Pokemon Torouze Hands-On

We've gotta match 'em all as we check out the Japanese version of Nintendo's Pokemon-themed puzzle game for the DS.

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Released in Japan earlier this week, Pokemon Torouze is a colorful Bejeweled-style puzzle game in which you'll be tasked with arranging Pokemon into lines as they fall from the top of the screen. You'll play the game exclusively using the stylus, and although a working knowledge of Pokemon certainly isn't necessary to enjoy the game, it certainly won't do your chances of success any harm.

In addition to a couple of multiplayer options that we've not had an opportunity to check out just yet, Pokemon Torouze features two single-player modes of play. The first, which kicks off with some extremely easy tutorial levels, appears to be story-driven, and as far as we can tell (everything is in Japanese), it has you assuming the role of a young female tasked with aiding a professor with his research into Pokemon in space...or something. Truth is, the story is as irrelevant as it is intelligible to us at this point, because at the end of the day this is a puzzle game, and regardless of any thrilling twists and turns in its plot, you'll still be spending the bulk of your time arranging pictures of Pikachu and friends into lines of four.

You'll deal with the Pokemon that are continuously falling from the top of the upper screen down to the touch screen--not by moving them as they fall, but by rearranging them once they've landed. You'll rearrange the neatly ordered Pokemon pile by placing the stylus onto the Pokemon you want to move and then dragging it either vertically or horizontally, at which point the whole row or column will move to accommodate the Pokemon's new position. Any Pokemon that are dragged off the bottom of the touch screen as a result of your rearranging will fall from the top screen again.

As we alluded to earlier, your primary goal in Pokemon Torouze is to arrange pictures of the same Pokemon into lines of four or five; but the game isn't quite as simplistic as it sounds. After successfully making a line of four or five, those Pokemon will disappear, and those remaining on the screen will be rearranged as a result. At this point, lines of three or more matching Pokemon will disappear, and will be followed by lines of just two. Spectacular-looking combos, then, aren't difficult to achieve, although it's rarely a result of genius planning. Further complicating Pokemon Torouze, or at least our attempt at understanding it, is the fact that some of the lines that disappear aren't even made up of matching Pokemon; and as far as we can tell, they're not even Pokemon that are related to each other in any obvious way.

The boss appears to have the better of you, but a single combo could turn the battle.
The boss appears to have the better of you, but a single combo could turn the battle.

As you progress through the story-driven game, you'll find yourself rearranging an increasing number of different Pokemon types, and occasionally, being challenged by a boss character. The boss battles play out, we suspect, in much the same way that the two-player games will. The first boss battle that we played, for example--in which you won't actually get to see your opponent's "screen"--was identical to everything that had gone before, except that sometimes a number of boulders would suddenly drop onto our screen (presumably when the boss was doing particularly well). The boulders would disappear along with Pokemon as we proceeded to rearrange our pile, but the only thing we're able to tell you about how we got rid of them at this point is that it wasn't by arranging them into lines. The second boss character that we defeated employed a similar tactic, except that his boulders would push in from the left side of our screen rather than falling from the top, which definitely made the encounter more challenging. The colorful Pokemon pictures that we were trying to rearrange also turned into silhouettes on more than one occasion during the battle, but only for a few seconds at a time.

The second single-player gameplay mode is a little more conventional, at least inasmuch as it just keeps getting harder and harder until it beats you. At the start of the game there were only a handful of different Pokemon types falling from the top screen, but as we progressed through the game, that number increased quite dramatically. There must have been around 40 to 50 different types of Pokemon in play at times, and we're sure that that number will get much bigger, given how many Pokemon actually exist in Nintendo's much-loved monster-battling universe.

No North American release date for Pokemon Torouze has been announced at this time, but we'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it (or a translator) becomes available.

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