Tetris Attack (SNES)

Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Intelligent Systems | August 1996 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Nintendo | Dev: Intelligent Systems | August 1996 | 8 MEGS

Tetris, released in the summer of 1984, is the most classic puzzle game ever created. Hell, EGM deemed it the best video game of all time (issue #100, November 1997). More than a decade later, Tetris Attack redefined the puzzle genre. Originally released on October 27, 1995 in Japan as Panel de Pon, the game received a Yoshi’s Island makeover for its North American localization in the summer of 1996. It was also granted the Tetris name to further increase its appeal, even though technically it has nothing to do with the Tetris formula. Regardless, Tetris Attack effortlessly worked its way into our hearts and stands as arguably the greatest 16-bit puzzle game of all time.

-Saturday, February 4, 2006-





Staggering out of bed like Otis Campbell on a Saturday night, I shifted my way through the darkness to put an end to the madness. The thought of crawling back in bed was nearly as tempting as Jessica Alba herself. The idea, however, went quickly as it came.


After brushing my teeth and helping myself to a bowl of cereal, I found the dawn just breaking between two white buildings. The sky was mostly gray but a streak of white stretched itself from the end of a flagpole. By the time I finished breakfast, the sky was lighter than it had been when I woke up — the streak of gray broadening into a patch of brilliant day.

I was a man on a mission. Three weeks into my SNES rebirth (1.17.06), I was gearing to embark on my first flea market voyage since 2002. With a wish list the size of Rosie’s waistline and a wallet jammed full of dead presidents, I headed off into that cool early morning, the light February breeze brushing against my face. As I pulled into the parking lot something told me today was going to be a good day. Maybe even a great one. I gazed at the box office where I saw the growing crowd purchasing their tickets. Just think, I thought to myself… beyond that building there… lies a part of my childhood.

My first flea market haul 2.4.06)
My first flea market haul (2.4.06)

I remember the morning rather well; the smell of apricot in the air, the bustling crowds all jabbering for bargains, and at long last — the lady with the game stand parked over at the far end. I dove head first into the SNES bin like Rickey Henderson stealing third base. All her games were wrapped. I eagerly waded through each one, picking out Final Fight, Dino City, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, Flashback and Tetris Attack.

What a FLASHBACK to my youth...
What a FLASHBACK to my youth…

Each of those games ran me $5 except for Tetris Attack. Some of these games I hadn’t played in 12, 15 years! There’s nothing quite like the rush of rediscovering games from your youth on a brisk, early Saturday morning. There’s just something awesome about it. It’s hard to look back on one’s early collecting days and not break out a nostalgic smile. It was the rush and the feeling of getting back into the fandom after so many years, acquiring games left and right… those are some sacred memories right there!

The vendor was a nice elderly lady in her 50’s. I showed her each game that I wanted as she sprouted off, “Five dollas, five dollas,” but she paused when Tetris Attack came up. Somehow, I knew she would.

There was no way in HELL I was getting Tetris Attack for a measly five bucks…

She grabbed the game from me and squinted long and hard at it. Oh boy, I thought to myself, here it comes. $20, maybe $25. Yup, Steve-O, you can kiss this bargain goodbye. She burned a hole through Tetris Attack before finally saying…

".... MMMM... seven dollas"
“… MMMM… seven dollas OK?”

I wanted to jump in the air and pump my fist. But I kept my cool and told the lady in a calm voice, “Sounds good.” All in all, it was $27 well spent! :D Crazy to think this happened just over 12 years ago now… (read more about my Flea Market Memoirs).



As is the case with most puzzle games, the name of the game is chaining together combo hits to quickly derail the competition.


Don’t worry, there’s even a handy tutorial to acclimate new players.







Eliminate all 10 panels with one simple switch.







Switch the gray block over which drops the red heart. This leads to all 18 panels being cleared.













Combos are nice but chains are deadly. Check out this three hit chain reaction.































Recently I introduced a friend to Tetris Attack. We took time to view the combo tutorial. She kept saying, “Yeah right, like that shit ever happens.” :P













Speaking of improbable, skill chains are crazy. All this time and I have still yet to pull off one of these bad boys in actual versus competition.








There’s plenty of 1-player modes to keep you busy even if you’re going at it solo. Let’s check out the VS. mode first.







Clearing four or more panels will drop a garbage block on your opponent’s screen.







Clearing three shock panels (the gray blocks with the white ! marks) drops a Shock Block on your opponent’s screen. Shock Blocks prevents any garbage blocks or other Shock Blocks on top of it from being cleared. Match four shock panels to send two Shock Blocks, match five shock panels to send three Shock Blocks and so forth.



















