Not to sound like a hipster, but I’ve actually been playing Puyo Puyo Tetris for over a year now. The game originally released in Japan in 2014 and because of licensing complexities surrounding the Tetris brand it looked like it would never find its way to the states. But possibly thanks to a surge of imports Sega has defied the odds and finally released what’s probably one of the best puzzle games ever made in the United States.
Puyo Puyo Tetris, as the name implies is a mish-mash of the two popular puzzle franchises. You’d be forgiven if you weren’t immediately familiar with the Puyo Puyo brand as the game really hasn’t ever taken off outside of Japan.That’s not to imply the game has never come out here, there’s actually a decent number of Puyo Puyo titles released in the US, usually under the name Puyo Pop. While the game does look similar to Tetris, the overall thought process and strategy in the game is entirely different, requiring a much higher degree of foresight and planning. What looks like a simple match-4 title is actually much more complex game that’s primarily about creating detailed chain reactions when you pop your pieces. While both Tetris and Puyo Puyo are very different they do blend very nicely into one package.
My Japanese copy of the game is for the Xbox One, which is noticeably absent from the game’s US release. Over time Xbox dashboard updates have actually busted a lot of the features in my copy so my suspicion is that Sega didn’t want to take the time to update the title and instead dropped it from release. Wild speculation, but there it is. For my US release I was given a copy of the Nintendo Switch edition and I have to say it’s the obvious best home this game could have. Puyo Puyo Tetris plays great on a TV, and the PS4 release will surely perform just fine, but there’s something extra special about being able to pick this up and wander around with it. This is a game that enormously benefits from being portable and it’s another great reason to own Nintendo’s latest console.
Let’s start with the game’s Adventure mode which will guide you through a series Puyo Puyo and Tetris challenges. During the Adventure mode you’ll have a chance to try out just about everything the game throws at you, including the brand new game modes that we’ll discuss in a second. This story mode stars a set of anime characters from the Puyo Puyo universe, so fans of that series will find plenty of familiar faces and even a couple fun callbacks. The story is cumbersome at best and I mostly found myself thumbing through the dialogue as quickly as I could. That said, the translation to English actually has some pretty decent voice acting, and it’s kind of fun for me personally to finally see what everyone was shouting about. It’s nothing mind blowing, but the Adventure mode is a great way to ramp up to all the game’s content, although I’ll mention that if you’re foreign to Puyo Puyo there’s a couple really nasty difficulty spikes you’ll have to soldier through along the way.
If you want to skip all that talking and just smash some blocks you can head on over to the solo arcade which will let you specifically choose which of the game’s roughly eight modes you experience. There’s Versus, which serves as a traditional Puyo Puyo or Tetris match. Swap mode will give players a Puyo Puyo and Tetris board and periodically jump back and forth between them during the match. Party mode introduces items into the mix. Big Bang is a remarkably hectic sprint mode where players rush to complete pre-arranged puzzles as quickly as they can. Challenge features specific Tetris or Puyo Puyo goals, like marathons or races to see how quickly you can clear a certain number of lines. But in my humble opinion the crown jewel of the entire set is Fusion, a mode that incorporates Puyos and Tetrominos into the board at the same time. This mode is a downright clusterfuck that will almost certainly take even the most seasoned series veterans some time to wrap their head around.
Local multiplayer is present, allowing up to four players to join in the mayhem. The majority of the game modes in Solo arcade can be found here. There’s nothing really special to note here although I will comment that this is the one section of the game where I got kind of burned by having the Switch copy. You see, unless you have a pro controller, you’re going to be stuck using an analog stick when playing with multiple people. While the Switch’s analog stick could certainly be a lot worse, it’s never going to replace a d-pad in Tetris. Puyo Puyo actually still controls pretty well though.
Of course Online play makes an appearance and I found the game to run really admirably, even though my entire competition was based in Japan pre-release. By default the Online playlist will randomly submit you to all of the game’s modes, and the one drawback I found is that most people have turned off Fusion, Swap, and Big Bang, so often times when you get assigned to one of those game types you’ll find yourself waiting a little longer than normal for a match. This is easily avoided by messing with your filters, but I wouldn’t mind playing a few more games of Fusion with other players. Other than that the online performs great, and I suspect that because the game has already been out four three years across the seas, we should have a relatively stable launch here in the US.
I know it sounds hyperbolic, but Puyo Puyo Tetris is almost certainly one of the best Tetris games I’ve ever played. It’s really remarkable what Sega has done to meld it together with Puyo Puyo and if you’re a fan of either series there is a ton of playtime available to you in this relatively affordable package (the game retails for $29.99 although the Switch’s retail version includes a keychain and will cost you ten bucks more). If you’re not a puzzle game fan, there’s certainly nothing here to change your mind, but if you like a good game of Tetris you really really need to spoil yourself and pick this one up.