The League

OK first. Sorry I haven’t posted or put up any of our mountain of pictures. Or written any posts for a while. Or ever written any beer reviews. Even though I have had the new best beer ever and several (too many) of it’s closest friends.

But this is all largely due to the fact that the DS version of Puzzle League hit Japan a few days ago. It was released with the same name that the game had way back in 1995 when the first Japanese version came out: Panel De Pon. And at 35$ it’s one of the cheapes games I’ve gotten for the DS… actually any system ever. The fun to dollar ratio on this thing is up there with Pacman Vs. And like Pacman Vs. you can do 4 players uncrippled on one copy.

It was written by INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS which appears to be the wing of nintendo responsible for hyper-awesomeness (think advance wars and mario kart). Their name is officially written in all caps. You have to yell it every time you say it. That is how awesome INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS is.

When you first turn on the game you’re greeted with a Nintendo logo; Sideways! Yays for not missing this trick. Because the game runs sideways the whole touch screen can be dedicated to the play area. Individual blocks are like 4 or 5cm wide and so unlike meteos miss-clicks are rare. Turning it sideways was a no-brainer. I’m just glad there wasn’t some rediculous style guide around somewhere saying they couldn’t do it.

Then you get alot of menu options… in japanese… with no glyphs or other hints. OK thats cool. Exploration is fun too. Although that the menu items shift around whenever you click on one makes getting to the same place twice a little trickier.

Whatever, this game isn’t fun because of the menu. Once you get into the game you will see that all is pristine and unchanged. Unless you end up in one of the 10 varaints. They pretty much threw every game type they could think of at this. Including one I’ve wanted to see for a long time: play against yorself.

If you do manage to make it to the old school play against the computer mode though you will things pretty much the same. That is except for the flavour. There isn’t any. No pocemon or yoshi’s or fish or anything. Which is actually kind of a shame. I did most of my leaguing on the poeckemon version and inexplicably I really really liked the poke-emon. The way each chain sent them into higher and more frenzied audio contortions was a big part of the game! You never forget facing down against the cat or arbock. Just dreading the start. When those savage creatures would jump at every chance to devour your poor little potted plant.

So all of that is gone. But meh. You can still scream at eachother manually if you want.

The game itself is pretty much unchanged. Well the computer player is really really easy to beat. I’ve played.. wait I can tell you exactly. 175 games against it and lost 21. But most of those are train related (sometimes you have to lurch or let someone through or leave the train). And since there are only 10 levels I’ve played through it 17.5 times. It’s so bad that I don’t even notice the levels incrementing. It starts, then I do a bunch of chains, then it ends and I play again. There is no fearsom Mewtwo to put the fear of… squishy tallon thing into you. (omg I just realised killface is mewtwo!)

But that’s cool. One player was only ever just practice anyway. And now you can play against yourself! Your most worthy opponent. So the REAL game is the two player. Which is pretty much unchanged from the original.

So the two player game: well we have played some. But there were some hurdles at first. We got two coppies of the game. Just in case. And to give some money to the transcendent beings who work at INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS. But when we got home (no we didn’t take the DS’s with us… long story) Sarah’s DS just kind of limply sat there when we tried to turn the power on. Then it continued in limpness when we plugged it into the wall.

Oh crap. And it has all these nice stickers on it and everything!

So Sarah did some research and nintendo was going to charge 90 dollars to fix it (bought it off ebay for half that) but it was probably the battery. Which costs 20 dollars. But can only be ordered from nintendo? or something?

Anyway. If there is any city in the entire world where we were going to find something like this it is Akihabara. That is literal truth.

So off we go! Any excuse to spend the day in Akiba. So we wander around for a while walking into game stores waving the defunct battery at clerks who assure us they definitely do not ever carry battery packs for sure ever. Due to their eagerness to ensure me that there are absolument no DS batteries on premesis I’m pretty sure they would be in deep shit with Nintendo if they stocked them. I don’t know why but there it is.

So it’s off to the seedy old-school bits of electric town. Where transistors take up shelf space next to wooden swords and girly mags. There! Set back 20 meters from the street front. Down a blind alley adorned with boxes of mice shaped like cars. The purveyor of the illicit.

