The third installment in the Magical Drop series, Magical Drop III nearly doubles the roster of its predecessor, complete with a new assortment of secret characters, while adding unique attack patterns for all characters in Versus Mode. It also adds difficulty settings for all game modes (including a new single-player board game-based Adventure Mode) and a new button (which is now used to add more bubbles to the player's own playfield to speed up the game). It is the last arcade release of the series and the last arcade game developed by Data East.
It was later released in Japan for the Neo Geo AES system in April 25, 1997, and received ports in Japan for the Sega Saturn in June 20, 1997 and Sony PlayStation in October 30, 1997. The PS1 version was later repackaged with an authentic port of Magical Drop Plus 1! as Magical Drop III + Wonderful! in February 25, 1999, which was localized as Magical Drop III in Europe (and released by Swing! in July 23, 2000). The game would also be ported to the Game Boy Color outside of Japan by Conspiracy Entertainment and released by Classified on October 18, 2000.
The original version was also digitally re-released worldwide for the Wii (via Virtual Console) by D4 in 2010, while the original PS1 version was digitally re-released in Japan via PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable by Hamster on December 9, 2009. The original version was also included in the Wii compilation Data East Arcade Classics.
The gameplay is simple: You press A to collect "drops" of the same color, and press B to release them. Match three or more of the same color to pop them and send more over to your opponent. The player can also press the C button to make more drops appear on your own side, in order to perform faster and longer comboes. The first to have their drops touch the bottom of the screen loses, although players can also win by fulfilling a quota listed in the middle of the screen. There are a number of characters to select from, based off of the 22 Tarot figure cards, and four basic types of drops to pop again based on the four "suits" of tarot (the stave, the sword, the cup, and the coin, in this case appearing as stars.)
Each character has a different pattern which appears on your opponent's side in versus or challenge mode. In addition, each character has a different "attack" pattern which occurs when you clear a sequential number of drops. For example, Fool pushes all drops down evenly as an "attack", whereas Death and Tower push drops down on either side of the opponent's playing area. Some characters also generate ice blocks with a higher frequency (ex., Empress) or require less in the way of combos to push the opponent's side down (Tower).
The game takes place in "Magical Land", where the various characters are competing over a jar of magical drops which is rumoured to grant wishes. Each character makes a different (generally silly) wish in their ending (For example, Judgement wishes to be a boy, but then is horrified when she appears in a bath house and Emperor comes on to "him")
Special Drops: In addition to the four basic drop types, there are a number of special drops. Three special drops: the suit drops, the ice drops, and the rainbow drops appear in versus mode. All others appear exclusively in the other modes of play.
- Suit drops: These resemble one of the basic four suits (ex., a cup) but instead of being a sphere appear coin-like, and rotate slightly. If one of these drops is popped, it clears all drops of the corresponding colour on your side.
- Ice drops: Some drops are frozen when they first appear. There are two types, "blank" ice drops and coloured. To unfreeze an ice drop, perform a normal combo adjacent to one (I.E., pop three drops while they touch an ice drop) Coloured drops, when unfrozen, result in the colour they were while frozen, whereas "blank" drops take on the colour of the drops you popped near them. When one ice drop is unfrozen, all others on your side are also unfrozen.
- Rainbow drops: These drops resemble shining jewels. When you complete a combo adjacent to them, all drops of that colour are cleared from your side.
- Bubble drops: These drops are pointless and serve only to get in your way. Pop them by chucking another drop at them.
- Directional drops: These drops appear to have arrows pointing in one of four directions on them. When you perform a combo adjacent to them, they destroy all drops in a line based on the direction the arrow is pointing.
- Bomb drops: These drops look like bombs with a number on them. The player must perform a combo corresponding to the number on the bomb anywhere on the screen to destroy them.
All characters from Magical Drop II make a return as playable characters (with the exception of Strength, who was replaced with a younger Strength, and Black Pierrot, who is still a hidden boss). The game includes seven new playable characters and six new hidden opponents (who are unlockable), for a total of 16 playable characters (23 including the hidden ones).
- Emperor (available in Adventure Mode)
- Lovers (available in Adventure Mode)
- Strength (available in Adventure Mode)
- Hermit (playable with cheat code)
- Temperance (playable with cheat code)
- Tower (boss, playable with cheat code)
- Fortune (final boss, playable with cheat code)
- Hanged Man (hidden opponent, playable with cheat code)
- Moon (hidden opponent, playable with cheat code)
- Fool (available in Adventure Mode)
- High Priestess (available in Adventure Mode)
- Empress (boss on "Easy Mode")
- Chariot (available in Adventure Mode)
- Justice (available in Adventure Mode)
- Star (available in Adventure Mode)
- World (boss on "Easy Mode")
- Strength (hidden MD2 version, playable with cheat code)
- Black Pierrot (hidden opponent, only playable with cheat code in the PS1 version)