The competitive landscape in gaming is constantly evolving, with more and more titles taking the initiative to implement ways for players to test their skills against each other. Puzzle titles have generally been about the player vs the CPU, using quick decision making and problem solving to ensure victory and to avoid falling prey to the CPU advanced tactics. Recently, we’ve seen a resurgence of puzzle titles but with a more competitive aspect attached to them, Tetris 99 being the prime example. There’s just something so gratifying about learning how to master puzzle games, taking what you’ve learned, and testing it against other skilled individuals. But now it seems that Tetris isn’t the only competitor in this field as Puyo Puyo Champions (known as Puyo Puyo eSports in Japan) has joined the fray, and players around the world can participate in an all-out battle to see who has what it takes to be the very best.
What to Expect
To use a fair comparison, Puyo Puyo Champions or just the Puyo Puyo brand in general, has taken its inspiration from Tetris in a variety of ways. From the way in which players must stack and organize in order to accumulate more combo damage, to the way that you need to plan ahead in order to avoid making critical mistakes in your coordination. What differs from both brands is that Puyo Puyo makes use of Puyo, adorable jelly-like creatures that players must attach together to form what’s known as “lines”. It’s not just about random attachments as players must come to understand how to stack these Puyo based on their colors, which in turn will form combo chains that are used to inflict damage on your opponent.
These particular combo chains can be created in almost an infinite amount of ways, which gives Puyo Puyo Champions so much replay value, also pushing the player to be more inventive in how they play the game. In Puyo Puyo Champions you have a variety of modes to choose from, such as Solo Battles against the CPU, multiplayer local battles against your friends, online battles, and much more. We’ll get more into detail about all of these modes as we dive into the gameplay but for now, let’s say if you’re looking to test your skills in the puzzle universe, then Puyo Puyo Champions is a great place to start.
One of the primary selling points about Puyo Puyo Champions stems from its visual appeal, and how its colorful approach really helps players feel at ease. Everything just feels vibrant and cheerful, with every Puyo Puyo character in the game having their own unique characteristics that bring the game to life. SEGA have always prided themselves on presentation, and it’s no different here as Puyo Puyo Champions supplements exciting gameplay with outstanding UI and a very straightforward menu screen that just about anyone can navigate. Where Tetris seems to aim more for the hardcore veterans of the puzzle genre, Puyo Puyo Champions caters to just about everyone and that’s primarily due to how inviting the game is from a visual standpoint. Every Puyo itself has a personality, and just watching how they behave in the game is quite delightful.
One of the reasons why we love Puyo Puyo Champions stems directly from its music, and the sound effects that compliment it. We mentioned before how visually, Puyo Puyo Champions stands above the rest and doesn’t shy away from being unique in its own way. In the sound department, this is no different as the cheerful and upbeat menu music just invigorates the soul and the remixed battle music gets you hype as you engage in heated battles. Every character within the franchise is fully voiced as well, which makes competing even more entertaining since the characters also go back and forth at each other during gameplay. For each chain that you initiate your character will count how many you’ve completed, or another example is when you win or lose your character will convey some type of emotion. This is what adds that extra element of thrill to the experience because it’s not just you against the other player, it’s you and your avatar that are working in unison to rise to the upper echelons of the Puyo Puyo rankings.
As mentioned earlier in the review, Puyo Puyo Champions focuses heavily on building lines with your Puyo in order to create large combo chains. This is where most of your damage will be accumulated and so it’s important to understand how stacking works. To give you an example, when you’re first starting out in Puyo Puyo Champions ,there’s a very high chance that you’ll just want to throw down whatever Puyo is given to you in hopes to hit a combo. While this tactic may work for a period of time, in hindsight this puts you at a disadvantage. The reason is because building color lines requires a specific strategy in order to generate longer and more rewarding chains.
