It’s about time I reviewed some video games for Sharkberg! I’ve decided to begin with some puzzle games–and what better puzzle game to start off with than Hanagumi Taisen Columns?
Hanagumi Taisen Columns is what you get when you combine Sakura Wars with Columns to create a DOUBLE SPIN-OFF, in which characters from Sakura Wars decide to play Columns against one another for arbitrary reasons. I can hear your head spinning! “Sockura Words? Call-ems? What the hell are you talking about, Reset Tears?”
Sakura Wars is a series of games in Japan that mashed together tactical RPG gaming with visual novel storytelling, set in an alternate early 1900’s Japan, featuring a colorful cast that fought off demonic creatures with steampunk mechabots. They also conducted plays at a theatre! It’s great, but the games are all in Japanese (Exception! There is the PS2/Wii title Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love).
Columns, meanwhile, is a falling blocks puzzle game in which stacks of three gems are moved left and right and cycled about. You want to clear rows (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) of three matching gems, and get as high a score as you can before the pile of gems reaches the top of the screen. “So… it’s Tetris?” NO! IT’S NOT TETRIS!
For whatever reason Columns didn’t catch on like certain other puzzle games, which is really too bad, because Columns is loads of fun. The gems pile up fast, so you really have to make every column placement count. Similar to Puyo Puyo, you want to try setting up chains in which the clearing of one set of gems will lead to the clearing of subsequent sets of gems. Also similar to Puyo Puyo, you generally are playing against an opponent, so there’s that extra urgency to rack up the points as quickly as you can–you know, before you get screwed over!
What makes this Sakura Wars-themed version of Columns for the Saturn so special? Well, there’s all the Sakura Wars characters, for one thing. Look at the chibis! They are the best. And really, I think it’s nice for puzzle games to make some attempt at having, I don’t know, some kind of visual theme to make things a little more lively and fun? Sakura Wars is lively and fun.
There’s more to Hanagumi Taisen Columns than just her looks, however. This game includes a couple more features to its competitive gameplay to make things all the more intense! As you rack up points, you are given the option to perform an attack against the other player, or perform a defensive move. The attack entails throwing a ton of colored dice onto the opponent’s screen, which will only turn into usable gems once the number of prescribed turns (up to 6) have passed. Meanwhile, the defensive move makes a number of rows at the bottom of your screen disappear. Both are handy. Both are fun. Both are FABULOUS! And if you choose to “hold,” you can wait to perform a progressively larger attack or defense once you’ve accumulated the necessary points.
Along with regular 1P and 2P play, you can also engage in a puzzle mode that gives a variety of challenges, as well as a story mode involving the characters competing for the role of Cinderella in their next play. It is as intense as it sounds, and you have to become a true Columns expert if you want to land it!
Anyways, all of you need more Columns in your life, and what better way to do so than by picking up a Japanese Sega Saturn and a copy of a Sakura Wars tie-in game?
That’s right, there is none! Life is incomplete without Sakura Wars. Life is hopeless without Columns! How fortunate you stopped by the Sharkberg today, and learned something special.