Magical Drop V Is Out. Here’s How It Plays


Magical Drop is a series of puzzle games started by the now-defunct Data East, the developer behind various arcade games around that time—Captain America and the Avengers, Side Pocket—and perhaps more famous known nowadays for Bad Dudes. The story of the Magical Drop series—if it counts as a story—involves various characters representing the Major Tarot Arcanas challenging each other in puzzle matches. The premise in V specifically states that they’re fighting in a tournament that would grant a wish to the winner, but it wasn’t particularly obvious in the scenes in between, short as they are.


Much of the time, the characters don’t even sound like they’re in competition with each other—let alone them bringing it up—as much as merely joking or playing around together. In any case though, it’s safe to say that the premise hasn’t gotten any more complex than the previous ones’.


Similar to various puzzle games like Puzzle Bobble and Tetris, tiles of different colors and symbols—spheres in this case—slowly drop down a vertical rectangular box. You control a cursor at the bottom, shaped like a jester {which, in early installments, is actually represented by a small sprite of the character being played}. Your objective is to pull in bottommost spheres from a column and throwing back up another lane, in order to stack at least 3 spheres of the same color vertically, clearing them from the field.


Every cleared cluster and chain reaction sends an "Attack" to the opponent’s side, adding more spheres to their field. Each character has a designated attack pattern; for example, Chariot’s attacks add spheres in an arrowhead formation (i.e: more pressure on some columns than others) while Fool’s is just a regular, even drop. The match is won by forcing the opponent’s sphere mass to reach the bottom or filling a quota of 200 cleared spheres (the amount of which can be adjusted in custom modes).


Perhaps a visual demonstration of sorts would help here:



Pulling down from the current column nets the two blue spheres; green ones don’t follow because they’re different in color from the bottommost ones. Throwing the two blues back up the column to the left makes a stack of 4. You can take in and hold as many spheres of the same color as you want, but once you’ve picked up a color, you can’t switch to another without putting the current ones down.


Here we have a big stack of green spheres that aren’t cleared because they were accumulated naturally. Pulling in the row with 4 greens already stacked, and throwing back up clears not only the vertical stack, but every sphere of the same color that are in contact with it horizontally and vertically.


One exception to these rules is Bruce, a character from Data East’s unreleased puzzle game, Ghostlop. Instead of a multicolor tile system, he employs a completely different playstyle that could be considered a combination of Puzzle Bobble and Arkanoid. Pulling and throwing spheres is replaced by a small ball that Bruce throws at "ghost spheres" falling from the top. The color of the ball can be turned red or blue anytime mid-flight, as ghosts can only be cleared by a ball of the same color; otherwise, the ball bounces off differently colored ghosts.


While Bruce has the ball in hand, he can’t move around, but can adjust the angle of ricochet along which the ball will be thrown; if you take too long aiming, a 5-second timer appears, at the end of which Bruce throws the ball himself along the path you have aimed at the moment.


Once the ball has been thrown, he can move left or right freely in order to catch the ball—which is also important, because every time the ball hits the floor, a new row of ghosts appear at the top.


While my first thought was to throw a ball of the same color directly at the ghost mass, I soon found it more fun to aim at a cluster of ghosts high above the current "skyline", effectively detaching and clearing the entire mass below. (I assume that’s where "lop" in the original title comes from.) The bigger the mass, the more Attacks it’s worth; on the other hand, trying to bide for a bigger mass to collect can lead to a loss from failing to catch the ball or not getting a good opportunity for a big clear, so there’s some risk and reward factor to be considered when playing Bruce.


Aside from a story mode, Magical Drop V also offers multiplayer game modes, in the form of Head-to-Head (1 VS 1), Team Battle (2 VS 2, each team sharing a screen) and King of the Hill (Free-for-all). These modes are available for both local multiplayer on the same computer for up to four people – assuming you can arrange extra control methods for all—as well as online multiplayer.


Lastly, I should perhaps mention a couple of… distractions I came across Magical Drop V. First is that the drawings are a bit inconsistent throughout the game. Pictures used for the character select screen are fine enough, but sprites used in cutscenes and battle backgrounds look somewhat untidy (particularly in how the hands and arms are drawn). The other is that the game has more than a fair share of spelling and punctuation errors, as well as font glitches here and there. But, on an optimistic note, none of those detracts from the core experience the game has to offer.


Food for thought:

1. Most, if not all, of the music are taken from previous games, possibly at a higher quality.


2. There’s a small graphic "hiccup" where the game has to load each individual layer onto screen after being minimized to Taskbar and restored. Things go back to normal after a few seconds, but I did come across an instance where the game hung up while loading, so keep this issue in mind until it’s patched.


3. There are a total of 13 characters in the game, 10 of which are available right off the start. (In comparison, Magical Drop III had 22 characters in total, representing all Arcanas.) Bruce’s friend and partner from Ghostlop, McCoy, is one of the unlockable characters.

Aung (DrakosAmatras)