Introduction to Puyo Puyo

Many of you may have stumbled across this site having heard about a quirky Japanese game called Puyo Puyo and wanted to find out more. More than likely, you may have played games such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine or Kirby Avalanche in your childhood and are looking for a little trip down memory lane. Perhaps you have played one of its more modern incarnations such as Puyo Pop Fever. Whoever you are, this article aims to cover the Puyo Puyo game series with information about its origins, gameplay and universe, and generally to get you up to speed with the rest of the fandom.

Puyo Puyo, at heart, is a puzzle game based on matching the titular colored blobs, the Puyo, so that four of the same line up and explode/pop and can be placed such that they form a chain of explosions. The game sounds deceptively simple but it doesn't take long for any player to find out that is not the case after getting smashed around stage 3 by something that looks like a fish with limbs or a frog that lives in an acorn.

The first Puyo game was released in 1991 by a Japanese company called Compile. The "universe" though, originated back in 1989 with an RPG game called Madou Monogatari. Madou Monogatari follows the adventure of a young sorceress Arle, and her animal sidekick Carbuncle.

Madou Monogatari was successful enough in its time and gained quite a respectable following. However, it was really with Puyo Puyo, the spin-off game that shares its cast of characters (a Puyo being a minor enemy in MM, the equivalent to slimes in your stereotypical JRPG), that Compile struck gold. Since its original release, it has seen dozens of sequels, clones and even spin-off games of its own. At time of writing Sega, the current owner of the Puyo Puyo license, has just announced the release of the Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary Edition, showing just how strong the game is still going even after two decades.

So what is the secret formula to the series staying strong after all these years? On the surface, what instantly sets the Puyo series apart from most other puzzle game series are cutesy graphics, a colorful cast and the hilarious shenanigans they get into throughout the scenarios. But, as any gamer will know, a game series cannot survive without solid gameplay to back it up.

When it comes to puzzle games, most people will probably remember Tetris. Perhaps also Dr. Mario, Planet Puzzle League or even Lemmings. What these games and most other puzzle games have in common is that they are usually lonesome endeavors. You play the game on your own, trying to get a new highscore, pass a level, or both. What sets Puyo Puyo apart from them is that it is a game with a competitive spirit. Granted, many of the aforementioned games also come with multiplayer options, but they are often ill-conceived or, at best, simply cannot offer an experience that matches the enjoyment of its vanilla-flavored offering. Puyo Puyo, on the other hand, is very much built to be a multiplayer game.

As mentioned previously, the game revolves around creating chain reactions of popping Puyo. The game is played by two players simultaneously and popping chains sends "Nuisance Puyo" into the opponent's screen, which are colorless puyo that can block the opponent from reaching his pieces. You can play against a human opponent or, if you really cannot find a victim, there are several CPU opponents to fight against.

Of course, playing the game doesn't necessarily come down to simply outchaining each other. There are many strategies that reward both being proactive and reactive to the opponent's strategic actions. It is these advanced tactical possibilities in Puyo Puyo that keeps new and old players alike coming to it. As the series grows, new rules have been added and old rules enhanced, but the core mechanic of the game has always been based on the standard set out two decades ago.

In the following sections we will be looking at notable games in the series throughout its life and give you, the Puyo enthusiast, a bit of background knowledge of the game series, their mechanics and storyline.