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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games
Read our review of the Nintendo DS here!

Puyo Pop Fever

Reviewed August 2005 by Tony Peak

Publisher: Atlus Software
Developer: SEGA
Release Date: May, 2005
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone
Genre: Puzzle
Price: $29.99

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.

Gameplay

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.

Graphics

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.

Sound

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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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):

Graphics

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.

Sound

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.

Fun Meter

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.

Addictivity

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.

Total Score= 3 Dragons, 60%



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