Magical Drop VI is most likely to win my favorite game of the year. Controversial or naive? Let me explain why.
I have had the privilege to play it for a couple of days before launch (Thank you to Forever Entertainment for this..) and I have to be honest, I am genuinely excited. Let me give you some backstory real quick first..
Magical Drop was originally developed by Data East starting in 1995. Since Data East’s bankruptcy in 2003, other developers have taken on their franchises and worked on rebooting them. The most recent attempt at reworking Magical Drop, called Magical Drop V, was lambasted due to the developer, Golgoth Studio, not sticking to the source material and not listening to the fans while fighting with the Publisher, UTV Ignition Entertainment. This created some major issues, pretty much killing the franchise until its eventually reawaking as a popular title on Fightcade and inspiring Forever Entertainment and G-Mode to work together on a new entry into the series.
I love the Magical Drop series, and I have been playing Magical Drop 3 on the retro multiplayer platform Fightcade. I also enjoy what I consider its sister game Money Idol Exchanger developed by the video game company Face.
One of the best things about the Magical Drop franchise is that, in terms of the basics, it is really easy to pick up. Match up three or more of the same color vertically and try to build as many chains as possible or, clear your quota of orbs as fast as possible. Then, when you begin to really understand the basic mechanics, you can work on your speed and study the patterns of certain characters. There are special drops that you get introduced to as well, such as bubbles, ice, and clear blocks. These can either have an advantage or cause havoc depending on how you use them or where they are placed.
There are six modes in single-player you can play: Story Mode, Survival Mode, Puzzle Mode, Match (Arcade) Mode, Path of Destiny, and Caravan Mode.
- Story mode is where you play through the story of Magical Drop VI featuring Lovers and her piggy helping World decide if she wants to align with good or evil.
- Match mode is basically Arcade mode where you battle CPUs on different settings and at different difficulties.
- Survival mode is a mode where you are tasked with clearing all of the colors as quickly as possible with increasing complexities and difficulties as you clear various levels.
- Puzzle mode where you solve different types of puzzles in the fewest amount of moves possible. You can and will reveal bonuses for this and if you run out of time and bubbles to pop, you lose this mode and will have to try again.
- Path of Destiny is like a digital board game in the vein of Mario Party. You earn coins to spend in the Magic Shop by playing this mode.
- Last but not least is Caravan mode which is similar to survival mode but has a fixed timer (either 2 minutes or 5 minutes) in which you work towards getting the highest score possible.
All competitive single-player modes have three difficulties; Easy, Normal, and Hard.
Story Mode, while being short, is a fun little experience. The main point of the story it is to teach you how the game works, putting you through several different challenges and battling the CPU characters throughout the whole story. You get to meet all the characters from “Good” and “Evil.” traveling throughout Magical Land. It has a board game-like system where you go from one spot to the next doing different challenges and battling characters. There are some pretty tough challenges dealing with all the special challenges as well. There are multiple endings that you can get to which will unlock the characters in the “Match mode.” Depending on what path you take depends on whether you let “Good” or “Evil” control magical land. You must play through multiple difficulties in order to actually unlock them in match mode. The story is fun and a great learning tool for the game.
The Match mode is a great way to practice fighting other people. You battle through the characters one by one until you complete the characters you have unlocked. Playing some of these characters can lead you to unlock characters for local or online multiplayer. This goes for all competitive modes.
Survival mode is great for increasing endurance. For how many drops you clear, the level increases and the faster it goes. I recommend doing this mode as it can help you understand what to do when you feel like you are under pressure. The longer you can last determines how much garbage you can handle from another player. It takes some practice, but it is worth your while to spend time in this mode.
The Puzzle mode is great as it can help you understand how to get out of sticky situations and at the same time show you how to build decent chains. This, as expected, has three different difficulties and you must go through thirty-two different levels of puzzles to complete puzzle mode in whatever difficulty you have chosen. The Puzzles get really difficult when you get into both normal and hard. They are much more complicated and one mistake can lead you to a time penalty. I have spent most of my time in puzzle mode as it acts as a great brain teaser.
Path of Destiny is really weird and interesting. Like I said before it is similar to the Mario Party series. It has power-ups and what you would call good and bad pieces. It is a fun mode, but has a really weird learning curve to it and it punishes hard. One mistake can send you almost all the way back to the beginning. Additionally, there is a magic shop where you can buy items for this game mode.
