The fact the Puyo Puyo series has been around for well over twenty-five years may come as surprise to some especially given its muddy past. The original game, for example, saw release as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine on the Mega Drive over in the West out of fear the Puyo Puyo brand simply wouldn’t appeal. Future entries in the series would then be hit or miss in terms of making it our way. To be honest, it wasn’t until 2017’s Puyo Puyo Tetris that I finally got hands-on with the long-running franchise for myself and it’s an experience that right out the gate made me a fan.
It now seems SEGA is keen for the world to become further acquainted with its puzzle series, the Japanese release Puyo Puyo eSports getting a release in the West as well as a brand new name – Puyo Puyo Champions.
If you’re new to the world of Puyo Puyo, this tile-matching puzzler focuses on lining up falling blob-like creatures called Puyo within a playing board. Match four or more of the same color and they will then disappear. Players are able to move and rotate the Puyo as they fall, each set either coming in pairs, triads or tetrads in both matching or a mix of colors. The overall goal of each game is to eliminate your opponent (or opponents) by making matches and sending junk their way in an effort to fill their board.
Much like in Tetris the key to succeeding in Puyo Puyo is by making the bigger plays and not just relying on the easiest ones. While it may be tempting to quickly line up four Puyo of the same color, doing so won’t pose too much of a threat against your opponent. What you’ll want to focus on is setting up your board for bigger Puyo matches and more importantly chains. The latter occurs when you manage to make another color match after your previous one has disappeared. The longer the chain the more junk will be sent your opponent’s way. Games essentially feel like a constant battle between players as you attempt to maintain space in your board whilst sending and returning junk headed your way.
Players have the choice between playing two versions of the game – the classic Puyo Puyo 2 style and the more chaotic Puyo Puyo Fever. The former is a more straightforward affair, Puyos only ever showing up in pairs and players receiving them in the same order as one another. Puyo Puyo Fever meanwhile throws in sets of three and four Puyos as well as the usual pairs while the character you choose will determine the order and pattern at which Puyo fall. It also has players fill a gauge by countering junk sent their way through making their own color matches. Once the meter is full you’ll then enter ‘Fever’ mode offering a chance to score some major chains in a series of preset layouts.
Both modes have something to offer although I must admit I did find myself preferring the simpler Puyo Puyo 2 style. That being said the heavy back and forth nature of sending large amounts of junk not to mention the strategy in timing when to start a chain and fill your meter in Fever can prove exciting too for different reasons.
Customization options are limited but sufficient allowing changes to things like victory requirements, handicaps and comeback assists for losing players. The range of backgrounds, music, and skins for the Puyo is also rather large and varied.
While playing locally with four players is great fun, the online mode has the potential to be a real draw for serious players offering the chance to participate in casual games with friends and strangers or compete in a more competitive environment called the Puyo Puyo League. Win matches against players of a similar skill level and you’ll earn the chance at promotion to a higher league. Lose too many and you’ll fall back down. Replays can also be shared and uploaded for all to see, a neat feature especially if you simply want to watch some high-level play in action.
Those expecting a wealth of mode types and extras will leave Puyo Puyo Champions disappointed, the core of the game focused on its two modes which can be played locally or online. No story, no side modes and no true tutorial to speak of.
Essentially this is a relatively straightforward package aimed more toward competitive players of Puyo Puyo as opposed to a welcoming one for newcomers. Take the online for instance, a truly harsh battleground with fierce competition that sometimes left me in the dust. Options to practice are extremely limited (outside repeatedly tackling the CPU or more online gurus) making it a high barrier to entry. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the excellent Puyo Puyo Tetris managed to cater to both these groups making it a stronger recommendation, especially for the less rehearsed player.
Puyo Puyo Champions feels like a game built with serious fans of the series in mind. Those looking for a gateway into this color-matching puzzler may want to try the far more content-full and approachable Puyo Puyo Tetris. If however, you’re merely after a cheap, multiplayer-focused, no-frills version of Puyo Puyo then Champions delivers.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SEGA