Where we droppin!?
A big free update just shook up Tetris 99 in a big way, including a new team-based battle mode. Let’s break it down!
Teamwork makes the dream work in the new Team Battle mode. When you an enter the lobby, you’ll be tasked with selecting one of four teams. There’s no limit to how many players can be on each team, but smaller teams will get an attack boost to even things out. The winning team is the one who has one or more members remaining. Even if you get eliminated early, you still have a chance to win as part of a team.
As you would expect, the fundamentals of stacking blocks and clearing lines are the same. What’s different is the automated targeting system. Instead of receiving options for attacking players with the most KO’s, badges, or random, you target a specific team. Whether you target the team with the most players, least players, or simply defend yourself by targeting attackers, the choice is yours.
If you get eliminated, the game has a few systems in place to keep you watching till the end. You get access to a spectator mode, allowing you to see the play of others on any team. For whatever reason, you can “like” one of your teammates. Most importantly, you don’t get XP or the win should your teammates manage to seal the deal. XP in Tetris 99 doesn’t mean anything to me, but I enjoy spectating and I’ll gladly take credit for the wins.
While I prefer to operate as a lone wolf, Team Battle is an excellent addition to the game. I suspect that the vast majority of Tetris 99 players will never win a match on their own, but this mode gives many more the opportunity to experience a win. Skilled players will get the satisfaction of dueling with the opposition’s best players and leading their squads to victory. It’s a great new way to play overall.
This update also includes the ability to create private lobbies. Select Password March in Tetris 99 or Team Battle, set a code, then share that code with your friends. It’s awesome to finally have the ability to play with friends, it comes with the caveat that all remaining spots are filled with CPU opponents. If my brother and I want to play Tetris against each other, I’d rather have a direct 1v1 instead of being saddled with 97 CPU opponents.
This update only amplifies a feature that the game sorely needs: a party system. I want to queue into a standard or team-based lobby with my friends and have the rest of the competition filled in with human opponents. Without any means of identifying specific individuals on the board, there’s no way for friends to gang up on specific players in a meaningful way. I guess if you have a large enough group and you all choose the same targeting option, such as most badges, that could be a problem. Nevertheless, it would be great to find a way to make this work. Players on stream are doing countdowns and queuing in at the same time in hopes of entering the same lobby. There has to be a better way.
While this update didn’t come with new themes, it does give players the opportunity to unlock past event themes one might have missed. They come at a premium cost of 30 tickets, but it’s great to have the ability to earn themes like the Game Boy one and the Splatoon one if you missed them the first time around.
Finally, Tetris 99 includes even more control options to fine tune your experience. You can map most functions to any button, including hard drop. You can also disable hard drop from the d-pad. Besides customization options generally being a good thing, the ability to control hard drop inputs is a godsend for pro controller players who get routinely burned by accidental hard drops triggered by its imprecise d-pad. Nintendo really should address the d-pad issues on those controllers, but at least there are fixes in this one game.
Tetris 99 has come a long way. Launching with just one mode and essentially zero options, this game continues to grow and thanks to continuous support from Nintendo. Adding the Team Battle mode opens the door for more players to enjoy the game in a less intimidating manner. Private lobbies, more control options, and the ability to unlock previously exclusive themes are great additions as well. Now how much longer do we have to wait for a proper party system?
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