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Puyo Pop Fever
Reviewed August 2005 by Tony Peak
Publisher: Atlus Software
Release Date: May, 2005
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone
Tracing the history of Puyo Puyo / Puyo Pop
can be a little bit tricky, even for a veteran gamer. Although
it's been released across nearly every system imaginable from
the arcade in '92, to the NES, all the way to the GameCube
and Xbox, North American gamers have only seen a handful of
Puyo titles over the years. Two of the more notable NA releases
include Puyo Pop for the Game Boy Advance published by THQ,
and Puyo Pop Fever for the GameCube. But thanks to Atlus, Puyo
Pop makes an NA appearance on the Nintendo DS as well and brings
with it some interesting features using the DS hardware.
Puyo Pop Fever (Puyo Puyo Fever originally, Puyo Puyo is roughly
translated as plump and is probably a cute reference to the
blobs) is a traditional puzzle game in the Tetris / Columns
manner. Colorful Puyo will drop down in groups from the top
of the player's field, collecting up at the bottom and bursting
in groups of 4 or more. Unlike in Columns style games, in Puyo
Pop you can rotate the group of Puyo any way you'd like. Puyo
Pop Fever adds a new 'fever' mode, activated by countering
large combo chains and resulting in a special frenzy mode where
you can chain up insane pre-made combos.
For the DS, Puyo Pop Fever does feature a few new enhancements
making use of the DS hardware. For starters, you can control
the game via the touch screen if you so wish. Unfortunately,
this feels quite gimmicky and there's really no reason not
to use the D-Pad instead. Speed and precision is much more
important, and can be had much easier using standard controls.
It's there, and it works fine however, if that's your thing.
The big draw for the DS is actually the multiplayer, allowing
for up to eight players wirelessly on a single cart! In 8-player
mode, the screens are split four on the top screen and four
on the bottom, for a truly frenzied paced game. Also available
is the standard 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, and etc, but the 8 player really
takes the cake. Thankfully those of us who don't know 7 other
DS owners can still go up against computer AIs, but it's not
quite the same of course but it's still quite fun.
Aside from VS matches, the single player story and arcades
mode are quite robust. In the story mode you'll go through
one short training course and two fairly long and challenging
set courses, although the whole thing is over fairly quickly.
You'll need a good deal of practice to beat the story mode,
and can always up the difficulty for more replays, but there's
sadly just not a lot of meat to the story mode this time around.
Thankfully the endless modes help to make up for this, where
you can play the classic Puyo Pop with nonstop Puyo, an endless
fever mode you have to keep going, or a mission based mode
where you'll complete various goals. The goals are simple instructions
such as a number of chains or a number of Puyo popped simultaneously,
but it's a fun addition regardless.
Puyo Pop Fever is much more colorful than
the previous Puyo Pop, but it's rather over the top at times.
The characters and pastel colors are so bright and overly cheerful
that you'll probably be quite surprised when the AI hands you
your first beat down. This game is not easy by any stretch,
and can actually be fiendishly difficult and borderline
cheesy. The story graphics however, pretty much start at
cheesy. Thankfully the in-game graphics are quite nice,
if perhaps last generation. There's few things here the
GBA couldn't do, and few surprises graphics wise.
The best use of the graphics comes in the Puyo themselves
and various small effects during chains. Fever mode looks quite
nice and attention getting, while all the Puyo are easy to
see and differentiate quickly even in an 8 player match. The
8 player match arguably looks the best, filling both of the
DS's two screens top and bottom.
Sadly, while the graphics may get on
my nerves a bit, the sound can be simply intolerable. The
English voice acting is atrocious, simply annoying and everywhere
in the game. From the title screen to the cut scenes to every
single chain, win, or loss in game… it's all fully
voiced and you'll soon wish it wasn't. The voice acting is
either horribly out of place, stretched out, filled with
sub-par pop culture slang, or otherwise just in a voice annoying
enough to grate on the nerves with every sound clip.
The one saving grace of the sound is that a full Japanese
mode is accessible from the options menu, which will change
everything from the title to the menus, including full Japanese
voices. While the Japanese voices can certainly be annoying
sometimes too, they're more on the level of the graphics as
merely overly prepackaged and somewhat stale cuteness. For
the most part, the Japanese voices (and story acting) go over
with a much better pace and match to the characters, so if
you know enough Japanese to get by, go for it. If not, you'll
still be able to work your way through the menus easily enough
with some practice.
Puyo Pop Fever isn't for everyone, and it isn't without flaws,
but there's definitely a crowd that will dig it. Though the
overly cute presentation hurts my opinion of the game, the
DS market in general may be more accepting. The full Japanese
mode is very much appreciated by the more hardcore players,
and the challenge is certainly there. If you happen to have
some friends to play against, preferably a lot of them, then
you're really in for a treat. Otherwise expect a challenging,
though somewhat corny single player experience.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Don't be afraid to turn the difficulty down to easy if need be,
it'll still be one tough challenge in the beginning. Puyo Pop Fever
is much tougher than it looks.
- Try to chain as many combos as possible to help pile the garbage
puyos up on your opponent. Also, save some combos if possible for
when your opponent tries to combo you, so that you can prevent the
garbage puyo and charge your fever gauge. When in doubt, even a single
chain can be useful.
- Remember when you get the large 4 grid puyo that you can change
its color by pressing the rotate button.
- It is sometimes a good tactic to let your opponent get fever mode
first, then use the time to quickly build up your own fever mode
and overcome them.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
It's colorful and bright, though maybe
overly so. Short of the impressive 8 player layout, there's
really very little that takes advantage of the DS and couldn't
be done on older systems.
The English voiceovers actually fall
into the bad category, and what's worse is that they're everywhere.
From the title screen to during the actual gameplay, you can't
escape them. Thankfully the Japanese audio fairs better, but
it's hardly a solution for everyone and not without its own
annoyances. The music is ok at best, but mostly falls into
the same problems as the overall theme.
Where Puyo Pop Fever shines is as always,
the gameplay. While things haven't changed much over the years,
the new additions help while keeping the core spirit of the
original. The 8 player multiplayer is extremely fun, and the
endless modes will keep you playing and enjoying after the
story mode has ran its course. There's a real challenge beneath
the cuteness. The ability to select classic rules, play more
like the original style, and other such customization options
really let you enjoy the game your way.
This one is going to depend a lot on
what type of gamer you are. As a single player gamer, the endless
modes and VS CPU modes will keep you going for a respectable
amount of time. If you have some friends with a DS, you're
looking at more longevity. Either way, the formula really hasn't
changed much over the years, and I expect many players will
move on fairly quickly after fully exploring the various modes.
There's not a heck of a lot of hook to keep you returning short
of honing your own skills.