Pokemon Puzzle League

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Tetris Attack Changes FAQ

Pokemon Puzzle League/Tetris Attack Changes FAQ v 1.11
Jjukil, 2/26/00


Table of Contents:
--Introduction
--Updates
--General Changes
  --3d Mode
  --Graphics & Sound
  --Gameplay
  --Miscellaneous
--Game Mode Changes
  --Training Modes
  --Marathon
  --Time Zone
  --Spa Service
  --Puzzle University
  --1P Stadium
  --2P Stadium
    --Vs. Mode
    --Time Zone
    --Spa Service
--Credits


INTRODUCTION
------------

Pokemon Puzzle League is one of Nintendo's latest N64 games featuring the
company's newest mascot and source of massive revenue:  obviously, Pokemon!
Nintendo has a strong history of taking their mascots and putting them into
puzzle games--some of them unworthy, some of them the greatest puzzlers
around--but this latest offering seems cheesier than most.  For at first
glance, Pokemon Puzzle League isn't a cool new puzzle system with Pokemon
dressing--it's just a rehash of a little old gem called Tetris Attack....

Back in 1996, Nintendo--in full swing in its puzzle game rehash madness,
having just released such titles as Yoshi, Yoshi's Cookie, and Kirby's
Avalanche--released Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo and Game Boy.  It
was yet another title featuring the Yoshis(popular, weren't they?).  If I
remember correctly, the hype for this title was over its 2-player action,
which was a good place for it to be but didn't tell the whole story.  Tetris
Attack's gameplay system didn't rely on maneuvering falling pieces; instead
it let the player shift pieces that appeared at the bottom of the field
using a cursor that could be moved at any time--including while matches were
clearing from the screen.  This allowed for extremely frantic gameplay for
one OR two players that, in my opinion, has never been topped by any puzzle
game since.

Before you really look at Pokemon Puzzle League, it seems Nintendo felt the
same way.  Unlike most of their puzzle game releases, it features a recycled
gameplay system, namely that of the aforementioned classic.  The only change
looks to be the unfortunate booting of the Yoshis in favor of Pokemon.  If
you can't beat it, rerelease it, eh?

Well, I don't know why they changed the gimmick--no, wait, I know why, they
were out to make a buck...but thankfully (and surprisingly), they changed a
lot more than that!  This game is a big step up from Tetris Attack, providing
a lot more challenge and options than its younger brother.  Nintendo has made
many changes since the first game that people might miss, or just skeptically
not look for.  For their benefit, I've written out the majority of them--I
think--below.  (I should probably tell you now that some of this is hard to
understand if you're not a Tetris Attack junkie.  I might fix this in later
updates.)

Copyright 2000, Jjukil@excite.com.  If you want to reference part of this
document for any reason, that's great--just make sure you quote me. 
Likewise, if you want to post the document on your website, go ahead, as
long as you credit it to me and don't edit it.  Do not, however, put the
document in a magazine or other public forums (excluding websites) without
asking my permission.  Also, do not sell it, in any way or form.

If you want to contact me, or have some more differences between the two
games to report, email me at Jjukil@excite.com.

Finally, a disclaimer:  I do not own Pokemon Puzzle League.  This is for one
reason only, mind you:  I do not own an N64.  I would if I could, but I
can't, unfortunately.  Therefore updates may be, er, sparse =P  I have access
to one most of the time, though, and the more info I get from readers like
you, the more I'll be able to update!

Hope you find this list informative and helpful!


UPDATES
-------

v 1.11, 2/26/2001:  Uhh...right.  Forgot to change the date at the top.
Sorry about that....
v 1.1, 2/23/2001:  Changed around the intro a bit, and listed it in the ToC.
Mainly, added a bit of history on Tetris Attack for those of you not in the
know.  Thanks to CJayC for the suggestion!  Also some semi-random typo fixes.
v 1.0, 1/23/2001:  Initial release.


GENERAL CHANGES
---------------

These are the changes you'll find in every mode you play, or at least more
than one.


3d Mode
-------
This is what drew me to the game, although I ended up spending less time
with it than I thought I would due to the other changes.

3d Mode, put as basically as I can manage, gives you a playing field that
wraps around horizontally, is three times larger and is harder to see
completely.  (Wrapping around means your cursor can go from one side of the
playfield to the other in one move.  The feature's known best in Asteroids,
I think.)  It's really a blast and almost a different game entirely--the
focus goes from maneuvering what tiles you have to the right places to
finding the right tiles in the gigantic mess you have in time to keep a
combo going.  You're almost never hurting for tiles in this mode;
horizontal chains can get brutally long.  All modes with 3d Mode as an
option will have it noted first thing, since it's one of the biggest
changes.

