Thought you were awesome at Tetris? Guess again.
Tetris: The Grand Master is a series of challenging Tetris 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 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 2,500 and adds new gimmicks every several hundred levels. A location test was held in late 2009, but the game was canceled in 2010 for unclear reasons. The series seems to have died with this, until...
- TGM2015 (Arcade, release date TBD, working title) — An in-development TGM title that recycles many elements from TGM 4. A location test was held in the US in June 2015 and in Japan a month later, and had the Konoha and Rounds modes available. However, as of July 2016, no news of an actual release followed.
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).
In 2019, Arika would return to Tetris games with Tetris 99, a Tetris game with a 99-player battle mode. Although it contains references to the TGM series, it is not connected to its predecessor.
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.
- Anti-Frustration Features: Perhaps part the appeal of TGM is that despite being infamous for things like 20G and invisible sections, it does a lot of things to prevent Fake Difficulty:
- Lock delay (the delay between when a piece lands on something and when it locks into place) is present much like in SEGA and Jaleco Tetris games; it's the reason 20G is playable at all.
- The randomizer is tailored to keep the game fair:
- The first piece will never be an S or a Z, so you cannot get overhangs in your first few pieces. You also will not get an O as your first piece, as an O followed by S or a Z forces an overhang.
- The game keeps track of the last 4 pieces dealt, and will select new pieces until it comes across a piece not in the piece history or has already tried 4 times (or 6 in sequels).
- Said history is initialized to SSSS (or SZSZ in sequels), so such unfortunate piece sequences happen even less often at the start of the game.
- In the first two TGM games, an I laying horizontally on a surface can only rotate if two cells under the third block from the left are empty, which can make scoring Tetrises at 20G difficult. TGM 3 allows the I to kick off the floor to rotate into a vertical position, but only once.
- In TGM 1, if versus mode is enabled, there's no way to prevent a versus match from happening if another player joins in. From TGM 2 onwards, pressing your respective Start button during play prevents the other player from initiating a versus match, forcing them to play single-player instead.
- In TGM 3, if you reach Level 500 in Master mode in more than 7 minutes, the game will end early. However, in a Promotional Exam, in which you need to meet or exceed a target grade to earn it as your qualified grade, the time limit is removed, letting you reach Level 500 and beyond at your own pace.
- Anti-Rage Quitting: Aside from being an Arcade Game and thus inherently discouraging ragequitting by charging money for each play, Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct discourages ragequitting in two of its own ways if you're logged in with an account:
- The game keeps track of your last seven games, and if the average of your best four games exceed your current "qualified grade", you'll be given a "Promotional Exam" in which you try to meet or exceed the target grade; doing so increases your qualified grade to the target grade, giving you a measure of how well you generally do and not just your best performance. In fact, reaching the qualified grade immediately below Grand Master is required to be able to achieve the GM grade.
- If you're doing poorly compared to your qualified grade, the game will quietly hand out a "demotional exam" with the opposite mechanism: if you do not meet your qualified grade, it will decrease by one.
- Background Music Override: The Sakura mode music in TGM 3 overrides all other gameplay BGM, so someone could be in the 1200-1300 section of Shirase mode and be subject to cheerful, relaxing pop-like music because the other player started up a round of Sakura.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: In Ti, the message you get for going through a section fast enough reads "COOL!!" But go too slow and you get..."REGRET!!"?
- Catch-Phrase: "Ready, go!", spoken by a distinct robotic voice at the start of each game.
- Challenge Gamer: If you're playing this game, and are not one (nor were you introduced to it by a friend), you're probably playing the wrong Tetris.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In TGM 1 and 2, the HUD text turns gold when you reach 20G speed. In TGM 3, the divider line in the level counter turns completely red.
- Cosmetic Award: Beginning in The Absolute, medals are given out for fulfilling certain conditions:
- ST (Section Time): Coming close to or beating the current section time record.
- SK (Skill): Making a large number of Tetrises.
- AC (All Clear): Clearing all blocks from the playing field.
- CO (Combo): Making combosnote .
- RO (Rotation): Maintaining a large average number of rotations per piece. Not available in Terror-Instinct.
- RE (Recovery): Having a large 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 well in 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.
