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The Virtual Boy's swan song
Author: B. Hodges | Date: 2008/12/08 | Rating: 8/10


3D Tetris was released in March of 1996 for the Nintendo Virtual Boy. It was only released in the U.S. and was the final game released for the system. This is NOT the American version of the Japanese Virtual Boy game V-Tetris.

Gameplay - 8/10

3D Tetris is based on the classic puzzle game Tetris. The twist here is that now the game takes place in 3-dimensions. The camera slowly rotates around the Well to give you a view of all the action and if necessary you can manually control the camera to get a better view; the blocks will even stop falling while you look! There is also a radar on the side of the screen to show you the exact location of each block as well as where the falling block will land.

There are three different game modes to choose from:

3D Tetris is the classic Tetris game in 3D. The object of the game is to clear as many layers of blocks as you can. You clear a layer by filling it in with blocks without leaving any spaces. The Well has five layers, stack blocks higher than that and you will lose the bottom layer of your Well. Lose all five layers and the game is over. Fortunately you can easily earn back lost layers by clearing more layers of blocks.

Center-Fill is like 3D Tetris with one big twist, instead of filling in layers, your goal here is to form symmetrical patterns around the center square. The center square is a special location in the Center-Fill mode, any blocks placed there will disappear. If you have a symmetric pattern, then once you place a block in the center, it will clear that layer. Formation symbols will appear on the radar when you have a symmetric pattern ready to be cleared. The more intricate the pattern, the higher the score for clearing it will be.

Puzzle mode is my favorite one in the game. The object here is to recreate a specific 3D object such as a racecar or chair using the blocks. You get to see an outline of the object in the Well before you start and there will be hints in the radar to help as well. Misplace just one block and you automatically lose the stage. Once you succeed in building the object, you are treated to a nice little animation starring your creation. These animations really show off what the Virtual Boy is capable of. There are a total of 20 puzzles and the game automatically saves your progress. After you complete all 20 puzzles, you are shown an ending/credit sequence.

Play Control 8/10

The controls will feel familiar to anyone who's ever played Tetris. You move the block with the left control pad and rotate it with A and B. The new additions are the ability to use the right control pad to flip the block vertically and use the L button to change the view of the Well. The only downside is a slight delay between the time you press a direction and the time the block actually moves. Other than this, the controls are very solid and transparent.

Story - N/A

You really didn't expect a Tetris game to have a story, did you?

Graphics - 8/10

First the bad:

The game is rendered using wireframes, the frame rate is on the slow side, and of course since this is a Virtual Boy game, it is only in red and black. So why did I give the graphics such a high score?

The answer is that 3D Tetris has the best 3D effects of any game on the Virtual Boy! The opening sequence is incredible and the puzzle solution animations really shine. The objects in these scenes are solid 3-D shapes moving in 3-dimensions. It also helps that this is one of the few Virtual Boy games to have actual gameplay take place in full 3-dimensional space.

Sound - 8/10

The music is pretty good, though different from the usual Russian fare heard in most Tetris games. Unfortunately, unlike other Tetris games, you are unable to choose your BGM and are stuck with the default for whichever mode you are playing. The gameplay sound effects are standard Tetris sounds, but the sound effects for the puzzle animations are very authentic and enjoyable.

Playing Time/Replay Value - 10/10

You will spend a lot of time playing this one. Whether you feel like being creative (Center-Fill), solving puzzles (Puzzle), or just playing Tetris (3D Tetris), there are plenty of modes to keep you entertained for hours. The game even has a backup battery to save your high scores and Puzzle mode progress!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid? - Buy

No Virtual Boy library is complete without 3D Tetris. Even though this game is rare for an American Virtual Boy game, you shouldn't have any trouble finding one on eBay close to the original MSRP of $29.99.

Overall Score - 8/10

3D Tetris puts a fresh spin on an old classic. There are tons of new modes and features, yet it manages to stay true to the classic Tetris formula. 3D Tetris is a worthy swan song to a highly underrated system.