By Zante Barker
It’s old! Tetris has been around for 35 years – almost two times my actual age. It was first published in 1984 and was created by Alexey Pajitnov in Russia. According to Wikipedia, it’s the seventh largest gaming franchise to ever still be played and over a billion players indulge daily. It’s so important, Circle member Dan Ackerman wrote a book about it called “The Tetris Effect.” Now, Tetris 99 is on the Nintendo Switch – for free if you have an online membership. Tetris 99 is a 99 player, battle royale game that was created by Japanese studio Arika and is filled with amazing music. Plus, the graphics are stunning.
My first thought when playing Tetris 99 was just ‘Wow.’ Tetris has always been a favorite childhood game of mine growing up in life and I never stopped playing it. (I still play the PC version from time to time.) Here, it all starts pretty quick and the game gives you options on what you want to focus on such as K.O.’s, Attackers, Badges or Random which I find pretty neat. K.O. is a type of attack that targets people already in danger. Attackers let you target anyone who has their sights on you (this is the best option). Badges allow players to take all the fun from whoever’s close to winning. Lastly, Random allows you to target anyone in a happenstance way.
I love the competitive feeling when you play. It drives you to really try to beat everyone and be the last one standing just like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but instead of eight players, there are 99 others versus you. I really like this battle royale concept. That’s because the Tetris version on PC on Facebook, for example, has a similar competitive feeling – but it’s either one versus one, four-player, or a six-player mode.
However, there were various problems I had with the game. One issue is the fact that you can only use the left or right trigger and the arrow keys. It kind of ruined my experience because I naturally kept pressing letter buttons like ‘A,’ expecting it to do something. But in reality, it doesn’t do anything. Additionally, why use the Joy-Con sticks when they’re only used to change the target you’re focusing on? Doing this really hurts my thumb, especially when the speed of the game starts to increase. When you’re up to the top 50 players left in the game and your hand starts to hurt because you’re using the same keys, you are liable to mess up and then get mad after that.
I personally feel like there should be a practice mode where you train yourself so you can get used the controls (so you’re not confused like I was when I first started). The game doesn’t help the first-time player much. Lastly, the music. I mean it’s great and awesome to jam out to, but I wish you could get the option to have more than one song – like the variety in Smash Ultimate. There, you get to change the background music to your favorite songs from the multiple game music options such as Legend of Zelda or to F-Zero.
Overall, I really love this game even if the issues bother my video gaming nerves. Around my neighborhood, I’m known as like the Tetris Queen because I enjoy and love the game so much. It’s hard to not stop playing because Tetris 99 really pulls you in. Plus, as Circle member Jordan Minor says, you can win about $10 in points if you’re victorious. It won’t make you rich. But, hey, it’s something for nothing.
Zante Barker is our newest New York Videogame Critics Circle intern, part of our partnership with the Bronx’s DreamYard Preparatory School.