When Microsoft launched the Xbox One in November of last year, the company didn't have the supply to meet worldwide demand. So while the console debuted in the US, UK, and several more countries initially, several other markets have had to wait for the system. One country without the Xbox One is Japan, a very tough market for Microsoft to crack.
The Xbox One will finally launch in Japan this September. Once that happens, we'll start to see some Japan-exclusive games for the system. Several of those will be text-heavy visual novels (a form of adventure game) that only fluent Japanese speakers can enjoy. But a much more import-friendly game was announced this week: Puyo Puyo Tetris from Sega! If Ubisoft's Tetris Ultimate looks too dry for you, prepare for a splash of color and whimsy when Puyo Puyo Tetris graces the Japanese Xbox One in December.
Puyo meets Tetris
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a cross-over between Sega's Puyo Puyo series and Tetris. Puyo Puyo, also known as Puyo Pop, is a falling-block puzzle game in which players match groups of colored blobs called Puyos. The Puyo Puyo series originated in 1991, where it gained a loyal following in Japan.
Only a few Puyo Puyo games have been released in the west, sometimes with the original characters changed to capitalize on existing brands – namely Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine for Sega Genesis and Kirby's Avalanche for Super Nintendo. A few legitimate Puyo games made it to America too, most recently Puyo Pop Fever for Gamecube and Nintendo DS.
But how do you mix a game about forming chain reactions of blobs with the original falling block game Tetris? Puyo Puyo Tetris combines the two series in a variety of different ways. For one, you can play normal Tetris or normal Puyo Puyo without breaking away from those games' rules.
But that's not all! Another game mode has players switch between the two games at set intervals, sort of like Hot Potato. There is even a mode in which Tetris and Puyo pieces fall onto the same playing field. In that mode, the Tetris pieces can squish the Puyo blobs.
Being aimed at the Japanese market, Puyo Puyo Tetris features an extensive story mode in which humanoid Tetris blocks (?!?!) travel to the Puyo Puyo planet and meet the characters who live there. It's wacky and told through Japanese text, but not something you will have to understand to enjoy the game.
More excitingly, Puyo Puyo Tetris will feature local and online multiplayer modes for up to four players. Besides the game types described earlier, you'll have the option of playing Puyo Puyo against opponents as they play Tetris, and vice versa. All of the mixing, matching, and mashing-up should make for a much more fun and varied multiplayer experience than Tetris traditionally offers.
Puyo Puyo Tetris launched on Playstation 3, Vita, Wii U, and 3DS in Japan earlier this year. The Xbox One version will come with all of the DLC released for those versions built-in. Xbox One games are region free, so puzzle fans outside of Japan will have the option to import Puyo Puyo Tetris. If you're interested, you can preorder the game from online retailer Play Asia for $53.99.
More regional exclusives to come
Will Xbox One games made for specific markets like Puyo Puyo Tetris become a trend? Yes, to an extent. As I mentioned earlier, the visual novel genre is big in Japan but would never fly at retail in the US. The Xbox One itself is not likely to catch on with Japanese gamers. But niche-focused developers will likely publish an array of cheap-to-develop visual novels for the Xbox One, as they did for the Xbox 360. The first of those will be Chaos;Child from 5pb, best known in the west as the developer of Phantom Breaker Battlegrounds for XBLA.
Meanwhile, China can look forward to its own lineup of exclusive games when the Xbox One launches there later this year. One of those, Neverwinter (pictured above), will actually receive a worldwide release in 2015. But the truly China-centric games (think boring historical epics) will likely stay within that country.
I can see the same happening with the Indian market – Bollywood-style games don't have much of an audience outside of their native land. But again, thanks to Microsoft's wise decision not to restrict Xbox One software to specific regions, anyone in the US, Europe, and beyond who wants to play a specific country's games can always choose to import those titles.