Unfortunately, battling the computer in 3d Mode isn't very rewarding, or
even possible in 1 Player Vs. Mode.  The AI in 2d is great--more on this
later--but in 3d it's pretty terrible.  It can't keep track of tile levels
everywhere, and it spends too long trying to lower garbage levels by moving
panels, instead of clearing them first to stall like it should.  Too bad
they couldn't spend the extra time to rectify this, but at least smashing
the computer in 3d Mode helps take away from the pain of getting smashed
elsewhere!


Graphics & Sound
----------------
Obviously graphics and sound are going to be changed, due to the different
gimmicks found in the games.  Following are completely biased comparisons
between Tetris Attack and Pokemon Puzzle League--hereafter referred to as
Puzzle League, to save me room and pain(I'm not a Pokemon fan)--graphics and
sound that you can take as you like.

Graphics are much more detailed in Puzzle League.  They remain as colorful
and vibrant and distracting as ever, too.  There's also CUTSCENES, which
are just like the anime and usually at least moderately cool.  There's even
a choice between two block styles, one of which is more detailed and one of
which is clearer in gameplay.

What I didn't like were the backgrounds, and even they have their downs AND
ups.  The backgrounds were interactive with your game in Tetris Attack--the
mascot animals or icons for your character would react when you scored a
chain link or combo or got swamped with Garbage Blocks.  That's missing
here; it would've been cool to see the Pokemon duking it out, too.  You no
longer get to pick where you play, either--that's dictated by which mode
you're in and where you are in it.  It's most crippling in Marathon and
Time Trial modes, where you always see the same stage.  However, it does
provide good themes to the stages that are done very appropriately, and as
usual the graphics are vibrant and relatively crisp.  All things
considered, I found them more bland than Tetris Attack's, though.

The sound is, in all fairness, much more complex than it was in Tetris
Attack.  Each Pokemon has four sounds for chain comboes and each Trainer
has at least that many different voice samples, and there's a lot of both
that can be mixed and matched to an extent; there's a total of 484 sound
effects!  In comparison, Tetris Attack has a total of 226, and it has more
sounds that are just echoes of old sounds used during chain progressions
than Puzzle League.

Other than diversity, though, the sound's a mess, and easily the worst
aspect about Puzzle League.  Many of the voice samples chosen are too
similar to other ones, too long, or just plain irritating after enough
times hearing them(or sometimes from the first time on!).  A lot of the
acting is over the top, too.  The music, while showing about as broad a
range of Pokemon tunes as you're going to get, is not original and much
less audible if the effects aren't muted.  There are also no more volume
controls to adjust these things.  Transitions to Panic music now feature an
additional fanfare, which can be good or bad depending on how you look at
it.  Personally, I didn't like it.  I liked Tetris Attack's tunes better as
music, too--they're more inspiring to me and much catchier songs,
especially since besides Yoshi's they'd never been heard before.

Overall, the Graphics are Better, while the Sound is mostly Worse.


Gameplay
--------
At first glance, the gameplay looks and feels the same.  But you Tetris
Attack gurus out there like me might feel like something's off.  If that's
the case, you might find it in the following list of tiny but, considering
some are still viewing this as a direct rip of the old game, relatively large
changes I've come up with.  (More likely, you KNOW EXACTLY what's off, maybe
better than I do.  If that's the case, well, let's compare notes, shall
we?  =)

First change I noticed was that holding L and R doesn't raise the field one
panel's worth per press anymore.  It now stops exactly when you let go-
-after half a panel, two and a third panels, a sixteenth of a panel, etc.
Whatever you want.

Matches now give you a much bigger window to move another panel into the
old space.  What I mean here is how you can insert a panel into the thin
air left by a match as the panels on top of it are falling.  It is now
possible to insert a panel into this thin air before the rest of the match
is done clearing out.  You can only drop a panel into the space when that
part of the match has vanished, of course.  This really helps horizontal
chains.

Another bit of timing has gotten trickier--a LOT trickier.  The situation
is hard to describe, but I'll give it a shot:  catching a tile falling into
thin air with another tile so that it lines up with two others and clears
in midair, even though both are supposed to fall farther.  The timing on
this seems a LOT harder now--you have to shift the panel EXACTLY when the
match lines up, I think.  Maybe the drop starts sooner or something, but it
didn't seem that way to me anywhere else.  It got so bad for me that I just
stopped trying it!

