Picking up Tetris for any system at this point is like buying an issue of a comic book with an alternative cover - judging from the packaging, you appear to be getting something new, but you'll quickly find that what's inside is the same old same old. And while that's not really a bad thing, the Tetris 4D experience is not worth rushing out to buy a Dreamcast for.
Bullet Proof Software's Tetris 4D is one of a few familiar games to land on the Dreamcast for its inauguration - in Japan, anyway. But don't be fooled by the "4D" part. Much time was spent searching through this rather basic game's rather basic, if not bare bones, set of modes for the enigmatic 4D element the name promises. But what Tetris 4D brings to the new system is anything but revolutionary. In fact, Tetrisphere on the Nintendo 64 was far more creative than this Dreamcast infant. Here, we have another Tetris on another system that does essentially what every Tetris that's walked before it has done - nothing new.
There are just two modes in Tetris 4D: Classic and Battle. In Classic, it's classic Tetris play with five degrees of difficulty: Easy, Beginner, Normal, Hard, and Expert, and about five choices of music: Silence, Impact, Zero, AK, and Karinka! The various skill settings offer speedier cube delivery and degrees of preset blocks for you to maneuver around. The music? Again, not revolutionary, but at least not as hokey as the Magical Tetris Challenge music. In this game, you have a selection of what could pass as mall electronica instead of Moog sitcom.
The Battle mode is the mode in which this Tetris spawn is most interesting, although you'd better have friends, because the CPU isn't playing with you at all this time. Two to four players can challenge one another within the aforementioned difficulty settings in a vertical panel layout that actually curves like a bay window (might this account for the illusive 4D reference?). The interface actually works fairly well with four players. However, considering that Tetris 4D is essentially a 2D puzzle game, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
The gameplay is exactly what anyone who's spent at least two minutes with almost any version of Tetris - except perhaps the more notable Tetrisphere or Tetris Attack on the SNES - would expect. Various colored blocks fall from the top of the screen in various configurations and speeds, and you must fit them together breaking away rows when an entire one is filled. You can rotate the blocks and place them as you wish, just as before and before and before. After a while, as in almost any Tetris game, this does get old - even for the most addicted player (except for the Game Boy version, which can readily consume large blocks of time without inducing boredom, largely because you can take it with you). That's why an expansion of the multiplayer to include CPU opponents and a few more modes in the least would improve this considerably lean game.
Gameplay aside, one somewhat distracting graphical element is the painting 101 treatment the developers have given the cubes to make them appear, well, 3D. Not only are the colors somewhat flat and unremarkable, the upper left-hand corner of each block is highlighted with a 10:00 a.m. sun spot, leading each set of cubes to appear disconcertingly alike. You do get used to it, but for 2D puzzle fans used to clarity sans optical illusions, you might be a bit peeved at first. But hey, if it's too tough to handle, dummy mode is available. In Tetris 4D, you can quickly access and deactivate the ghosting feature to assist you in lining up your blocks.
Even considering that Tetris 4D is an import game at this point, all of the very, very minimal text in the game is already in English, so the conversion would be little to no work at all. Perhaps if Sega beefs up the play modes, fixes the colors and shading, adds CPU opponents, and throws in that mysterious 4D element the game references, this might be a Dreamcast puzzler worth looking into. But for the time being, keep in mind that's a pretty tall order and stick to the Tetris, whatever version that may be, you already have, as you won't miss a thing passing on this one.