Written by James Taylor on 27 Feb 2018
Distributor SEGA • Price £14.99
Puyo shoubu!... is what I'd usually hear in these games, and I've played my fair share of Puyo Puyo and I'm certainly no stranger to Tetris on it's many platforms, but this game is somewhat different and a rare specialty. It is one of those 'event' games for the people who are truely dedicated to the genre, and something that you would not dare to dream would ever come to fruition. It is really the puzzle equivilent of Mario and Sonic finally doing battle (which in the 90's really sounded far more impressive than what we got with Olympics). These two Japanese titans of the line clearing, block matching world, Puyo Puyo and Tetris coming together in a gameplay experience which is more in depth and has a far higher production value than any other title within this genre has ever realised.
The first time I actually encountered Puyo Puyo Tetris was in a Sofmap electronics store in Akihabara, Tokyo. I hadn't really been keeping up with the Japanese exclusive games at the time, and upon looking through the PS Vita shelves, I saw this particular title in it's then Japan-only handheld form. Not only was it a bang up-to-date version of Tetris, but a cross-over with one of my favourite titles which had been a mainstay of my time living and working in Japan, Puyo Puyo. Needless to say it was an instant purchase then and it still amazes me to this day that Sega made the game work in such a masterfully executed way.
The strange thing about this game is, that it seems like a mashup that sounds like it just wouldn't work. The mechanics of the two games, which superficially sound similar, by dropping blocks from the top of the screen, couldn't be more mechanically different. With Tetris relying on smart placement of shapes to form lines, immovable beyond the clearance of lines below it, and Puyo Puyo relying on predictive patterns, the chain reactions of one colour exploding and matching up further chains beyond. Yet through careful design and a clear vision of what this kind of game should be, this game has managed not only to be an individual definitive example of both of those games, it has also managed to sucessfully meld them in suprising and innovative ways, which truly turns the game into something that is far more than the sum of it's individual puzzle pieces.
The gameplay throughout is wonderful. Each individual game mode on its own is perfect as a superb modern example of each game, but it's when the boards of Tetris and Puyo Puyo collide when the gameplay is pushed to it's limits. Not only do you have to keep track of tetris lines, but also have Puyos existing on the same board, being moved around dynamically by the Tetris shapes as they push their way through the board. The strategy and layers of thinking required to perform well in this mode transcend both Tetris and Puyo Puyo. Not only do you have to be mechanically adept at both games, but you also have to be able to apply the mechanics of each game to the other in ways that previously didn't even exist within their own game.
This level of gameplay alone would be enough to secure a purchase from a fan, but that didn't seem to be enough for Sega as they brought one of the mainstays of the Puyo Puyo series to Tetris, the story mode and vast array of characters.
A sensible person might wonder why on earth a puzzle game needs such a convoluted story, and they would be right. It doesn't need it. Nor does it need the fully voice acted dialogue in both English AND Japanese. But it does have it, and is a far richer experience for it. The very fact that the Japanese audio track has also been included really shows the level of care and consideration for the western fans that have stuck with these games. It had bugged me in the past that previous Puyo Puyo games (then styled as 'Puyo Pop') were stuck with the Americanised voices, with no way to access the Japanese voice acting without resorting to playing the Japanese variants, which inevitably robbed 99.9% of western players of the intoxicatingly cute story. It's not exactly Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, but I've definitely played story driven games that were less compelling than the story in Puyo Puyo Tetris.
So, why purchase the PC version now, when the the game has been around on the PS4 and Switch for quite a while now? The ability to just grab any USB compatible arcade stick and play is unbeatable. Home console players might not be aware, but these games are primarily arcade games first in Japan and console games second. Further to that, the game plays fantastically on PC at whichever resolution you care to throw at it. I've been playing it on a 1440p monitor, and the UI looks great and the gameplay is smooth.
The Japanese voices only add value to the game for those to who it matters, and really does just add that little extra that many western import gamers have been crying out for Japanese developers to keep in their games.
In short, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a must purchase for fans of either game, but for fans of both games who already own this title, it's a worthy upgrade for a very small price. For people who have never played either title (you must have been born in the 2010s to have never played Tetris...) it's a fantastic entry title into both games which has really limitless gameplay and replay value.
I take photos, develop websites and visit Japan a lot!
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