Title: Pokemon Puzzle League
Console: Nintendo 64
Release Date: 09/25/00 (US)
My Ranking: #43
Despite the cutesy Pokemon overtones, this game was made with the hardcore players in mind. Pokemon Puzzle League is pretty much a direct rip of Panel de Pon, which is more widely known in America as Tetris Attack. The goal of the game is to match like pieces together, make big chains and destroy your blocks.
Tetris attack can be enjoyed singularly, where in marathon mode you just try stay alive and don’t let the blocks reach the top of the screen. By matching blocks and subsequently making blocks fall to make a row of three or more, you can make consecutive chains and stop the blocks from appearing on the screen for a brief time. Since there is a brief 1 to 2 second delay when blocks are matching and being destroyed you can move your cursor and place more blocks in place for a chain. Pokemon Puzzle League then becomes a very active puzzle game, where each move leads to another.
The game becomes more dynamic through when playing against a friend or computer bot. Each chain you make sends “garbage blocks” to the opposing player that can only be broken if three matched pieces touch the garbage block. Once broken, the garbage block changes into blocks you can use to make more combos and chains. The bigger the chain you make, the bigger garbage block you send to your opponent.
Garbage blocks are both the key to killing your opponent and creating big chains. With big garbage blocks, you can only destroy them one layer at a time and as long as you keep breaking the block within one chain, your chain can continue on, seemingly forever, which in turn, sends bigger blocks to your opponent. The game then becomes cyclic, which each player trying to out do each other’s chains, while breaking garbage blocks to stay alive.
Tetris attack was always played with a 2D grid which was already good enough. Pokemon Puzzle League added a 3D mode where the board would turn around so that the blocks were placed on the circumference of a circle. This mode was simply broken; so broken in fact that a 3D mode game could go on for forever. With friends at PLAY: The Games Club, we have maxed out the game timer at 99 minutes.
The reason the game goes on forever is because the garbage blocks take so long to fall from when you break them in 3D mode, giving you plenty of time to create a huge chain off the block and then break the next layer off the garbage block. When your chain eventually stops, you send such a huge block to your opponent which only helps them make a bigger block, and so on.
The game also has too many pixels occurring at once in 3D mode when both of you are breaking garbage blocks, which gives you even more time to think about how to create more chains. It’s beautifully broken so that 3D mode matches with good opponents become marathons.
The one-player mode was also ruthless. I’ve only beaten Super Hard mode twice. The one-player mode only works in 2D mode and the AI in Super Hard is just ridiculous. Their cursor moves faster than the human hand and they think so quick that they can use almost all their blocks for the biggest chain possible with what they have. Seriously, check out the video below to see how fast the computer moves on Super Hard (this isn’t even the hardest stage).
To make things even more insane, you have to beat the two final stages back-to-back. The penultimate stage is a rematch with Gary and I’ll easily lose against him 20 times even though I’m god-like in this game. Then you need to face against Mewtwo, who is even faster than Gary. If you lose to him (and you will), you need to beat Gary again. It’s mega hardcore and thankfully the game gives you an infinite amount of continues to compensate. When I finally beat Mewtwo, I jumped and screamed in excitement. The fast-action puzzle just gives you so much adrenaline.
I absolutely adored this game. Pokemon Puzzle League remains the most challenging and rewarding puzzle game I have ever played. It seems as though the developers made the AI with the intention of them not getting beaten. Honestly, I appreciate that. Making chains was very intuitive, required quick thinking and the game’s difficulty pushes your brain to think faster than what you would think is possible.
Seriously, if you want to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time, play this game. It’s available on the Wii Virtual Console right now if you own a Wii.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II Turbo (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Revealed on 09/16
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