i’ve been continuing to play a lot of sequels (or titles that spawned sequels, as the case may be), although i have a few standalones coming up in the near future. i’d been meaning to play another N64 game for a while, so i though i’d give myself a little mindless break after the punishing f-zero and have a quick playthrough of pokemon puzzle league.
for better or worse i was quite mistaken, though. although i had been right in assuming that the game would be pretty much the same gameplay-wise as the two previous panel de pon aka tetris attack titles i had played (although with pokemon trappings instead of yoshi’s island ones), there was one significant difference: namely the addition of some painful levels of difficulty. although i knew that there was definite room for improvement in my skillz, i’d thought that by now i would be at least good enough to get through most challenges with enough continues, but sadly this proved to be far from the case. on the very hard 1-player setting PPL is rough: the CPU will regularly do 7+-chains repeatedly, and there’s apparently a super hard mode for people who want even more punishment. i worked on polishing my skills and made some progress so that i can now do 3- or 4-chains somewhat regularly, but after a while it just seemed like too much effort to match the computer and i was just too demoralized to continue. i’m sure there are many who have become true puzzle league masters and can breeze through even the super hard levels, but i took comfort in my improvements and have put the game aside for another day.
outside of the regular 1P mode vs the CPU, there’s also a 1P solo mode that incorporates the game’s most unique feature, which is a 3D board that wraps around in a cylindrical shape. that mode also gets to be more frustrating than fun in the later stages because it becomes focused more on quick combos as opposed to chains, and i’m not quite sure that the 3D version really adds that much, but it does provide some variety. the game also includes the usual puzzle mode (a limited number of moves to clear the board), timed and marathon modes, and 2P modes, along with a create-your-own-puzzle mode that i didn’t bother with. i had thought the game might include at least something involving pokemon beyond its presentation, but it doesn’t. although you can select one of your character’s three pokemon before a battle, your choice apparently doesn’t have any effect whatsoever. the pokemon visuals and sound effects are from the TV series and are colorful although the voice samples are fairly annoying, but in the kind of “so annoying it’s kind of entertaining” way, e.g. team rocket’s “i’m feeling giddy!” and “mee-owwth” and ash’s “i’m a pokemon master!”.
it’s kind of hard to rate this game. in terms of its presentation i prefer the less grating yoshi skin, and in terms of the difficulty i suppose i can’t mark it down for containing higher levels than i’ll get to anytime soon. the 3D mode isn’t a big draw, so overall i suppose this is a game for people who don’t mind the pokemon trappings and are seeking more of a challenge, or for people who really love the pokemon anime series. apparently the game boy color version has some minor pokemon collecting, so i’ll be tackling that one next, although i don’t expect it to be as difficult as this one. incidentally, this is one of the few nintendo games that have been released in the US and europe but not japan.
win all of these pokemon puzzle league links!
– serebii.net has a pretty good subsite, with a rundown of all the characters and their three pokemon
– good review at gamefaqs that goes into more detail on the CPU’s abilities
– good FAQ at gamefaqs
– FAQ with details on point values
– random awe-inspiring gameplay video
– entry at wikipedia