Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pokemon Puzzle League

Great for fans and non-fans alike.
Review By Super Slash


Quite a few years back, I rented Pokemon Puzzle League just because it was another Pokemon game. I'm glad I did, because this is one game that keeps me playing for hours and hours. Even if you absolutely despise Pokemon, you won't regret this purchase, and it's well worth your points.


STORY: One afternoon, Ash and Pikachu are lounging outside near a beach (presumably), when he suddenly gets a call from Professor Oak, telling him that he's invited to a Pokemon puzzle challenge held at Puzzle League Village (a very creative name, I know). Ash immediately becomes interested and gets up, puts on his jacket, and heads straight for Puzzle League Village with Pikachu to sign up (he gets to the village in a matter of two seconds...coincidence?). He must then enter the stadium and fight all the Gym Leaders from the first generation of the Gameboy games (Red/Blue/Yellow), along with some other familiar faces, and even some that don't appear in the games. If he manages to complete his task and win the Puzzle League, he must challenge the Puzzle Master to determine who the true master is. Nothing special, really, but it at least has some kind of story. There's also the Spa Service where the story focuses solely on Team Rocket.

GAMEPLAY: The meat of all video games. Even though I've never played the original Tetris games, I know that this game plays pretty much the same as Tetris Attack for the SNES. The only real difference is that it has a Pokemon theme. Okay, so your objective in this game is to get rid of colored blocks with symbols on them; the basic Tetris gameplay. It may not sound fun if you're not a Tetris fan, but once you try the game, there's a good chance you'll be addicted for quite awhile. The main focus of the game is in the 1P Stadium, where the "story" takes place. You have to fight Gary first, then all of the Gym Leaders from the Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow Gameboy games. The object is to clear as much blocks as possible to prevent your stack of blocks from ever reaching the top.

As they get closer to the top of your playfield, they'll wiggle around and the music will change to a fast-paced tune, indicating that you're about to lose unless you get rid of some blocks. However, it's not as simple as just removing a set of three blocks; you can also perform combos and chains. To get a combo, you have to clear more than three blocks at once. A chain is similar, except after you clear a row of blocks, you have to clear another row of blocks using a set that was on top of the row of blocks you just cleared. This is what a chain is, and is the best way to win matches by far (on higher difficulties, it is pretty much essential). In order to get a really good chain going, you need fast reflexes and fast hands.

There are several difficulties in 1P Stadium. There's Easy, Normal, and Hard, but as you complete these difficulties, you'll be prompted to input a certain button code on the difficulty selection screen to unlock more. The other two hidden difficulties are Very Hard and Super Hard. On each difficulty, you fight more trainers (save for Super Hard, where there are no new trainers for you to battle). If you want the true ending of the game, you have to at least beat Very Hard; beating Super Hard nets you another secret button code and bragging rights. Nothing more. And finally, there are two different modes you can play: 2D and 3D. 2D is the default and holds true to Tetris Attack's style.

3D is essentially the same thing, only this time you have to be a lot faster since the blocks are in one big cylinder. They're both not much different at all, though I prefer 2D, myself. There's also the 2P Stadium, where you get to either play with a friend or play with a computer casually (on a difficulty level of your choice). In order to play with the computer, you have to set their difficulty in the Options menu and then select their trainer and such with a second controller. Instead of a human controlling the second player, the computer will.

I recommend this if the 1P Stadium becomes too frustrating for you, or you just want to play with a computer closer to your level of skill. In 2P Stadium, you can play in both 2D and 3D mode. You can also play in the Spa Service, which is a sub-story where Team Rocket steals your Pokemon, and you must get them back from them as you win puzzles and force them out of their many disguises. At the end, you must face Giovanni, Team Rocket's leader. It's a nice sub-story and adds a little more fun to the game, but playing/beating it isn't in any way necessary. A couple things I forgot to mention is that for one, before each match, you can choose between three Pokemon.

This doesn't give you an advantage or a disadvantage in any way, and the only reason for being able to pick a Pokemon is to add a little touch to the game. They keep their cries from the anime, which I thought was nice. The key to winning in this game is to stack as many Garbage Blocks on your opponent as you can. These are blocks that you must slowly destroy by matching up blocks that are on top of the Garbage Block. To stack them onto your opponent, you must get chains and combos. In Very Hard and Super Hard, Garbage Blocks become an extreme annoyance, because the computers will pretty much *never* fail to get a 10-chain or more (at least, it's annoying for someone like me, who sucks at the game =P).

MULTIPLAYER: After you beat the story mode (1P Stadium), you still have the 2P Stadium to play. As I described earlier, you can either play with a friend or against the computer. You'll have a blast playing with either one, and you even get to choose your own trainer! There are four hidden ones which are unlocked with a button code, which you can discover by beating the Spa Service sub-story (or you could take the cheap and much easier route and simply look for the button code on this very site). You can also set your handicap level for both players, but I always leave both at 5. It's your choice, however.

SOUND: The music and sound are both excellent. This game actually excels in music; a lot of tracks are really good (some examples being Ritchie's theme, Misty's theme, and Giovanni's theme, just to name a few). As mentioned earlier, all of the Pokemon have their cries from the anime, and they all sound perfect; just as good as ever. Overall, the sound and music definitely add a touch and certain feel to this game.

GRAPHICS: Decent for a puzzle game. All of the backgrounds are crisp and clear, and the characters and Pokemon look exactly like they do in the anime. The blocks are also nice and colorful. The anime cutscenes (what little there are) aren't perfect, but they get the job done. Overall, the graphics couldn't have been any better for a puzzle game, though they're not skull-crushing by any means.

OVERALL: After reviewing the whole game, I give it a score of a nine out of ten. This is one of the most fun and addictive games ever created, and even if you aren't a fan of puzzle games or Pokemon, I recommend getting this game as soon as you can. If you really must eliminate all traces of the Pokemon theme of the game, you have the option to turn the blocks to normal Tetris blocks rather than the Pokemon edition. You can also mute your TV combined with that, and it'll be just like normal Tetris. In conclusion, if you don't have one already, go out and get a Wii Points card (or use a credit card for some Wii Points), and download this game immediately. Puzzle League Village awaits you.

NAME: POKEMON PUZZLE LEAGUE
SYSTEM: Nintendo 64

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