Released in 1988
Developed by Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle
Popularity Level: Los Angeles Lakers
Leonardite Rating: Totally Rad

Chase's Take:
Playing Tetris is like running on a treadmill. You know you're not going to get anywhere, yet you put forth so much effort and strain doing so. It is a classic though. Hell, it must have been if it was the default game of gameboy. Anyone who had one knows that hours could be spent starring at the little green screen. So simple, yet so frustrating. It was one of the few video games my dad actually played-that says a lot if you know my dad. Ahh, Tetris. The best thing to come out of Russia since Ruslan Nechay.

Back in the 1980's, there was one place where dreams came true. Where people dared go to space, develop new technology, and promote the common good. The name of this utopia was the Soviet Union. It was here that people knew what their job was and they did it. And if they didn't do it, they went to another utopia known as Siberia.

So everyone from the scientists to the cab drivers stayed diligent in their work to prevent the unfortunate and almost-voluntary deportation to the arctic wilderness. Yes, it was a well-oiled machine with everybody working on noble causes. Everybody except for one dork, that is.

Between naps and snack breaks, Alexey Pazhitnov made himself and his little sweater famous by inventing Tetris. At this moment I would like to thank Alexey for his contribution to the world. If it were not for him, I would not be writing this piece of internet information today. However, I'm just going to show a small timeline that I have developed. You can draw your own conclusions:

Following Pazhitnov's model performance in workplace time-wasting, word quickly spread around the world that a Soviet egghead had created an addictive puzzle game. As word filtered down from Miyamoto's gold-plated mushroom house to the drab corporate offices of Nintendo, another NES-related company was on their way to Russia to secure the rights to the game. That is why, if you decide to collect these things, you'll notice a "Tengen Tetris" on the market. This is a very rare game for two reasons: Nintendo made Tengen quit manufacturing them mere weeks after their release and also because Pazhitnov ate a crate of the cartridges.

Consequently the monster that is the Nintendo Corporation swallowed up the vastly superior Tengen cartridge and convinced an entire generation of children that they made Tetris first. The jerks.

So what we are left with is a game that is not as good as what Tetris could be. This is like dangling a Ho-Ho in front of a chubby guy on a treadmill and then when he gets off, you give him a rice cake. It's just not fair to give the public what they want momentarily and then replace it with something inferior. But, if you have $50 or so laying around, eBay can score you a copy of the Tengen cart if you want it.

With all of that said, let me say that I enjoy Nintendo's Tetris. If I am going to indulge myself by playing some titles out of the collection, Tetris is one that often springs to mind first. It's quick, it's easy, and it's pretty much a fun game to play. The first thing you'll notice when you start the game is that there is a really annoying info screen that you have to read. It sits there with its nonsense words in front of you for a seeming eternity before we finally move onto the game.

Then they show us a picture of St. Basil's Cathedral and tell us to press start. Nothing to write home about here.

Next, you have the choice of music and game modes. One of the music choices is some classical music tune that some people might know, but due to the fact that I am a straight college student I have absolutely no idea what song it is. Music 2 sounds like some sort of Indian rain dance and Music 3 is actually derived from the gypsy ritual for delousing the homeless.

If you choose Game Mode A, which most people do, you sit there in the eternal treadmill effect (thanks Chaz) that defines the nutty game of Tetris. You could sit here and play for days and barring power outages, angry parents, or cardiac arrest, the game would never end. You simply try and complete full lines until they disappear, keeping yourself away from the top of the screen forever.

After you finally hit the top and the TV explodes, you are sent to the well-known launchpad by the countryside location of St. Basil's Cathedral. If you do poorly, a rocket takes off. This progresses up to a larger rocket, then a Space Shuttle hijacked from the imperial United States, and then to the grand finale. Yes, if you really take this game behind the woodshed, the Cathedral itself blasts off into the cosmos. Who knew that a work of medieval architecture was designed with interstellar travel in mind? (Actually, in the PS1 game Soviet Strike, ICBM's take off from within the Cathedral, too. Talk about a versatile landmark.)

