N64 Connoisseur

Remastered Review: N64 Review #5- Magical Tetris Challenge

[Original review date: July 21, 2013]

Tetris has been around for almost as long as consoles have and seemingly continues to grow in popularity. Disney has been around longer than most people who will read this review and they have never lost a step, either. So what happens when you get Capcom to take the two entities and combine them? You get Magical Tetris Challenge for the Nintendo 64. Originally, people were super pissy about this game because it took Capcom forever to break onto the N64 and this is what they came with, a 2D Tetris game. Let’s see who’s laughing now.

The striking thing about this game is the lack of polygons, which were rampant on the N64 and a big reason many of the games haven’t aged very well. Using 2D sprites made the game almost seem like a really good SNES game instead. Interesting. The colors are bright and vibrant, the characters are perfectly done, and it is overall very pleasing to the eye. All of these years later though, I have to question whether this move was a genius one powered by foresight or a lazy one powered by the desire to shove a game onto the market to make a few bucks. Let’s see. Who made this game? Ahh, Capcom. There’s your answer. Nonetheless, it worked and the game is absolutely beautiful, even today.

The game has three modes. There is Endless Tetris which is not very well named. This is your standard game of Tetris that can end once the blocks reach the top. Not endless at all. The other 2 modes are both story driven. There is Updown Tetris that plays like the standard game of Tetris we are all used to and pits you against a computer or human opponent and you must win the match to further the story. More on the story in a just a moment. Then there is Magical Tetris, a very fun and unique twist on Tetris. This mode is still story driven and still pits you against a human or computer opponenet. The innovation comes in the gameplay. In addition to the regular Tetriminos, there are a host of new ones that usually don’t fit anywhere. They can range from a square block that is 5 x 5 to a long piece that is five high to odder shapes like a giant W, extended Z pieces, and a U piece. These additions were joined by the addition of a magic meter. The meter would fill up as you cleared rows and when it reached the top, a magic Disney finger would clear off most of the board for you. Then the meter gets larger so it takes longer to fill next time. This was a great addition to the normal Tetris gameplay. It added strategy, fun, and challenge to an old favorite.

In this game, you can give yourself the finger.

In this game, you can give yourself the finger.

I mentioned that this Tetris game has a story. That is because it is also a Disney game. You can choose from one of four characters: Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Minnie. That is the order they appear on the screen. I point this out because each character has a unique story but all four tie together to tell a bigger story. However, if you play them in the order they appear, the story is out of sequence. Most people will choose Mickey by default anyway, but the order the story is supposed to be played in is Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and then Mickey. Why on earth they didn’t make you unlock the next character by beating the preceding character’s story, I don’t know. Nonetheless, The story surrounds a mysterious stone Donald finds while fishing. It appears to just be a beautiful stone but Mickey suspects it is not from this world because who knows more about alien artifacts than Mickey Mouse? Well, he is right. The evil Pete steals the stone, makes a dashing looking cane out of it, and uses it to control everyone’s minds and get Minnie to agree to marry him. It is up to Mickey to stop him with the most powerful weapon known to man: Tetris.

That is the broad story arc, with each character having a part to play during their own story. The story is poorly told and seems like it was sort of shoe horned (sock pianoed?) into the game to make use of the Disney license. Most of the time, a character will, for example, go to Minnie’s house. She will say something along the lines of, “Hey! I am going to make vegetable cookies! (Seriously she really says that. What the hell are vegetable cookies?)” Your character will then offer to help. What can I do? Crack some eggs? Chop the vegetables? Grease the cookie sheet? Nope! You can help her by beating her in Tetris. It just makes no sense so I never really felt like I was playing Tetris for any reason other than playing Tetris which is how Tetris is supposed to be anyway. The other stuff is not needed at all.

The only way to deal with a bully is to beat him at Tetris.

The only way to deal with a bully is to beat him at Tetris.

The music is horrible, especially for a Disney game. There are no authentic Disney sounds and it is a shame. It wasn’t like they ran out of space on the cartridge, they did the whole thing in 2D with no voice over. We didn’t even get authentic Tetris music, it was basically whatever stock, public domain tunes they could find. Very disappointing.

Overall, I would recommend this game. It is Tetris, after all, and the Magical Tetris is something every Tetris fan should at least experience once. I found myself coming back for game after game of it just for the added challenge. One more odd decision, there is multiplayer, but it only supports 2 players, thereby missing out on a great opportunity to be able to play as all 4 of the playable Disney characters in multiplayer. While this was a fun Tetris experience, it left me wondering what might have been if this game had not left so much potential on the table.