Rather than being your typical falling piece puzzler, you move a cursor around the screen and switch pieces around. Part of the fun comes in clearing out one group and quickly yanking out another piece to cause another combo, as seen above. Tetris Attack favors the swift.







Computer opponent is almost done for. Apply the finishing touch by switching those two pieces there. Six piece combo!







Unfortunately there is no battery backed memory here. Just passwords. Yoshi liberates those that he beats.













Computer gets its revenge with a sick 3-hit chain attack, followed up by a 6-piece combo for good measure.







Dropping loads of garbage blocks is the name of the game. After you liberate the eight main characters, you face four bosses.







Hookbill the Koopa and Naval Piranha are the first two bosses you’ll face.







Magikoopa Kamek and Bowser are the final two.








There’s plenty of modes to pick from in the 1-player game. Puzzle Mode gives you a limited amount of moves to clear all the pieces.







Things start out easy but fools rushing in can easily get tripped up.







Another mode is Stage Clear. Clear all the panels above the special clear marker to beat the stage and move on. In addition to the VS. CPU mode, there’s also a Time Trial and Endless mode.



Tetris Attack fared extremely well with the critics. It was widely beloved by most that played it. EGM gave it scores of 7.5, 8.0, 8.5 and 9.0. Super Play rated it 90%. Nintendo Power ranked it the 17th best game in their 100th issue. EGM placed it #16 on their own Top 100 list.










It’s fitting I’m writing this on Valentines Day because I freaking love Tetris Attack. Its main appeal is that it’s competitive and fun as hell. It’s also very accessible — literally almost anyone can play it and enjoy it. The handicap options ensure that everyone has a fighting chance to win, especially with a little practice under their belt. Few things are as intense as a match that goes down to the wire with both screens about to hit critical mass. It’s just a shame that it was released so late into the Super Nintendo’s lifespan. Alas, the old cliché rings ever true: better late than never.


Whereas most puzzle games depend on random falling blocks and a fair bit of luck, Tetris Attack stands out by letting you move a cursor around to rearrange the blocks as you see fit, creating your own combos and chains. It’s easy to pick up and play but difficult to master — the mark of a truly terrific puzzle game. The visuals are simple but bright and pleasing to the eye. There are some catchy tunes as one might expect but ultimately it’s the addicting gameplay that is the main draw of the game. 20+ years and counting and Tetris Attack still finds itself frequently occupying the slot of my SNES. For my money, it’s the best puzzle game on the system and easily one of the Super Nintendo’s top 20 games. Very few games can you constantly play and not get sick of. Tetris Attack belongs in that elite fraternity.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 9.5
Longevity: 10

Overall: 9.5

Double Gold Award
Double Gold Award

Tetris Battle Gaiden (SFC)

It’s Tetris like you’ve never seen it before

Arriving just in the nick of time for Christmas of 1993 (December 24), Tetris Battle Gaiden is the best Super Famicom puzzle game to never hit North American shores. It’s truly a shame they never ported this over for a US audience. If they had, this game would be more universally recognized and lionized to this very day. Thankfully, anyone with a Super Nintendo (or a computer) can experience it all the same nevertheless. Well, there is a bit of Japanese to wade through, but being a puzzle game and not an RPG, a fan translation is not absolutely needed to enjoy this as is.

The box is inundated with the game’s various characters

Released on December 24, 1993, one wonders why this didn’t see a US release in mid to late 1994. There wasn’t much to translate and the Tetris name alone would have sold a ton of copies. Not to mention the gameplay is very expansive with several different game modes and new tricks that freshen up a classic, proven formula. Sure the characters were on the anime side, and back in the mid ’90s that wasn’t really a thing in US culture. But they could have easily modified the characters, no? Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. On second thought, look at those zany lovable Japanese-y characters. Maybe it’s a good thing these guys weren’t turned into generic boring barbarians and the typical “radical” mid ’90s look in American video gaming. Speaking of characters, let’s take a look at them now!








Pumpkinhead here adorns the cover and has a classic colorful Halloween backdrop. Yup, I can definitely get behind this guy.








Awwww, isn’t it adorable? Because bunny things just are! By the way, I love the bright visuals of this game. The art style is also on point.








Witch doctor at your service! Look at all those exotic animals.








Disney’s version this ain’t. Still got his Magic Carpet and Genie though. Beautiful backdrop.








Majestic background if I ever saw one. Good job, Bullet Proof Software.








