Sailor Moon Drops (Android)

If you've ever messed around on a smart phone, chances are that you've seen some types of games pop up constantly. Perhaps the most common of these genres is the match three puzzle game, a product of Bejeweled's massive popularity in early phone gaming. Most everyone has tried slapping a franchise name on one of these basic puzzle games, then mix in a lot of cheap tactics to force the players to pay real money for items to make later stages beatable. Sailor Moon Drops is no exception to that standard, though that doesn't stop it from being enjoyable for free users. Mainly, it's the presentation that lets it stick out.

Made in conjunction with Toei's Crystal series, Drops is a match three puzzle game where you go through a series of stages and switch the positions of jewels on pre-designed boards to create matches and score points. Matching more than three creates new jewels that, when matched, can wipe out entire lines or the area around them. The type of powered jewels you get depends on the position and shape of the matching line, and you can even get jewels that change random gems on the board into a particular kind, or just pop several at once and possibly start a huge combo for bonus points. All pretty basic stuff.

Also like other match three games, Drops has different goals on different boards. They range from popping all of a certain type of gems, breaking barriers on the board, to even fighting monsters by matching certain gems to damage them. Each of these different goals radically changes the difficulty of the game, though it's not clear at first. The game's early stages do a good job at easing you into the mechanics, the various systems and power-ups, different goals, and useful strategies. It's very inviting ...until around the mid 20 stages, at which point the game decides it's time to get serious. The game doesn't just have a leap in difficulty, it has a bloody explosion of it.

It's a free to play title, so there's a good deal of asking you to buy booster items to make things easier, or get gems that allow for extra tries and act as the main currency of the game. It's thankfully not super obnoxious, mainly keeping this to two screens, one when you start a stage and one where you lose. It does ask you to try buying a booster and giving it a shot in early stages when you get stuck, but it doesn't keep doing this constantly. It does it so little I just forgot there was even purchasable things in the game. That is a MASSIVE positive for a game of this sort.

A lot of the game is based on how lucky you are, like all drop down puzzle games. However, outside stages that have certain sections you must absolutely match to proceed, there's freedom is how you want to create combos and matches, and pulling off big chains can be really satisfying. You can thank the excellent presentation for this. The entire game has a really nice soundtrack that really matches Sailor Moon, lots of energy and a mystical, whimsical feel. The coloring of the gems and stages make great use of dark blues and purples and colors that contrast with them, and the menus have a pleasing light yellow. My favorite part is easily the chibi characters on display, as they react in really cute ways to the actions on the board.

There are also a lot of nice touches in the design. Sending out friend requests can pay off with occasional sent hearts, which you need to retry stages after failing (and you will fail, a lot), and it creates a leader board that lets you see your progress every once in awhile whenever you surpass another player in ranking or high score on a stage. It's a nice touch, as are the Luna bonuses. If you have reached a single star in score and finished the stage goal, Luna will appear and start changing and popping gems in a big flashy spectacle. It's basically the cream on the cake of victory, and it never gets old.

The game just knows how to make you feel good and isn't too pushy about buying its booster items or gems. As a free to play puzzle game, it's definitely one of the better ones, and even when you lose, it doesn't feel quite as bad as you'd think. It's a visual delight, has a lot to find and collect, and I'm expecting more events in the future. The first Ami event was a lot of fun, even if I failed to finish it properly because I started late. If you want a good match three game on your phone to remember the good old days of Bejwewled before Electronic Arts ruined everything, Sailor Moon Drops is definitely one of the best ways to go. Just know the mid 20 stages will be a bit of a wall you need to climb.


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