Rating: E (Everyone)
Developer: Sega/Sonic Team
Release Date: 05/03/2005
It’s about damn time this game got here. The Japanese got it across all the major home platforms, and even on the Dreamcast. Yes, the Dreamcast, many years after the system was abandoned. God bless you, Sega. Anyways, the home console release in the US was barely marketed, and the DS port looked like it would never make it here, until famed publisher Atlus picked it up. Now that we’ve finally got Puyo Pop Fever stateside…is it worth your time and money?
Unlike most puzzlers, Puyo Pop Fever actually does have a story. It only features into the aptly-named Story Mode, however, and it is rather generic. You wander across the land, battling weird characters, in order to retrieve your professor’s magical cane. (Stop those dirty thoughts right now.) As you meet each character, a full cutscene ensues, and each stranger in the game is well-designed and freaky enough to fit the overall tone of the game. There’s rival magicians, an effeminate skeleton…even Frankenstein’s monster! And they’re all here to make you taste defeat.
The graphics on the DS edition of Puyo Pop Fever look nearly as good as its console counterparts. Granted, the resolution isn’t as high, but the fluidity of animation and color is exactly the same.
The DS has got great LCD screens, and Puyo Pop Fever really makes them stand out. It’s got the most vibrant hues seen in a DS title, and when you go into Fever Mode (more on that in a moment), the screen nearly explodes with colors and effects. Puyo Pop Fever is literally eye candy, and very tasty at that.
Prepare to be surprised. Puyo Pop Fever has full voice acting. You heard me…full voice acting, on a tiny game cart. I don’t mean a few samples here and there; Puyo Pop Fever has spoken cutscenes, not to mention loads of speech in the game itself. The voices are crisp and clear, and the acting is hammed up to a degree that will often make you laugh out loud. It’s specifically designed to be cheesy, and the voice actors pull off their ridiculous characters with style.
The music is just as good; it’s very upbeat and lively, with plenty of cool synth effects. The only thing holding me back from giving the sound in Puyo Pop Fever a perfect 10 is that the music can get very repetitive; the main theme is largely the same from battle to battle.
As with most other titles in the puzzle genre, the gameplay in Puyo Pop Fever is deceptively simple. Multicolored Puyos (colored blobs of gel) drop down from the top of the screen in groups of two, three, or four, and you need to cluster them with more of the same color as they build up on the bottom of the screen. Grouping together four or more together will cause them to disappear, with any Puyos above falling down accordingly. This can naturally lead to many chains and combos, and the more you get, the more Nuisance Puyos you can drop on your opponent. Once you fill your opponent’s screen, you win. Giant Puyos (a group of four, but they’ve merged into one large one) can also have their color changed with the press of a button. Very handy. While you can use the stylus to drag around the Puyos, it really is better just to stick with the D-pad for Puyo Pop Fever. In later stages, you really need the quick response time.
If you chain Puyos enough times to counteract your opponent’s attacks, you can enter Fever Mode. Here, you’ve got a brief amount of time to create massive chains which can literally bury your opponent. Placing a single Puyo group in the proper spot will cause all of the others to chain in sequence. Fever Mode is essentially a death knell for your opponent; it’s very rare that the unlucky enemy will survive.
So that’s the basic gameplay. Puyo Pop Fever features a few different game modes, like Story, Endless, and Versus. Story mode follows Amitie, a young girl out to retrieve the aforementioned magical cane. You’ll fight off numerous opponents along your quest. There’s multiple difficulty levels, including some training options for players new to Puyo. The big downside to Story Mode is that there is no save function. If you make it all the way to the final boss and for some reason have to shut off your DS, you’ll be starting all over again the next time you play. Endless Mode is a high score mode; you keep playing until you lose, racking up points as you go along.
And now, the best part of Puyo Pop Fever…Versus Mode. Using the DS’ wireless function, this supports up to eight players…off a single game cart. Nothing’s as humiliating as getting your ass kicked by a friend, especially when they’re using a sentient onion pixie as a character.
You’ve got multiple characters to choose from, and plenty of ways to make your friends suffer. Puyo Pop Fever is almost worth the purchase for Versus Mode alone.
The only things in Puyo Pop Fever that you’ll really want to replay is Endless Mode and Versus Mode. Story Mode is over too quickly, and there’s really no reason to continually play it, unless you really need to unlock every single character. Luckily, mutliplayer alone makes the game insanely enjoyable.
Puyo Pop Fever starts out slowly and builds up at a reasonable pace. The training makes it easy for newcomers to learn, and the various characters in the game have their own specific play styles and speeds. This is crucially important to remember during multiplayer, as it can significantly enhance (or detract from) the overall experience, depending on who you’re using. Puyo Pop Fever isn’t a devastatingly hard game; it just takes practice. Fever Mode upends the balance entirely, which may annoy some purists, while simultaneously pleasing newbies. But hey, Fever’s a great thing to have in Versus Mode.
As fun as the DS version is, it’s still a port. Furthermore, Puyo games have been around for a very long time, and even though the Fever Mode is a new addition, the gameplay is nearly identical to its predecessors.
While the main modes may get old, it’s Versus Mode that will keep players coming back to Puyo Pop Fever. Of course, if you don’t know anyone else with a DS, you’re kinda screwed, but that’s hardly the game’s fault, now is it?
I’ve barely seen this game marketed at all. Not a good sign; if the game’s not promoted enough, it’s not going to appeal to wide enough audience. With more and more puzzlers appearing the DS, I hope Puyo Pop Fever won’t get lost in the shuffle, but I think more people would enjoy it if given the chance. The bright colors and cartoony characters may relegate it to the status of “kiddie games” in some fools’ minds, which sadly happens all too often these days.
Puyo Pop Fever came out on the GBA as well, and if you leave the Puyo Pop Fever cart in the DS’ GBA slot, it’ll open up extra pictures of the characters for you to peruse. Not much of an extra, but at least they’re trying! If you want more weirdness, try blowing on the DS’ microphone during some of the menu screens and during battles. I won’t spoil it for you; just go and find these lil’ Easter eggs for yourself.
Overall Score: 64/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (FAIR!)