I’ve never been the biggest fan of puzzle games, but every once in awhile I like to enjoy games like Wario’s Woods, Yoshi, and Puzzle Bobble. I had always heard good things about Puyo Puyo, so I decided to give Puyo Puyo Champions* a try. It is safe to say I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
For those who might not know, in Puyo Puyo, players have to stack four or more blobs of a matching color to get a chain, the more stacks you can pop in succession, the higher your chain combo is and the more you can hinder your opponent. Puyo Puyo moves at a much faster pace than I had anticipated, so I had quite a few losses before even starting to get the hang of what to do.
Two Similar Yet Different Gameplay Modes
Puyo Puyo Champions contains two separate game styles: Puyo Puyo 2 and Puyo Puyo Fever. Both modes can be played with just one player offline or local and online multiplayer, and both modes are relatively similar with a few key differences. There are plenty of specific terms to learn which go in conjunction with each other, and from experience I know it’s not that easy to understand, but I’ll try my best to explain.
Puyo Puyo 2 Mode
Besides still containing the basic stacking mechanic, Puyo Puyo 2 introduced a few new features. The most notable of which is the “offsetting” rule, which allows players to make chains that counter and negate Garbage Puyos produced by their opponent as well as send them back. Puyo Puyo 2 also introduced two new types of garbage puyos: Point Puyos, which add points to your overall score when being erased alongside other puyo, and can also make your chains more powerful in the short-term and Hard Puyos (also called Steelies), which have to be cleared a second time after turning into a regular Garbage Puyo.
Puyo Puyo Fever Mode
In Puyo Puyo Fever mode, offsetting is altered where Nuisance Puyo only drop when the player fails to create a chain.and also introduces a new mechanic called Fever Mode. Fever Mode activates when a player offsets nuisance Puyo — causing any chains made while nuisance is queued to fall on one’s board and be ‘offset’ by the nuisance produced by the chain. In Fever Mode, a preset chain falls onto the players board and they must find the fastest way to clear it — such as getting a matching puyo of one color to a line of the same color in the right area,causing a chain to be created. Each preset chain solved by a player provides an additional attack towards their opponent, with each chain being larger and more difficult to solve than the last, continuing until the Fever time limit is up.
Personally, of the two modes, I prefer Puyo Puyo Fever mode. I feel that it’s more fun for new players and solving as many fever chains as you can is satisfying in a way that you don’t see in other puzzle games. It may not be that easy to get a grasp on for some, but once you figure out the best and fastest ways to activate Fever mode, it all seems much clearer.
Inexperienced players should be wary though, as if you choose one of the game modes without selecting the main menu first, the game will randomly select characters and begin. For more experienced players and any who want to play a quick game, this option is great, but to reiterate: it may catch new players off guard.
Learning Through Playing
Because there’s no kind of training mode or tutorial for either game type, players just have to learn as they go. Each character has a preferred strategy such as using small chains, using big chains, aiming for Fever, reversing fever, having a strong balance, or attacking fast. By using the theater mode to evaluate past matches, players can see a breakdown of gameplay so you can always study the different strategies of AI opponents. There is also a difficulty selection on the screen prior to starting the game for how difficult you want the CPU character to be with the options being sweet, mild, medium, hot, and spicy –just like hot sauce. Unlike hot sauce however, the default difficulty is always medium, so new players will always have to change it before starting a game until they feel comfortable enough to take on medium level difficulty and higher. I recommend newcomers start with mild difficulty since it will show you where and when you can make the best chain combos.
Characters With Personality But No Background
Personally, I think a story mode would be beneficial. All these characters seem to have different personalities shown through their brief voice clips when playing as or against them. But for players not as familiar with the series as those in Japan, we seem to know nothing more about them besides their names, appearances, and preferred strategies. I would very much like to know what the deal is with Risukuma, the mad scientist bear and Suketoudara, the fish man. Additionally, there are also a variety of backgrounds and aesthetic styles, making it perfect for a continuous single player mode with plenty of different levels.
In spite of my difficulties, I have been enjoying learning how to play Puyo Puyo, even though it’s different than what I expected. Despite its lack of accessibility for more inexperienced players, it’s still more accessible as a Puyo Puyo title in general since most titles in the series aren’t available on modern platforms in the West. If you’re looking for an addicting puzzle game with a competitive aspect, look no further than Puyo Puyo Champions.
*Code provided by the publisher