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Panel de Pon (SNES, 1995 (JP only) - Reviewed by Purple-Clad Gamer Edit: Sorry if some of the text placement looks weird, I typed this up on notepad beforehand Before we begin, here's how my reviews work: I rate each category on a scale from 0.0 to 10. Some categories will not be applied if necessary (ex. Level Design in a game like Dr. Mario) Categories: Introduction (not scored) - I start the review. Story - How well the story is written. Gameplay - How well does the game, well, PLAY? Are the controls good? Are the mechanics good? Characters - How well the characters are designed and how good they are as actual characters. Graphics - How well the game looks. Music - How good the game's music is. Difficulty - How well the difficulty is balanced-- is it challenging enough to keep you going? Level Design - How well are levels designed-- are they fun and interesting? Replay Value - Is it worth playing over and over? [Introduction] Panel de Pon is a puzzle game released exclusively in Japan in 1995 for the Super Famicom. It's known outside of Japan as "Tetris Attack", giving it a Yoshi's Island reskin, and is known to be a very good game that spawned the Panel de Pon series, which would be known as Puzzle League in the west. [Story] The only story in this game is within the game's 1-Player VS Mode, which might as well be a Story Mode. Panel de Pon's 1-Player VS Mode opens up with the game's mascot, Lip, explaining what's going on. The world has been invaded by monsters of darkness who have used magic to create an endless rainfall, putting the entire world at the brink of flooding. The monsters have also turned all the other faeries into servants of evil. Lip decides to stick up to restore her friends to normal and defeat the monsters within Death Mountain. Considering it's a puzzle game, It's a pretty good premise and has a few surprises at the end. 9.4/10 [Gameplay] Gameplay in Panel de Pon is pretty simple. If you wait on the Title Screen, Lip will show you how to play, and the game even has some built-in tutorials that you can use in the form of the How to Play and How to Improve modes. In Panel de Pon, you play on a grid of squares, each of which can be filled by a panel (hence Panel de Pon). Panels are stacked on top of each other and slowly rise toward the top of the grid, with a new row of panels being added at the bottom. The player must swap panels in horizontal or vertical lines of three or more matching colors by swapping panels horizontally, in increments of two. As matching lines of panels are made, the panels are cleared from the grid and any blocks above them fall into the gaps. Clearing more than three panels in a single swap creates a Combo, while Chains are made when falling panels from one clear cause another clear. Both score extra bonus points, and in multiplayer VS matches, these also send what are called Garbage Blocks to the other player's grid. Garbage Blocks can be transformed into panels by making a panel clear that is touching the Garbage Block. You automatically lose once the panels (and/or Garbage Blocks) touch the top of the grid for too long (only about a second or two). The goal of Panel de Pon depends on the mode. In 1-Player VS Mode, the player controls Lip, the Fairy of Flowers, to fight off the monsters of darkness and return her friends to normal, in the form of 2-Player VS matches with Lip's opponent being controlled by the computer. Lip must confront each of her corrupted friends in the Fairy Worlds, and later the forces of darkness in Death Mountain. The goal is to defeat every opponent-- there are 10 stages on Easy Mode, 11 on Normal Mode, and 12 on Hard and Super Hard Mode. The only way you can fully complete the story is to beat 1-Player VS Mode on Hard or Super Hard. Easy allows you to get a feel for how legitimate matches feel like, with Normal getting tougher, and with Hard and Super Hard being a true test of your Panel de Pon skills. Endless Mode basically serves as a Practice mode, where you can set the speed level and the difficulty. It only ends once you lose or quit. Timed Mode is basically a Score Attack mode, where you try to rack up as many points as you can within 2 minutes. If you love shooting for high scores, you'll like this mode. In Stage Clear Mode, you go through 6 stages with 5 parts each and clear the panels until the white line appears. Once the white line appears, you have to get every panel beneath it. It gets very tense at times and is pretty fun. Lastly, the Puzzle Mode gives you a panel puzzle where you have to clear every panel in a set amount of moves. Panels do not rise in this mode. Panel de Pon's gameplay is extremely smooth and a ton of fun. The gameplay is absolutely perfect for what it does-- it can get pretty tense, especially in 1-Player VS Mode on Hard or Super Hard and Stage Clear. Every mode is always pretty fun (and frustrating at times) but I always get the urge to keep going. 10/10 [Characters] First off, all of the characters look really good and very reminiscent of 90's anime. Every character feels unique in terms of design, and that creates a very good sense of variety by design standards. We don't exactly get much character development in Panel de Pon. The most that we know of the characters (sans the spoilers) is that Lip is cheerful, determined, and helpful. Yeah, granted, it's a puzzle game, so I probably shouldn't be asking for much. Regardless, it works fine given the fact that it's a puzzle game. 9.0/10 [Graphics] For SNES standards, Panel de Pon's art style and spritework are absolutely beautiful. I have nothing but praise for the graphical style used in this game. 10/10 [Music] Panel de Pon's soundtrack is absolutely marvelous. I never get tired of listening to this game's music. In the middle of actual matches, every stage's music is really good, and when you're about to win or lose, that awesome music becomes tense awesome music, and I absolutely adore it. Without spoiling anything, my favorite pieces are Lip's Theme, Elias' Theme, Stage 11's Theme, and most of all, Stage 12's theme. 10/10 [Difficulty] Panel de Pon's difficulty factors on the Game Mode you play and what difficulty you're playing on. In 1-Player VS Mode, Easy and Normal aren't that hard, except for Stage 11 on Normal. I had a pretty tough time with it my first time around. Hard Mode and Super Hard is basically a difficult test of your skills at Panel de Pon. It's tense and it's fun, but you're gonna need to practice... a LOT. Especially for Stage 12. Stage Clear Mode gets really intense towards the end-- I'd compare it to playing 1-Player VS Mode on Hard or Super Hard. Puzzle Mode really makes you think-- you'll likely spend a lot of time playing this mode to fully clear it. I have yet to play 2-Player VS Mode since I don't have any friends who play Panel de Pon, but from what I've seen, matchups like one elitist player and one above-average player-- the elitist can beat the above-average player in seconds, while 2 elitists can go at it for more than 5 minutes. Pretty crazy stuff. In terms of the difficulty's balance, it's a hit-or-miss situation. Puzzle games with a difficulty balance primarily factor on how good the player is, but from my experience with Panel de Pon, I'd say the balance was very suitable. In 1-Player VS Mode, the first 8 stages aren't that hard, but the last 4 can really give you a run for your money, as expected from final areas/levels in games in general. 10/10 [Replay Value] Panel de Pon is bursting at the seams with content. Puzzle Mode will have you playing for a long time trying to solve them all, the 1-Player VS Mode is always fun to play, and there's always the Stage Clear Mode to keep you tense and looking for more. Panel de Pon is a game absolutely worth playing repeatedly-- It's a ton of fun and many other people who have played Tetris Attack and/or Panel de Pon can tell you the same thing. 10/10 [Overall Rating] 9.8/10 Panel de Pon is a beautiful game that should be played by anyone looking to get into puzzle games or is just looking for a really fun game to try out that has a ton of content and replay value. Panel de Pon certainly delivers, and does not disappoint in the slightest.