Thought you were awesome at Tetris? Guess again.Tetris: The Grand Master is a series of challengingTetris games developed by Arika, intended for advanced players.The TGM series plays a bit similar to usual Tetris games (specifically, Sega's versions of the game). However, there are a few mechanics that alter the game dramatically. Leveling up, for instance, is no longer just done through clearing lines; instead, every piece you drop will raise the level counter by one, as well as clearing lines (one per line clear). However, level numbers also take on a different meaning: the game speeds up only at particular levels, rather than with every level. The level stops going up at level n+99, where n is a multiple of 100; at that point you must clear a line to level up.At level 500, the game's drop speed maxes out and pieces drop instantly in what is known as "20G"note 20 grid cells per frame (1/60th of a second). The playing field is 20 blocks high. Do the math. speed, forcing you to slide pieces along the stack (or ground) into place. And in newer games, some of the game's finer details are adjusted to make the game harder. 20G went on to be featured in other, more mainstream Tetris games, such as Tetris DS, but most of those games had a mechanic known as "infinite rotation", so in practice, the drop was instant but the lock could be delayed indefinitely for each piece; this is not the case in TGM. In speed-ups after 20G, the time that the pieces take to lock decreases. The game ends at level 999.Another major mechanic is the grade system. Instead of being ranked by score, you are given a grade, typically starting at 9 and going down to 1, followed by S1 through S9, followed by the titular Grand Master rank (or filler grades between S9 and GM, depending on the game). In the original TGM, Scoring Points will raise the grade, but newer installments use more complex mechanics to increment one's grade.The series spans multiple games:
Tetris: The Grand Master (Arcade, 1998; aka TGM1) — The first game in the series. The easiest in the series (both to complete and to achieve Grand Master rank), though that isn't saying much.
Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 (Arcade, 2000; aka TGM2) — An update to the original. Offers two modes: Normal (in which you play for points to level 300), and Master (which has a tougher grading system than TGM1 and continues increasing in difficulty after level 500).
Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 PLUS (Arcade, 2000; aka TGM2+ or TAP) — An upgrade to TGM2 that adds two new modes: TGM+ (in which garbage rises from the bottom at intervals), and the infamous T.A. Death mode (in which 20G kicks in as soon as the game starts.Here's the infamous video that introduced many Westerners to TGM.) TAP was going to be ported to the PlayStation 2, but legal issues with TAP's emulation in MAME caused Arika to not publish it.
Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura - Eternal Heart (PlayStation, 2000; aka EH) — A console-exclusive Licensed Game that uses the rotation system of TGM2. Rather than play Tetris for a grade at high speed, the emphasis is clearing seven jeweled blocks in a Tetris board as quickly as possible (at minimal speeds) over a number of stages, similar to the Sega-produced Tetris derivative Flash Point. A combined time limit for all stages is imposed in the story mode. This mode of play has been carried over into Tetris: The Grand Master 3 as Sakura mode (with Serial Numbers Filed Off, obviously).
Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct (Arcade, 2005; aka TGM3 or Ti) — Makes a few changes to the series' signature rotation system and incorporates the Super Rotation System (the rotation system used in "guideline" Tetris games). Revises the Master mode grade system and implements a "qualified grade" system that indicates your (roughly) average performance, similar to those of martial arts classes. T.A. Death has been replaced by Shirase mode, which has faster speeds and goes up to level 1,300 instead of 999. For those who aren't too bright at TGM, there's Easy mode, which has a slower speed curve and a special scoring system, as well as Sakura mode, which is based on the "target block"-clearing system from Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura: Eternal Heart. This is also the game on which the infamous "Invisible Tetris" video was recorded.
Tetris: The Grand Master ACE (Xbox 360, 2006; aka TGMA or simply ACE) — The only console release of TGM thus far. (A port of TAP for the PS2 had been previously in the works but was scrapped.) Due to Executive Meddling on The Tetris Company's and Microsoft's parts, ACE's gameplay deviates strongly from other TGM games.
