The actual lede of this article should read Nintendo and GungHo Online team up to get all the Yen in Japan with new Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition collaboration, but in all honesty, your Yen is safe until April 29, when the game launches in Japan on the Nintendo 3DS.
If you haven’t heard of Puzzle & Dragons, it has by far been the most popular mobile game in Japan for some time now, with smart phones making a significant dent in the sales performance of both home and portable consoles. The simple mechanics of a match-3 puzzle paired with basic RPG tenants of roster building, character raising and dungeon crawling has worked out to be a massive success and has spawned a successful international release and several solid clones including Doctor Who and Marvel themed editions.
As for that Mario guy. He’s some plumber that’s supposedly pretty good at jumping.
The move is a smart one by both companies because it allows GungHo to enter the traditional gaming space under the wing of the last remaining beacon in Japanese game and electronics development. Despite the sharp drop off in portable and home console sales compared to recent generations in Japan, Nintendo has managed to carve out a niche thanks to their phenomenal fan base and commitment to continuing the Nintendo way. When I was in Japan last year, PS Vitas were rather hard to see in the wild, but my 3DS would always come back with full Street Passes.
For Nintendo, it is the opportunity for them to work with the top mobile game and score some good grace points with a younger generation who see Mario as more of a relic of older generations. Nintendo is still popular, but with quick fix games like Puzzle & Dragons becoming the go-to, Nintendo has faced challenges building its young audience. Perhaps a successful partnership could provide some direction as to whether Nintendo would ever consider making a mobile app or sourcing their characters to another developer to build a game on phones.
I will say that despite the simplicity of Puzzle & Dragons, it is a solid foundation and a fairly addictive game. Does the formula translate to a retail 3DS cartridge or a digital download? I don’t know, it has thrived in the free-to-play, microtransaction model so a purchased product would be a shift.
To top it off, I don’t think the aesthetics shown off in the trailer do justice to either franchise. Puzzle & Dragons has detailed anime-styled art for all of its creatures that makes collecting and building that bestiary part of the fun. Nintendo’s Mario characters are known for their liveliness and vibrance. The art style in the collaboration falls squarely between the two resulting in a less polished looking Mario and an art style that simply doesn’t fit the classic Puzzle & Dragons look. It’s hard to mess up the mechanics of an established game like this, but the art style is certainly a hurdle.
Regardless, the game has the potential to be a hit for both GungHo and Nintendo so long as both companies put their all behind the product. It is a game that will certainly earn a look when it comes to western localization consideration so we should see it in the west eventually.