Retro Achiever Game #57: Tetris Battle Gaiden

My second subscriber special on Twitch brought me a Retro Achiever challenge that represented both the familiar and the unfamiliar. The game chosen was Tetris Battle Gaiden for Super Famicom – it’s obviously a Tetris game, but the battle format shook up the rules.

Tetris Battle Gaiden released only in Japan, developed by Bullet Proof Software in 1993. U.S. gamers are likely most familiar with the developer through games such as Faceball 2000 and Yoshi’s Cookie (SNES), although it also had a hand titles such as the Game Boy versions of Hatris and Pipe Mania and The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang on Super Nintendo.

However, the developer had a long history of crafting Tetris titles ranging from Tetris on a multitude of Japanese computer to Tetris S on SEGA Saturn, The New Tetris on Nintendo 64 and even the Virtual Boy’s V-Tetris.

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Battle Gaiden followed a string of Tetris titles developed for the Famicom and Super Famicom, so, with Bullet Proof’s background, it stands to reason they could come through on delivering a solid Tetris title. Completing the game’s single-player mode was quite a challenge, but I felt Battle Gaiden delivered on a unique setup to the Tetris formula.

The expected lineup of Tetris pieces is featured in Tetris Battle Gaiden, but the main hook of this entry is in its gameplay that always pits players against each other, or against a CPU, in direct competition.

What truly shakes Battle Gaiden up is the two players pull from a shared pool of Tetris pieces. Three pieces appear in the “next” field and once a player places their current piece, they receive the next piece in line. This results in players moving quickly – or perhaps even a little slower – to ensure they get the pieces they need.

Clearing lines of course sends garbage pieces over to the opponent, but part of the battle over the pieces spills over into grabbing as many of the special pieces as possible. Players choose from a roster of characters, and this determines the special moves the player is able to execute. Akin to a fighting game, these special pieces build a player’s meter, and they can activate moves that range from level one to three. These special moves can help the player or hinder the opponent, running the gamut from clearing lines from your play field to messing with the opponent’s controls.

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And that’s what really sets the tone for Tetris Battle Gaiden – playing Tetris sometimes becomes secondary, as I found there was usually more of a benefit of jockeying for these special pieces as compared to trying to line up as many stacks of four lines for Tetris clears as I could. The game seems to default to easy, but through Retro Achievements, all achievements required the game to be played on normal difficulty. On this setting, fighting the CPU was no joke, and I found that Battle Gaiden’s mechanics completely changed the way I approached the game once I learned what was going on.

This change may come for better or worse depending on the player, but, for what is presented, I feel Bullet Proof Software put their best foot forward here – the game controls great, it looks fantastic with characters and scenery in line with Panel de Pin or Puyo Puyo and some of the music tracks really stuck out as fantastic.

With the learning curve of the game, Tetris Battle Gaiden was something I really needed to adjust to, and it may very well be one of my most well-earned Retro Achiever clears next to Frankenstein: The Monster Returns. I set a four-hour time limit for myself, and it took roughly three and half hours to run through the character roster and boss characters.

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Would I go out of my way to beat the single-player mode again? Perhaps not. However, I think Tetris Battle Gaiden would be a perfect puzzle title for couch competition. As I said in the beginning, it’s familiar enough that most anybody would already know the basics, but the battle mechanics freshen up the way the game is played.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Retro Achiever

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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