Pokémon Puzzle League
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|Pokémon Puzzle League|
North American cover art.
|Developer(s)||Nintendo Software Technology|
|Release date(s)||Nintendo 64|
Pokémon Puzzle League is a puzzle game for the Nintendo 64 console. It is based on Nintendo's Puzzle League puzzle games, but with Pokémon likenesses. It was only available in North America starting in 2000, and in Europe in 2001, making it the first Pokémon game produced for North America. It is so far the only Pokémon game to be based on the Pokémon anime, and to feature Ash Ketchum. The game was released on the Virtual Console on May 5, 2008, in the North America region, and on May 30, 2008, in the European region.
Pokémon Puzzle League features the same gameplay as in Panel de Pon, which is likely why Pokémon Puzzle League was not released in Japan (Panel de Pon never had an English release). The objective is to clear blocks from the playfield by arranging them in horizontal or vertical lines of three or more blocks. A continuous stream of new blocks pushes up from the bottom of the playfield, causing the entire playfield to rise continuously. If the blocks reach the top of the playfield, the player loses. The player can temporarily stop the progression of blocks by scoring combos and chains, and in two-player battles, these actions also cause garbage blocks to stack on top of the opponent's playfield.
Unlike its predecessors, Pokémon Puzzle League features a 3D mode in addition to the traditional 2D mode. In this mode, gameplay takes place on a cylinder with an effective width of 18 blocks, compared to the six-block width of the flat 2D field. It also features the original block design from Panel de Pon and Tetris Attack, as well as a Pokémon-oriented design (which is selected by default).
In two-player games, players can select one of fourteen Pokémon trainers to play as. Unlike most Pokémon games, trainer and Pokémon selection are purely cosmetic and do not affect gameplay whatsoever.
The characters in Pokémon Puzzle League either come from the anime and were once exclusive to it, like Ash Ketchum, Tracey Sketchit, and Gary Oak or have appeared in previous Pokémon games but appear in the game as they do in the anime like Misty, Brock, and Giovanni. There are 16 playable characters in the game. In the 1P Stadium, only Ash is playable and Gary's Pokémon, a Nidoran♀, Growlithe, and Krabby, will fully be evolved into Nidoqueen, Arcanine, and Kingler, respectively, in Hard mode, Very Hard mode, and Super Hard mode when challenging him the second time. These fully evolved Pokémon are not playable with Gary. The final opponent of each difficultly setting varies. Giovanni is the last opponent of Easy mode, Bruno is the last opponent of Normal mode, and Gary with his evolved Pokémon is the last opponent of Hard mode. In Very Hard mode and Super Hard mode, Mewtwo is the final opponent, and beating him gives the player the true ending of the story in 1P Stadium.
In the original N64 version, background music for this game is based on the Pokémon 2.B.A. Master CD, and the song "Catch Me if You Can" from Pokémon: The First Movie's short feature Pikachu's Vacation (as well as the score for the movie itself). Most of the music from the game consists of non-lyrical versions of various anime songs, while a few are reused instrumentals.
The cutscene graphics match the animation of the anime. This game was also known for being one of the few N64 games to have FMVs, and the only one to have crisp, clear, full screen, VHS-quality FMVs, with the only quality suffering being framerate (other games featuring FMVs, such as Resident Evil 2 and Wheel of Fortune, had the videos shown either in tiny boxes in the corner of the screen or in widescreen format, and the quality was usually very grainy).
While regarded by many as purely a system port with a renovated Pokémon scheme, improvements in technology from previous consoles to the Nintendo 64 drastically changed the single and multiplayer experiences. The immediate upgrade in pure processing power allows players to navigate between blocks much faster, leading to elite play both on the console as well as on computer emulators where users can take advantage of a much speedier keyboard. Though never massively widespread, the emulators led to high level online play when there was no such online support for the console.
In addition, the Nintendo 64's more powerful processor allowed for a much more sophisticated computer AI for the 1P Stadium mode. This AI combined the faster navigation with such complex attack and defense routines that developers added not just one, but two extra difficulty levels for advanced players. There is one notable absence however, and that is the lack of play against a computer player in 3D mode for 1P stadium. If a player wants to face a computer player in 3D mode, they must do so by changing the second player to a computer one via the options mode, so that in the 2P stadium mode, the opponent faced will be CPU. Note that all selections usually made by the second player, such as character selection will still have to be entered via the second controller. This is great for practicing against level 10 computer players. The player can then select to face the computer in 3D mode if they wish. However, when facing the computer in any 3D mode, the AI becomes erratic, and usually self defeats. There is a small note in the instruction manual explaining the lack of AI for 3D mode. Its engine was later used in the Nintendo Puzzle Collection version of Panel de Pon.
Pokémon Puzzle League received generally positive reviews from the media, scoring 81/100 on Metacritic, and 82.65% on GameRankings. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game a 9.2/10, noting its similarity to Tetris Attack, and calling it "highly addictive". IGN rated the game 8.9/10, stating "I'm totally addicted and thrilled with Pokémon Puzzle League."
- "Pokémon Puzzle League". Pokémon. Archived from the original on 7 January 2001. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- "US VC Releases - 5th May - Pokemon Puzzle League". Virtual Console Reviews. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- "Pokemon Puzzle League for Nintendo 64 -". GameRankings. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- "Pokemon Puzzle League (n64: 2000): Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly. Jan 2004. p. 189.
- Fran Mirabella III (September 26, 2000). "Pokemon Puzzle League - Nintendo 64 Review at IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-30.