Tetris 99 is a free-to-play falling-block puzzle game developed by Arika and released digitally by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch on February 13, 2019. It requires a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to access.
Building on the standard Tetris formula, Tetris 99 puts players in large-scale 99-player competitive Tetris matches with the goal of being the only player remaining. Each player controls their own Tetris board and attempt to survive as the game becomes faster, while sending "garbage blocks" to other players (using a contextual targeting system). This game alteration formula was later used for Super Mario Bros. 35 (which is based on Super Mario Bros.) and Pac-Man 99 (which is based on Pac-Man).
In addition to themed events (where players can earn special skins for the game, some of which are based on other Nintendo franchises), the game received new game modes through both updates and paid DLC (including offline modes, such as classic one-player Tetris, standard play against AI bots, and LAN multiplayer).
Despite being a free-to-play game, the game later received a retail release on August 9 (in Japan), September 6 (in North America), and September 20 (in Europe). This version includes the Big Block DLC, as well as a download code for a 12-Month Nintendo Switch Online subscription.
The game plays like a traditional game of Tetris, following the official Tetris Guideline specification closely (with the Super Rotation System, the Hold Piece system, both Soft and Hard Drops, and a six-count Next Piece system).
Players can customize their controls in the following ways:
- Control Type - Tetrimino movement (left/right) and Soft Drops (down) using either D-Buttons/D-Pad (default) or the L-Stick.
- Tetrimino Rotation - Tetrimino movement using either all four face buttons (default), one of two sets of face buttons (X/Y or B/A), or the shoulder buttons (L/R). X/B/L rotate counter-clockwise, while Y/A/R rotate clockwise.
- Hard Drop - Whether to use the up motion of the chosen Control Type (default) or a chosen face/shoulder button, to perform a Hard Drop. Those with D-Buttons/D-Pad controls can choose between High Sensitivity (for D-Buttons) and Low Sensitivity (for D-Pad). Can be disabled entirely.
- Hold - Whether to use either shoulder button (default) or any shoulder/face button to swap Hold Pieces.
- Adjust Strategy - Whether to use the R-Stick (default), the non-chosen Control Type to change targeting modes. Can use a chosen face/shoulder button instead, cycling between each mode.
- Adjust Targeting - Whether to use the non-chosen Control Type (default) or the R-Stick to control the targeting cursor.
Garbage & Targeting
In standard Tetris 99 modes, players attack and defeat opponents by sending lines of "garbage" blocks to their pending queues. As with standard Tetris rules, all appearing garbage lines push everything in the player's playfield up while generating rows of blocks with only one random column empty. Pending queues can be negated by clearing lines.
The amount of garbage lines sent on each line clear are based on multiple criteria: by clearing multiple lines at once, by performing consecutive line clears (or "combos"), by performing T-Spin clears, and by being targeted by multiple opponents at once.
As players knock out players, they earn KO Badges that, when full, give a percentage boost to the amount of garbage lines sent (up to four full Badges, which sends double the amount). Knocking out players with Badges gives the player all of their Badges.
While players can switch targets manually using the targeting cursor, they can also enable four automatic targeting modes (which can be switched at any time):
- Badges - Targets stronger opponents with the most amount of KO Badges held.
- KO's - Targets weaker opponents whose garbage queue makes them close to defeat.
- Attackers - Targets opponents who are targeting them, as a form of defense. This allows players to send garbage blocks to multiple opponents at once.
- Random - Targets opponents at random.
Since Version 2.1, both Tetris 99 and Team Battle modes allow players to play private "Password Matches".
- Tetris 99 - Standard 99-player one-against-all match. CPU bots are used if the game starts with a lower player count.
- Tetris 99 Invictus - An elite version of Tetris 99 hidden from the start (requiring a victory in Tetris 99 Mode to unlock). Along with a more challenging set of opponents, this mode has a higher speed level curve. Added with Version 2.0.
- Team Battle - Team-based variant of Tetris 99, where players are split into four teams (Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green). Targeting strategies are changed, replacing K.O's, Random, and Badges with a preference to each opposing team. Players can spectate matches after their defeat, distributing a "Like" to a chosen teammate to cheer them on. Players earn extra EXP depending on their team's placement. Added with Version 2.1.
- 2P Share Battle - Local split-screen multiplayer variant of Tetris 99 with two human players and 96 CPU bots (of a chosen difficulty level). Players can choose how many full K.O. Badges each player starts with. It is the only mode that allows players to use single Joy-Cons, restricting their ability to target opponents. Added with Version 2.0 and requires the Big Block DLC.
- Local Arena - Local wireless multiplayer variant of Tetris 99, allowing up to eight consoles (with the rest filled in with CPU bots). Added with Version 2.0and requires the Big Block DLC.
- CPU Battle - Single-player variant of Tetris 99, with 98 CPU bots (of a chosen difficulty level). Players can choose how many full K.O. Badges to start with. Added with Version 2.0 and requires the Big Block DLC.
- Marathon - Single-player classic score mode with no opponents, as players clear as many lines as they can with a rising speed level. Players can choose from "150 Lines" mode and "999 Lines" modes, which determines when the game is ended with a "clear". The "150 Lines" mode, reminiscent of Sprint Mode from other games, allow players to choose the starting speed level. Added with Version 2.0 and requires the Big Block DLC.
Each of the base themes cost 15 tickets to unlock
- Default Theme (unlocked by default)
- Scary Castle
- Toy Blocks
- Super Mario Bros.
- The Legend of Zelda
- Donkey Kong
Each of these themes appeared in special events called the "Maximus Cup", which for a weekend only allowed that specific theme in Tetris 99 mode. These themes usually correspond to the release of another first-party Nintendo Switch game, with some themes returning for a later Maximus Cup (such as the Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield theme returning for those games' expansion packs).
Players who unlock 100 "event points" (which are acquired by playing the game) unlock that theme for free. Most of these were later made available for 30 tickets each. As of the release of Special Theme 20, only Special Theme 1 - Special Theme 10 are available to purchase.
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