Video Game: Panel de Pon

A screenshot from the GCN edition, from the Nintendo Puzzle Collection
Panel de Pon (Or Tetris Attack, or Puzzle League, or Puzzle Challenge, or one of any innumerable names for the same series) is a Match Three Game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo. While not the Trope Maker for the Match Three Game, it certainly helped popularize the genre.

Gameplay is simple. You have a screen full of differently colored blocks (also marked by different shapes). You can swap the blocks freely horizontally, but you cannot swap them vertically. Get three or more of the same block in a row, and they vanish. Get more than 3 in a row, clear multiple sets of 3 at once, or create a chain—the blocks that fall in to replace the ones that you just cleared form more sets of 3 or more—and you get more points. However, the stack of blocks is constantly growing, and if it reaches the top of the screen, you lose. While a simple formula, it lends itself well to many variants: Play until you lose, score as many points as possible in a limited time, clear all the blocks on screen with limited moves, face off against a CPU to see who loses first (with unclearable "garbage" to speed up the process)...

The original Panel de Pon came out for the SNES in 1996, along with a Game Boy version. The plot (such as it was) starred a fairy named Lip trying to rescue her friends. Since no self-respecting gamer would buy a game featuring 'girly girls' in those days, Nintendo decided to do the infamous palette and name swap, the same way they did to Super Mario Bros. 2. The US version was dolled up as Tetris Attack, with identical gameplay but with a very superficial Yoshi's Island themenote , a few extra options and character profiles, and nothing to do with Tetris at allnote . It later saw two Pokémon-themed reskinnings: Pokémon Puzzle League, for the N64, introduced a "3D" mode with a cylinder of blocks instead of a stack, and Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, which was almost a proto-Puzzle Quest. It had "battles" between Pokémon played out in puzzle matches, and some adventuring on the side. The name "Puzzle League" stuck: A Game Boy Advance compilation release (along with Dr. Mario) simply entitled it "Puzzle League," as did the DS version.

Aside from a Super Smash Bros. cameo, Lip has been nowhere to be seen in puzzle land for quite some time. She did, however, show up as a character in Captain Rainbow.