One more perplexing issue with Game A is that when you win, you get to put your name into the High Scores list. The first thing you need to realize is that the three high scorers Nintendo picked are actually a group of Nepali sheepherders without hands. And they have Down Syndrome. Therefore, if you can even get five blocks to fall from the top, you're going to be named a high scorer.

But the thing that always got me was high scorer number 2: Otasan. Who or what in the world is an Otasan? I understand that translations didn't always come through clearly from Japanese to English, but you can't just cop out and throw random characters down and call it a name. Just because "Ju7s*n!" is seven characters long doesn't make the string a name any more than entering "Otasan" does.

The other mode, Game B, was intended for both small children and for the exceptionally skilled. If you play Game B without increasing the level rating, you can doze off for a few hours and wake up to find that you have beaten the game on stage 9. For winning here, we are rewarded with random things flying over St. Basil's (including the Space Shuttle which is apparently running low-altitude spy missions.) However, if you win on stage 9 we inexplicably travel to some old castle where a guy is playing a violin. Don't ask.

The way to make Tetris the hardest it can be is to increase the levels. If you bump it up to level 5, it makes it quite a bit trickier to accomplish your task of completing twenty-five lines. Winning on this mode gives you all kinds of things flying over St. Basil's (like an armada of Space Shuttles. Geez, that was quite the inferiority complex the Soviets had in regards to our space program.) Like level 0, however, level 5 gives you an extra special "We love you Nintendo customer!" prize for beating it. We again go back to the mystery castle, but this time we have our favorite Nintendo characters dancing gaily (I'll let you choose the definition) to the same victory tune the game has been feeding us on the other screens. Characters include Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Link, Princess Toadstool, Mario and Luigi (who, just like in Super Mario Bros. 2, is jumping around like an idiot.) I think my favorite, though, was seeing Samus (that's right, the Metroid dude) playing a violin. I mean, the guest cameos were fun and all, but do we really need to defame the reputation of one of the baddest NES characters? Somehow, I think this Pazhitnov's fault. Or maybe it's Otasan's........

Bottom Line

If you own an NES and don't own Tetris, you are actually in violation of a goodwill treaty that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed in 1988. The treaty states:

The nations of USA and USSR hereby peacefully agree to the following terms:
  • All American children are required to buy Tetris for their video game systems
  • All Soviet children are required to buy corn meal for their goats
So unless you want to be tried in an international court, I'd strongly suggest you add this to your NES collection as soon as possible.

E-mail the Leonardite
Hi guys, I'm Alexey Pazhitnov! I'm the one who gave you Tetris. Do you like my sweater? This is Soviet-issue twill, folks.

Moments later these people all perished in the inferno-like plume that the Cathedral expelled as it blasted off into the heavens.

Most of you won't know who Chase is talking about when he mentions Ruslan Nechay. Ruslan was a Russian foreign exchange student who looked like North Dakota senator Kent Conrad, who is pictured above. Did you know that Kent is the only current legislator who has a 9.56 rating on Talk about a heartthrob.

Taken from a review of Tetris:
"The difficultly in Tetris progresses steadily. The first stage (aptly named Level Zero) features painstakingly slow blocks, that only a retarded chimp named Lucy couldn't handle. However, the speed is steadily increased each level, until at one point it becomes too much for the player."

Actually, I'm pretty sure a retarded chimp wouldn't be able to play video games at all, much less live. Note to readers: When reviewing things, phrases like "retarded chimp named Lucy" aren't funny. But phrases like "Bill Parcells is a homo" are pure gold.

A quick Google search of the word "Otasan" yielded a picture of this guy, who I assume has that name. Here's what he has to say:

"Hey, Leonardite, rockin' site. See this in my spoon? These are the guts of the last guy who made fun of my name. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.........I'm done."

Back to the NES Lair