Tuesday, February 27th is a big day for Puyo Puyo fans. Initially a 2014 Japan only release, Puyo Puyo Tetris made its way to North America and Europe via Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 in April 2017. This marked the first appearance of Puyo Puyo in North America since Puyo Pop Fever on Nintendo GameCube in 2004. Nearly a year later, Puyo Puyo Tetris is coming to Windows PC worldwide, purchasable through the massively popular digital video game distribution platform Steam. Puyo fans are rejoicing because if Puyo Puyo Tetris performs well on PC in the Western market, the community could see a huge boost in interest and viewership. With a bigger fanbase, Puyo Puyo could finally find a place among popular Western competitive eSports events where, to this day, it has remained unrepresented.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a game as simple as the title suggests. It’s a puzzle game that packages together Tetris, the need-no-introduction champion of “falling block” games, and Puyo Puyo, the competitive, multiplayer match-four puzzler from Japan. Tetris is a title known and loved the world over; chances are you’ve played it at least once. Puyo Puyo on the other hand was created in Japan in 1991 and didn’t see a Western release until 1993 in the form of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine on Sega Genesis. Since then Puyo Puyo has had very little presence outside of Japan, but the game-play has evolved through the several iterations released over the years.
In Puyo Puyo the objective is to defeat an opponent by placing blobs (called Puyo) of 4 different colors onto the play board. When 4 same-colored Puyo touch, they “pop”, causing the built up Puyo on top to fall. Players can arrange their board in such a way that when 4 Puyo disappear, the falling Puyo align into another series of 4 colors, creating a chain effect. The higher the chain, the more garbage is sent to the opponent, and the faster the opponent’s board fills up to the top and loses. Unless, of course, the opponent counters the garbage by firing off their own chain equal to or greater than the initial attack. This counter-attack and neutralizing mechanic is the core of Puyo Puyo. It’s what separates Puyo from other puzzle games, placing it among the few puzzlers that share terminology and play style with popular fighting games. These similarities allow for an exhilarating competitive experience which built the fighting game eSports scene as we know it today. However, in the same spaces where competitive fighting games are celebrated, Puyo continues to be amiss.
Currently the list of popular games in eSports is dominated by genres like fighting, first person shooter, real time strategy, and multiplayer online battle arena. These genres consist of a plethora of games which most gamers with even a cursory knowledge of competitive gaming can list without hesitation. Representation for puzzle games on the other hand is nowhere near as generous. Using the Wikipedia page for “List of eSports games” as a rough example, only one puzzle game is listed in the “Others” category way at the bottom of the page. Understandably, it’s Tetris. While Tetris isn’t as popular in the competitive realm as the big hitters like Super Smash Bros. Melee, League of Legends, and Overwatch, the exposure and popularity alone is enough for Tetris to hold serious worldwide competitions for its different releases. For Puyo Puyo, that popularity has had difficulty spreading outside of Japan where Sega holds official Puyo tournaments to this day. Answering the question of exactly why Puyo Puyo has struggled to achieve a similar status in the West is troublesome. Whether it’s the lack of presence over the last 10 years or the difficulty of joining the ranks with heavily established competitive scenes, this new release of Puyo Puyo Tetris on PC could remedy that and succeed where the previous release did not.
One enormous difference between the PC and console (Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4) release of Puyo Puyo Tetris is accessibility. Not everybody owns a Switch. While it is a massively successful console, some consumers are still having difficulty acquiring one in stores and online. As for PS4, Puyo Puyo Tetris doesn’t hold a presence on the Playstation Store. Searching for the game yields no results, and physical copies are unavailable on Amazon from first party retailers in the United States. The Steam release breaks down all of these barriers. First, Steam is an application that anybody can install on their laptop or desktop computer and create an account for free. Second, the system requirements for running Puyo Puyo Tetris are minimal, listed as follows on the Steam store page:
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 / 8 (8.1) / 10 64Bit
- Processor: Intel Core i3 or AMD equivalent
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: DX11 compliant video card with 1GB VRAM
- Storage: 7 GB available space.
These are very low-demand system requirements, and anybody with a Windows computer purchased or built within the last 8 years can run Puyo Puyo Tetris with no issues. The only other requirement is an Internet connection for online play, which isn’t even necessary if players just want to play offline in the several single player game modes, or locally with a friend. Lastly, the current pricing of $20 (currently on pre-purchase sale for $18 as of this posting) is $10 cheaper than the Nintendo Switch eShop listing. Those familiar with Steam know about the frequency of digital game sales, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see that price cut in half during the upcoming Summer sale.
With this level of accessibility we could see a snowball effect for Puyo’s popularity in the West. If more people play Puyo Puyo Tetris, the online lobbies will be more active, discussions about the game will occur in more online spaces, and more people will see intense high-skill game-play moments captured on gaming publications like Kotaku and Polygon, causing new players to join the English Puyo community. The more support an individual community has, the higher the demand for placement at recognizable tournaments which are streamed for the world to see on Twitch. Representation at that level in the West would be well deserved for the tight-knit puzzle game communities as they exist today, and a welcomed fresh face to eSports in general.
If you are interested in seeing game-play of Puyo Puyo Tetris on PC, I will be speedrunning the Story Mode on Tuesday, February 27th at around 7pm EST on my Twitch channel! Come to http://www.twitch.tv/log_arhythm and chat with me!
Additionally, here is a recording from my favorite Puyo Puyo Tetris streamer S2LSOFTENER (great name), time stamped to start at a particularly interesting match. S2 is one of the best Puyo Puyo players in America, and watching him play is mesmerizing. In this video he is using an eye-tracker to show where he is looking while he is playing.
Thanks for reading!