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Skill Chains FAQ by psion0011

Version: 0.9 | Updated: 12/14/03

___________     __         .__        
\__    ___/____/  |________|__| ______
  |    |_/ __ \   __\_  __ \  |/  ___/
  |    |\  ___/|  |  |  | \/  |\___ \ 
  |____| \___  >__|  |__|  |__/____  >
             \/                    \/ 
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  /  _  \_/  |__/  |______    ____ |  | __
 /  /_\  \   __\   __\__  \ _/ ___\|  |/ /
/    |    \  |  |  |  / __ \\  \___|    < 
\____|__  /__|  |__| (____  /\___  >__|_ \
        \/                \/     \/     \/
              Skill Chains


This in-depth faq on skill chains is by Joe at psion0011@hotmail.com
Last update was at 12/11/2003

-----------------------------Table of Contents---------------------------------
1.       Special Thanks
2.       Introduction
3.       Starting Out
4.       Skill Chains Introduction
5.       Modes
6.       Adv. Skill Chain Methods
             -Horizontal Clear Method (HCM)
             -Higher Level Chaining (HLC)
             -Fusion Clear
7.       Adv. Tricks and Engine Exploitations
8.       Copyright
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


------------------------
Special Thanks
------------------------

I would like to thank www.tetrisattack.net for some helpful info, and any 
contributions made by the great site will be marked clearly. For extremely good
graphical tutorials on the various ways to chain, visit the site. Also, meet 
the best TA players in the world on the message board, and maybe you'll get the
chance to play them online.


------------------------
Introduction
------------------------

The game tetris attack is extremely underrated by the majority of gamers, 
simply because of it's ill-gotten name. It's infuriating to hear people going 
"oooh i'm 2 1337 4 tetris that old game is teh sux0rz". Tetris Attack has 
absolutely nothing to do with the old tetris. Nothing!

I personally am, compared to most people, a great player. Not because I am more
talented or gifted in any way, but because I've burned away countless hours 
playing, chaining, and just having a great time. TA, unlike most other games,
gets better as time goes on. 

As of now, I still play TA very often, not only to kill time but also whenever
I am feeling bored. After upwards of 1000 hours into the game (can't remember
when I started... few years back I suppose), 


------------------------
Starting Out
------------------------

When you begin your TA journey, the game will seem interesting, though overly
slow-paced and difficult. Even AI players will be able to mow you down in a few
chains. You will eventually become a decent player, and perhaps be able to
survive the brutal assault of a level 7 (max level) computer player for a
minute before crumbling before its awsome power of skill chaining.

Its moves might seem unbelievable, "who in the world could be that fast?".
However, in reality, the level 7 computer is actually an extremely inefficient
opponent. Not only does it fail in the garbage chaining section, making it
easy prey for advanced players, but it also fails to do solid x13 chains as
players like me can easily accomplish.

So, it seems the only way to win is to out-chain it. Read on.


------------------------
Skill Chain Introduction
------------------------

What is a skill chain? Well you might have checked out the "Skill Chain" option
in the game's "How to improve" section, especially demo 2, video 4, and
discovered it's a fast moving, high scoring, hard hitting way of playing the
game.

Undoubtedly you know what a chain is. If not, go visit www.tetrisattack.net or
read one of the other available FAQs on GameFAQs for a basic intro. Skill chain
is just what the name implies: chaining with skill. A newbie would chain by
luck. Clear something at the bottom of the stack and hope chains will result.
But.. that's too unreliable for a high potential player like you, right? 

To skill chain is to create chains by always being one step ahead of the
falling blocks. Obviously it requires high amounts of concentration and demonic
speed. No, I won't show the various ways to skill chain as 1) they available in
ame through the "How to improve" option, 2) they are available at
www.tetrisattack.net, and 3) they are available on the other faqs provided by
GameFAQs.

By clear a random set of 3 anywhere (except at the top where there are no
falling blocks), a skilled player can clear the WHOLE screen with just one
chain. However, this is highly not recommended even if you have the skills to
do so. When chains progress past x13, cards marked with x? will appear.
Garbage blocks/score will not increase with each additional x?, so stop at x13!


------------------------
Modes
------------------------

------Vs.------

The good old Vs. mode, where 1 match can last upwards of 30 minutes, and
hitting the top with your stack does not result in instant death. This is the
newbie mode. A master and a good player would be almost equal in this mode,
unless speed is past level 5. All because of garbage. Anyone can garbage chain,
it's easy, cheap, and boring. Avoid this mode on lower speed levels.

*NOTE: How fast the stack rises should never be a factor for you. It's how
fast blocks clear, meaning how much time you have to build your chains, that
you should be concerned with.

------Time Trial------

This is where a skill player really shines. I've been beaten by players on Vs.
mode then surpass their score by a few 10000's on Time Trial. If you can chain
well, you will do good. If not, you will suck. Simple, no? Practice this mode
alot.

------Endless------

This is where you train yourself. You should be on Easy until you can
consistently hit x13s, then move on to Normal. Practice, practice, practice. Be
sure to choose a character with a good background music...


------------------------
Adv. Skill Chain Methods
------------------------

That's right! We're skipping ahead to the complex stuff.

!!!If you can't chain a x6 on easy mode do NOT read past this!!!


------HCM------

Now the first advanced strategy is the easiest to grasp. The Horizontal Clear
Method (HCM). There are obvious advantages to clearing horizontally rather than
clearing vertically. With vertical clears, you will be left with huge gaps in
your stack. However, note that one gap like this is very helpful which
horizontally clearing, as you can drop a block from the top to the bottom for
quick access.

To perform the HCM, you must be able to 'see' the falling blocks quiet well.

