- Super Puzzle Fighter 2X -




Super Puzzle Fighter 2X - May 26, '01 by Dorsola
Game:Super Puzzle Fighter 2XCompany:Capcom

Capcom. You just hear the name and what's the first thing you think of? Fighting games! Overhead flying shooters! Puzzle games!
Puzzle games?!? Capcom doesn't make puzzle games!!
Um... well, yeah, they did. =) In 1997, the great CC released none other than "Super Puzzle Fighter 2" to the unsuspecting masses. And, as I recall, it was a moderate success, appealing to the crowd that had previously embraced the Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move series. This competitive puzzle game pits a select cast of popular Street Fighter and Darkstalkers characters against one another in a more civilized battle for supremacy. Combining the best elements of Bust-A-Move, Tetris and Columns, and adding a few twists of its own, Puzzle Fighter is a richly complex game that will make your brain ache and your palms sweat.
Like other games in its genre, the idea of this game is to force your opponent out of the game. The objective is simple: Strategically place gems of the same color together to form groups, and destroy those groups with "Power Gems" of the same color. When a power gem (a spinning ball of energy) is placed next to a gem of the same color, all gems of that color that touch one another are destroyed and the remaining gems fall to form more groups. Blocks of gems can meld together to form "Super Gems", which blast apart with a very satisfying glass-crushing sound.
When you successfully destroy groups of gems, you build up your attack on your opponent, who is also busily trying to destroy their groups of gems. A warning is sent to their field that "time gems" will be falling soon, and it tells them how many to expect. Each character has a specific pattern that they'll drop on their opponent. At the player's next turn, those gems are dumped on the playfield. Each one contains a number (usually from 1 to 5) indicating the number of turns it will take for them to convert to normal gems. When gems around these time gems are destroyed, they'll break apart as well, but otherwise they serve to only get in the way. However, if you survive the indicated number of turns, the time gems will then convert to normal gems, and they can then combine with each other and the gems next to them - making for a potentially lethal counter-attack!
That's pretty much all there is to it. There's no set time limit per round, but if you take too long your gems will start falling faster, giving you less time to plot your moves. Strategic placement is the key in this game - set up chain reactions and try to create massive Super Gems, which will dramatically increase your attack power. If you can hit your opponent hard enough, you'll perform a dramatic Super Finish - these are almost always worth seeing. =)
While you can only select from eight characters (Ryu, Ken, Donovan, Felicia, Morrigan, Lei-Lei/Hsien-Ko, Sakura and Chun-Li, and I don't know if there are hidden/secret characters that can be unlocked like in other Capcom games), each one has a huge library of the various quotes that made them famous in the first place. For instance, Morrigan is a veritable chatterbox while you play, laughing and saying many of the things she said in the Darkstalkers/Vampire series. Felicia occasionally yawns and yells "COOKIE!??", and both Ryu and Ken bring their dramatic martial arts flair to the competition.
The graphics are pretty good for a puzzle game, though Capcom's usual attention to detail and the small-body anime look tends to be somewhat distracting during the game itself. I do have to admit, though, the animations for most of the characters are quite cute, and mercifully short in some cases. Sound stays nicely out of the way and is varied enough to remain interesting throughout the game, though it can get a bit repetitive after a while. The controls take a bit of getting used to as well - you can rotate your gems both clockwise and counter-clockwise, but it's sometimes unclear where and how you can rotate the pieces in tight spaces.
As for gameplay, Puzzle Fighter is top-notch! Even though your first couple of CPU opponents are mind-numbingly stupid, the challenge factor picks up very quickly from there on out. (It's kinda like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - they start you off easy and then they hit you with some hard stuff, just like that. =) And of course, you can play against another human player. Because of the lower level of strain this game puts on the CPS2 hardware, it should run on most any system that can handle the CPS2 hardware emulation - it's more or less perfectly smooth on my machine in the latest MAME beta, with room to spare!
One of the things that always kept me coming back to the Puzzle Fighter machine was the back-and-forth nature of the game. It's possible to be on the brink of defeat and turn it all around in a single move. At the same time, if you can't QUITE defeat your opponent, and they survive, you could suddenly find yourself in a heap of trouble. It's very easy to think you're winning and then suddenly lose, unlike the fighting games - nobody ever has a clear lead until it's over. (Unless, of course, your opponent is a mind-numblingly stupid CPU-controlled character. ;-) This can make winning the game *VERY* satisfying and very frustrating at the same time - the most important ingredients in the puzzle-addict formula.
So, to wrap this up: I highly recommend Super Puzzle Fighter 2 (known as 2X in Japan). It's fun, addicting, easy to learn and difficult to master. You'll definitely enjoy it... especially if you like the sound of breaking glass. ;-)
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