Title: SEGA AGES COLUMNS II
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: Unknown (USA), 08/07/2019 (Japan)
While this continues the traditional UI and general look that other Sega AGES games have had, this is the first one to be covered for Seafoam Gaming. Thus, I’ll be going over the general features this once, before focusing on the ones exclusive to this game. Typically, AGES titles have a pretty fancy menu, with quick to access options, a variety of borders and screen options (not nearly as much as Arcade Archives, though) to choose from, which are universal across all titles in the lineup. Each game also has their own custom credits sequence where a fancy background plays out as they scroll by. In this case, it’s Columns II’s Title Screen backdrop.
Now when it comes to the visual quirks unique to Columns II, you have a unique border to toggle on or off, which changes depending on your Switch’s region. For example, in Japanese the border will be of the Columns II Arcade Instructions, while in English you’ll get the Title Screen backdrop instead. (Columns I switches in a similar fashion) Also unique to Columns II is a nifty set of unlockables in the menu, consisting of the official artwork of the Sega characters from the intro sequence.
The games themselves look crisp in this port, which leads to Columns II looking the best it ever has while Columns I looks great as well. Yes, the first Columns is included despite the title, more on that in a bit.
This version of Columns II not only includes the original arcade game, but per the AGES tradition it includes a few bonus modes as well. The biggest addition here comes from an infinite setting, which allows you play Columns II until you run out of board space just like the other games in the series. Yes, Columns II wasn’t really a score chaser originally, since the main goal of each stage is to clear out all the flashing pieces in a stage, akin to the Flash Columns mode. You have a simple one-button control scheme where you move, drop and rotate the column pieces from up to down, so thankfully this game is lightning fast to adapt to.
However, this normal mode is one of the most deceptively difficult puzzlers I’ve ever played, since the difficulty spikes through the roof around the fourth stage. Keep in mind, Columns II has 70 stages in total, and while a stage select allows you to jump around, the stage layouts just get progressively harder regardless of the internal difficulty setting. It’ll require a lot of thinking to solve, and if you take too long Skull Blocks will appear and cause the board to rise up. There’s a separate game mode that removes these skull blocks outright called Skull Smash, but it doesn’t really help much in my book.
Luckily, if these braincrushing puzzles are too frustrating for a puzzle game, and if the scoring of the infinite mode is too slow for your liking, then you can hop online and fight other players in the 2 player mode. This is easily the highlight of Columns II, as unlike Puyo Puyo the online here is absolutely solid and works pretty well, even when fighting someone across the world. There’s no rankings to speak of and it’s just for fun, but I still had fun fighting the few opponents I was able to match up with, and in local play I managed to take a friend on. Unfortunately, there’s no Vs COM mode, which I feel would have been a better addition in general.
Last but not least, is the addition of Columns 1 as yet another bonus mode. Yes, the prequel to this game is in this rerelease of the sequel, solely due to how popular it is as a scorechaser. There may be no online leaderboards like the modes for Columns 2, but it still has an local one that you can keep track of with Save States in the same fashion. This is based off the 1P version of the Arcade original from a Yakuza 0 promo, meaning that you just have scorechasing to mess around with here, yet I still found this to ironically be the most addicting mode in this release by far, further proving how well the Columns formula holds up all these years later.
In conclusion, the SEGA AGES port of Columns II may not be out here in the west for a while, (due to the irritating gap in releases we’ve had) but it is currently out in Japan, and if you’re an import fanatic like I am, I absolutely feel that it’s worth picking up from the Japanese eShop due to the sheer addictive nature of Columns I, the outstanding online mode for Columns II, and the braincrushing puzzles that will test puzzle fans to their limits.
Of course, if you’re the patient type, this is still a recommended title whenever it does launch in the west for the price of $7.99, and alongside Puyo Puyo this is yet another great addition to the Sega AGES lineup. Here’s hoping Stack Columns gets a port one day in this method as well!
I give SEGA AGES COLUMNS II an 8 out of 10.