Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition Review

£29.99; 3DS; GungHo Online Entertainment

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The Independent Tech

Until recently, it appeared that Nintendo were, willfully or not, unaware of the developing smartphone gaming market and its sudden and rapid entry into Nintendo’s competitive space. Puzzle and Dragons Z, and specifically its Super Mario content, suggest a shift towards taking the threat of mobile gaming more seriously. With Nintendo having recently announced a partnership with DeNA in Japan to publish their games on mobile, Puzzle and Dragons Z presents a case for porting mobile games to the 3DS, through injecting some Nintendo charm into an already well established game.

Puzzle and Dragons quickly established itself as a mobile hit when it launched on iOS back in 2012, combining simple match-3 gameplay, an RPG style battle system and a raft of dragons and monsters to collect and upgrade. It was however, free-to-play and included numerous methods of trying to get users to part with their money in order to speed up their progress through the game.

With these limitations stripped away for the 3DS release, the mechanics have been shifted to make the experience more respectful of players’ time. This has mostly improved the experience, but does present one issue - unique to the 3DS version of the game - the tedium of repetition. With the ‘freemium’ pay walls removed, and no timers slowing down your progress, the repetitive nature of the gameplay becomes more apparent and doesn't lend itself as well to long play sessions.

One exclusive new aspect you won’t find on other versions of the title is the new Super Mario mode. Packaged as a completely separate game, the match-3 and battle system remain the same, although this time the action takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario is supported by a full cast of classic characters and enemies, from Luigi and Toad to goombas and koopas. The gameplay, including collecting and upgrading mechanics are almost identical to the main Puzzle and Dragons Z portion of the game, but the characterisation and world Nintendo provide with their mustachioed plumber adds an element of charm and polish.

Have the developers succeeded in adapting their mobile title to 3DS? I think they’ve done an admirable job. Despite the repetition and a somewhat misguided attempt to give the game a story, the solid mechanics and compelling gameplay that made the title such a success on mobile remain. The Super Mario mode is perhaps the more successful marriage, streamlining a lot of the systems and of course providing a recognisable backdrop. The overall package suggests that perhaps Nintendo have been paying attention after all, and that they have the potential to get us excited about mobile gaming all over again.

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