C*C        to         *CC                   (* is just a random block)
XXXC                  XXXC

X's are clearing, move top left C to the right and you have a two chain.
 
 B*B
CBC*
XXXC

Can you see how to make a three chain out of this? Of course you can!
    
 BB*
BCC*
XXXC

Change it to this, real quick, and you have a three chain. Of course I don't
know why I'm bothering with showing you this since it really doesn't help you
much. I've seen this type of 'help' in other FAQs for various games so I
thought I'd sheep and follow their style.

Now, for actually useful tips, read on.

***Useful Tips***

First, start off with some vertical clears. Work it until you have an
apparent gap such as this:

XXX XX
XXX XX
XXX XX
XXX XX
XXX XX
XXXCCC
XXXXXX

This really isn't hard to achieve if you can already chain to 6, which is a
requirement for understanding this section if you don't remember.

Now, if you can manage to chain so that a horizontal clear occurs near the gap,
you are set. Any colored block can be dragged from the top to the bottom with
little effort. You have, basically, the whole stack to work with. Practice this
on easy/endless mode, and try it on an emulator (but still use a SNES
controller) so you can use save/load state for quicker practice.

A secondary bonus is how easy you can set it up. Normal chains, you have to
jam the contorls ultra-fast to drag blocks from here and there, while with the
HCM, chains are easily setup quickly and effortlessly. Well I can't dwell much
more on this, since the concept is rather simple.

Be warned though, the failure rate is rather high due to death traps, where a
chain is impossible to find. This is averted by presetting, or getting the
second chain ready before the first is finished, and then the thrid, etc etc.


------HLC------

Higher Level Chaining. This, in and of itself, is the reason I decided to
create this FAQ. To be blunt, this is the most advanced method in regards to
skill chaining. If you can master this you are immortal in VS. mode and solid
x13 chains on HARD mode will be a walk in the park. Chaining on a higher level
is the ultimate mastery.

First of all, what is it? It's skill chaining outside of the 'box'. Let me
explain... Most decent TA players chain with blocks next to the blocks that are
being cleared. For example:

**BAB*
***X**
***X**
***X** <---- row to chain with
****** 
****** 

When the 3 X's clear, most people are going to try to chain with the falling
block, A. Or, if they are particularly skilled, they'll also consider the B
blocks. However, this is all child's play to the HLC.

Consider the following situation:

****D*
****C* <---- Chain D here
****B* <---- Chain C here
****A* <---- Chain B here
**XXX* <---- Chain A here
******
******

Most players would look at the block A and its neighbors for chains as the 3
X's clear. When a chain is not possible there, which is not uncommon, they are
screwed. However, the HLC-zen player will scan the whole stack, including the
B, C, and D blocks, and notice any chains possible as the WHOLE stack drop, not
just the bottom blocks, in a fraction of a second. 

In the previous examples, the block A and it's surroundings is what I call the
"box". Chaining inside the box is good enough for x13s 90% of the time on Easy,
but on Normal and Hard, this percentage drops severely.

I'm moving on to the next tactic since this alone doesn't have too much
practical value, but when combined....


------Fusion Clear------

Alright, so you got the hang of basic HLC. This method should be included as a
Higher Level Chaining method but since it's powerful as hell, and a tad
different from regular HLC, I'll separate it. Took me 3 weeks of solid practice
to get the hang of this.

It's the act of combining Horizontal Clear Method and Higher Level Chaining.
You can guess its effects.

The only weakness of the HCM, is that although it's quick and easy to chain,
'death traps', or situations where a chain inside the 'box' is not possible,
occurs rather often. This is because normal HCM requires 3 same-color blocks
to be on 2 rows, within 9 different blocks (unless you've set it up past 3
chains already, in which case you are very lucky). Also, you can't have two of
the blocks on both sides of the current clear. To show with ugly ASCII art:

**A***            **AA**
AAXXX*     or     *AXX**

The probability of that occuring is extremely small, and even though pits and
presets increase the chances, it's still so small that it's unreliable. Though
HCM is enough for solid x13s all the time on Easy, who plays Easy?

The Fusion Clear aims at the stack in its entirety. Every single block can be
used to chain. To start, do a horizontal clear at the bottom and if you can
continue without going Higher Level Chaining, do so. But when you see your
chain will die, quickly look up.

******           ******                ***
*B****           **B***             ******
****BB     to    ***BB*    *pop*    **BBB*
******           ******             ******
XXX***           XXX***             ******

As the X's clear, switch the B's as indicated to save your chain. Because the
B's clear in the middle, continuing your chain will be easy. The trick is to
mentally 'drag' the X's up row by row to check for more horizontal clears.

When you accomplish this, chain further and further down until you arrive at
the horizontal clears again, and repeat if you get into another death trap.


------------------------
Adv. Tricks and
Engine Exploitations
------------------------

This section will cover little quirks I've noticed when chaining.

------Chainless Chain------

This is a surprising bug in the game's physics engine. You can chain without
actually chaining, but rather by switching a block. Plus, you have a large time
gap to perform this trick so it's quiet reliable.

It if basically making a vertical clear about falling blocks. Example:

***B**           ***B**             **[x2]
****B*           ***B**             ***B**
***B**     to    ***B**    *pop*    ***B**
**XXX*           **   *             ***B**
******           ******             ******

Basically, make a clear above clearing blocks right before they disappear, and
the clear will count as a chain. Useful indeed.

------More Coming Later------




------------------------
Copyright
------------------------

This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal,
private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed
publicly without advanced written permission. Use of this guide on any other
web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a
violation of copyright. This FAQ should only appear on www.gamefaqs.com.


Copyright 2003 Joe 

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