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Tokimeki Memorial Taisen Puzzledama - Konami - arcade - 1995

Get this equation: Puzzle game + Girls = Instant money maker. Konami knows that at anytime whatsoever they can make a puzzle game, insert characters from any of their popular series and watch the cash roll in. And so, Tokimeki Memorial Taisen Puzzledama was born. Yes, it's a fun game, but it can also be one of the absolute cheapest as well. The objective is simple enough: Using small faces which fall from the top of the screen in groups of two, arrange and match 3 or more of one particular color to make them disappear. Very similar to another puzzler, the tremendously popular [for its time] Puyo Puyo (A little too similar if you ask me). You'll also have to deal with the smaller heart versions of the faces which only become faces once you've made a group of faces adjacent to them dissipitate. As you can imagine, chain combos come into play quite often and there's strategy involved to what is otherwise just another random, almost mindlessly fun puzzle game. The TM girls were only included in order to help sell the game, although Konami would probably have you believe otherwise.

You begin by selecting your desired difficulty setting. If you choose the easy or normal route you'll go straight to the character select screen. It is here that you'll see each of the girls' different "strategies" for dropping/rising faces (did I mention that sometimes they also push the screen upward?), but nobody is going to care about any of that nonsense because they'll be too interested in picking out a favorite character. From there it's onward you go into the perils of a young schoolgirl's treacherous road to love which can only be fulfilled by beating others in a puzzle match, just like in real life. If you choose easy difficulty, you'll only face three characters and, should you prevail, receive a love letter -- that is, a rotating love letter; yes, that's right -- Konami is the shits when it comes to special effects! You heard it here first.

Er, anyway, if you choose normal difficulty, you'll go through the full game, but you will not be allowed to rank in for some strange reason. If you select the hard difficulty setting (I'm just guessing that's what they're called -- me no hablo Japanese), you'll input your name (once again, in Japanese...) and then you'll select which girl you'd like to be forever with you. Awwwww. But love isn't that easy. The CPU on hard can be downright brutal and I oftentimes wondered whether my victories were not the result of mere luck. Everybody has to take on Shiori Fujisaki (the red-headed main character) as their final encounter, except for Shiori, obviously, who has to do battle with Miharu Tatebayashi (the green-haired girl with those ring-shaped tresses). What makes this game so uneven is that sometimes you'll be having a really, really hard time trying to defeat one girl ....and then get by the following girl with little difficulty. That more than anything else tells me that there's something very unbalanced about this game, at least on 1 Player. What makes the CPU's skill level so unreal is how well organized it is with its faces, even though they're dropping like mad! The horror! The drama!

The graphics are warm and colorful, like everything was designed to cater to little girls. In other words, very similar to GamePro Magazine. Before each match commences, your girl will move to the next location on a linear map and converse with the next opponent before going into battle. During each match, the screen is divided in the middle and you can visibly see your character making all sorts of gestures and expressions depending on how happy, flirtatious, upset, or worried she's getting. You know how it is with women and their little mood swings from out of nowhere. Hearts will fall onto your opponent's stack should you perform a chain combo. Naturally, the more you chain together in a row, the greater the damage caused. My best chain is 14 with Mira Kagami (the sexy one with purple hair) vs Shiori Fujisaki for the final victory. Oh, and that chain combo was expertly pre-planned and set-up by yours truly (yeah, right).

Whoever it was that decided we should be subjected to hearing the same song again and again should have a blimp crash into his car while on his way home. Aside from the last couple of matches, it's that one song over and over. It's not even a good song. Yes, all of the music is derived from Tokimeki Memorial, but some of their choices are questionable at best. There's a bit of voice work, too -- these girls love to hurl tame insults and sarcastic apologies at one another. Sure, I don't know Japanese but I can tell. Nobody cares about whether or not the sound effects are presented in Dolby Pro-Logic II or whatever, and so nor do I.

Sure, I can think of various puzzle games which one-up this Konami effort--Tetris Attack, Puyo Puyo Tsu, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, among others--but Tokimeki Memorial Taisen Puzzledama is still fun to play every now and then. Oh, and try not to lose against the final boss, unless you want the loser ending. I've said everything that needed to be said about this game. This review is finished. You can stop reading it now. Thank you. You can return to your game of Congo Bongo. Really, I won't stop you.

This reviewer would like to make a shout-out to all its homies.

TM Taisen Puzzledama is also available for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation (imports).

- Michael