Today is the 30th anniversary of the original Soviet release of Tetris. Over the years people’s ways of playing the game have changed as new editions are continually released. One reason I’m taking a look back at how I’ve played the game is to size up Ubisoft’s newly announced Tetris Ultimate and see what it’ll have to do in order to matter.
The most widely-known version of Tetris is probably the original Game Boy version — reliable and straightforward, even today. I know this because I didn’t actually own it until it came out on 3DS Virtual Console. That’s the version I actually got back into recently. Having Tetris instantly accessible on the 3DS is actually a pretty powerful thing. It pretty much ensures I’ll play the game at least once every time I turn the device on.
The version of Tetris I first got attached to though is one that’s probably pretty obscure yet likely central to a lot of people’s enjoyment of the game — a Texas Instruments graphing calculator version (in my case ZTetris on the TI-83). Among the various games kids traded on those things in high school Tetris may have been the most popular. It’s where I first got good at the game. It’s pretty much just basic black blocks and no sound (though it does have the instant drop feature), but it was the only thing you could get away with having exposed in a classroom.
In my opinion however the version to beat today is Nintendo’s 2006 Tetris DS. It’s pretty much been my measuring stick for every new version of the game since its release. It’s got the features you’d expect, but in my experience has especially sharp controls. Because of that it’s the version of Tetris I’m best at. It’s also the only version I was ever even slightly competitive with, having dabbled in its online mode. Whenever a new version comes out I still think to myself “Do I really need another version when I still have my copy of Tetris DS?”
I guess it’s a hassle to have to take out my physical copy of Tetris DS, and the servers that run its multiplayer just went down with Nintendo WiFi Connection’s closing. A fresh new digital version would be nice. Ubisoft’s touted social features for Ultimate might also be nice if enough of my friends bought in, in a way similar to Need For Speed’s autolog. The game would probably be much more appealing if released on a handheld like the 3DS or Vita (I can’t play Tetris without buttons).
Come to think of it, will any version of Tetris ever be as ubiquitous or iconic as the original Game Boy one? I don’t know how popular mobile versions are, but I don’t remember any version being particularly popular for multiplayer other than the Game Boy one (and maybe ZTetris). Maybe if Ultimate can get enough publicity, but it’s hard to tell.