Interview: Mizuki Hosoyamada on Puyo Puyo Tetris 2

Sega producer talks worldwide launch, new features, and expert level play.

Tetris is by far one of the most recognisable games of all time. Less known has been Puyo Puyo, which went through various localised changes earlier on, from Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine to the time it was rebranded as Puyo Pop.

But after receiving its belated international breakout in 2017, the surprise crossover Puyo Puyo Tetris is back with a sequel that’s not only receiving a worldwide simultaneous release but also across console generations this December (with the PC version to follow in 2021). Puyo Puyo Tertis 2 brings a brand new charming RPG-style campaign that introduces newcomers to its puzzle mechanics and also includes a brand new party-style Skill Battle mode.

Ahead of its release, we had the opportunity to ask questions to Puyo Puyo Tetris 2’s producer Mizuki Hosoyamada. Having started at Sega on Sonic Team since 2002 with Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, he’s also worked extensively on every subsequent Puyo Puyo title and is now the executive/general producer of the Puyo Puyo series.

TSA: What made you decide to make a sequel to Puyo Puyo Tetris instead of another purely Puyo Puyo title?

Mizuki: The previous iteration of the game was sold in Japan in 2014 and in the West in 2017. Since it’s been quite some time since then, with many new features made possible on next gen consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, we decided it was time to create an all-new Puyo Puyo Tetris experience for both our core and new fans across platforms, including next-gen. For the Puyo Puyo series, we released Puyo Puyo Chronicles [for 3DS] in 2016 in Japan only and Puyo Puyo eSports in 2018 [released internationally as Puyo Puyo Champions in 2019). Since the Puyo Puyo series and Puyo Puyo Tetris have been slowly selling titles after their release, this was the optimal timing to release the sequel for Puyo Puyo Tetris.

TSA: How well has the Puyo Puyo series done internationally since Puyo Puyo Tetris? Was that a factor into why Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is getting a simultaneous worldwide release – and even a couple days before Japan?

Mizuki: The response to Puyo Puyo Tetris has exceeded our expectations and we’ve received many requests for the Puyo Puyo series to be released in the West. The characters and storyline of the Puyo Puyo series have been very well received, so when we announced Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, we were met with quite a bit of positive feedback. When we held an event overseas, we received requests from fans to release Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 at the same time across the world instead of in Japan first, so we decided to release it almost simultaneously. It looks like the date is earlier in the West than in Japan, but when you take into account the time difference, it’s pretty close to being simultaneous.

TSA: Newcomers to the game might just stick to what they know. Is it possible to just play Tetris or just Puyo, or does Adventure mode help ease players into each of the mode’s strengths?

Mizuki: You are able to play just Tetris or just Puyo Puyo. There are time attack and score attack online rankings available for 40 Lines and Endless Puyo Puyo this time around as well.

Playing Adventure Mode allows you to enjoy each of them, but there are also many Puyo Puyo fans who fell in love with Tetris and Tetris fans who fell in love with Puyo Puyo in the previous Puyo Puyo Tetris game by playing the Adventure Mode, so we wanted to get the fans to be mutually excited about the action puzzle together. As a result, I think it has helped players to understand both games better.

TSA: Puyo Puyo Tetris came with a pretty robust lessons mode, but are there any plans to introduce the even more high-level expert set-ups in each mode (e.g. GTR)? Most of these are known among the community but I can also imagine will go over the head of newcomers who can’t comprehend what tactics their opponent pulled off.

Mizuki: When you play the lesson mode, we think of it as an introduction to the basics as well as a chance for beginners to level up to an intermediate level. As for the higher levels, you’ll eventually need to get used to the shapes and patterns to know how to build the foundations, but beyond that you’ll need to understand the basics of stair stacking, key stacking, and folding to build up a large chain, so we’re focusing on that part of the game.

I believe that watching videos of other people playing is the best way to improve. I also believe there’s something you can learn by figuring it out on your own rather than through teaching. There are many other techniques, such as quick attacks and crushing, but we avoid content that is too hard for beginners to learn.

TSA: What was the inspiration behind Skill Battles?

