SGDQ Will Have Another Hype Tetris Block

We explore the hype surrounding the Tetris Grand Master games regularly featuring at SGDQ and AGDQ.

Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) is just around the corner, and will be held at the Marriott City Centre in Minneapolis, MN from 2nd to 9th July.  The event features speed runs of classic games for charity, and this year, the chosen charity is Doctors without Borders. Classic puzzler Tetris always features as a grand master iteration – this year, Tetris: The Grand Master and Tetris: The Grand Master 3 – Terror Instinct. These differ to most modern Tetris games and are tailored to suit the hype of the arcades or even a live championship.

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We took a look at how these games differ to what you’re used to, and tell you when you can catch them online. 

Tetris: The Grand Master

Tetris TGM is more challenging compared to normal Tetris games you would play at home. Interestingly, while most of us know Tetris from its popularity on Nintendo consoles, in Japan, Sega Tetris is more common. The rules and gameplay in the TGM games, created by Ichiro Mihara and developed by Japanese based Arika, are more closely aligned to Sega Tetris. As speed runner Qlex explains in the header video commentary, this means that you have to make many decisions in a shorter amount of time than at home, like whether you can rotate pieces off the top of the screen and how high a stack can go.

Given its popularity in the arcades and that this was previously only available in Japan, for a long time only Japanese players achieved grandmaster status. This changed in 2015 when, as Kotaku reported, Kevin “KevinDDR” Birrell became the first player outside of Japan to attain this title. Kevin is one of the regular contributors to SGDQ, and watching him complete line after line in TGM is mesmerizing and amazing!

The main difference between TGM Tetris and regular Tetris is that there is a definite end to the game. This happens when you get to Level 999. Your level goes up by 1 each time you clear a line or another piece appears on the screen. (A piece can also be referred to as a tetromino.) The exception to this is known as a “level block”. When you are about to reach a level in the hundreds (e.g. you are moving from Level 99 to Level 100), you must clear a line before you can move up to that level. Another key difference in TGM is infinite gravity. This means that the tetrominos fall as far as they can go, giving you less reaction time to rotate the pieces (or even think) as you would on a regular version. 

Exhibition mode is very fast paced and players battle it out to get to Level 999. Once you reach the end, the credits roll and the game continues until the last player reaches the final level. One downside to TGM 1 were the funky backgrounds, which can put you off and make it difficult to see the next piece coming up. As you can see from last year’s Exhibition speed run, the slowest time is just under 12 minutes – this means that the rest of us will definitely have to up our game from the Tetris we are used to!

KevinDDR and his fellow speedrunners will be playing TGM 1 on Friday July 7th from 9.45pm ET / 6.45pm PT.

Tetris : The Grand Master 3

The difficulty in TGM 3 is ramped up significantly from the previous TGM games. Firstly, there is no score counter, meaning you don’t know your score until you complete the game – you are only told what level you have reached. You also advance up levels more quickly if you match 3 or more lines. For example, if you clear 3 lines in TGM 1 or TGM 2, you advance by 6 levels as opposed to 3

The Shirase mode, which KevinDDR will be playing at the event, is at a new level of intensity. You can advance up to Level 1300, and your grade can be deducted if you take more than one minute to complete a section.

The backgrounds also seem much clearer and do not distract you when compared to TGM 1, and you have two pieces in preview mode, meaning that you can plan your strategy more effectively.

You can watch KevinDDR play the Shirase mode this year on Friday July 7th from 10.50pm ET / 7.50pm PT.

As you can see from the videos above, Tetris as a speed run game is certainly not the pedestrian puzzler we’re used to playing on our Game Boys. Even in Exhibition mode — before it gets totally crazy — you can see how focused and skilled the speed runners need to be in order to reach the magic Level 999.

TGM 3 has souped up the intensity both in gameplay and cool 3D graphics and seems very satisfying to play, with the master players truly being put to the test in the Shirase mode! 

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