- Difficulty by Acceleration: TGM does this in a manner different from most other Tetris games. Your level increases just from dropping pieces and clearing lines, instead of having to clear a set number of lines. To offset this, the game doesn't increase drop speed at every level, only at set thresholds, and in fact there's two points in most games where the drop speed temporarily decreases. Then the game takes this trope 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. Subsequent games in the TGM series further make things even faster by hastening several aspects of the game, such as the time before a piece locks down and how fast the line clear animation plays.
- 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 pointless, but once you get the hang of it, it makes overhangs much less of a time-waster.
- 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.
- In TGM3 Master, play too fast in one section for a COOL and you'll have to play almost just as fast for the next section's COOL, which means you can get screwed out of the invisible roll for having a strong early game only to choke later on.
- 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.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first game does not have any form of instant drop, uses your on-screen score as a basis for your grade, and only allows changing VS mode availability in an operator menu.
- Easier Than Easy: TGM4's Konoha mode was going to be this; all pieces are doubled in size and the S and Z blocks never appear.
- Endless Game: Averted. Unlike most traditional Tetris games, the TGM series does not have an endless mode of any sort, with the sole exception of versus mode in the original game.
- Fake Difficulty: Averted for the most part, as the games go out of their way to challenge the player without resorting to clunky mechanics or deliberately trolling the player, but the game has some with regards to the I-piece. In games prior to TGM 3, I-pieces are very difficult to manipulate at 20G speeds. A horizontally-oriented I can only rotate if there are two empty cells under the third block from the left. This means if an I is horizontally oriented and on a completely flat surface and you try to get it into a one-cell-wide shaft on the leftmost or rightmost column, it can't rotate. TGM 3 corrects this with "floor kicks"—the I can "kick off" the floor to rotate into a vertical position once.
- Fission Mailed: In TGM3, after a promotional exam, the result is shown on a roulette with "pass" and "fail". The results screen cycles them and stops on "fail," and if you actually passed it will replace it with "pass" and celebratory fireworks. The effect is stronger the higher the grade you were testing for.
- Gaiden Game: TGM ACE.
- Game-Breaking Bug:
- TGM3 has four frames of input lagnote . In a game where less than five frames can make the difference between superplay and disaster, this can be enough to break a run if you don't take it into account.
- TGM2015's C button, intended as a Lag Cancel button, was also accidentally implemented as a clockwise rotation button.
- Guide Dang It!:
- TGM 1 explicitly indicates the amount of points needed to go up a grade...but at S9, the required points is simply displayed as "??????". As it turns out, not only is there a score threshold (126,000 points), but there are also "checkpoints" throughout the game that check your current grade and time; failing any of these checkpoints' quotas means you won't get the GM rank. None of this is hinted at in-game.
- The exact workings of subsequent games' grade systems are even more obfuscated. TGM 2 and TGM 2+ don't show your progress towards the next grade (your score is shown, but your score has nothing to do with your grade), and TGM 3 only shows your grade at the very end.
- Harder Than Hard: TAP's T.A. Death, Ti's Shirase, ACE's Another and Another 2, and TGM4's Rounds.
- Interface Screw
- Invisible roll. That is all.
- 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.
- In TGM3 Master mode, if you are doing bad compared to your qualified rank, the game will quietly hand out a "demotional exam", in which you must meet or exceed your qualified rank or it will be decreased by one level; this is indicated by the playfield, pieces and all, occasionally shaking as you play.
- Kyu and Dan Ranks: The 9-to-1-then-S1-to-S9 grade system is very similar to these.
- Lag Cancel: TGM2015's C button removes the delay for fast horizontal movement and turns sonic drop into a standard hard drop when held down. Unfortunately, it's also a clockwise rotation button.
- Lighter and Softer: TGM4 was developed with a theme of "kindness" and incorporated pretty flowery graphics to that end. See for yourself. Big step down from Terror-Instinct to this, isn't 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 six Ti GMs, with only one from outside Japan. note That said, the series is actually some of the fairest games in the Tetris franchise.
- 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 claimed that level 1,300 (the highest level reached so far) was also a torikan, but leaked data proved that there's nothing past level 1,300.