#SMALLLIVESMATTER. At least a little bit, right? [I see what you did there -Ed.]








Ninjas were cool back then in the ’90s, and gosh darnit, they’re still cool today.








Wolfman’s stage is simply gorgeous. Perfect to play on a late fall afternoon!








Always been a sucker for a good page turner, and this game most definitely is.








Select from any of the eight characters, then select your desired first opponent. The game’s presentation is on point. Puzzle games aren’t usually noted for their visuals but there’s no denying this game has a very pleasing look to the eye. Everything is bright, bold and colorful. Graphics don’t make a game, but they certainly don’t hurt.

Wait, is that a single well?
Wait, is that a single well?

Your eyes deceive you not. One of the most unique things about this game that you’ll noticed right away is that the pieces are communal. Rather than both players getting the same pieces, here you share one queue.







Tetris purists may scoff at this, but I personally find it refreshing. It lends a whole new strategy to the game. Sometimes you find yourself stalling in order to get the desired piece. Other times you purposely rush in order to secure the next block. Which is exactly what I did here. Notice I dropped the “z” block in a bad space just to ensure that I can get the square piece which has a crystal. The crystal brings a whole new dimension to the classic formula. Observe!







Every time you clear a crystal you earn one point. Each character has four different special battle skills. Some are offensive while others are defensive. You can use your skills right away, or save them. The number of points required to use a skill is respective to its level. For example, a level one skill requires one point while a level four skill requires four points. Do you use a certain power now, or do you save for a stronger power later on? It’s all part of the strategy.

Yes, gonna beat him to the Tetris!
Yes, gonna beat ‘im to the tetris!

The battle can quickly grow intense as players joust for the right block at the right time. Sometimes, you simply want to play defense by, er, blockblocking the opposition. Yeah I just made that word up. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on? [Oh sure… -Ed.]







What’s sweeter than earning a crystal point? Clearing two crystals in a line and earning two points! Now I have three points. Do I unleash my level 3 skill, or save it to use a level 4 skill down the road? Decisions, decisions!







Meanwhile, Mirurun ain’t waiting around. He uses his level 1 skill to blow up a few rows from his well. Like I said, this ain’t your typical Tetris game.







Every Tetris player knows the feeling of anguish and self-loathing when you accidentally misplace a block. But in this case, it’s your opponent who does. Well, in a manner of speaking. You see, one of Miru’s skills is the power to distort the way you control your blocks. Naturally this is temporary, but it’s long enough to throw you off your game leading to some unfortunate block positioning. But never fear, I see a tetris piece coming soon! Commence the “rush or stall” game within a game! Again, some purists may scoff at this, but I say it brings an added rush to the table!













Nothing beats clearing four lines at once! I love the way the pieces rotate and disappear from the field. There’s something satisfying about it, for sure.







Miru’s distortion of control skill is super annoying. Don’t get me wrong, with Christmas season here and everything I truly appreciate what the cross stands for, but I didn’t want to make a cross up there! Bloody stinkin’ bunny thing!













Alright Mr. Bunny, time to unleash hell. Pumpkin blows up Miru’s well, leaving only bits and pieces standing (many awkwardly in mid-air). This power wreaks havoc and can really mess up the opposition.







Another point added *and* I scored the tetris block. Win! Moments like these can really demoralize the competition, and provides plenty of trash talking opportunity.







Scored four points (again) and about to  murder Mirurun. Take a look.













With his well nearly filled up, all it takes is one final shove to send the whole thing crashing. I love how your character appears on screen for a brief moment before unleashing their special attack. It makes it feel a little more important (not to mention a lot more fun, too). Oh man, look at that well. He’s so screwed.







Nothing compares to the sweet thrill of victory. Sure in other puzzle games you tend to send debris over after landing chain reactions, but I like how battle-oriented Tetris Battle Gaiden is. Hence the “Battle” middle name. It’s more than just sending debris over to your opponent’s field. It’s an all out war where you get to literally sabotage your rival. It’s a fight to the very bitter end.







Battle all seven of your rivals. After successfully conquering each of them, this big bad dragon baddie is your reward prize. Lucky you.














Clearly what’s happening here is that those blocks have displayed exemplary behavior, and are being beckoned to block heaven. I mean, duh!







Those bats swoop to your opponent’s side to steal any crystal points they may have earned. ProTip: make sure first though that your opponent has something to steal. D’oh! But yeah, play your cards right and you’re well on your way to victory. No more L’s… well, except when you get the L blocks [… -Ed.]







