to change things up a bit i started playing through the SNES puzzle game kirby’s avalanche, which is apparently heading to the virtual console very soon. the game has an interesting history in that it was the 2nd version of puyo puyo (created in japan in 1991) that was released in the states. the first was dr. robotnik’s mean bean machine for the sega genesis and released in 1993. kirby’s avalanche followed two years later, and apparently both are modelled after the original version of puyo puyo instead of the updated version puyo puyo tsu (a.k.a. puyo puyo 2) released in japan in 1994. [isn’t wikipedia helpful? what did we ever do w/out it?] this distinction is noteworthy, as i’ll get into below.
anyway, history lesson aside the game itself was probably one of the first tetris-like games to feature chain reactions, which i’d gotten to really enjoy through playing a similar game, super puzzle fighter 2 turbo, on the PSX. my sister and i used to play puzzle fighter head to head for hours, but after a while we found out that in most cases throwing blocks down quickly but fairly haphazardly yielded better results than playing carefully, and so the game became much less interesting.
avalanche proved to be a more challenging game overall, in part b/c a random approach usually won’t give many chains. with unlimited continues it’s not too hard to play through to the end, but i set myself the challenge of playing to the end with no continues. this turned out to be harder than one might think, mostly b/c the game is designed so that once you get a lot of enemy blocks on your screen, it’s fairly difficult to get rid of them. as the original version of puyo puyo, the game doesn’t have some of the more convenient features added to the second version, and in particular it doesn’t include the rule of sousai. this is a simple feature where the garbage blocks you’re about to send over to the other player are subtracted from the amount that s/he’s about to send over. this means that rounds last much longer b/c it’s common to have cases where both players are negating the others’ garbage blocks and bouncing small sets of garbage blocks back and forth. when you don’t have that feature, as in avalanche, once either side builds up a long chain the other side is pretty much bombarded and doesn’t have much chance to recover, so kirby’s avalanche forces you to play quickly and accurately. after spending way too many hours trying out various strategies, i decided the best thing to do is really just build as many chains as possible, and have chains working side by side so as they fall they chain with two colors instead of just one.
avalanche is one of those puzzle games that don’t really have much to do w/ the franchise except that the characters are featured, but the characters add color and some of the dialogue is pretty hilarious. all in all it was def. fun to play the relatively primitive version of the game, and i’m def. going to be playing through the subsequent iterations. i’ll prob. also track down the sega genesis version (which is available in the sonic mega collection disc which is on the gamecube and the other platforms) just to see if the gameplay’s exactly the same or not. yeah, i’m a geek.
– the great kirby site at classicgaming.gamespy.com has the definitive guide to the game, with sprites, screenshots, music, instruction book text, game dialogue, and more.
– wikipedia’s page on the original version of puyo puyo describes the gameplay and shows examples of how to make chains
– and here’s wikipedia’s page on the game