Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Puyo Pop Fever

After the success of Tetris there were a slew of Tetris clones that followed. Some were good, some were bad (Columns anyone?) and most of them were downright bizarre (Bubble Bath Babes anyone?) This trend continued with what most western gamers know as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. While it's clear this was to cash in on the success of the Sonic cartoon what people might not realise that in hindsight this was a re-skin of the Puyo Pop games. Going into the history of the series would be enough to warrant its own article but we'll focus on the latest reiteration of the series. Would Puyo Pop Fever do enough to keep the series from going stale? No. Doesn't stop it from being a fun game though.

Puyo Pop marked the birth of competitive puzzle games. The idea of a competitive aspect in fighting games was popularised (not created) by Street Fighter II, and a slew of other competitive fighting games followed suit. SEGA decided to experiment whether this competitive nature could be applied to other genres and Puyo Pop was formed (Twinkle Star Sprites did this with the shooting genre). No similar experiments have been tried with other "arcade" genres.

The stars of Puyo Pop are the amorphous blobs that drop down from the screen. The goal of the game is to match Puyos of different colours together so they disappear from the screen. When you do, colourless Puyos are dropped onto the opponent's screen as a result. From this description it may seem beneficial to segregate the Puyos by colour and it's true that this has a good short term effect. The real trick in Puyo Pop is to position the Puyos in your field such that a chain effect triggers, getting rid of the multicoloured Puyos all at once. This makes the competitive edge of the series a mixture of the memorisation of chained patterns (like special moves in a fighting game) and learning to work with what you've been given, giving a level of adaptability that fighting games have been trying to achieve for decades.

Puyo Pop Fever's addition to the series along with a story mode that can only be described as repeating 'kawaii' ad nauseum is the titular fever system. As you string combos together a bar would fill up on the side of the screen. When it fills up you'd be launched into Fever mode where preset Puyo combinations will be created and you will have to demolish them as many as possible in the time limit to maximize the amount of damage done to your opponent (keep in kind this was also the first game in the series to have Puyo sets of more than two blobs). There's a good argument that this ruins the flow of the game as it takes the challenge out of being primarily a game where you are required to adapt as much as possible. This is true but it also changes the rules of the competitive side as the time element is now stressed so you can counter your opponent's fever combos with your own.

Puyo Pop contains the trademarks of a series that's respected but not learned from. Capcom tried to emulate Puyo Pop with Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, probably because its main series lacked the adaptability I mentioned before. The game itself has its charm but suffers from being slow in comparison, probably from trying to appeal to a casual audience. Going on with Steet Fighter, Puyo Pop Fever is to Puyo Pop what Street Fighter Alpha is to Street Fighter II. It keeps the standard gameplay the same but it's the execution that causes it to become a different beast altogether. Fever was succeeded by Fever 2, the 15th anniversary game, 7 and the 20th anniversary game with only the former being released in North America and if it's anything like this game then it's worth playing.

Find Puyo Pop Fever on ebay | Amazon

Released: 5/3/2005
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: SEGA


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