Later on, I noticed that the game seems to count unrelated chains as part
of the same chain a lot more than it used to.  Maybe every time.  For
instance, in Tetris Attack, if you did a 2-chain, then started another,
unrelated 2-chain as you went along, you'd get 2 2-chains.  In Puzzle
League you get a 3-chain.  This doesn't always seem to work for me, and
unfortunately I didn't get a chance to figure out this part of the system
to a T before I had to take it back.

It's probably just a result of these changes and not something else
that I'm missing, but it just seems easier to me to get the higher chains
and scores in Puzzle League.  In Time Trial, I racked up something like
24,000--double my highest ever in Tetris Attack.  Meanwhile, I almost
doubled THAT in 3d Mode!


Miscellaneous
-------------
There's also several miscellaneous changes that go best here.

The password system is totally gone, replaced with battery backup just to
make it harder for you.

Also relating to codes, the BALL code is gone, completely as far as I can
tell--but it's replaced by another BALL code that ups the difficulty in
another way in Marathon, this game's Endless mode.  Hold Z and press the
keys for BALL on your controller while at the game select screen in
Marathon, and the selectable speeds will double, giving you the insane
speeds detailed in Endless below.

Another option that's changed is the ability to let the computer play for
you; you can turn the computer on, but there's only one option, and it'll
take over the second controller.  You can still have versus matches,
although it won't work well in 3d, for reasons detailed above.

The control pad is a bit stiffer in Puzzle League (and on the N64 in
general), which makes controlling it a bit harder--particularly if you're
not used to using a D-pad on an N64 controller!  (Or an N64 controller at
ALL....)


GAME MODE CHANGES
-----------------

This section covers how the modes have been changed.  Each category starts
with the Puzzle League name.  If it's been changed since Tetris Attack, the
original appears underneath it.  Unfortunately, there's only one new mode,
but there's enough differences in the old modes' execution to make up for
it.  Read on and you'll probably think so too.


Training Modes
--------------
I didn't do as much looking for changes in the training modes, since
players won't spend a lot of time there anyway, but some of the more obvious
ones make it better.

In addition to modes resembling How to Play/Improve from Tetris Attack,
Puzzle League has the Mimic Mansion.  The first two options let you mimic a
Pokemon character as he pulls off fairly basic moves so you can remember
how to do them in the normal games, if you recognize them.  This can help
out more than it seems.

The third option, though, is pretty darn helpful and really cool to play
with in 3d Mode:  Super Easy.  This is Endless on Easy with the following
two stipulations:  the Speed Level is locked at Level 1, and how long it
takes for panels to start dropping and matches to clear away is at LEAST
doubled.  This means everything goes REALLY slow, giving you more time than
you've ever had before to set up combos and chains.  30 and 40 hit chains
are almost easy in this training session!  It really helped me get used to
3d Mode.

Marathon
--------
Called Endless Mode in Tetris Attack.

3d Mode is an option here.

When you start the game, the selectable speed levels only go up to 50, but
the speed levels have been redone; 50 here is actually faster than 99 in
Tetris Attack.  Which really isn't that bad, since there's almost no
difference between 50 and 99 in the original.  (And yet the new BALL code
gets you up to a new speed level 99--and this time, it keeps up the
proportions!  How fast is 99?  Try holding L or R to slow down the field...)

Pausing now still shows the panels in easy, medium OR hard mode, not just
easy.  (The button to hide the exit option while paused is the top C
button, btw.)

Time Zone
---------
Called Time Trial Mode in Tetris Attack.

This has the same differences as Endless, except for the pause thing--just
like in Tetris Attack, you don't get to see your tiles while paused at all
in this mode.

Spa Service
-----------
Called Stage Clear Mode in Tetris Attack.

3d Mode is included here, but not as an option--after you beat the special
match in the middle, you're switched to 3d Mode until you fight the last
boss.

The bosses are different, in concept as well as identity.  The middle boss
and last boss aren't the same guy in this game, and I'm pretty sure the
last boss has a bit more defense against combos/chains than the middle
boss.  Both have more defense than Tetris Attack's Bowser, particularly
against chains, and the field seems a TINY bit faster.

Of course, the plot is different, as well as the intermissions, which give
you a bit less help this time.  (They also made sure that this time it
didn't matter if you won the middle match or not to the plot, which is a
cop out but a big improvement over mentioning how hard it'll be to beat the
boss you just beat!)

Puzzle University
-----------------
Called Puzzle Mode in Tetris Attack.

