Game Reviews

Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns Review

The underrated match-3 RPG returns.

by Dean James
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns

Puzzle games are a genre that have always been around and definitely aren’t going anywhere, with so many different variations on them over the years. One of the most unique of the bunch was definitely Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords that initially released for Nintendo DS and PSP before releasing on a few other platforms. Now 12 years later, the original game has gotten a surprising remaster on the Nintendo Switch with Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns.

The original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords took two completely different genres and mashed them together into something very unexpected. This all starts with your selection of a name and character class, with this version introducing additional classes that were not found in the original like Blood Mage and Paladin. After this, you are then placed onto the overworld map that looks like something you might see in Fire Emblem. This is made up of multiple cities for you to find and capture from enemies, with quests then given out from there. The map is still pretty low-resolution overall and light on the detail, but it’s definitely a visual upgrade from the original in that department, which is also the case in pretty much all areas of the game.

Your main goal in Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is to pick up quests from the cities and then go and try to complete them. These quests typically have you go to a specific spot on the map to complete it, which will require you to maneuver across the map very often here. This can get a bit tedious, especially when the map starts to open up even more and you aren’t sure which location you need to go to off hand outside of trying to go to the locations with smoke coming from them and hoping it has something you’re looking for there. The game already included the more than 240 quests that made up the base game and even the expansion from the past, but this remaster adds more than 100 additional quests as well.

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As an RPG, you normally would expect an in-depth story to unfold during the game, but that really isn’t the case here. The story found in Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is rather minimal and is more of a way to push you between each city and quest. It’s not like a game such as this really needed a captivating story, however, as the focus here is on the gameplay instead.

While traveling around the map and moving to complete quests, you will run into enemies that you have to fight, sometimes as part of the quests and sometimes just blocking your way on the map. The combat here is turn-based like you might see in a lot of RPGs, but it’s certainly different from pretty much anything else in that genre.

Once you do run into an enemy, the battle screen will come up, which looks similar to your usual match-3 gameplay you’d find in a lot of games today. Back when the original game released, this was popularized by games like Bejeweled, but it has grown even more in the years since with massive franchises like Candy Crush really taking the genre to new levels. Puzzle Quest isn’t just your typical match-3 though, as it actually has the RPG elements built into the gameplay here as well.

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By matching green, red, yellow, and blue orbs, you will obtain mana as represented on the top left area. Matching the coins or the purple crystals will provide you with extra gold and XP respectively, while the skulls are your method of attack. By matching three skulls together, you can deal damage to your opponent depending on not only your current stats, but other factors in the match as well. As you’ll notice, both players have four equipment/weapon slots on their side of the screen, each of which can add various boosts or perks.

The focus here is on the gameplay

The most important element on the side of the screen though are your spells, which are tired directly in with your mana. You’ll see a list of different spells on the left side break down how much mana is required of each color to cast. By pressing L and then scrolling between then, you can choose to use mana to case one of the spells on your turn. Most of these will use up your turn, but there are some that let you continue based on specific criteria.

To win a match in Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns, you must reduce your opponent’s HP to zero, which is done through either matching skulls or utilizing your spells to your advantage. Sometimes these matchups can start to feel unfair when the opponent is getting crazy long streaks with lucky drops, but that’s just the way the game is built. You have to take the bad with the good and assume you’ll get some luck going your way in the future as well. These puzzles can be a lot of fun to play, though do prepare for them to feel a little tedious after awhile.

Rather than always doing simple battles with an enemy, Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns also features an alternate play type where you capture the opponent instead. This is handled differently than the normal matches, as the goal this time is to clear the grid of all gems, with you losing if there are no moves left and still have gems on the board. By capturing these creatures they can then be used as what are known as Mounts in the game.

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Mounts can be ridden on the map and used as a way to not only increase your skills, but also provide you with an extra spell that you can use specific to that mount. Depending on what one you choose, your movement speed may be increased or decreased for map traversal, but it’s really not that big of a difference either way. Mounts can also be improved upon as well in the game thanks to the Citadel.

Outside of the moving around the map and fighting, you also have your Citadel at home to build up. At the start you have nothing unlocked here, but you can purchase the various areas in the Citadel with earned gold in the game. Here, you can unlock such areas as the Forge that lets you create new magical items, the Temple that lets you improve your Hero’s skills, and the Stable that allows you to better your Mounts as mentioned prior. There are also some very important locations here to help you capture and maintain cities, including the Siege Workshop and Towers.

For what is a very simplistic game that shouldn’t have any issues at all running on the Nintendo Switch, Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is far from perfect performance wise. It works well a good majority of the time, but there were some massive slowdowns during battle way more often than there should be. Thankfully this type of turn-based combat is not really hindered by it to where it can mess up things, but it certainly can tarnish some of the enjoyment of the game when it keeps happening.

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These performance issues are thankfully outweighed by some quality of life changes made in this remaster, including improved enemy AI. The biggest of these arguably is the removal of arcane penalties for invalid moves, which always was a big pain in the original and its removal makes the experience much more enjoyable here.

Puzzle Quest was incredibly unique when it released back in 2007 and still proves to be different than most of the usual match-3 games you come across. The unusual mashup may not be quite as uncommon these days, but Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns relies on challenging, yet still fair puzzles and now has even more quests than ever for you to explore this time around.

The Verdict

While the series may not be anywhere near groundbreaking by this point, Puzzle Quest still returns to its roots in strong fashion with all the previous content and more on the Nintendo Switch, making it great for prior fans and newcomers alike.

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  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: D3 Go!
  • Developed By: Infinity Plus 2
  • Genre: Puzzle RPG
  • US Release Date: September 19, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "While the series may not be anywhere near groundbreaking by this point, Puzzle Quest still returns to its roots in strong fashion with all the previous content and more on the Nintendo Switch, making it great for prior fans and newcomers alike."
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