Tetris: The Grand Master 4 - The Masters of Round (Arcade, CANCELED; aka TGM4 or (T)MoR) — The latest game in the TGM series, due to come out in 2010. The new "easy" mode in this game is Konoha mode, a simplified "big" mode in which the goal is to completely clear the playfield of blocks as many times as possible. Its answer to Ti's Shirase mode is Rounds, which goes up to at least level 1,400 and puts a new twist on the line-clearing mechanic. A location test was held in late 2009, but little details of the game's development have arised since; in fact, an entry on the blog of Arika vice president Ichiro Mihara suggests that the game has been canceled.
Unfortunately, if you want to play TGM, especially legitimately, you're not going to get a chance so easily. None of the arcade games have had ports (as mentioned above, TGM2 almost got ported to the PS2), and TGM ACE, as mentioned above, isn't exactly a TGM game. There are, however, clones that allow you to simulate the TGM series:
NullpoMino — A Java-based open-source clone with a wide variety of modes (not just TGM) and customization, as well as online multiplayer.
Texmaster — A more minimalist clone aimed simply at simulating TGM modes. Perhaps noteworthy for inciting the anger of Arika (and allegedly getting the PS2 port of TGM2 cancelled).
The Tetris: The Grand Master series provides examples of:
Advancing Wall of Doom: TGM+ in TAP has a slowly-rising stack of garbage blocks rise from the bottom, as well as part of Ti's Shirase mode.
AC (All Clear): Clearing all blocks from the playing field.
CO (Combo): Making combosnote Clearing 2 or more lines adds to your combo. Clearing 1 line will maintain the combo but not increment it. Not clearing any lines breaks your combo.
RO (Rotation): Maintaining a large average number of rotations per piece. Not available in Terror-Instinct.
RE (Recovery): Having a alarge number of blocks on the playing field, and then clearing out most of those blocks. Not available in Terror-Instinct.
Creative Closing Credits: The game doesn't end at level 999. After clearing a line at level 999, the board clears and the game goes on for 60 more seconds at 20G speed. In TGM2+ and later games, if you reach the end fast enough and have a high enough grade, you then have to clear the Invisible Roll, in which pieces disappear on lock. You not only have to survive this credit roll, but also perform wellin order to get the highest grades. Also, the individual sections of the credits (except for the "Produced by ARIKA" text at the end) are shuffled into a random order, preventing you from figuring out how far you are just by reading the credits.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Trying to use TGM3's World Rule (based on the more commonly-used Super Rotation System)—the rotation buttons are reversed.
TGM4 replaces the second counterclockwise rotation button with a special button that makes moving pieces sideways faster. Those who use both CCW buttons may get thrown off by this feature.
Development Hell: TGM4. It's been over a year and there's been very little word of its release in months. it ended with announcement of cancellation.
Difficult but Awesome: Firm drop/sonic drop, which drops the current piece to bottom immediately like the hard drop in SRS-based games like Tetris DS, but doesn't lock the piece down. Newer players think it's retarded, but once you get the hang of it, it makes overhangs much less of a time-waster.
Difficulty By Acceleration: Taken to its logical conclusion: Piece speeds will eventually reach the point where pieces drop instantly upon spawning. This would go on to appear in a few "guideline" Tetris games, such as Tetris DS.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: Due to a glitch in combo bonus calculation, TAP awards consecutive triple clears far better than consecutive Tetrises. This was corrected in the sequel
Dummied Out: The original TGM has English text for the game demonstrations (which are in Japanese) buried somewhere in the game's memory, suggesting that TGM was going to have an overseas release.
Dynamic Difficulty: In TGM3, getting a COOL!! will cause you to skip 100 levels of speed when you go to the next section. So if you get a COOL!! for the level 0-99 section, for instance, level 100 will play as if you're playing at level 200.
In Ti's Shirase mode, at level 1,001, the blocks you get for the rest of the game will have a black-and-white (or black-and-green in World Rule) "[ ]" pattern, as a Shout-Out to the original Tetris (which uses "[ ]" to represent blocks).
TGM4's Rounds mode had a haze that covers the bottom part of the screen, though its screwiness extends beyond this: any lines made in the haze will not clear until you complete the current section.
In the normal Master mode, you're given a ghost piece to guide where pieces will lock in the first 99 levels. It's inexplicably taken away starting at level 100, which can throw off players who look at it for too long. It's especially jarring when the speed resets and you suddenly have to play at low speed without this guidance. This becomes a non-issue in later sections when pieces fall so fast that the ghost doesn't help at all, but in the meantime, expect many misplaces for the next 50 levels or so.
