Edit on Nov 8, 2012: Guess what showed up at the US App Store today? (Haven’t managed to find it at the Canadian one yet.) The direct link’s in the caption under the screenshot.
If this is too long a read, just go to the product page at http://itunes.apple.com/jp/app/puzzle-dragons/id493470467?l=en&mt=8 and oggle at the cuteness! But the real incentive to check it out is the totally machine-translated Engrish description!
Actually, just get yourself an iTunes Japan account and give it a try. (No credit card information is required to download free apps!)
For those that are braving this, be prepared for some boring prose! (I am incapable of creative writing.)
Those 3 critters may be cute and happy but they are totally out to murder your little band of monsters.
I downloaded this semi-social, cute puzzle/monster collecting freemium game on a whim after purchasing Epic Astro Story from the Japanese App Store. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the game is available outside of Japan.
Developed and published by GungHo Online Entertainment, it’s a dungeon crawler kind of like those old school, first person turn-based RPGs. In Puzzle & Dragons, you “control” a party of 5 monsters. Well, there’s six in the screenshot above since you can always bring a guest along with you! These monster guests are courtesy of other players but I’ll get more into that a bit later.
Puzzle & Dragons is super simple to figure out! Just match up rows or columns of the same type of coloured orbs/elements based on fire, water, air, light, and darkness. The minimum is 3 but if you manage a group of 5+ elements, it will invoke an area attack where you will hit all enemies on the screen. Of course, this is all dependent on whether or not your party contains monsters of the same elements as those orbs you match up.
Although this whole matching colours business is quite old by now, Puzzle & Dragons differs in that it’s turn-based, and within your turn, you can move any one orb anywhere in the puzzle grid. This allows you to set up combos to deal massive damage. However, selecting a puzzle piece triggers a countdown which limits the amount of time you have to figure out where to move it. On top of that, there’s a number on top of an enemy’s head that indicates the number of turns you have before it attacks so you have to think fast.
While grouping trios of the elements is all fine and dandy, you won’t get very far that way. To effectively get through a dungeon, you will need to strategize and create combos. Combos are basically multiple groups of 3 or more elements that are achieved within your turn. The main advantage is the increase in damage output and also the bonus effect of replenishing a greater amount of health if the combo includes a string of 3 or more Hearts.
Aside from the puzzle aspect, there’s also monster raising and monster fusion. Both will be covered in a later section but for now, let’s look at that thing about the game being a free and premium title. :3
As Puzzle & Dragons is a freemium game, it contains in-app purchases as well as a restriction of how much time you can spend playing. The restriction in this case is known as Stamina.
But wait!! Don’t stop reading yet! It’s not as bad as you think!
You expend Stamina every time you enter a dungeon. I believe the minimum begins at 3 points. Now, unlike other freemium games with a similar wait and play gimmick, Puzzle & Dragons is more reasonable in that 1 point of Stamina is replenished every 10 minutes so you’re not waiting half an hour or however many hours like usual. But, now that I think about it, the wait may get pretty bad when the Stamina gauge gets over 50. (I’m not entirely sure how Stamina increases. I thought it was through levelling up in rank but it’s not.)
If you’re impatient, you can always use Magic Stones to restore your Stamina gauge to maximum. Of course, free Magic Stones are conveniently difficult to come by in-game. In fact, the Shop icon is a subtle reminder that you can always purchase more!
The elemental dungeons~!
Dungeons are categorized as Normal Dungeon or Special Dungeon. The main differences between the two types are dungeon length, stamina cost, and enemy levels/strength.
Normal Dungeons have less stages that require low stamina to enter. They also contain more or less managable opponents. Special Dungeons are the exact opposite. Actually, Special Dungeons are only available for a certain amount of days and are a good source for money (and probably rare monsters).
Both dungeon types have stages that vary in length and number of enemies, but the final stage always contains a boss battle where you can either fight one beefy monster or take on several beefy monsters at once. If I remember correctly, the screencap at the top is a boss fight within one of the special dungeons.
