Anime Grinding Simulator
HIGH Fantastic visuals.
LOW It feels like there’s only half a game here.
WTF The insane and pointless grind.
There are a lot of match-three games on the market. Some are challenges to be solved, some have ‘fighting’ mechanics, and some are focused on getting the highest score possible.
Puzzle & Dragons GOLD combines the ‘combat’ style of match-three with light RPG elements, asking players to raise dragons and build a team to defeat opponents. Unfortunately, while it might hype itself up to be a grand adventure, I found this Switch version be lacking depth that even the mobile iteration has.
To start, players have a couple of options — a singleplayer story mode, a free play mode, and multiplayer.
The story takes the perspective of either Taiga Akashi or his rival Ryuji as they try to win the Puzzle & Dragon tournament held in their town. Each character has a different team made up of a leader dragon and five supporting monsters, and each has different skills — some will be able to give the player more time to make matches, others can make matches of some elements more powerful, and so on. As players progress, they’ll receive orbs to buy eggs that give new monsters or a monster with different skills.
This story mode is a decent starting point for players as it unlocks many of the leaders and monsters P&DG has to offer. These can then be combined as desired in free play mode against AI opponents, or taken online to see how they fare against other players. Sadly, I can’t say that it helped me learn how to play.
The campaign is minuscule and laughably easy (8 matches in all) with a ‘secret’ story that’s unnecessarily difficult thanks to unexplained mechanics. Other than “here’s how to activate a skill”, P&DG doesn’t give info on a monster’s passive abilities at all, and will force players to find outside info for anything beyond a basic understanding. In fact, I actually found it easier to focus on wildly spinning orbs around and leaving it to luck rather than trying to create combos intentionally, and it worked for most of the levels.
Giving credit where it’s due, all of the hand-drawn monsters look fantastically detailed, and leader dragons have a good sense of life in their animations. I would love to see how they look on my TV screen, but the game requires players to play handheld because the controls are touch-based. I understand that touchscreen controls make it easier to move things around, but I find it hard to believe that it couldn’t be done with either motion controls or a joy-con.
As far as being an RPG goes, the Switch version has a stripped-down feel compared to the mobile iteration where P&D first became popular. Leaders can be evolved, but the amount of time it takes isn’t worth it – I’d estimate it at around 3-4 hours to evolve one leader once, and only if I won every online match. With such a high focus on the multiplayer grind, it’s ironic that the servers are completely empty.
Support characters are obtained through virtual slot machines with in-game currency, and their rarity and support skills are random. With over 5000 monsters to collect, this translates into hours of grinding to get a good combination of skills. Manage to get a good monster with bad skills? Try again, although it’s tough to even understand what the good skills are since the game never makes it clear. Putting together a good support team is no easy feat.
While I enjoy a good matching title, Puzzle & Dragons GOLD makes too many missteps, and I can’t recommend this version over the more robust, more entertaining mobile iteration.
Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by GUNGHO ONLINE. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. I attempted to get a multiplayer match for an hour, but was unable to get a match.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+. and contains Mild Fantasy Violence and Comic Mischief. I can see this being a Saturday morning cartoon: the monsters fight, but there’s no blood or gore. Approved for all ages.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options, but puzzle orbs do have symbold
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Text in the game is presented in an easy-to-read font style featuring light text on black backgrounds. No sound is required to complete this game. It’s fully accessible.
Controls: Controls are not remappable. Players can use the analogue stick to move in the menu and hit “A” to select. In game, everything is touch based.