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Pokemon Puzzle League (Nintendo 64) Review

Review for Pokemon Puzzle League on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Panel de Pon became somewhat of a classic on the Super Famicom over in Japan during the 1990s, but was only a minor hit when brought to the West as Tetris Attack, complete with a new Yoshi theme, and also struggled at the end of the GBA's lifespan when re-launched on the same cartridge as Dr. Mario as plain Puzzle League with no characters. Its greatest success came on the Nintendo 64 back at the height of the Pokemon craze when Nintendo slapped Ash, Pikachu and company's mugs on the product to move extra copies. In Europe, though, it came too late in the N64's lifetime to make much of an impact on the charts. Now said game has a second chance via the Virtual Console for just the equivalent of $7.50, should gamers make sure to not miss out this time round?

Puzzle League is definitely not a game that requires a lengthy story mode to make it addictive; its gameplay mechanic alone does a more than adequate job of achieving that status alone. However, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo included one back in Tetris Attack for the SNES and a distinctly Pokemon-flavoured yarn adorns this puzzle-fest, albeit in totally bare bones form with Ash merely working his way through a Puzzle League tournament in order to defeat Team Rocket and the gain as many badges as possible, including the elusive Elite ones obtained by beating the Pokemon masters during battle.

The basic aim of Puzzle League is to match up between three and five of the same coloured panels vertically or horizontally by using the directional pad to move a cursor around the screen highlighting two panels at any one time and switching their position on the lateral plane. As many tiles must be cleared as is necessary or possible, dependent on the mode of play, all the while trying to ensure that the set of panels do not scroll right up to the top of the screen and leave you with a 'Try Again' option. As with most great puzzle titles there are minor aides that let players flex their tactical prowess and rack up massive scores and cause havoc for your opponent. Once one particular set of tiles is removed, there is a slight pause to give players chance to quickly rearrange others so that combination clearances can be made when different colours from above drop downwards to fill the newly created gaps in the playing area. Create a good enough chain and Jigglypuff will whip out its microphone and start singing, thus putting everyone to sleep other than yourself and allowing all sorts of chaos to ensue as veterans will be flying around switching panels like nobody's business and sometimes even clearing the field completely, thus requiring a manual rise to be done to push more blocks into view.

Screenshot for Pokemon Puzzle League on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The main mode is the one-player tournament to earn badges and become the best Puzzle League competitor, and this pits you against numerous familiar faces from the Pokemon world, such as Gary, Brock, Misty and Tracey, each with varying degrees of skill. In this mode each combination move results in large, solid blocks falling onto the opponent's screen. To remove them a line of panels must be cleared whilst actually touching the solid block, which then results in it breaking down into separate panels that can be cleared as usual. A three panel clearance will not separate a thick solid block, though, or else things would be too simple. Sometimes only one line will be transformed back into normal tiles, whilst if a five-chain is made it will obviously normalise more of the large slab. Once you have caused the other player's screen to fill up, the white flag is raised and you move victoriously onto the next round. This mode is also available for two players and will definitely eat into your time considerably, along with the Marathon, play-til-you-drop mode, and Time Zone (puzzling whilst against the clock)...

So will 'Line Clear' (or Spa Service, which it is strangely called in this game) as well. Here players are tasked with continuously clearing all of the on-screen panels until a specific point, denoted by a white line - clearing everything above said line finishes that stage, allowing progression to the next. Eventually a 3D mode is introduced in the latter stages, in which the playing field is no longer restricted to a narrow 2D box. Players must, therefore, keep clearing panels as per normal, but also keep an eye on the back of the field, scrolling right around either left or right to maintain a balance all round or else again face a 'Try Again' message. To start with, this new inclusion will seem like a nightmare as there is far too much to concentrate on at one time. However, after a few plays its all clicks into place and the real fun begins! And that is what Pokemon Puzzle League is all about sheer addictive fun. With its brightly coloured aesthetics, various animated clips made especially for the game, plus voice-overs from cast regulars as well, the game really is the full package. When released on the N64 the price-tag may have been ridiculously high, but for the equivalent of $7.50 this is a must-buy title now it is available on the Virtual Console!

Screenshot for Pokemon Puzzle League on Nintendo 64 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

That old Puzzle League formula never ceases to fail at being so addictive, throwing in the old favourite modes along with an interesting new 3D mechanic that works surprisingly well.

Graphics

Clean and impressive, full of vibrant colour, all your Pokemon favourites, as well as newly created video clips especially for this game.

Sound

Decidedly average music that will annoy at first, but players will begrudgingly start to like it eventually, along with the wealth of voice acting from the cartoon.

Value

Once hooked, this becomes almost impossible to put down. Between the various modes on offer, two-player fun and challenge to be the best overall, Pokemon Puzzle League has lots to offer and proves to be great value.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Just like many puzzle greats before it, the Puzzle League formula can work no matter what theme it takes on. It worked perfectly well in its original Japanese form, with Yoshi tagging along, as well as in plain handheld format on GBA and DS. Attaching the Pokemon brand may seem like a cheap attempt at getting more sales, but the charm of the series actually seems to complement the extremely addictive gameplay. At just 1,000 Wii Points Pokemon Puzzle League is a must for any fans of previous Puzzle League titles, as well as those looking for a new challenge...

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06.05.2008

4

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Developer

NST

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Puzzle

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Sold! Great work Adam. Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Jae Soon's supposed to be listening to lectures each evening and preparing assignments for her online course, and yet she's been spending a good two or three hours each evening on this - she's more of an addict than me! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff MemberOur member of the week

jesusraz said:
Jae Soon's supposed to be listening to lectures each evening and preparing assignments for her online course, and yet she's been spending a good two or three hours each evening on this - she's more of an addict than me! Smilie

She should have done the review instead Smilie Lol, nice one - very surprised with the score! 9/10!

May just take a look at this sometime

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Don't get me wrong, she's no whiz at the game. I think she much prefers the DS version as it was the first she'd ever played and going from stylus control to moving the cursor with the d-pad was a massive shock for her.

Me, however, being a veteran fan, loved it instantly. I toyed with an 8/10 because the Pokmon theme bugged me at first and I wasn't too sure about the 3D mode...but the Pokmon stuff started making me laugh more and more as it grew on me, and the 3D mode's fantastic once you get the hang of it. I see why it was dropped for the DS game, though, as I don't think it would have worked as well on the small screen.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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