Searchlight skill is downright evil. It blackens the field and only gives you a small flashlight with which to contend. Talk about devious.







Speaking of blackening, and seeing the light, here comes the Reaper!







Sometimes it just ain’t fair. My blocks, my beautiful blocks!







Wolfman’s level 2 skill is rather strange but endearing. A peculiar old man appears at the bottom of the screen and prevents your opponent from sending blocks down at the fastest speed possible. Whenever the opponent tries to press down, the man will strain to resist to the point that you can see small sweat beads flying off his forehead. Good stuff. This power lasts for 28 seconds (yes, I actually timed it…)







Wolfman can also summon a miniature samurai to slice off the first few rows.



















Wolfman’s level 4 skill inserts gravity into the picture, which allows for suspended blocks to fall until they land on something. This leads to some deadly combos. The only blocks that don’t fall are the ones that contain the crystal. This skill, however, is useless in the “Rensa” mode, but more on that in a little bit.








Know how some folks claim to see Jesus in the oddest places? They saw him in the clouds, or their morning toast. Whatever the case may be, Tetris Battle Gaiden reminds me of such stories. Because the way the pieces can form causes some interesting sights for sure from time to time. Check out the red monster in the second pic there, as well as the two middle fingers [Oh, I thought that was just a really long raccoon face. Or hell, since this is the Japanese we’re talking about here, a Tanuki -Ed.]

Ha, a skull on Halloween night
Ha, a skull on Halloween night


Default and featured mode
Default and featured mode

Battlis is Tetris Battle Gaiden. The pieces operate as they do in normal Tetris, but certain blocks now contain crystals. Cleared crystals build up your point stock, and these can be redeemed to launch various powers.

The classic
The classic

Not a fan of the crystals and unique character abilities? Then select this mode for old school Tetris fun. It’s definitely nice that Bullet Proof Software included this option as it almost feels like two games in one. I personally prefer Battlis but it’s nice to know you always have the original mode to fall back on.

Say hello to gravity
Say hello to gravity

Rensa is an interesting mode. It includes the crystals and powers of Battlis, but now the pieces operate with gravity in mind. Remember Wolfman’s level 4 skill highlighted a bit earlier? That’s basically Rensa. Here, take a look.













Notice that the pieces fall until they reach the top of another block or the floor itself. Crystals, however, do not fall. Rensa allows for chain reactions, making it feel more like a “modern” puzzler.













Check out this 3 line chain reaction. Personally, I prefer classic Tetris over Rensa, but it’s nice to have this mode if you’re in the mood for something a it different.


Super Play loved it, ranking it #24 on their Top 100 list

Tetris Battle Gaiden has quite the positive reputation. Although a few purists dislike it, it’s generally well received. Super Play Magazine, a UK publication dedicated to the SNES back in the early to mid ’90s, were huge fans of the game. They loved it so much that they ranked it an impressive #24 on their Top 100 SNES Games list in issue #42 (April 1996). They did fail to mention above though that the game actually features three modes, not two. Poor Rensa. Always the forgotten red headed step child.


Takes you on a magic (carpet) ride
Takes ya on a magic (carpet) ride

Tetris Battle Gaiden has been recommended to me over the years. Picked up a copy in 2006 and fell in love with it. It’s the best Super Famicom exclusive puzzle game in my book, and one of the best puzzlers on the SNES, period. Some purists aren’t crazy about the Battlis mode, but you can always switch to classic Tetris mode (or Rensa mode). I love that there are three different playing options and eight different characters with a total of 32 unique skills and abilities. The replay value on this sucker is insane! Some purists also scoff at the fact that the blocks are shared between two players. I actually don’t mind this. It brings a certain sense of urgency (and strategy) to the fold. Do you drop that piece as fast as you can in a race to grab the next much needed block, or do you stall a few blocks ahead as to time it just right? It’s the ultimate hand-eye coordination test as you have to continually eye the queue more than your average puzzle game. You have to constantly be thinking 3-4 pieces ahead all while taking care of your own field and contend with your opponent sending over debris or sabotaging you in various ways. I also love how sometimes you play offense, other times you play defense. And nothing’s better than “blockblocking” your opponent — to snatch that much needed tetris block piece right before they can — and rubbing it in their faces. Good stuff.

I usually don’t commend graphics in most puzzle games as they’re usually serviceable at best, but Tetris Battle Gaiden is full of amazing art and endearing animations. The backgrounds are all incredibly detailed and bursting with rich colors. It’s almost a shame that you really can’t see them due to the blocks. The music is extremely catchy and there are several tunes that I’m particularly fond of. The gameplay strikes a sweet spot with three different modes that expand the game’s longevity tenfold. What can I say, Tetris Battle Gaiden is a winner through and through. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game now and again.

