Review #1 by Jason Doyama
If you've ever been to the arcades, you've seen the zillions of puzzle type games there to amuse the girlfriends while their boyfriends play the newest beat em up fighter. But if you look carefully, tucked away in the corner somewhere, beyond Puzzle Bobble, Puzzle Fighter, and all the other clones, you might be lucky and find a Neo Geo machine with Magical Drop 3.
The gameplay is fairly simple. The concept is the opposite from your 'gems drop from the top' type of game. Your pierro, or clown, is used to pull down bubbles from the top. You can grab as many of the same coloured bubbles as you want, then 'throw' them back to one of the columns. A vertical 3 in a row, results in the cancelling of all the bubbles of that paticular colour attached to it. Because you 'pull down' bubbles rather than the bubbles dropping to you, it's easy to create multiple cancels by quickly moving other bubbles while the first one is still cancelling. This makes for some fast and furious action. I personally, have spent many hours and quarters in the arcades playing this, and was looking forward to the Playstation version. Originally for the Neo-Geo, the third incarnation of this game makes it's way to the Playstation.
The conversion from the Neo-Geo arcade system is flawless. The art/music/sfx are all translated to the Playstation perfectly. Although none of them is anything to write home about, they're done fairly well for a puzzle game. I did notice some of the voices seemed scratchy, but there weren't that many of them. In addition to the 'arcade mode' there's a 'special mode' which includes some new gameplay options. There's a whole slew of characters to choose from, most of which are derived from Tarot cards. Gameplay isn't really affected by which character you choose, except in the story mode where you get a different ending depending on the character.
The best mode of play I think is the Board Game Mode. At each stage, you need to collect a certain amount of 'movement' bubbles. The more bubbles you collect, the farther you can move the next turn. Also, there are 'good' and 'bad' events throughout the board you have to watch for. Good events might allow you to move ahead more spaces. While Bad events cause you to enter difficult puzzle modes, or fighting vs the computer. So you actually might want to perform a bit badly, so you can avoid or get to certain events. I like this fresh approach, and makes the Puzzle Bobble map of only 'left-right' choices seem boring by comparison. It's unfortunate, that this mode didn't include an option for 2 players, but the way the mode works, doesn't lend well to a 2 player game.
If there's anything really annoying about the game is it's paticularilly quirky AI. Usually, the AI is very smart, and goes about smashing you to bits on the higher levels. But while playing with a friend, we noticed a VERY weird AI bug. Occasionally, the computer would simply toss the same stack of bubbles back and forth between two columns. It seemed to be 'stuck' in this mode and couldn't get out (it was cool to watch it do it so FAST though). We couldn't nail down why it was acting wierd, but it was evident after playing a few games. Oddly enough, I can no longer 'recreate' this effect now (maybe the sun and moon were just aligned wrong or something).
But despite this wierd AI bug, the game is just too much fun. I played the puzzle mode for 30 minutes straight and just wanted more. Luckily, you don't suffer the extreme arm strain you usually do in the arcade version from jerking the joystick around, with the playstation pad ^.^
Overall Score: 9