Puzzles are now divided into 3 broad Classes, which give you access to
at least 30 puzzles each once you unlock them.  You can play anything
you've unlocked, so you don't have to progress as linearly.

The normal puzzles used are at least partially changed, I think; they
aren't significantly harder until Class 2, which takes 30 puzzles to get
to.

Two new puzzle types with, of course, new puzzles are included--3d, which
takes advantage of the bigger field but seems considerably easier, and
Action, which tests you on skill chains.

There's now a puzzle editor, which lets you create and save up to 15
puzzles and is pretty fun to play with.

1P Stadium
----------
Called Vs. Mode in 1 Player in Tetris Attack.

The AI is very improved.  If you're a vet of winning Tetris Attack's
hardest difficulty without a continue, come on--just try it here.  You'll
probably be rudely surprised, just like I was.  Here's the differences in
AI I've been able to notice:
--It moves tiles just a tiny bit slower, mostly to compensate for the other
  changes.
--It can now do midair skill chains, including at LEAST inserting a tile
  into the empty column made by a match to get another match.
--It is much more active during garbage clear stalls.  It will make more
  comboes and chains if it has enough tiles and set up blocks underneath
  falling former garbage whether it does or not, giving it those dreaded
  Garbage Chains that extend matches endlessly and make attacking seem to
  go against you.
For me, the last half of Hard was as difficult as Tetris Attack's Very
Hard; Very Hard is harder than Tetris Attack ever saw after about Stage 8.

There is now a fifth difficulty level after Very Hard called Super Hard,
which you open the same way(well, by beating Very Hard, not Hard).  This
mode just takes all of this further and makes it faster.  I can't beat
either of these without continuing at least once.  Of course, this is what
makes the game most worth the purchase--you could practice with this
forever!

Luckily, beating the game without continues doesn't seem to make a
difference in terms of rewards now--you can use 0 or 99 continues on Very
Hard to open up Super Hard.

The max number of matches has increased from 12 to 16.

The easy mode features THREE less fights than the medium mode.  Meanwhile,
Very Hard features one more fight than Hard, a special last boss.  (Super
Hard has the same number as Very Hard.)

Finally, there are changes to character selection that, while ultimately
meaningless, should be noted.  You don't gain the services of any of your
opponents in Puzzle League, unlike in Tetris Attack, where your first
seven foes were recruited to your cause.  However, you do still partially
choose your character, because before each match starts you and your
opponent choose from one of three Pokemon.  Unfortunately, these Pokemon
don't offer any special abilities, so the choice is as aesthetic as the
last game's.

2P Stadium
----------
Includes Vs. Mode, Time Trial and Stage Clear from Tetris Attack, each
covered separately.

VS. MODE:

3d Mode is an option here, which provides for mass mayhem(especially with
the garbage blocks!!).

Players choose their characters as usual, but then choose which Pokemon
to use during each round.  Again, the choices are aesthetic only.

You can have up to 5 rounds per match, in keeping with the change above,
although this can be lowered to 3 or 1.

TIME ZONE:

3d Mode is an option here.

STAGE CLEAR:

This is the new mode--Tetris Attack is missing this one, and it's a great
addition, especially for fans of the old Tetris.  The object is predictable,
really:  get past your line-clearing goal, or more basically just clear
lines, faster than your opponent.  Pre-match setups for handicaps and the
like are the same as in other 2-player modes.

3d Mode is an option here, which I should've mentioned before.  You can't
fully test your line-clearing skills against the computer, since the AI
isn't built specifically for it (still sets up huge chains, doesn't just
move extra blocks to the holes at the end, etc).  It's a little better than
battling in 3d, though--you've got to move fast to win at the highest
levels.


CREDITS
-------
Big thanks go to Nintendo, who may slap gimmicky licenses on their puzzle
games but make most of the best anyway.

Thanks also go to DizzyBum and SReich, for listing several specifics from
Pokemon Puzzle League that I used when I no longer had it, and just having
great FAQs overall.

I'd also like to thank Amanohyo for his review of Pokemon Puzzle League,
which summarizes the game so utterly perfectly that, once I read it, I
decided I didn't NEED to write the review I'd been planning on.  =)  Go
find it at www.gamefaqs.com and read it if you're still not convinced this
game is worth checking out; it's probably the best review I've ever read.

And, of course, thanks to CJayC, who hosts this FAQ, along with all the
works I mentioned above, and helped me work out some of the kinks.


Well, that's it!  Hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks, Jjukil

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