The key to Tetris's popularity lies in it's simplicity. The premise is so easy to pick up yet so difficult to put down, and has remained largely unchanged since inception. There have been a couple of attempts to mix things up over the years; with a third dimension being added for the Virtual Boy outing 3D Tetris, and a spherical 'board' being utilised in the Nintendo 64 game Tetrisphere (a game that was originally planned as an Atari Jaguar title called Phear, fact fans). Sticking with Nintendo, there was also the bizarre Tetris 64 that came packaged with a 'bio sensor' that clipped to the player's ear and measured heart rate; the idea being that as the heart rate increased, so did the speed of the game.
The first Tetris game to make an appearance on the Dreamcast, Tetris 4D is a Japanese exclusive that hit the shelves in 1998. The game received fairly poor review scores upon release due to its bare bones nature and strangely 'un-Tetris' design choices. Developed and published by Bullet Proof Software, Tetris 4D shuns the traditional Russian themes seen in earlier titles in the franchise and instead opts for a sort of futuristic industrial setting. On top of this, there are a few odd gameplay mechanics which I'll come to in a second. The gameplay modes are - as earlier mentioned - a little on the thin side, meaning you really only get one mode of play as a single player: basic Tetris. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with this in itself - Tetris is Tetris.
The Next Tetris is the only Dreamcast Tetris game that was released in western markets, hitting the US and Europe in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Developed by Blue Planet Software and published by Crave, The Next Tetris introduced a new gameplay mechanic to the series, but also included the original version too. An interesting fact about The Next Tetris is that it was released in the US with online play modes, meaning gamers could battle each other over the internet.
Dreamcast Live and DreamPi method. The Next Tetris begins by offering players the choice of classic mode and the newer 'Next' mode. As the name suggests, classic Tetris is just that and you'll be happy to read that the odd 'Tetriminos can't rotate if they're at the edge of the screen' thing from Tetris 4D has been ditched. The Next Tetris mode offers a new mechanic in that the Tetriminos come in the familiar seven shapes, but are made up of differently coloured blocks. Once they settle and 'lock,' any parts that are not the same colour as the rest of the Tetrimino will fall away. This opens up a whole new style of play, meaning you can fill holes by dropping sections of Tetriminos off edges and once you get a 'Tetris' (that's four lines at once), massive combos can be achieved as more and more separated blocks fall free. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't - you can see a better explanation of this in the video below.
Ready to take a step into the surreal? Then welcome to Sega Tetris. Originally created by Sega AM1 as a NAOMI arcade game, the subsequently created Wow Entertainment ported Sega Tetris to the Dreamcast in 2000. A Japanese exclusive, Sega Tetris is a pretty interesting and original take on the original game, not least because of the bizarre imagery and settings it uses. The game naturally playes in a familiar manner with the usual gameplay mechanics in place, but it's the extra details that make Sega Tetris such a fun title. The addiction of bizarre cartoon characters that dance and gyrate by the play board as you move the Tetriminos around is interesting, and the way they hit the blocks to destroy any lines you make can be amusing.
Now we've looked at the three variants of Alexey Pajitnov's classic puzzler on the Dreamcast, I suppose it's only right that I share my opinion on which is the best. None of these games are what you would describe as shit as at heart they're all just Tetris. However, the one with the least amount of appeal for me would have to be Tetris 4D. Even with it's amazing 4 player mode, the lack of VMU support is just lazy and the single gameplay mode only amplifies this. As for the best of the bunch? I'd have to say that both The Next Tetris and Sega Tetris are equally good games. Neither does anything particularly abhorrent and both have their own bonuses: Next has it's own unique gameplay mode, and Sega Tetris has the surreal characters and setting.
Ultimately, all three of these games play a mean game of Tetris so they're all worth investigating. Below you'll find a little video of the three games in action. Enjoy.
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