Robin Mihara – As a NWC (Nintendo World Championship) finalist, the contest has always stayed with me. It has been a part of my identity in a way. From completely defining me in my younger years, to being an amusing tale in bars as an adult, I never shed the connection. Tetris was the most important game in that contest, and to this day, I believe the most challenging NES game ever. Even the greatest players still struggle with it’s sadistic timing.
About 2 years ago, I looked at a NES Tetris game on Youtube played by Trey Harrison with a score of 801,222. My high was somewhere in the 550k range I believe, and seeing this guy play was unbelievable. I had seen 3 players clearly better than me in the NWC, but those players (Thor, Jeff Falco and Kenny Welch) were always playing at the slower speeds (due to the time limit)… never to get passed level 12 or so. Trey got to level 29 that game (my highest was 26 I think) where I saw the “kill screen” for the first time (where the speed goes so fast you cant even get a piece to the side). On Trey’s description he wrote that he first became obsessed with Tetris during the 1990 NWC! I didn’t remember a Trey there, so I wrote him and asked what his story was.
He replied that he had come in 3rd and 2nd place in the final two cities and never won a regional contest of his own. He went on to say that he had even broken 3 million points (NWC cart score), which as far ask I know was only the 5th person to do so at the time (the others being the previously mentioned greats, and Jeff Hansen the eventual winner of the younger age group). Trey then said that if I wanted to see the greatest player he had ever seen, to look up Jonas. Jonas had maxed out the score at a million and had done it starting on level 19. Level 19, for those of you who don’t know, is the speed where Tetris gets really really hard. Impossible for most. Once I hit 19, I just scramble to survive, with an occasional Tetris from luck and inevitably a sad miss drop or brain hiccup that kills me 2 pieces later. It’s a nightmare usually, and I’m pretty darn good.
Trey and I emailed back and forth for a while, and both remembered Thor (a friend of Trey’s, and recent Nintendoage acquaintance of mine) claiming that he could get past level 29 into the 30s. It was that night that I realized that I really needed to see these guys play each other. To me Tetris is the thinking man’s game of today. The ADD version of chess if you will. Thor vs. Jonas would be like the Bobby Fisher vs. Boris Spassky of the 21st century. Even if not taken seriously today, the game would some day be talked about as the first true legendary heads-up contest* for the most played video game of all time.
There was only one problem: Thor was now a keyboard player (due mostly to convenience), and Jonas didn’t play anything except the NES version.
That was about the time I met Adam Cornelius. Portland filmmaker and Tetris player himself, Adam was already starting a documentary about Harry Hong – The first official maxout player according to Twin Galaxies record keeping. Adam was under the impression that Harry was the reigning king of NES Tetris (Harry had a small amount of internet fame from his climb to the million-point grail) and had started a low budget documentary about the maxout and Harry funded by Trey Harrison! I excitedly (and nervously for fear that my news would break his dream project) told Adam that there were 2 players that may even be better than Harry. He took the news well, and from there we fantasized about holding a live contest with all the greats, and having big screens, announcers, spotlights, all like we did in 1990. The next day I got a call from Adam. “OK I want to do it. You’re my star. You put it together” I was in my car speeding to his house in 30 seconds.
to be continued….
* no disrespect to the hard drop/hold chamber players of today. I just consider that version a different game entirely from the NES/Gameboy version I know as Tetris
Erik Ackerlund – There are plenty of Tetris clones out there, and few if any ever really innovate on the given principals of what we know of Tetris. This however is one of the coolest I have seen. Our collective hats off to Ben Joffe for the originality here.
Torus is played around a ring so you can rotate your pieces around in a 3d column. Just think of the Nintendo 3DS and future 3D gaming implications of something like this. The game play is instantly apparent. There many a typical pieces, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The only downside is perhaps a limitation of HTML 5 or the code underneath, but the game play is rather slow. From my tests, I felt that it would be pretty addictive if it was only faster*. This requires an extra memory skill to know what the other side of your column looks like, it plays very naturally however. Quite enjoyable. Hopefully we will see this get developed more into a full product.
Currently it offers three modes, Traditional, Time Attack, and Garbage, all of which are pretty self explanatory. If you can get beyond the slowness.*
* Update from Ben Joffe: “I’d just like to point out one thing, you mention it is slow, I hear this from quite a few of the players, but it is often because the player/reviewer has not played for long enough, it does slowly get faster as you play. In regular mode if you get to about 80 lines cleared then it becomes very fast, and I don’t think I’ve gotten past 150 or so.”
Check out Torus here: http://www.benjoffe.com/code/games/torus/
Erik Ackerlund – Harry pushes down a masterful game of Tetris here, that proves he is one of a handful in the world that has achieved this greatness. He pushes the NES Tetris to the score breaking point, where the score odometer no longer counts up. Watch it and weep.
“I have been wanting to achieve a run where I could consider it my masterpiece, and I believe this truly signifies all of the skills and knowledge I have developed over the past couple of years.” – Harry “SuPa” Hong
Erik Ackerlund – This picture is to be found on Nintendo of Japan’s website. This version will be produced by Hudsonsoft, It is interesting to see here that Nintendo decided to let someone else have a go at following up their well received Tetris DS. This new variant looks to be the first Tetris taking advantage of a 3D system since the long ago Virtual Boy Tetris.
From the screen shots, it appears that the pieces will roll at us ala Zaxxon style or Star Wars credits if you will. In one shot it appears that they are adding some of the unconventional rules to Tetris here we have seen before, with the multiple next piece preview and piece hold. Also it looks like they have some additional game where you will navigate various pieces through a maze.
It will be interesting to see if this version has the speed and playability to be worthy beyond the 3d gimmick.