There in his packed little shop he is a habadasher of the unexpected. He has much for sale. I can’t really remember any of it which is too bad because a short list of it would look really good right here. Anyway the upshot is he has warranty-voiding 2nd party batteries for sale for fiebucks!

We walk outside, take the batty out of it’s protective box then unwrap it from it’s protective sleeve (jeez) and plug-er-in. Success! Light! The LEague!

So we wander around Akiba a little while, have a delicious Kabab filled with delicious delicious oh so hard to find in asia beef, and head home.

And we play the league the whole way home! Yay! But then after we;ve been playing for a couple hours at home Sarah battery is about to die. So we plug it into the wall. Which does nothing. Arg! So it was the plug? Did crappy thai wiring do in the power cable? There must be a fuse in there right? Well we can’t open it to look since it takes one of those don’t-open-me screw drivers.

Back to Akhihabara! The next day (yesterday) we headed back. But the store we got the battery had mysteriously disapeared. In fact the entire street had swirled back into the whirrlng chaos of Akihabara. It exists now only in myth.

So we took shelter from the thunder and thunderous rain in a different shop. This one was pretty well lit but was playing loud japanese punk and had non-slip gloves for the Wü controler! So it looked pretty promising. Next to all the Wü stuff (I think the Wü is like the Wii but exists in a paralel dimension with no copywright law) there were a whole sack of DS Lite power cables (I don’t know why it isn’t the D$). But they only had USB-to-power for the old DS. So we got one of those for fiebucks. And when we got home: hurrah! Power is restored. The old battery was fine after all.

At various times during this odessy we considered buying a new DS Lite fro Sarah. The cheap places here sell them for 200$. At home they’re, what? Like 150? 1/3 again more??

Actually the cheap places sell them for 160$. Well I guess they don’t sell them persay. They do display nice little SOLD OUT signs in both english and japanese though.

Akiba is in the midst of a bit of a DS fever just now. Akiba suffers from alot of fevers but this one is pretty intense. There are at least as many places selling DS stuff as there are Maid Cafes. And good god the selection. There are a crazy number of games for the DS. Plus apps. Which make so much sense to put on the DS. It’s like a PDA that’s subsidised by the gaming industry. The language apps make the most sense. And were inevitable as everyone in Japan tries to buy knowledge of english instead of actually trying to learn it.

But wait. Why did I title this ‘The League’? Ah yeah right. I’m talking about Panel De Pon. I haven’t even talked about the touch screen yet!

So yes. The multi is good. They didn’t screw with it… mostly. And you can play in a number of different modes. Including one with magic blocks that do horrible things to your opponent if you break them (or if you’re lucky put you into 3 colour mode!).

They did make one change. They uncoupled the speed at which blocks fall from the speed the screen moves up. The speed blocks fall into voids and when pushed off cliffs is now a constant you set at the start of the game.

This means that as time goes on nothing really changes. Since at apes play level we spend the whole game sitting under the fat our opponent drops. We never see the screen move so the only thing that used to speed up over time was the fall rate.

This makes things different. For instance I only managed to start writing this because I wore my hand out playing against myself. I played one game. And even though I tried as hard as I could to kill myself it lasted 44.6 minutes!

Although this does kind of say something about the touch screen for playing puzzle league. It works very very well. Sarah mentioned yesterday that she felt basically unkillable. Like there was no way she could lose (I lost quite a bit). The stylus lets you move so quickly and drag blocks so efficiently that you are as a Puzzle League god.

I am quite comfortable calling the time that existed before Puzzle De Pon for the DS ‘the archaic slow old days’. The old versions are simply no longer relevant.

And this is only days after getting it. I can feel the pull of potential. The stylus will, with practice, flow like a river. Deep and swift. That metaphor may not make sense to you. But that is only because you do not know the zen. I said to Sarah that if someone managed to wring all the possibility out of this game with this interface the world would simply explode.

So yes. The touch screen works even better than we all dared dream. And I know at least three people who have been dreaming ever since they heard about the DS.

Now we just have to figure out how to kill eachother. I fear magic blocks may be the only way but I do hope tactics can be developed that can make the pure game a sensible contest.


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