Puyo Pop Fever DS Import Impressions
We check out the DS version of Sega's gooey puzzler.
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Sega's Puyo Pop Fever started its run on consoles in Japan last year, with versions of the puzzler hitting all the major platforms, although it was released only on the GameCube in the US. The game is the latest entry in the long-running Puyo Puyo puzzle series, and it tasks you with clearing emotive blobs of jelly from a board as they fall from the sky. The DS version of the title hit Japan late last year and boasts some new features not found in the other versions. We recently got our hands on the game to see what's new for the emotional multicolored blobs on Nintendo's dual-screened portable.
Before we break down the game's modes and play mechanics, we'll fill those familiar with Puyo Pop Fever in on the DS-specific features. Basically, you can expect to play the game on both of the DS screens, use the touch screen to manipulate your puyos with the stylus, and use the DS's Wi-Fi for a variety of multiplayer options. The support for the aforementioned features works to varying degrees of success, as we'll discuss below, but it's nice to see Sega trying to make the most of what the DS has to offer.
As far as the actual game modes go, if you're familiar with the GameCube version of Puyo Pop Fever, you'll know what to expect from the DS game. You'll find the same basic modes: single puyo pop, everybody puyo pop, and endless puyo pop. Single puyo pop features four different courses--intermediate and expert courses that feature eight stages each, a three-stage tutorial, and a free battle mode that lets you pick your opponent from a stable of CPU characters. One of the key elements of the single puyo pop mode is the single-player story, which revolves around Amitie, an incredibly peppy student of magic. You'll play as Amitie in the tutorial and intermediate courses, where you'll encounter an eccentric rogue's gallery of folk ranging from rival students to surly frogs and the undead. The expert course lets you play as Amitie's rival, Raffine. The free battle mode lets you play as either of the girls, or as any of the characters you've faced off against or unlocked by playing on the other courses.
Everybody puyo pop is the game's multiplayer mode, and it offers several different options for competing against up to eight friends via Wi-Fi. You can create a room for friends to join, join a preexisting room, compete against a CPU opponent, or let a friend download a version of the game if he or she doesn't own it. As with other DS games that offer Wi-Fi options, games and downloads are easy to set up.
Endless puyo pop features three different game modes for you to try out on your own. Fever is a fast-paced mode that plays like a timed speed round. Basically, you'll have to quickly figure out the right place to drop your puyos to create chains that will clear all the blobs on the screen. If you manage to get it right, your chains will extend your playtime. Mission is an objective-based mode that starts you out with a goal, such as clearing two different sets of colored blobs at once, that you must complete to move on. Finally, original is a traditional survival-style mode that challenges you to go for as long as you can without messing up.
The game's control, like that of the best puzzlers, is dead simple. You'll just have to shift and rotate your blobs as they fall to create like-colored clumps that will subsequently disappear. The key to victory is creating chains that will result in more groups being cleared as others disappear. You'll have two different methods to do this on the DS. You'll be able to go the traditional route, using the D pad and face buttons to navigate menus and move your blobs. Or, if you're looking for a more DS-centric approach to the action, you'll be able to use the stylus on the touch screen to get the same results. Tapping the screen will rotate puyos and make menu choices, while dragging the stylus on the screen will force the puyos to drop or move to one side or the other, depending on the direction of your motion. While the stylus control scheme is a neat idea, it loses its novelty pretty quickly when the action heats up in the game and you need to be precise and fast--two things that aren't always possible when using the stylus.
The graphics in the game look fine and are a decent approximation of the colorful visuals seen on the consoles. The characters are suitably cute, although they don't hold a candle to the charming and often funny emotions your puyos will run through over the course of a game. The game's visuals are split across both DS screens, with the action taking place in the top screen and the character avatars duking it out in response on the bottom screen. So, for example, if you perform a particularly wicked combo, your avatar will bump your opponent's.
The audio in Puyo Pop Fever is probably one of the most impressive aspects of the game, thanks to the abundance of voice work. You'll of course hear peppy tunes and all the familiar sound effects you'd expect from a Puyo Pop game. But you'll also get a whole lot of crisp voice from Amitie and company. Sure, it's more than a little over the top, but it's a good showcase for the DS hardware's sound muscle.
Based on the time we've put in with Puyo Pop Fever, we have to say the game retains the charm of its console cousins. The gameplay is everything you could want out of a puzzler--simple and addictive--and the multiplayer options are solid. The saccharine visuals and über-peppy audio may send you into cute shock, but it doesn't diminish the game's appeal. The DS-specific features aren't groundbreaking or, in the case of the stylus control scheme, all that successful. But the Wi-Fi support helps overshadow the rough spots. If you're thinking about importing, go for it. The game features full English menus, and even full English voice, which you can toggle in the options menu. If you're a fan of the series, then you should probably just go ahead and pick it up now, since there's no word on a US release at the present time.