This series provides examples of:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: A subtle in-game example, Panel de Pon's garbage blocks are dependent on the character who created them and most have cheerful smiles on them. In Tetris Attack, the garbage blocks are uniform and all have angry, grimacing faces on them.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite
  • The Artifact: The "lily castle" from Panel de Pon remains in the background of Tetris Attack's story mode.
  • Artifact Title: Pokémon Puzzle League was so-titled because it involved Ash from the Pokémon anime joining a new type of Pokémon League—not just a Pokémon League, but a Pokémon Puzzle League. While there haven't been any Pokémon-themed entries in the series since the Game Boy Color game Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, the title stuck.
  • Auto-Pilot Tutorial: Usually optional.
  • Badass Boast: Team Rocket does this in the final Spa Service stage.
    Jessie and James: That's it! No more games: Now we finish this here. No costumes, no tricks, just the real Team Rocket!
  • Badass Princess: Lip, given that she's the daughter of the Queen of Fairies.
  • Bishoujo Series: The art style of the first game in Japan, and the probable reason the US version was a Dolled-Up Installment.
  • Blow You Away: Windy.
  • Cap: The score capped at 99999 in Endless mode in the original Super Nintendo version. In Pokémon Puzzle League, this was increased to 999999. The GBA version lets you choose which to use, as well as sort of lampshading this by recording your fastest time to each one.
  • Combos: And Chains. Master them if you want to score big in single-player modes or kick ass in versus modes, or complete the campaign (where you must use combos or chains)
    • There is a display cap in the Super Nintendo games. The first thirteen chains above "x13" will appear as "x?" in the same style as the preceding multiples; the character's attack sprites will continue to travel to the top of the opponent's screen, but will not increase the block's thickness rating above x12.
      • Once the equivalent of "x26" has been achieved, the game stops showing "x?" markers at all (but will continue to add garbage blocks from "Combos" to the opponent's queue as normal) - The player must try and keep manual track of the actual length of the chain (reported to reach at least x42 before running out of ability to chain garbage). Once all blocks have landed without causing further chaining, the opponent's garbage queue is then allowed to fall on them.
  • The Cutie: Lip, as well as her successor Furil.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Tetris Attack let you program the AI to play in single player for you but it only goes past the recruits before making players finish the rest for themselves.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: In the story mode of the SNES games, for the first 8 stages the protagonist (Lip in PdP, Yoshi in TA) battles their friends who have been put under a spell. Winning against them breaks the spell.
  • Death Mountain: A stage is literally called that in Panel De Pon.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: There is both a Water Fairy and a Sea Fairy.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Almost every game in the series, at some point or another.
    • The first game was released as Tetris Attack in the US, and featured characters from Super Mario World 2, making it a double doll-up with both Tetris and Mario. Some of which have undergone a Heel-Face Turn.
    • Then there was Pokémon Puzzle League, localized by Nintendo Software Technology Corporation from the then cancelled Panel de Pon sequel, which gave the series' most recent entry its title after removing the license.
    • Pokémon Puzzle Challenge on the Game Boy Color was a Pokémon game in Japan too, but shows blatant signs of having been dolled-up during development.
  • The Dragon: Dragon. (he is an illusion)
  • Dummied Out:
    • Lip's Stage from Planet Puzzle League is only unlockable in Japan. Other countries will have to access it via Action Replay.
    • In Panel de Pon, but not Tetris Attack, the options menu. Within the options menu is an, uh, option, to read the character bios — since the bios for the two last bosses don't appear in the Attract Mode, they are dummied out as well.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The "story" modes of the SNES/GB versions wouldn't let you fight the "final" enemies unless you played on higher difficulties than "Easy."
  • Embedded Precursor: A secret code in Pokémon Puzzle Challenge allows you to play a hidden version of Panel de Pon, including Lip as the player character. It's accessible from the "this game is only playable on the Game Boy Color" screen, so it's even possible to play it on an older black-and-white system. (It can be played on later systems, but a different code has to be put in to reset the game in backwards-compatible mode.)
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Thanatos's portrayal in the Super Nintendo Panel De Pon though he is not real.
  • Excuse Plot: Lip's fairy friends/Yoshi's monster friends getting kidnapped. Pokémon Puzzle League featured Ash taking part in a "new kind" of Pokémon battling league.
  • Feathered Fiend: Phoenix. (he is an illusion)
  • Final Boss Preview: In Stage Clear mode.
  • Green Thumb: Thiana and Lip.
  • Hair Decorations
  • Harder Than Hard: Hardest in the SNES version, Very Hard, Super Hard, and Intense in the later games. Generally only applies to 1-Player VS Mode, though.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Subverted by the first Thanatos/Bowser/Butch and Cassidy fight in Stage Clear mode. Even though it moves at an absurdly fast rate for that point in the game, you can beat him if you're skilled enough.
  • An Ice Person: Sherbet.
  • Improbably Female Cast: The original two Panepon games.
  • In Name Only: There's nothing Tetris about Tetris Attack. There's blocks in a well, and you lose if the well fills up, but that's it.
  • Japan Bonus: When the Panel de Pon sequel was finally released in Japan, it received the new feature of 4-player Vs., a feature that Pokémon Puzzle League didn't have.
  • Land of Faerie
  • Lip, I Am Your Mother: A bit of a Shocking Swerve, really. We didn't even know her mother was missing!
  • Lunacy: Selene.
  • Making a Splash: Elias and Neris.
  • Market-Based Title: Oh boy. It's consistently been called Panel de Pon in Japan, but it's gone under the Tetris Attack name in Western territories and later Puzzle League. More specifically:
    • Panel de Pon = Tetris Attack
    • Pokémon de Panepon = Pokémon Puzzle Challenge
    • Panel de Pon DS = Planet Puzzle League (NA) = Puzzle League DS (PAL)
  • Match Three Game
  • Multiple Endings: Story Mode has three different endings depending on how many continues you use.
  • Nintendo Hard: Making chains (especially "active"/"skill" chains), which are the basis of huge attacks and high scores, is very difficult.
    • Try getting a "x?" (x14 and higher) chain in single-player Endless Mode! (The game acknowledges how many "x?" chains you made after the Game Over screen though, along with the other combo / chain counts.) A "x?" chain will easily assist you in hitting the 99999 Score Cap.
    • Beating Cordelia/Bowser on Super Hard mode is exceedingly difficult.
    • Cordelia & Bowser can't even be fought on Normal in the SNES version. You have to be on Hard or Hardest to face them. The same is true for Gary's rematch in Pokémon Puzzle League, and Mewtwo requires no less than Very Hard.
  • Playing with Fire: Flare.
  • Puzzle Game
    • The normal game is a puzzle game in the Match Three sense. "Puzzle Mode" is one in the truer sense of a series of puzzles — each level gives you a formation to clear in a limited number of swaps.
  • Recycled Title: First we have the original Panel de Pon, its GameCube sequel is also called Panel de Pon. Guess what the Panepon portion of Dr. Mario & Panel de Pon is also called.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The GBA version features some kind of... flowery hamster thing as your visualization during the game, which reacts to how well you're doing in-game.
  • Rock Steady: Ruby.
  • Score Multiplier: Gameplay is highly reliant on combo-based multipliers, as the game moves at a relentless pace and requires such chains both to keep up and to keep the opponent at bay.
  • Secret Test of Character: The entirety of Panel de Pon's story was actually Lip's mother, the queen of fairies, trying to find the right fairy to make the new queen.
    • "Pokemon Puzzle League" is pretty much this with Mewtwo at the end.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: The AI is much harder in Pokémon Puzzle League (and probably other sequels) than the original game. The AI in "Planet Puzzle League" is also much harder than the AI in "Pokemon Puzzle League" too.
    • It doesn't help that the framerate (and thus the speed at which blocks appear, are created from garbage, and fall into gaps) is doubled from the SNES to its higher iterations: 30fps in Tetris Attack, 60fps in Pokemon Puzzle League!
    • According to Wikipedia, the AI in TA is also tougher than in Panel de Pon at the higher difficulty levels.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Cordelia / Corderia.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: You fight the final boss (or minions with equal difficulty) halfway through the Stage Clear campaign. They're exactly as tough as at the very end.
    • Butch and Cassidy are actually tougher than Giovanni because their stage isn't 3D, limiting the number of combos and chains you can make.
  • We Can Rule Together: In Puzzle League's story mode, Giovanni tries to get Ash to join Team Rocket.

Alternative Title(s):

Puzzle League, Tetris Attack, Panel De Pon