Super Bomberman Panic Bomber World (SFC)

Bomberman meets Puyo Puyo
Bomberman meets Puyo Puyo

The Bomberman franchise is one of the most beloved series of all time. Especially when you’re talking about multiplayer gaming series. Almost everyone knows about those games. But what not many may be aware of is this puzzle rendition of the franchise. And I’m happy to say it’s pretty damn good. Hell, it even features a 4-player mode because, BOMBERMAN!

3 pieces drop at a time. The goal is to match 3 in a row (horizontal, vertical or diagonal).

In addition to the Bomberman pieces you have 3 others:

  • The unlit bomb
  • The lit bomb (put these babies on the unlit ones for a blast!)


Love the explosions
Love the explosions

Note: This blast doesn’t destroy the Bomberman pieces. Rather it ignites the unlit bombs, taking them off your field.

And once you’ve filled up your power bar, you receive the almighty MEGA BOMB.


It can take out almost every piece on the field, depending on block positioning.

The mega bomb is the most visually impressive “clear-all-ish” piece I’ve seen in a puzzler. Panic Bomber actually uses a special chip. The mega bomb definitely gets the treatment as it pulsates with flames and makes a huge boom when dropped. It’s sheer, raw, unadulterated POWER at its finest. Thank you, Mr. Special Chip Thing.

Of course, while the goal is to keep your playing field from filling up, the best way to beat the opposition is by crafting chain reactions. The 3-falling pieces instead of 2 format will take some getting used to for many of us, but once you do the combo’s flow. Here’s a basic 2 hitter:

Connect the greens there
The green guys wipe out...
The green guys wipe out…
.... And the whites follow suit
… And the whites follow suit

To create huge chain reactions you have to set yourself up. Here’s a 3-hit combo. Notice I’ve stocked up on red and green. Not to mention some white…

Green connects horizontally...
Green connects horizontally…
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!

Not only do the greens connect horizontally but diagonally as well for a sweet 6 piece combo. It drops the stack of 3 reds…

Look at all the reds...
Look at all the reds…

Let’s see — I see red horizontal, vertical AND diagonal connections!

8 piece knockout
8 piece knockout

Major poppage happens. The white pieces fall…


Your simple run-of-the-mill 3-chain 19-piece combo!

But of course, being a Bomberman game, what good would it be without a 4-player mode?

Good stuff
Good stuff

Simply brilliant… brilliantly simple. The smallness of it might be a bit off-setting initially, but you’ll quickly adjust. Besides, a tiny amount of the occasional squinting is more than worth it for a chance to duke it out with 3 buddies, puzzle style.

And like any classic Bomberman title, it’s very user-friendly — 2, 3 or 4 players can play, with 1-5 matches to win the trophy. “B” allows you to go back to the previous screen.

Check out this 3-hit chain on the 1 Player side. (The most I’ve done so far was 5).

Drop the green on green...
Drop the green on green…
... they fade, dropping the blue piece...
… it drops the blue piece…
... which diagonally connects...
… which diagonally connects…
... dropping a stack with a green...
… dropping a stack with a green…
... to complete the 3-hit chain
… to complete the 3-hit chain

Of course, when you chain together combos you can cause much grief to your rival opponent(s).


In the 1 player mode after beating your opponents you get a password.


Speaking of the passwords, there are some cheat codes to alter the visuals.

SD Bombermen (4622)
SD Bombermen (4622)
Balloons (5656)
Balloons (5656)

Why? Why not. Little touches like these are always welcomed in my book.


Boom goes the dynamite
Boom goes the dynamite

Super Bomberman Panic Bomber World is a fun puzzle game that is more than a cheap cash-in. It’s more than a lame gimmick to milk a popular franchise name. It’s a game I would happily pull off my shelf to play, and in fact, I often do. It takes the classic formula and spins it well within the world of a puzzle game. True, there’s nothing ground breaking here, but it’s solid through and through. Even the classic Bomberman tune is replicated nicely here, and it fits very well with the puzzle madness.

By far the standout feature here is the 4-player mode. The only other 4-player puzzle game on the SNES that I can think of is Super Tetris 3. It’s definitely a novelty that’s worth experiencing at least once. Perhaps it won’t ever supplant your regular Bomberman 4-player battles, but it’s definitely an entertaining and competitive good time. Panic Bomber – you alright!