Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Windows - 1998
Description of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Tagamotchi must die
Quite a few games reviewers have said that French games are weird, and while this may be true to some extent, for true weirdness you have to look to the Japanese games industry. I'm not just talking about Super Mario World.. there's also Parodius, a truly bizarre shoot-em-up, in which you have to deal with such hazards as flying pink penguins, giant cat-headed ships, and even gigantic belly dancers. But that's only the stuff that gets released over here.. there are a veritable mountain of weird games that never see the light of day over here that, if I didn't know better, I'd swear had been written under the influence of some mad mind-altering drug. You have to remember, this is the country that came up with Tagamotchi, a bleeping maniacal pet-on-a-keyring, all those Godzilla vs the Fifty Foot Moth Bloke movies, and much much more. I mean, what do they put in the water over there? Because whatever it is, it should be force-fed to the staff of all those game companies that keep churning out Command and Conquer clones. Yep, weird is good - I'd rather have 'Attack of the Giant Carrot' than some of the blatantly copied crap that's currently floating around the US + UK industries.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is endowed with a healthy dose of Japanese weirdness, and it's all the better for it. Created by Capcom, it features the Street Fighter and Dark Stalkers fighters in a highly addictive gem-dropping puzzle fest. The idea behind it is that the fighters are battling for supremacy, but instead of just kicking seven bells out of each other, they're using their brains. Apparently their brains haven't been turned to jelly by blows to the head administered during the Street Fighter games - perhaps they're genetically engineered to have thick skulls or something. There are eight ordinary fighters and three hidden fighters to choose from, including Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan and Akuma. But they're a little out of shape...
Why? Well, one of the things that are popular in Japan are Super Deformed Characters. To create a Super Deformed Character, you take any character, from an animation or a game, increase the size of their head, and shorten their body. And so all the characters in Puzzle Fighter are drawn in this style, which gives the game a very cutesy feel. The way the game works is that there are two boxes on either side of the screen, one for you and one for the character you're fighting. In the middle of the screen are the two fighters, set against the background of the character you're facing, pretty much like Street Fighter 2. As soon as the announcer yells 'Fight!', pairs of gems start falling down from the top of the screen. You can rotate the gems, and move them left to right, till they hit the bottom of the screen. Soon, a crash gem will come along, which is a circular gem - drop the crash gem onto any gem of the same colour, and that gem will disappear. Plus, any gems of the same colour next to that gem will disappear too, plus any next to that, and so on. You can get a kind of chain reaction going. It sounds complicated, but it's pretty easy to pick up once you see it on screen.
You lose if your screen fills up, so you've got to keep nuking those gems faster than your opponent. But this is supposed to be a fight, so there's another angle. Each gem you dispose of appears in your opponent's box in the form of a counter-gem. These gems count down each time you drop a gem, from five down till one, at which point they become ordinary gems. Until then, you can only destroy them by blowing up a gem next to them. And if you place your ordinary gems together in a rectangular shape, they join together to form a big super-gem, which creates more counter-gems when you destroy it. You can really mess up your opponent's strategy by dumping a huge load of counter-gems on his screen, so remember to be really vindictive in two player mode.
The Street Fighters aren't completely idle while all this is going on - when counter gems drop onto your opponent's screen, your fighter will attack or taunt them. If you drop below ten gems, your fighter will taunt your opponent. Get ten to thirty counter gems, and your fighter will use a special move on your opponent - get thirty or above, and they'll use a super move, which is a great way to rub your opponent's nose in it. There are lots of different modes to play in - Arcade, Original, Master Arcade, and Super Puzzle Mode. Choosing Super Puzzle Mode lets you challenge various super-hard computer opponents, in return for a secret item. These items include the codes to find the hidden fighters, a sound test, some pictures of the fighters, and even a particularly dire Japanese song. Plus you can fiddle with the difficulty and other options, and challenge someone over a network.
Puzzle Fighter's graphics and sound effects easily make the grade, with smooth animation and lots of crashes and yells whenever a fighter takes a hit - I just wonder what they're saying sometimes, since quite a lot of the speech is in Japanese. The music's good too, with suitably cutesified versions of the music from the original SF2 games. The only gripe I have with the game is that the computer player is a little too tough - at normal level, I was running into trouble by the third fight. I think the problem is that while a human player has to at least look at the falling gems, and the gems already at the bottom of the screen, the computer can calculate its move in a millisecond and slam them down. Still, practice makes perfect, and I suspect I'll get quite a lot of practice in - Puzzle Fighter has to be one of the most addictive games I've played. The beauty of it is that you can play it in short bursts, perfect if you need a break from work (but you didn't hear that from me). And at just under fifteen quid, you're getting a hell of a lot of game for your money. You can't go wrong, really. An worthy addition to any games collection.
Review By GamesDomain
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