In the example above you can see that there are 3 green Puyo stacked on top of each other, while another green Puyo is coming down but is attached to another color. The whole goal in Puyo Puyo Champions is to create a line of 4 Puyo or more in order to start a combo, and through proper organization you can expand more and deliver powerful counterattacks. The issue with this particular stack is that while we may hit a line with the green Puyo, we haven’t set up another way in which the other colors can continue a chain. This is where the game of Puyo Puyo Champions becomes very tricky and will take a lot of practice and patience in order to master the process.
Puyo Puyo Champions allows you to practice against the CPU in the Solo mode, which gives you the option to either do one battle or endurance, where you can participate in endless battles to really develop a strong understanding for the gameplay. We highly recommend new players to play endurance for as long as they can, since there’s no risk involved and you can learn at your own pace. Another great feature in Puyo Puyo Champions is the option to watch other player battles via the Puyo Puyo Broadcast section, which is located in the online menu. From there you can gather information on how players at a high level stack their Puyo, and compare it to your current level. Puyo Puyo Champions really encourages you to practice and watch a lot because that’s really you’ll learn the fastest.
One major gripe is while Puyo Puyo Champions comes equipped with all of these great features for both solo and multi-play, it fails to provide new players with a sophisticated tutorial system that breaks down just how to effectively play the game from a beginner level. While watching videos with annotations is certainly a positive, it doesn’t really explain the why, where, what, and how aspects of gameplay in great detail, which can ultimately lead players to simply mimicking a certain ‘style’ which indirectly affects their performance. You can turn on “Sweet” mode to assist you but to us, it still didn’t really provide that in-depth feel that new players can truly understand. It’s not terrible by any means, but we wish there was a little more for players to dive into. A patch has been announced which will implement the lesson mode from the Japanese version, but we’ll have to see how players will incorporate it over the long term.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
When we look at the big picture overall, Puyo Puyo Champions is an incredibly entertaining and rewarding puzzle battle game, that differentiates itself from the competition with music, sound, visuals, and exciting gameplay. While it lacks a tutorial guide to help newer players understand the concept and flow of the game, it makes up for it by giving players an extensive library of videos to watch and learn from via the Puyo Puyo Broadcast. You’re also able to save your own battles as well, so in a way, this can help you to compare your skill level to someone of a higher skill level and see what areas can be improved on. Family and friends can jump right into the swing of things via the multiplayer mode, where you can choose between playing the classic competitive style of Puyo Puyo 2, or have a little extra fun with Puyo Puyo Fever. We didn’t dive too much into detail about what Puyo Puyo Fever is but to keep things straight to the point, Puyo Puyo Fever grants players the ability to generate more chains and in doing so deals more damage than you typically would in a normal format. It’s just a more fun and casual way to play the game, which will cater to those who don’t really favor the highly competitive landscape in 1v1 battles.
The quintessential Puyo Puyo experience but kicked up a notch for competitive play.
What was once a Japan-only title for quite some time, has now been localized! Yay!
Fans of the Puyo Puyo franchise will definitely fall in love with all of the new modes and competitive aspects.
New players can find a lot of activity in the multiplayer modes, along with the Free Play mode online.
You can customize battle options or character voicing, among many other things!
A lack of a solid and in-depth tutorial mode may turn off some new players since the game can be quite intimidating.
Puyo Puyo Champions is easy to pick up but definitely hard to master, and that may sway the decision of potential buyers who just want a quick fix.
Honey's Final Verdict:
As fans of the Puyo Puyo brand but also just puzzle games in general, Puyo Puyo Champions is everything we’ve dreamed of come to life. It allows for competitive play and compared to the more intense battles of say a fighting game, the competitive landscape is actually quite rewarding. You’re mentally stimulated every time and there’s always something new to discover and explore within the game, which is what gives Puyo Puyo Champions a major plus in our book. There’s a lot to learn but we can promise you that knowledge is power in Puyo Puyo Champions, so get out there and start stacking!
We hope you enjoyed our review! And as always, for all things gaming, be sure to keep it locked right here on Honey’s Anime.
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!