Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2)

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2)
Game Name: ぷよぷよ通 (Puyo Puyo Tsuu/2)
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Compile
Developer(s): Compile
Genre(s): Puzzle
Release Date: August 1995
Serial Number: T-6601G
Region: JP

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2) ScreenshotWhen it comes to puzzle games, my opinion is not particularly humble. In my not so humble opinion, Puyo Puyo is the best puzzle game there is. It has a few rivals. There is the original Tetris that is more accessible but ultimately a shallower game. There is Puzzle Fighter but that game isn’t as subtle, although its probably more of a crowd pleaser.

Puyo Puyo for me is the ultimate puzzle game but it isn’t for beginners and I (or it) make no apologies for that. Initially it looks like a game where you win purely by luck – my 8 year old daughter can somehow conjure up level 4 chains but I can consistently beat her if handicapping is switched off (I almost always handicap myself against her for those of you who are now jeering and booing). What I’m trying to say is that it is a highly skillful game and there is nothing in the puzzle genre more satisfying that setting off a carefully planned combo in Puyo Puyo.

For the uninitiated, Puyo Puyo is a pit based puzzle game. Coloured blobs fall into your pit in pairs and you must arrange the blobs so that they form groups of 4 or more, at which point they pop, leaving space into which any blobs resting above fall. If another group of 4 is formed they pop….and so on.

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2) ScreenshotWhen you dispose of blobs in your pit, the number of blobs and the number of links in the chain you create go together to form an attack on your opponent’s pit. This takes the form of a number of transparent blobs that drop in and usually spoil your opponent’s plans. These transparant blobs will only pop if they are touching a coloured blob that pops – so you have to work at clearing these.

You see the attack massing at the top of your pit and it fills you heart with dread when you see the icons hovering there – indicating how many of them are about to be dumped on you. However a feature of this game (which can be switched off) is that when you launch an attack on your opponent, your attack will first neutralise a pending attack on your own pit before sending whatever is left to your opponent. This makes for longer games and removes the problems in other puzzle games you sometimes get with a game being over when one player forms a single massive attack.

These simple mechanics give rise to a game that you will never tire of – it is far deeper than the still fantastic Tetris – and for fans of the genre it far exceeds that game, or any other – though I have to admit you do have to be in a state of mind to play Puyo because of the challenging gameplay. The game also supports the comeback – something almost all puzzle games fail to do. Puyo and Puzzle Fighter allow for comebacks that can result in epic games that swing back and forth – though I believe that Puyo is the better and Puzzle Fighter games can sometimes go on a bit too long like this. Horses for courses I suppose.

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2) ScreenshotBecause of the style of play, CPU controlled opponents can be red hot – I have yet to experience a decent CPU Tetris opponent, but this game lends itself to AI algorthms and you will always be able to find a challenging CPU opponent. Still, human opponents gave the most satisfaction to beat.

Puyo Puyo 2 for the Saturn is the best version I have played. I can’t say I have played all versions, but I’ve played a few from the NES through to the latest incarnation called Puyo Pop Fever which I believe isn’t as good because it adds unnecessary features that pollute the purity of the gameplay.

Playing a Japanese import is the only way to experience this game – the presentation is absolutely bonkers. Anyone who as played a Western release will have experienced the great gameplay, but with a sanitised coat of paint thrown over it. In the West the Megadrive got Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and the SNES got Kirby’s Ghost Trap – no doubt a sop to marketing people who wouldn’t have the balls to release this mental looking game in the West.

The list of characters representing the CPU controlled opponents are a bizarre looking bunch of humanoid/animal hybrids that must have been dreamt up during a fever after a hash party with the developers of Parodius. The great gameplay , mixed with the highly individual (and extremely slick) presentation makes for a great title.

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2) ScreenshotPuyo Puyo 2 for Saturn has to be considered the definitive version of this game – there are so many options and modes that I can’t imagine anything to be added (except for additional rules changes which the more modern games give with inferior results despite the up-to-date graphics).

There are three 1 player modes. The 1st being an easy tutorial mode, with the other two being kind of campaign modes; one sees you climbing a tower as you defeat enemies, the other sees you progressing along a spiral path (this 3rd mode seems to have 4 levels as well – there’s a fair amount of Japanese in this game which makes figuring out some of the modes tricky).

These modes are rock hard – after the first couple of matches which are usually walkovers you hit a wall. The opponents get really aggressive and unless you act quickly and get some combos and chains together you will be in a world of hurt. Maybe the difficulty curve is steep, but it is surprising how good you get at this game if you perservere. Get some practice in on this game and you will BURY a beginner at this unless you crank up the finely judged handicap system against yourself.

The 2 player battle mode is quite simply, complete. There is nothing to be added to the 2 player battle game here. There are 6 arenas to pick from, each with their own variation on the basic game offered in the 1st arena.

Puyo Puyo Tsuu (2) ScreenshotSome of these adjust the game settings quite subtly, others give you a blitzkreg game by reducing the number of blobs needed to remove them to 2 and upping the damage chucked across to your opponent. If none of these take your fancy, then the 6th arena is a custom mode that lets you adjust every rule in the game. Unfortunately this bit is all in Japanese but with some experimentation it isn’t too hard to figure out what is going on.

There is a great information resource on Wikipedia that will help – just search for “Puyo Puyo Tsuu” – the info here explains all of the options and in doing so explains just how deep the mechanics of this game can get.

Before each round of the game you can set handicaps to level the game. Players select a difficulty level which effects the speed that the blobs drop at and at the hardest level dumps transparent blobs into your pit before you start. I have a sneaking suspicion that it withholds colours you are waiting for at higher levels if your opponent is at a lower level than you – maybe I’m just paranoid but it really does feel like it!

Outside this there is also the main option mode – 2 screens worth of options (in English this time for some reason) to tinker with await you there. It is quite overwhelming actually and it will take years of play to be able to get everything out of the title.

Graphics are great – crystal clear, great characterisation and there are loads of little effects and animations to spot. It is distinctly 32-bit (you might argue high-end 16bit) but the design is a joy. I find the later incarnations of this game somewhat clinical compared to this version.

There is a great soundtrack too – the main select screen tune is actually kind of haunting in a weird way. Suffice to say the sounds match the manic visuals.

Despite the praise I’m pouring on, this isn’t a game for the casual. This is a full on puzzle game and you will only get enjoyment out of it if you are prepared to commit to it. For a fan of the genre though, this is essential.

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