to the tweaked Puzzle & Dragons Z variation on the opposite end.
In short, everything else is terrible because everything else is not Puzzle & Dragons Z. Backyards do not contain monster eggs, children do not engage in questionably dangerous activities to save the world, and Puzzle & Dragons does not come in an injectable version. Please, send help.