A while ago, TREVA released Mahjong 3D: Warriors of the Emperor on the eShop, which surprisingly wasn't "just another" Mahjong game but, instead, a rather unique and fun take on the genre, featuring characters and a campaign mode.
As is frequently the case with Mahjong games, the title might be a bit misleading — this is not the standard version of Mahjong which has players competing against each other, but rather the variant Shanghai, also known as Mahjong Solitaire, which is more of a puzzle game that happens to use Mahjong tiles; a single player tries to remove all tiles from a pre-set pile by making pairs of two. As you might have gleaned from this release's description, Essentials is intended for those put off by silly extras who just want the core game, removing most of the previous title's unique features in order to offer Shanghai, and nothing but Shanghai.
The game gets straight to the point and just lets you select a variety of Mahjong layouts from two types of sets — Quick Play and Special. Quick play is simply basic Shanghai — pair up the matching tiles that are "open", that is, those not covered by other tiles and with open space to their entire left or right side, and keep going until you get stuck or manage to clear all tiles.
Special mode actually retains some elements from the previous Warriors of the Emperor release and allows you to pick one of several characters, giving you access to special power-ups that will make the puzzles easier, such as one that shuffles all remaining tiles or one that blows up all tiles in a certain area. These puzzles are generally much harder, so the power-ups are tempting, but be wary, as using them does lower your score. Altogether, there are 48 quick play and 48 special layouts, so there's quite a bit of content to get through.
Another feature that has been thankfully retained from the previous game is a "create" mode, in which you can design your own puzzle layouts and then try them out. This title also retains StreetPass functionality, allowing you to share puzzles and highscores with others, which is quite nifty, but unfortunately we don't expect to get many connections due to how niche this title is.
The graphics and music aren't that special — in fact, they're exactly the same as in Warriors of the Emperor — but they're calm and pleasant to look at and listen to, so they fit pretty nicely.
Mahjong 3D - Essentials essentially just trims the fat from Warriors of the Emperor, giving you just the Shanghai puzzles without most of the unique extras, the only exception being the power-ups in the Special mode. If you're looking for a Shanghai game on the 3DS eShop, this might just be the best option available, as it comes at a very affordable price as well. Now, can we get Shanghai game developers to start using the correct title, already?