Thursday
Aug162018

QCF: Lumines Remastered 

s many can attest, falling-block type puzzle games are my jam. I love me some Tetris, Dr. Mario, Panel De Pon…you name it. If it has a block that falls and can be combinated with others for big score payouts, I'm there. One such game that I've spent a lot of time with over the course of its existence through many iterations of the franchise is Lumines, originally released on the PSP in 2005 with numerous sequels finding their way mainly to Sony consoles and handhelds with the odd installment appearing on XBLA.

Lumines ended up being one of the more addictive puzzle games I've played, going so far as instilling intense “Tetris-Effect” visions of the playfield on shower tile walls, square linoleum patterns on the floor, even just in my creeping subconscious with my eyes closed before drifting to sleep. At a certain point, I was also one of the best players in the world, holding high, top-10 rankings in the XBLA version and utterly crushing all of the local competition.

And while later versions of the game would feature fancy visuals and some truly amazing tunes – Heavenly Star from Lumines II is probably the best “skin” the series will ever see. The original will still always, and forever be what Lumines is to me, with the most nostalgic setlist and some of the best music the series has seen after all this time.  Moreover, that's where Lumines Remastered for the Nintendo Switch comes into play: At its core, Lumines Remastered is the definitive release of the original Lumines, complete with every track, mode and challenge the original featured, all with a high-def coat of paint and a serious upscaling in terms of its audio fidelity.

Playing Lumines is a pretty simple affair. Players arrange various square blocks in a 2-by-2 configuration comprised of up to two colors. Players can rotate these blocks 90 degrees at a time, both in a clockwise and counterclockwise manner, just like in Tetris. Gravity affects all block segments, meaning that if one half of a block land on another, it part that doesn't connect will drop down until it meets another part of the player's structure or the bottom of the playfield.

These blocks can be arranged to make 2-by-2 squares of a single color which are cleared by a sweeping timeline set to the tempo of the music playing in any particular stage. Some stages can get crowded fast if too many blocks clutter the field without being cleared by a rapid timeline while others allow for a slow, drawn out, massive combo that makes for a great field cleanser. Keeping this in mind, the more 2-by-2 squares are cleared at a time, the better the combo bonus will be. Getting a bunch of 2-by-2 squares in one sweep can be a pretty creative process too; having a mass of single color block segments in, say, a 3-by-3 configuration will result in 4 blocks. A 4-by-4 mass would result in 9. These masses can be stuck together in a number of ways, including corners, and protrusions but as long as the colors on the field make a 2-by-2 block of any kind, it counts towards clearing them from the playfield.

There will times when the pieces provided by the game may not line up due to player error or because no portions are available to match up into squares on the playfield. Every now and again, a block with a glowing bit attached to one of the two colors will be provided to clear a bunch of these junk segments from the screen. So long as two or more block segments including the glowing bit are touching and connected, they will be cleared from the screen when the timeline sweeps by. This, in turn, can help in creating a ton of new squares which are subsequently cleared away.

Outside of the square combo bonuses, there are additional bonuses for players looking to score high; clearing a single color from the board will grant the player 1000 points, while clearing the whole field results in a 10000-point bonus. Especially in earlier stages, getting multiple single-color or all-clear bonuses can really boost the player's score. But the normal challenge mode is far from all that Lumines Remastered offers for players to push their skills to the limit by way of Lumines' core mechanics.

Time attack mode has players try to get as many squares cleared away in 60, 180 and 300 seconds. Puzzle mode challenges players to create specific shapes and pattern in as quick a time as possible over the course of 100 unique stages. Vs, CPU pits the player against an AI opponent through several stages. Mission Mode presents players with yet another 50 stages' worth of special clear conditions. And, of course, local multiplayer pits two players against one another in the ultimate battle of wits and ingenuity.

And that's all outside of the main Challenge mode! There are a huge amount of unique stages in Lumines, each with their own music, accompanying effects, and tempos known as Skins. It takes about an hour for the average player to make their way through them all in one go and the music for each will play through in accordance to how many blocks are cleared by the player; get rid a of a ton of blocks really quickly and the skin will change to the next one in sequence faster. Take too long, and the bar of music playing will loop until certain amounts of squares are cleared. All of the skins in the main challenge mode can be unlocked to be used in the additional Skin Edit mode in which players can choose and arrange up to 10 skins for a single set or infinite play.

A number of other skins can be unlocked by completing various challenges and modes as well, with a total of 40 available when all is said and done. Other options like character avatars can be unlocked in the same manner; some of these avatars require an insane amount of skill to unlock though!

Outside of the same tunage and sounds, the general UI in Lumines Remastered has received a heavy overhaul from its PSP iteration, featuring new menu music and sharp backgrounds befitting of the Switch's HD 720p screen and Full-HD, 1080p output. But there are slight issues with these upgrades, especially visually as some of the game's skins jostle around with each directional press in-game. This can actually can lead to headaches and there's no way to turn it off. And, while I love me the music in Lumines generally speaking, the menu music is kind of irritating. Of course, I'll also concede that some skins in Lumines since the very beginning really get under my skin; “Just...,” “Dark Side Beside the River,” “Da-Di-Do,” “Take a Dog Out a Walk,” “Meguro,” and “Spirits” are absolutely my least favorite of the lot. High-fidelity crap is just smellier crap, if we're calling it what it is. But it's all balanced out by the brilliant intro track, “Shinin',” great fillers like “Sister Walk,” and “I hear the Music in My Soul” and the epic finale, “Lights” which man—is just; totally worth it.

One other new addition is a fully functional leaderboard allowing players to stack themselves up with other players around the world for each, and every single-player mode present in the game. As if the content already present here wasn't enough, this newly added feature lends immense replay value to Lumines Remastered based on score chasing and time attack alone.

Like the PSP version of the original Lumines, players can take Lumines Remastered with them anywhere they might be thanks to the Switch being a pretty powerful handheld. But it also allows for a Lumines that can be played on a huge screen with a robust sound system and all with no concessions made to its content: The PlayStation 2's Lumines Plus played fine, sure, but it was missing the original's best music, leaving the worst tracks to make up a higher percentage of the game. To that end, given its huge wealth of challenging content, Lumines Remastered is the best, most balanced version of the original game you'll find and it's still, to this day, what Lumines is and always will be to me, minor flaws and all.

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