TGM1's Upside-Down mode. There are GM-class players who can't even reach level 200 with it.
Musical Spoiler: If the music cuts out towards the end of a section, the next section is going to have significant changes from the current section.
Nintendo Hard: On top of the difficult learning curve, getting GM in any of the games (other than TGM1) is a feat that takes many months, if not years, to attain. As of this update, there are maybe about 100 or so players with a GM rank in TAP Master (a mere three of which come from outside of Japan), and three Ti GMs. That said, the series is actually some of the fairest games in the Tetris franchise.
No Export for You: The entire series, pretty much. Most players outside of Japan use clones or emulators to play, and a few are lucky enough to live near an actual TGM machine, and even fewer are able to find and afford to own the actual hardware.
Non-Indicative Difficulty: Level ~300 to 500 in TGM1 and TAP is regarded as the trickiest part of Master mode; since it's partway between minimally-low gravity and 20G, it can be tricky to tell what moves are possible and what moves are not.
Nonstandard Game Over: Certain modes have what is known as a torikan, which terminates your game if you hit a specific level too slowly. TAP's T.A. Death and Ti's Master have one at level 500, and Ti's Shirase has two—one at level 500, and one at level 1,000. Word of God has claimed that level 1,300 (the highest level reached so far) is a torikan, but even the best players in the world have yet to find a way to see levels 1,301 and up.
It's confirmed with the leaked data that this torikan doesn't exist.
Public Medium Ignorance: Trying to explain the difference between this and other versions of Tetris to other people, particularly those who haven't seen the infamous "Japan Tetris Finals" or "Invisible Tetris" videos, in which case they'll probably flip out and declare the series as some sort of evil freaky Japanese thing. Pick your poison.
Rank Inflation (The series takes this to extremes. And then there's a TGM fan clone in the planning stages that takes scores to Giga Wing levels.)
Retraux: The final 300 levels of Shirase mode (out of 1300) change the block designs to monochrome (in Classic Rule) or green (in World Rule) "" blocks, a tribute to the original Electronika-60 Tetris.
Rocket Tag Gameplay: TGM ACE's Versus mode ends in victory for whoever scores 20 lines first. To put it in perspective, that's only five Tetrises.
Sarcastic Clapping: The game shoots fireworks at the end of most modes when they end without your losing, but not all endings are victories. If you imagine the fireworks as representing clapping, failing the torikans or missing out on GM qualification conditions may get you this.
Scoring Points: Used for TGM1's grades, becomes a mere number in TGM2 outside of Normal mode, and is barely even shown in TGM3. However, screenshots of TGM4 show that it would have had an actual use again in one of the modes.
Soundtrack Dissonance: In TGM3, if one player is playing Sakura mode, and the other player is playing any other mode, the Sakura music will override the non-Sakura player's music. This can lead to some interesting situations for Sakura's cheerful music, such as hearing it while in the last 300 levels of Shirase mode.
Stalked by the Bell: If the game goes on for more than 15 minutes (which is unlikely in TAP and Ti, in which games usually last no more than 11 minutes), the game speed will suddenly kick into Shirase-level speeds.
The Tetris Effect: Just as bad as the main Tetris games. Probably even worse, especially if you can get into this game.
Time Keeps On Ticking: All line clears take the same amount of time to resolve, and the timer counts up while you wait. This is true of all Tetris games, but in a game where time is a critical part of your ranking, this means that high line clears must be made as frequently as possible and not just for points. Long strings of single clears, especially at low levels, can be toxic to your grade. The pressure of the torikans ensure that you prioritize speed over all else.
Unwinnable by Mistake: TGM1's Big Mode comes close. Blocks are double-sized, but piece movement isn't scaled up to accomodate the increased block size—that is, while all blocks are two cells wide, you still move pieces one cell at a time. Land a piece in an odd-numbered row? You've just made the game go from Nintendo Hard to pretty much impossible.
Pieces spawn in a half-column. Although this means you must always move a piece horizontally at least once, it also means that it will always land on the higher of at least two "regular" columns which can be a lifesaver at 20G. It's still really hard though.