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Friday, July 23, 2004

Well, I've beaten the main story mode of Puyo Pop Fever (on hard mode, since that's how I usually play Puyo) and I hate to say it, but... it just isn't any fun. They made Puyo waaay too complicated when the series' charm (and its strong point) is in its simplicity. I can barely recognize the game anymore. Everything just feels way out of control. Blobs come down in sets of three or four sometimes, and there's a fever meter that increases whenever you offset an opponent's attack, and when it fills, you go to the special "Fever Mode" where it sets up combos for you and, if you're lucky and get the right colors, you might actually be able to attack with them. It's just wacky and unnecessary. The biggest frustration for me is the elimination of the "grace period" where an opponents block Puyo would take a few turns to drop; now, if you cannot make a match within one turn, all the blocks come tumbling down, and any chain you were building is screwed since they've also dramatically increased the number of blocks that fall. Now, whoever gets the first 3-degree chain wins the match, and that's just plain broken, especially with all the variables added by the three-blob and four-blob puzzle pieces. I just don't know what Sonic Team was thinking--oh wait! It wasn't Sonic Team, they farmed out the development to some company called "Digi-mix" that I've never heard of, just like how Sonic Team's other mediocre Puyo game (Puyo Pop on GBA) was farmed out to "Caret House." You know, when the box says "From the Creator of Sonic The Hedgehog," I would like it to be, you know, from the creator of Sonic The Hedgehog.

(The first bad omen, by the way, is that you can't change the controls beyond A-rotate right, B-rotate left and reverse. This is okay, but it made me sad since Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on Sonic Mega Collection was a dream to play with A-left and X-right, because of the shape of the GameCube buttons. Using the huge A button and the tiny B button to rotate each direction is very awkward. How come no developers [I'm lookin' at you, Mega Man Anniversary Collection] seem to know how to take advantage of the oblong GameCube buttons?)

Compile (original creators of Puyo, went belly-up in 2001), you will be sorely missed. Somehow I thought Sonic Team and Puyo would be two great tastes that would go great together, but... they just don't. It breaks my heart to do this but... you get 4/10 and a slap on the wrist, and I'm going to put my arms around my copy of Puyo Puyo 2 and bawl.

Graphics - Beautiful, good presentation, wacky, funky feel. 7
Sound - Who hired those English voice actors? They're... actually quite good, but the stuff they're instructed to say is unbearable. Music is good and catchy, so I'll even them out. 5
(just a hunch, but that score might go up if I put the Japanese voices on instead)
Gameplay - The original Puyo concept is wonderful, but you'll be hard-pressed to find it beneath the avalanche of additional variables that are too much for my feeble human mind. 6
Lasting Value - I'll get back to you on this, but my crystal ball predicts a 2 from extreme frustration. 2

Pros: Lightning-fast, addictive gameplay, based upon the long-standing and venerable Puyo series.
Cons: Few extra features; story, 2-player and endless (survival) are it, and by golly, that's all there was on the original Puyo Puyo (a.k.a Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Kirby's Avalanche) all the way back in 1991. Confidential to Digi-mix: Puyo Puyo 4 on Dreamcast had 4-player, puzzle, and time attack modes; and if we want to talk about remakes of ellegantly simple games, Super Smash Bros. had extra modes coming out of its ears. Hell, Puyo Puyo Box had an RPG mode. Get with it.

Final Score: 4/10

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