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Sega’s Answer to Tetris, Columns, Hit Sega Genesis 25 Years Ago – Today in History – June 29th, 1990

Back in the early 16-bit era Sega was in a bit of a pickle as far as offering a well-rounded game library.  If you were a sports or arcade game fan then, yeah, Sega had you covered with quite a few titles that the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) simply could not do properly (though in many cases, Tengen tried).  Much of anything outside of those two categories, though, and you were kind of screwed on entertainment options on the Genesis platform.  Sega did do their best to remedy this situation, they even got, what they thought was a legal version, of Tetris that was later recalled as they held a contract with a company that didn’t have the rights to license to console manufacturers- they were only allowed to license to arcades or computer platforms.  Other puzzle games that saw release in the early days were kind of weird and off the wall, not very intuitive for gamers to simply pick up and play such as Junction (though it was quite similar to the old dots game we all played, the digital game was “off”).  Then Sega came across this little title called Columns, which was developed the year prior and was seeing quite a bit of success on computers such as the Atari ST.  Yes, folks, Columns is not a homegrown Sega classic, they bought the rights to it and took it in house after that- the good old Microsoft mantra at work.

Columns differed from Tetris on a few points, while sharing quite a few others.  I won’t do the trivial – both featured blocks falling from the top of the screen into a pit crap.  That is so boring to read.  Columns featured quite a bit more strategy than the early versions of Tetris (though later developer’s added similar pieces to beef up that classic block game) and there was A LOT more luck involved in getting combos.  Columns almost, almost, rewards you for allowing the pit to get filled with jewels- unlike Tetris that squarely penalizes you for doing just that.

Columns gameplay revolves completely around placing the jewels in strategic, or dumb luck, positions.  Matching three, or more, jewels up/down, left/right or diagonally will result in them being eliminated from the pit.  Since gravity plays a big role in Columns, the jewels will all fall and new combos could possibly be made- raising your score considerably.

Columns has been released on countless platforms from Genesis and Sega CD to Game Gear and newer platforms through Sega Collections of various kinds.  Columns could quite easily be thought of as the precursor to classics like the Puyo Puyo series (which was released about two years after the original Columns games were making their rounds “pre-Sega”).

Columns fans, check out these helpful (to you and us) links to get yourself a copy of the game for various retro systems:

Carl Williams

It is time gaming journalism takes its rightful place as proper sources and not fanboys giving free advertising. If you wish to support writers like Carl please use the links below.

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