Finally, you have Caravan. Caravan is similar to Tetris Ultra as it is a speedrun mode where you must clear as many drops as you can within two or five minutes. In order for you to unlock Caravan mode you must score at least 100,000 points in Survival mode. As a fan of Tetris Ultra, I love the idea of this mode. It’s always a fun challenge to see how fast you are within an allocated set of time. This really gives you a chance to figure out how fast you can clear your board.
Let’s talk about multiplayer. You have the option to play locally or through online matchmaking.
There are three types of multiplayer; Quota Crush, Time Crush, or Regular Match.
Quota Crush as it sounds is where you try and clear a quota of drops before your opponent does. From what it appears, the garbage is reduced as this is specifically focused on meeting a quota of drops. I have played a handful of matches of quota crush and it is a nice speed game to play with your friends.
Regular Match is as you would expect, a standard match with a quota and standard rate of garbage sent, either clear or knock out your opponent, whichever one you do first. All I can say is it feels like a regular magical drop match and it plays really well.
The last multiplayer option is Time Crush. The way this mode works is that there is basically a tally of how many drops you clear within the match time, the one to clear the most drops in the allotted time will win the round. I like this as this is a different type of speed game similar to a score attack, rather than trying to clear a set amount.
The Good Parts
In all modes, you have the option for first to two (Best of 3) or first to three (Best of 5) matches. However, in online multiplayer, there are only the first to two. Overall, multiplayer feels great. From what it appears, it uses Steamworks for the game servers and the and peer to peer connection. From experience, I have always seen this as a reliable way to run your game servers. Valve’s game servers have always been butter smooth and provide good performance across the board. I can not confirm if it uses Steamworks or not, but on the surface that is what it appears to use.
Let’s talk about the characters. There have many characters to choose from that have different board patterns and damage multipliers. The character balance is decent as far as I can see. Each character also has their own unique garbage patterns as well that can really mess up your opponent if they are not careful.
As a example, Lovers, which is the first character you unlock, is definitely the weakest and sends almost no garbage at all. World is a nice balanced character who has a consistent board pattern and sends a reasonable amount of garbage. Later on, as you unlock different characters in the game, they will have weird and interesting board and damage patterns.
The art and the soundtrack for this game is really quite enchanting. The art is amazing to look at and has a cute style to it, the characters look really good and the sprites and backgrounds overall look really detailed and could make really nice backgrounds or lock screens for your phone. The soundtrack has some absolute bangers for each character, along with some great menu and game mode-specific tracks as well. In the magical hall, you can access and play all of the soundtracks and see all of the art.
And Now, the Bad Parts
It is time to unfortunately talk about some of the kinks in Magical Drop VI.
My first big issue is that there is no clear initial indication on how to unlock the characters in various modes. You more or less just have to play through all the modes until you figure out how to unlock the specific character you are looking for. Fortunately, I have heard there will soon be a guide on the game with information on how to unlock characters. I would’ve preferred as I was testing the game that I would know how to get all the characters unlocked on day one.
The next issue surfaces in the Path of Destiny game mode as there are no clear instructions on how to play the mode. You really go blind trying to figure out how the core game mechanics of the mode work. This does not take away from the mode itself, but I would much prefer knowing how to play before going into the mode. An additional problem I see with Path of Destiny is that you can not play with your friends, it is strictly playable only against CPU controlled oppononents. I would have loved to have the opportunity to play this mode with friends rather than only myself.
And now the biggest glaring issue with the game; There are virtually no custom options for online multiplayer.
You can not create rooms or lobbies, you can not set any parameters for your match, no custom options at all.
This leads to the problem that the Quotas can not be set and by default are really low. There are also limited options in local multiplayer and could benefit from more granularity and options all around.
This is also really disappointing as I want to play with my friends with custom options over the internet rather than having to do Steam Remote Play or connect one another’s computer via remote applications like Parsec.
In my opinion, this is a serious issue, as I can assume players would most likely like to play with their friends. Overall, Magical Drop VI is a very solid title. Day one it has come with a ton of content and quality art. I commend Forever Entertainment as they have made a very quality reboot of the franchise. Reboots do not always turn out that great, but this one definitely did. While it is not perfect, everything it comes with right out of the box is worth 29.99 US (26.99 USD right now on sale for it’s launch).
I will definitely be playing Magical Drop VI a lot more in the near future and highly recommend picking it up when you have the chance.