Review by Amanohyo

Reviewed: 10/02/00 | Updated: 10/02/00

Actually Better Than Tetris Attack

First of all, here's the perspectiveI'm writing this review from. I am a big fan of Tetris Attack, a game which (along with Yoshi's Island) deserved much more attention than it received. I know practically nothing about Pokemon, but I see the gameboy games as being a stepping stone to get younger gamers into RPGs which is fine with me. I despise the television show.

Now, taking all of this into account, Pokemon Puzzle League is better than Tetris Attack, which makes it the best 2 player/vs. computer puzzle game period. If you already have Tetris Attack (or play it on an emulator) you SHOULD buy Pokemon Puzzle League. The changes are much more than cosmetic. Here's the breakdown in depth:

Graphics:
The short animated intro and cutscenes are well done. The graphics are very colorful and stay faithful to the Pokemon theme. I would have liked to see more elaborate win screens, but nothing really to complain about. The Trainer Select Screen looks nice.

For Hardcore Tetris Attack Players : There is an option to change the block graphics to the old school Hearts and Shapes which are much clearer than the new Pokemon symbols.

Sound:
There are a lot of voice samples for each character. They sound pretty lousy but they're coming from a cartridge. Echo effects are used for large chains which is a nice addition. Some of the Pokemon sound particularly hilarious (Cloyster and Hypno sound like they 're getting a litttle bit too excited during long chains).

For Hardcore Tetris Attack Players : There is an option to turn down the sound effects, but even though I despise the TV show (particularly Ash Cathum's voice : ''I'm gonna win!'' every 2 seconds) I found the voices tolerable and sometimes even funny. And if you're afraid everything isgoing to be at the 3 year old level, don't worry. Lorilee and Sabrina's character designs and quotes are blatantly sexual... or umm maybe it's just me.

Gameplay:
This is where Tetris Attack and Pokemon Puzzle League shine. It's such a simple game, but there's no limit to how good you can be. I have a friend who regularly opens his games with twelve or thirteen chains and he enjoys playing just as much as a kid who has trouble setting up a five block combo. There is a huge variety in the difficulty of the computer as well to suit anyone's skill level. The tutorial mode, already excellent in TA has actually been improved in PPL so anyone can learn the basics and more advanced tricks in a couple minutes.

For Hardcore Tetris Attack Players : When I started playing against the computer at the Hard setting I thought that Nintendo had toned down the difficulty for the kids. I couldn't be more wrong. There are two more settings which open up later. V-Hard which is slightly harder than the secret Very Hard level in TA, and S-Hard which is much harder than Very Hard in TA (and much harder than Hard in Panel de Pon for you Super Famicom people.) They actually reprogrammed the AI to give the computer better defense. The main difference is that the computer now lines up blocks below garbage blocks as they clear. As a result even at the highest levels, the computer plays much more like a person and can clear garbage blocks much more rapidly. This means that playing defensively is MUCH less effective at the S-Hard and even V-Hard levels. You will have to make 10+ chains consistently to win consistently at the S-Hard level. The computers offense is slightly reduced due to slower, more human like speed, but it can still bust out 10+ chains regularly which is more than enough to kill you if your defense isn't excellent.

3D Gameplay : This deserves special mention. It will take a while to get used to the movement, but this mode is actually very fun. Making large chains is ridiculously easy especially horizontally since the screen is so ''wide.'' The games are less about strategy, and more about constant movement and huge chains. By fighting game analogy, 2D is King of Fighters 98 or Street Fighter Alpha 3, and 3D is Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Sometimes you don't feel like concentrating and you want to just let loose.

Hard Core Tetris Attack Players : If two people of moderate skill play a versus 3D game, it will NEVER end. It's just too easy to make chains, and the blocks clear too slowly. I suggest turning the speed very high to leave time for other things like going to the bathroom and maybe a little food and sleep.

Replay Value : PPL has all the modes which made TA great. They actually added some new puzzles to the puzzle mode which was a nice touch. For those masters who can beat Mewto on S-Hard consistently (not me my record is 2 and about 200), there is an option to play the computer in 2P versus mode and crank up the difficulty to level 10.
This game will NEVER get old until you want it to. Every mode has a medal to win, secret codes to uncover, and as I said before there's always room for improvement.

Control: There's only one freaking button. .. well two I guess. Anyway, both of my 40+ year old parents play regularly and enjoy it. ANYONE from 3 to 90 can play this game. Families can play it together. Sisters can play brothers.. boys can play girlfriends... you get the idea.

Hard Core Tetris Attack Players : The N64 D-pad is a little stiffer than the SNES D-pad, so your speed might be slightly hampered but only Very slighly. For the most part, it plays just like TA.

In conclusion, if you've never played Tetris Attack, buy this game. If you love Tetris Attack, buy this game. If you love Pokemon, you're going to buy this game anyway you brainless slave, and if you played Tetris Attack and didn't really like it, there's no hope for you.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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