Mizuki: Puyo Puyo Chronicle, released in 2016 on the Nintendo 3DS in Japan and parts of Asia only, uses “skill battles” while Tetris Battle Gaiden, released on the Super Famicom in 1993, had some “special move” features. Using skills in a puzzle game was inspired in part by the past Puyo Puyo and Tetris series titles. With the “Skill Battle” rules we’ve created a new mode, but for some people this is the first time they’ve played Puyo Puyo or Tetris, so even newcomers can enjoy it. If you are already familiar with these older games, we hope you’ll feel a little nostalgic when playing this new rule set.

TSA: If characters have different skills, is there a danger some players will be forced to pass over their favourites in favour of another character with a more desired skill?

Mizuki: For Skill Battle you can choose three characters, so we hope you’ll add other characters to your team in addition to your favourite and use their skills.

TSA: Are modes from the first Puyo Puyo Tetris (i.e. Swap and Fusion) also making a return and are they part of the ranked modes?

Mizuki: They are included, and you can play online ranked matches in the ‘Puzzle League’.

TSA: Free play mode is the casual mode but is that still lobby based with friends or can you match up with anyone?

Mizuki: Some specs may vary depending on the console you’re playing on, but the Free Play mode allows you to create rooms and play against other players without changing your rating or tier, or you can join rooms that have already been created.

(In the PlayStation 4 version, selecting a room tag or number of players will move you to the room screen; in the PlayStation 5 version, the game will automatically match up your opponents and move you to the room screen.)

TSA: I think the community has found that advanced Tetris players have a huge advantage over Puyo players. Has there been a way to address this imbalance in the sequel?

Mizuki: We think it’s difficult to perfect the balance of Puyo Puyo vs. Tetris and it will likely be something that we’ll pursue forever. We are constantly working on the balance of the existing rules, but we are also making adjustments to the new rules, so be sure to check them out.

TSA: Puyo Puyo has a history of its characters’ audio corresponding to your chain power, which later included visuals. What is the thought process behind Puyo Puyo Tetris’ battle animations?

Mizuki: I’m sure you’re very familiar with the original Puyo Puyo series which, along with the evolution of the consoles (being able to play voices, higher resolution visuals, etc.), allowed for the inclusion of chain voices and cut-ins with character animations. In the previous title, Puyo Puyo Tetris, the voices were displayed at the bottom of the field in order to meet the demand for Puyo Puyo and Tetris, but some people felt that the presentation was bland. In Puyo Puyo Champions the presentation was flashy, but in Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, we added even more flair to the game. There are many extravagant features that won’t affect the progress of the game so that fans and spectators alike can enjoy it.

TSA: The number 24 has a lot of significance in Puyo Puyo and I noticed that in past games that has also meant a limit of 24 characters in the roster. With Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 breaking this limit with 28 characters at launch, is this the start of future Puyo games having bigger rosters with both new and returning characters, perhaps crossovers from other SEGA IP?

Mizuki: I’d like to release as many characters as possible, but there’s a lot of work that goes into creating each one, so I’ve been narrowing it down and making it into a ‘24’ character series. However, this time we’re going to push it a bit further and release 28 characters. In the past, we’ve added some extra characters beyond the 24 characters, but I hope you’ll look forward to them.

TSA: Japan already has very established national Puyo Puyo tournaments, but internationally these exist on a much smaller community-run scale (such as the efforts of Puyo GB in the UK). The current pandemic has obviously impacted on a lot of plans at the moment but do Sega have plans on establishing or supporting official Puyo Puyo tournaments on an international scale?

Mizuki: We have been running events and tournaments in Japan for Puyo Puyo Champions, and we will also be running a national online tournament. We’re working to make it easier for fans to organize tournaments and other events. We’ve also previously supported Puyo Puyo Tetris at AnimEVO in Las Vegas and Stunfest in France with staff from Sega of America and Sega Europe. We have no plans for Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 at this time, but we would love to have you join these events and competitions.

TSA: Given the surprise of Tetris 99, were there any plans on making something similar with Puyo Puyo, e.g. Puyo Puyo 99?

Mizuki: We had planned this a long time ago but gave it up for various reasons. We don’t currently have any plans, but we’re always thinking about multiplayer gameplay.

Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 will launch worldwide on December 8th, 2020 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch, followed by a PC release in 2021. We’d like to thank Mizuki Hosoyamada for taking the time to answer our Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 questions.