Every year, Game Informer breaks down the best releases with its annual Top 50 list. It’s a group effort, which includes long meetings, heated discussions, and possibly the best homework assignments you could possibly ask for. There’s only so much time to go around, however, and sometimes smaller releases need people to advocate for or against their inclusion. Such is the case with the game I’m championing this year, a little match-three game (with a big name) called Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition. Dan Tack is my guinea pig.
Jeff C: Dan, I know you’re one of the few people in the office who plays Puzzle & Dragons, which will henceforth be referred to as what we cool kids call it, Puzz & D. Why didn’t you play it on 3DS? It’s two freaking Puzz & D games in one!
Dan: Alright Cork I’m going to level with you. I never thought I’d say this. I thought that the packaged all-in-one experience of a retail version of Puzz & D would be superior to what can be considered a “pay to win” in some respects free-to-play mobile version. After playing this though, I found myself yearning to go back to the core mobile version that I began my dragon-matching goodness on. For real, Toad is an annoying little **** and I never want to hear him in a game again.
Jeff C: Oof! He comes out swinging. That answers my first question, which was about which of the two versions you played. I at least know you met Toad in the Super Mario Bros. version, and he left quite an impression on you. Before I dig in deeper, did you spend any time with Puzz & D Z?
Dan: I did. It’s a lot closer to “the real thing” obviously, but it still feels limited. I think the last year of content for actual Puzz & D has been amazing, with themed dungeons and stuff from other brands and franchises always coming in to liven things up. There are just so many options there. Too bad it has stamina gating. Still an amazing game, though. Both the versions on the 3DS feel watered down to me after spending so much time with the original.
Jeff C: You’re absolutely right about GungHo doing an amazing job of supporting the original game. It’s funny you mention stamina gating, since its omission on 3DS drew some criticism. Personally, I liked being able to sit down and marathon the game for a while without having to worry about waiting for my sessions to recharge. That alone made up for not being able to have Hello Kitty characters on my team. Do you think you might have been more forgiving if that line between Mario Puzz & D and Puzz & D Z wasn’t so firm?
Dan: I think I would have probably loved it a lot more had I never played the original game. It’s definitely one of the best matching games out there, and the systems are generally pretty fun, even in this distilled entry. I mean, you do get two full games too. I hated the Mario version, to be honest. Everything about it annoyed me on a personal level, from Toad’s annoying moaning to the dumb looking Koopas.
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Jeff C: Well, if you don’t like the characters it’s hard to close your eyes while playing the game. I can never quite get a read on you. Do you consider yourself much of a Nintendo fan, overall? Do the Mario characters do anything for you outside of this particular game?
Dan: I like Nintendo games. Hell, I like Mario Party, which I know is hated around here. But the characters do absolutely nothing for me in this particular spin off. Toad might be the most punchable character of all time.
Jeff C: Sup, fellow Mario Party player? OK, so at least I know it’s not an inherent dislike of the characters, but the way they’re used. Poor Toad. What did you think of the other Puzz & D game? In particular, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on its overworld gameplay, which was a new thing for the series.
Dan: It’s like the mobile game only not as good. I could not help making that association constantly. I was like, why am I doing this, I could be working on my actual online save file where I have a bunch of friends and cool dungeons like every week to do. Again, this is one of those weird cases where I think it would actually be beneficial to have NOT experienced the core game before going in. I think it’s super solid for those who don’t want to deal with the stamina gating and honestly LONG trek toward a real team in the mobile version. The systems and the game are solid, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not making “real” progress.
Jeff C: That was one of the things I ran into while I was playing it for review. I was moving from one platform, where I had a great team, and starting over from scratch. After spending a lot of time with the 3DS game, I got to a similarly powerful place, but it did take a significant time investment. Perhaps you just didn’t have the time to get there, which colored your overall experience? Will you at least give me that?
Dan: Yeah I’ll give you that. But I’m weird right. Even if I got to the end of the game I’d be like “well okay that was fun but I could have just worked on my team in the version that gets constant support, hunh okay. Plus, Toad is stupid. And so are the dumb Koopa’s faces. They just LOOK WRONG. Basically, Puzz & D is one of the best casual matching games out there, and this is a great way to play it without the monetization and other issues with the core title.
Jeff C: I think I can see where this is ultimately headed, so let’s just put a bullet in this pony’s head.
Dan’s Verdict: Yeah it’s a cool version of one of the most popular mobile titles out there with none of the free-to-play nonsense. I’ll give it that. Should it be in the Top 50? No. This was a great year for games and ultimately I think we’ve got something hotter to take the slot. So consider this my blue shell taking the wind out of Puzz & D’s Top 50 sails. Sorry Cork.
For more on Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition, take a look at our Test Chamber.