There’s no real objective in the game, I don’t think. All you do is go around beating up other monsters and collect gold and eggs. These eggs are hatched upon completion of a dungeon stage and you will either get a regular monster (which come from a polka-dotted egg) or a rare monster (which pop up out a striped egg).
Oh yeah, completing dungeons nets you experience too! When your EXP bar is full, you will level up in rank and your Stamina gauge will replenish. You also unlock the feature to gift friends once you reach rank 20. There are probably other features that are dependent on rank that I’m not sure about though. .___.
It’s not a Pokedex!
Currently, there are 200 collectible monsters but I’m not sure if they can all be captured since the ones in the compedium seem to be either the ones you own or the enemy monsters. For some reason, ally monsters from other users don’t show up.
Most monsters have special active or passive skills that can be used in battle if the conditions are met. The conditions I’ve seen so far only call for a fixed number of turns. In terms of active abilities, they can be buffs, debuffs, restoration of the team’s health bar, or some sort of attack. Passive skills can consist actions like of counterattacking when hit or restoring a small amount of HP per user turn.
There are also monsters that have a Leader Skill which obviously only become available when placed in Leader slot. I’m uncertain of this but I think the party member you assign as a Leader becomes the guest character that other players can take with them into their fights.
You are free to configure your party in any way by choosing from the available monsters in your inventory. While variety is a good idea, adding several of the same elemental type will increase their attack power. The only catch when outfitting the team is that their combined cost — in the right image above, each monster’s value is indicated below their level — cannot exceed the allotted team cost. Using the screenshot on the right, you can see that my limit is 26 but I’ve only used up 22.
As mentioned in the previous section, you can acquire monster eggs while travelling through dungeons. As you are only allowed to have 20 creatures in inventory, you can choose to keep them, sell them, or fuse them with active or inactive party members. (You can increase the amount of inventory slots you have at the store though.)
Fusing monsters is the only way to level them up or evolve them. The latter requires them to be at their maximum level where you can then synthesize them with other maxed out monsters. The resulting monster will be one of higher grade. I’m not sure any fusion can fail but given the rarity of some of the “ingredients”, as well as the cost of the whole process, I don’t believe it’s possible.
Monster grades are indicated as stars on their profile cards. One star is the lowest possible grade and usually max out at level 10. As the stars increase, the maximum level also rises. As I’m early in the game, I don’t know what the highest grade would be but I’m guessing it’s 4 or 5 stars.
I don’t them and they don’t know me but we’re friends!
I opened this overview by stating that Puzzle & Dragons is a semi-social game. By this, I meant that part of the gameplay gimmick is that you can obtain Friendship Points (FP) from opting to take someone else’s monsters out with your group. Er, incidentally, the games labels the name of these points in Japanese which is 友情ポイント.
Everyone starts off as strangers and it will remain so unless you actually go out of your way to become acquainted with them through the game’s messaging and gifting system. You only gain 5 FP from an outting from strangers. However, once they become “friends”, you will get the obtain 10 FP. Unfortunately, all these Friendship Points, whether they’re from strangers or friends, can only be received once by day.
I never did check if you can simply go through dungeons without bringing along an ally but since there’s no disadvantage that I can think of in doing so, I always do. And because of this, I’ve racked up a ton of points that can be used in the Gacha menu! ^o^ In the menu, you can choose to use the Friendship gachapon machine or the Rare one. If it’s the former, you will need 200 FP to use it. For the latter, 5 Magic Stones are required. With either one, there’s a little gachapon machine in the form of a dragon that pops up a random egg from its tummy when you pull on its arm. ^^;
No picture here. 😄
If you read or skimmed through all of this, I hope that I’ve somewhat piqued your interest in the game. I find it quite fun despite the whole Stamina gimmick that limits how much you can play in one sitting as well as the small frustration that it costs a lot to level up monsters as they evolve. But hey, that’s what the in-game shop is for, right? >_>
Oh, I forgot to mention, since this is a free title from the Japanese App Store, you can create an iTunes Japan account to download it to try it it out for yourself! You don’t need to enter any credit card information at all~!