Let’s face it, puzzle games are downright addictive when it comes to game play. We have so many puzzle games like Tetris, Tetris Attack, Bejeweled, Henry Hatsworth, and you get the idea. My favorite, of course, is Tetris, since I have never played Bejeweled or Henry Hatsworth. I have, however, played what I think is one of the best puzzle games and one of the best games on the Nintendo 64, Pokemon Puzzle League. Yeah, you can say it’s Tetris Attack with a Pokemon brand slapped all over it, but if you know me, I am not playing this for the Pokemon brand, I am playing this for the puzzle game play. How does it stand up to today’s standards of puzzle games? Is it still a gem that is worth playing? Or is it just not cut out for a new generation of puzzle gamers?
The story takes place in the world of Pokemon, where Ash and his buddy Pikachu are relaxing by a pool, taking a break from all the Pokemon battles and such. I would be tired too, if I did the same darn thing for over 10 seasons in a cartoon show. Ash receives a call from Professor Oak, who tells Ash that there is a Puzzle League championship going on in a puzzle village where the whole game will take place. Of course, Ash who can’t refuse a challenge, rushes on down to the village and begins his trek to become a Pokemon Puzzle League master. The story is, umm, well, REALLY stupid in my opinion, since the Pokemon brand is just there to fill in the void that is missing from the other areas of the game. Either way though, it works just fine, and it doesn’t get in the way of the game play.
The game play featured in this game is basically the same puzzle formula found in Tetris Attack on the Super Nintendo, where you need to match three or more blocks with the same color. If you get more than three blocks of the same color put together, then you will make a big block appear on the opponents side of the screen where the only way to get rid of it is to make three or more blocks match and is touching the big block that is on top of you or your opponent’s puzzle screen. The big blocks can get bigger, depending on how many combos you actually make. In the one-player mode, you will be fighting against multiple people, mostly characters and the gym leaders from the first generation of Pokemon series, with people like Brock, Misty, Erika, and Giovanni as gym leaders along with the others from the first game. The spa service pins you against Team Rocket and the multiple challenges of getting all the blocks below a certain line. The Time Zone puts you against a 2D or 3D puzzle for two minutes, and your goal is to make as many points as you can. Marathon-mode puts you against an endless 2D or 3D puzzle, and your goal is to play as long as you can. Puzzle University is where you go through a mode with different challenges to make all the blocks disappear with a very limited amount of moves. This is one of the harder modes in the game that really flexes your brain muscle. Of course, with any puzzle game, it is much more fun to play it with a friend so there is a two-player mode where you play against a friend as you choose one of the different trainers for each player and, well, do a puzzle game and try to get the other person’s blocks to hit the top of the screen.
The hand drawn graphics in the game are really well done and don’t look pixilated. One of the most shocking things is that this game has something that most N64 games don’t have, Full Motion Video! How many games on the Nintendo 64 (good games) have Full Motion Video? The only two that I can think of is the Nintendo 64 version of Resident Evil 2 and the Japanese Evangelion game. It looks good on the cartridge though and I think they could have done more of this, though I bet it was hard enough to do this on the Nintendo 64. The game play is fun and addictive, since if it weren’t, it would be downright tedious and boring. The music is also well done, with instrumental tunes of the past Pokemon series really fitting in with songs from the anime and the first movie, along with songs from the season where Tracey joined Ash and Misty. There is also a decent amount of voice acting, even if it is just small quotes and such, but I like it even when it gets annoying later on in the challenge. The difficulty is really ranged. Sometimes, the puzzles and the battles can be ‘easy as that’, to being really, really hard. Overall though, it gives the game replay value to see how good you can get at it.
Now, it is time to talk about the bad parts of the game. The bad parts, though, come from the fact that the game is a puzzle game. Some of the later challenges can get downright hard, and it isn’t fun unless you’re a master of the puzzles in the game, kind of like how Samurai Shodown is really hard if you’re not a master of the combat system in the game. Another thing is that if you are a fan of Pokemon and not a fan of puzzles, since well, you want to see Pokemon battle, you will probably be bored out of your wits, doing the same thing over and over again. In this regard, as a reviewer, I can’t really hold it against itself since it is a puzzle game and you’re supposed to do puzzles.
All and all, Pokemon Puzzle League is a really fun puzzle game and it comes highly recommended to casual players and people who are into puzzles. You can get a good price for the cartridge form of the game, but you can easily spend over 1,000 points on the Virtual Console. This is a fun puzzle game, even with the Pokemon brand on it. I say, go pick up a copy and flex that brain.
This game gets a 9.5 out of 10