Before Tetris exploded in popularity on the Game Boy, Sega made their own arcade version of the legendary block stacker. From what I gather, a port of this title for the Sega Genesis was in the works before being canned. I’ve also heard that Sega’s arcade version was well-regarded during its time. Finally, it’s arrived as part of the Sega Genesis Mini. Was it worth the wait?
As with any other title in the series, you’re tasked with dropping shapes down a well. Your pieces will disappear when you create complete rows of blocks. If your stack gets to the top, you lose. Losing is an inevitability, as your blocks won’t always fit neatly and the drop speed of the blocks will get too fast. Before that happens, you want to get the highest score possible.
Tetris on the Sega Genesis Mini was created before the implementation of the modern rule set. You won’t get a hold queue, the bag-style randomization, or T-spins here. There’s a little bit of leeway when it comes to sliding or rotating pieces on the ground, but it’s a far cry from the infinite spin we get these days. This is classic Tetris, which can be incredibly unforgiving if RNGesus isn’t on your side.
Even so, classic Tetris can still be a blast to play. Many still cite the Game Boy version as being the best in the series, while the NES version is going through a renaissance as the go-to choice for competitive play. There’s still fun to be had with its classic core gameplay, but Genesis Tetris is not on the same level as its Nintendo counterparts.
For starters, this is a bare bones experience. In single player mode, you can’t adjust your starting speed or your music. The one tune in the game features a really cheesy melody that pales in comparison to the classics tunes in Nintendo’s versions. As for the lack of speed settings, skilled players who want the thrill of high speeds are going to have to grind to get there every time.
This game does have two-player, which the NES version is sorely lacking. However, it doesn’t work the way you think it would. Standard competitive Tetris rules have taught us that completing multi-row clears will send junk blocks to our foes. Not so in this version. This is just two instances of Tetris running side-by-side, which takes away from the combative nature of head-to-head Tetris. Then again, some may prefer the “score attack” focus of this mode, though the option of adding junk blocks would have been nice. Furthermore, there still aren’t any sort of speed or presentation options to adjust to your liking.
Both classic Nintendo versions still look good by today’s standards off the strength of its clean art direction. By comparison, Sega’s version has aged poorly, as its attempt at highly-detailed background visuals looks like pixelated messes now. Some of the later levels look nice, but a few are particularly garish, such as level 1 with its brown smear set to a blue sky.
An even larger miss is the game’s music. Nintendo’s versions got blessed with amazing music that’s still being referenced today in modern entries. Sega’s version only has two songs: the default song and the music that kicks in if your stack is almost at the top. Neither are all that enjoyable to listen to.
Most problematic to me was the sloppy feel of its gameplay. As soon as a block is dropped into play, there’s a subtle window of time where you can’t rotate the piece. Having gotten used to being able to rotate immediately, this delay feels unsettling, especially when you can slide and drop pieces right away.
Despite my criticisms, I’m glad that Tetris on the Sega Genesis Mini finally gets its time in the sun. It certainly has that Star Fox 2 appeal of unearthing a game previously lost to time. Also, it’s still Tetris at its core, so the block stacking gameplay will always be enjoyable at some level. However, this one has aged rather poorly and there are number of other versions of classic Tetris that are more worthy of your attention.
[Purchasing through this Amazon affiliate link gives me a small commission without adding any extra cost or effort to you. Thanks for your support!]