Japanese developer GameFactory has released a free to play beta of a new PC game called Magical Stone, a competitive falling puzzle game like Puyo Puyo. This game was developed to pander to the “eSports” crowd by focusing on a strong multiplayer presence, with features like rankings and tournaments to encourage players to improve their skills, in addition to creating a “pro” online version of Puyo Puyo for anyone to try. Progress is already being made to reach these goals, as competitive Puyo Puyo group Samurai Frontier Gaming is supporting the game, along with an official tournament on June 25th 2016 with cash prizes that will be the first season of possibly more.
The game itself is a copy of Puyo Puyo, specifically the arcade version of Puyo Puyo Tsu. Like Puyo Puyo, in Magical Stone your goal is to defeat your opponent by dumping garbage onto their field to fill up the board and hinder their ability to make chains. Varies mechanics that appear in Puyo Puyo games, like chaining, All Clear bonus, and offsetting are present. The main difference is that Magical Stone adapts a more serious tone reminiscent of epic fantasy RPGs, instead of Puyo Puyo‘s light-hearted cute and comical tone, along with a cast of original characters that have some subtle homages to Puyo Puyo characters sneaked in.
There is however controversy over the game. Since Magical Stone is a carbon-copy of Puyo Puyo from a gameplay mechanics standpoint, there are concerns a lawsuit from SEGA will happen and shut the game down. While nothing has been said, lawsuits may be avoided due to the combination of it’s free to play nature, the usage of original characters and setting, and the Puyo Puyo gameplay concept not being patented making it technically public domain. This wouldn’t be the first time a company tried to copy Puyo Puyo, with varies companies during the 90’s also trying to copy the Puyo Puyo formula with their own spin, the most blatant examples being Konami’s Taisen Puzzle Dama and Sunsoft’s Hebereke’s Popoon.
If Magical Stone‘s Japanese is discouraging, the good news is an English version is being considered for a future update. Regardless, the site and game has no proxy blocking outside countries, so anyone can play if they can get past the language. As to whether or not SEGA will try to shut down Magical Stone for legal reasons, especially since it’s Puyo Puyo‘s 25th Anniversary, will remain to be seen.