In a crowded mobile market full of fleeting successes, Puzzle & Dragons has endured. Why? It’s because it’s more than a color-matching puzzle game. It offers team customization for interesting and varied strategies. Its enemies often force you to approach your matching differently. And perhaps most notably, it offers huge combos if you work hard enough for them!
It’s disappointing, then, to see just how much trouble the franchise has encountered adapting to a console market. Especially after multiple promising 3DS entries! But like Puzzle & Dragons Gold before it, Puzzle & Dragons Nintendo Switch Edition fully misunderstands its own appeal.
Let’s start with that team-building. Crafting squads turns the game from a matching game that sort of plays itself into something more calculated! So… why take that out? That’s a weird move, huh? But Nintendo Switch Edition does just that, instead offering a pre-built team that gradually upgrades as you progress and additional pre-set teams through its gacha system. (Yep, gacha. We’ll get to that later.)
So your party has abilities you can’t choose, and the strategies are almost always to just match everything on the board and use every ability as soon as it charges. That combines with the combo problem! You see, since the super-long board manipulation timer lets you make that ideal basically every round, “success” comes from whatever luck you manage with new pieces dropping onto the screen.
And these systems would be tested better with a campaign that’s tuned more carefully. Sure, the enemy health and damage numbers go up as you play, but true challenge would come from curated enemy sequences that make you intentionally leave pieces on your board for later combos. But that doesn’t really happen! And again, any “strategy” you may have is regularly trampled by the damage numbers of the “just match everything” approach.
Along the way, you unlock a bunch of stuff. Stuff! People love it! Unfortunately, the regular visit to the Achievements menu to get songs and avatars and the occasional gacha pull (getting there) is rarely fruitful. Puzzle & Dragons Nintendo Switch Edition seems to boil the idea of mobile games’ appeal down to constant pop-ups. So after you don’t make any meaningful decisions for a few minutes, you get some notifications to clear.
And okay, let’s talk about the gacha. You can earn a few pulls through the campaign, and each one gets you an avatar with some sort of bonus item. It could be a song, a pre-made team or a set of equippable bonuses you can’t change or reconfigure. The teams are the obvious gets, since they offer something interesting to gameplay! Sort of. The idea that the avatars for a pre-made-team-only player-versus-player mode are the main attraction? That’s sort of a farce. But hey, nevertheless.
You can get more items from the gacha with… just straight up cash! The game doesn’t obscure these transactions with an in-game currency. You’d probably expect some business plan shenanigans with a sub-$5 game like this, but what’s here does not feel good.
There are some efforts around the edges to improve the experience here. Multiplayer! Custom-made dungeons to share and play! And these ideas could be promising. But they’re built around a faulty foundation, and these efforts don’t really get a chance to prove themselves as part of this package.
This is a real shame for a franchise that was so promising just a few years ago. Puzzle & Dragons Z was a fun, engaging RPG built around the game’s mechanics, and the Japan-only Puzzle & Dragons X polished and added to these ideas to make one of the best titles on the platform. But those hoping for a similarly compelling Switch release will just have to keep waiting.