- Press Start to Game Over: In most games, a casual player might last about 3-4 minutes before topping out, albeit playing extremely slowly by the game's standards. But in Ti, players who don't know what "Shirase" entails might pick it wondering what the mode is, promptly crap their pants over the ridiculous lock speeds, and get a Game Over in about ten seconds. At least in TAP, "T.A. Death", to the Japanese non-reader's eye, sounds like a mode that newbies should stay away from.
- 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: In TGM3, the developers decided to go above and beyond the existing ranks up to S9, inserting 14 new grades: the ranks m1 to m9, and then Master, MasterK, MasterV, MasterO, MasterM, before getting to Grand Master.
- Recurring Riff: Several tracks throughout the series reference "Hardening Drops", the level 0-499 BGM from the original TGM, including the Master 0-499 and 500-699 tracks from TGM 2, as well as BGM 1 and BGM 3 from TGM 3. In essence, "Hardening Drops" is to TGM as "Korobeiniki" is to the Tetris franchise as a whole.
- 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.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: A handful, from playing one-handed, to playing TAP's normally 2-player Doubles mode by yourself, to the infamous "form a '>' sign in the playing field" challenge (which the game recognizes, and will give you a secret grade for doing so).
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Each succcessive game (except ACE) gets faster and faster, and the GM rank more difficult to get. While the first game is comparatively easy to get a GM grade in, in the 10 years since Terror-Instinct was released, only six people have managed to get a GM grade.
- Serial Escalation: The games strive to push the limits of speed.
- Serious Business: Surgeon General's Warning - Watching videos of people playing TGM may cause harm to your perception of Tetris as a mere casual game.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Each piece has its own unique sound that plays whenever the piece associated with it is next.
- 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.
- Spiritual Successor: To Sega's Tetris games.
- 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.
- In TGM 2+'s Doubles mode, if one player completes Level 300 before the other, they keep playing, but they will be locked into 20G fall speed until the other player finishes.
- The Tetris Effect: Just as bad as the main Tetris games. Probably even worse, especially if you can get into this game.
- This Is a Drill: TGM2 and TAP's level 800-899 background.
- 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.
- Timed Mission:
- In TAP's T.A. Death mode, if you take more than 3 minutes and 25 seconds to reach level 500, the game will end at level 500 with no grade given.
- In Eternal Heart, Story Mode has a 20 minute time limit throughout the entire game that cant be increased.
- In TGM3:
- In Master mode, the game also ends early if you reach level 500 and take more than 7 minutes to do so, unless you're in a Promotional Exam, in which case the game will allow you to play all the way to level 999 regardless of speed.EXCELLENT
let's go better next time
- Shirase has two timed checkpoints: one at level 500 and another at level 1000 (the game has a total of 1300 levels). The checkpoints in Classic Rule require shorter times than the corresponding World Rule checkpoints.
- Sakura mode has both a stage timer and a game timer, both of which tick concurrently. Running out of level time will advance you to the next stage, but will reduce your "stages cleared" percentage, while running the game timer out results in a Game Over. You can skip a stage, but it will take 30 seconds off the game timer. The stage timer and stage skipping are disabled during EX stages.
- In Master mode, the game also ends early if you reach level 500 and take more than 7 minutes to do so, unless you're in a Promotional Exam, in which case the game will allow you to play all the way to level 999 regardless of speed.
- True Final Boss: The invisible credit rolls of TGM2 and TGM3.
- 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.
- While TGM2's and TGM3's Big Block Modes correct this (movement is now 2 cells at a time), this isn't the case for Stage EX3 of TGM3's Sakura Mode, which goes back to TGM1's Big Mode behavior.
- Violation of Common Sense: The best way to score in TGM3's Easy mode is not to make Tetrises. Instead, you earn more "Hanabi" points by dropping consecutive pieces that clear lines.
- A Winner Is You: "YOU ARE GRAND MASTER!"
- Womb Level: A number of TGM1's backgrounds are biology-themed:
- Level 0-99: Blood cells (except tinted blue).
- Level 100-199: Sperm.
- Level 200-299: Vine-like things.
- Level 500-599: Neurons.
- Level 800-899: A human brain.
- Level 900-999: A human fetus.
- Word Salad Title: Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 PLUS, Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct and Tetris: The Grand Master 4 - The Masters of Round. Whew, that's a mouthful.
Let's go better next time