“Don’t Tell Me You Only Know How to Play Fighting Games.” -Ryu.
Capcom released Super Puzzle Fighter 2 for the original Playstation back in the early ?90’s. If you are actually one of the few people that owns this rare game, then you know how the GBA version will feel as it is almost a direct port. Those who have played this game either fall into one of two categories: you either absolutely hate it, or you absolutely love it. Some players will enjoy the complete randomness while other will not. Either way, SPF2 is a fast paced puzzle game that requires strategic thinking.
This game plays similar in nature to Puyo Pop where players must join gems of the same color (which can form into blocks) to make them disappear. Gems are dropped in pairs and it is in the player’s best interest to put gems of the same color as close as possible to each other. Occasionally, a crash gem will fall which makes the gems of the same color explode. For example, if there are a bunch of red gems adjacent to each other and a red crash gem touches them, all those red gems will explode resulting in a lower level on your side. You must try to keep the level of gems low because once the screen fills up, you will lose just like in Tetris. However, instead of trying to stay as low to the bottom as possible, this game requires a heavy use of combos. These combos are made by exploding one pack of gems followed by another pack that will explode if a crash gem was on top of the original stack. The more combos, and the more gems you explode in one move will send a greater amount of counter gems on your opponent’s side. These counter gems are of the same colors as regular gems but contain a number on them. This number represents the amount of pieces that must fall until they turn into regular gems. You can only expel counter gems if they are touching a regular gem or a crash gem that has just been exploded regardless of color. Counter gems can also be your own weakness because it is possible that your opponent could send them right back to you after they change to regular gems. If this sounds confusing, play this game for a few minutes. Once you play, the game mechanics will become second nature.
Before the match begins, you must pick which character you want to play as. The only difference in characters is that each one will drop a different layout of counter gems when they achieve a big enough combo. Other than this fact, the characters in the middle of the screen are for looks only because they don’t alter the game play in any way. They just mimic what is going on screen by representing a physical fight.
The controls in this game are simple. Pieces fall from the top of the screen automatically and the player uses the D-pad to move them left or right or speed up there fall. The “A” and “B” buttons are used to spin the pieces clockwise and counterclockwise. The controls are as simple as can be but the game itself requires a great amount of thinking and planning ahead. These controls work very well because the pieces move fluidly and not in jumpy increments. This makes for smooth game play and one can never use the excuse “my piece didn’t change fast enough.” The biggest bummer about this game is that there is no single-pak link. Not having a single-pak link in a puzzle game is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute; you’re screwed. Instead, the game supports two players on the same system. This is a very clumsy way to compete on a handheld system and you probably won’t be able to concentrate. The player on the left uses the D-pad to move left and right while the “L” button speeds up the fall and rotates the gems. If “L” is tapped, the piece rotates. If it is held down for a second, the piece will fall quickly to the bottom. This is the same for the player on the right except “A” and “B” are used to move left and right. Two players on the same system is better than nothing but a single-pak link would have been extremely more productive. If you play two people on one system, you will probably spend more time laughing and coordinating on how to hold the small system than you’ll spend playing. However, two players can compete on separate systems if two GBAs and two game paks are used through a link cable.
This game offers three main game modes. Before you play, if you aren’t familiar with the game, you can go through the tutorial. It does a pretty good job of explaining the whole game concept in a short amount of time. In the Arcade Mode, you select the difficulty that you think will best suit your ability level. According to the level that you choose, multiple stages are placed in front of you where you must beat a computer controlled character. This is the main mode of play. If you grow weary of this mode, the Street Puzzle mode will lift your spirits. It is here that you can unlock many extras that add a little extra flavor to the game. You decide on a stage with a specific character and then you pick the item that you wish to unlock. After you choose, you must battle an enemy and if you win, you unlock the chosen item. The final mode of play is the two versus modes. Link Mode connects two players if there are two copies of the game and Versus Mode is where two players compete on one GBA. The game offers many options as well in the options menu.
The graphics take a punch in the arm as compared to the Playstation version. Everything on screen is not as clear and defined as it originally was. The character sprites seemed to have gotten slightly squished as they don’t look as well as they did from the PS version. The GBA’s widescreen and resolution capabilities are responsible for the pixelation. And Ken still looks like he is giving you the finger. The sound is the same as before, but its quality seems to have dropped. The music fits the game with its upbeat tempo but it just sounds slightly fuzzy. Even with headphones on, it just doesn’t contain the same quality as it once did.
The bottom line is, if you like puzzle games, you’ll like Puzzle Fighter. This game is challenging and will last quite a while since every game is completely random and there is plenty to unlock including more music, new characters, and new character outfits. The biggest problem with this game is the fact that you need two copies of the game to play on two systems. This game suffers massively without the use of a single-pak link function. Everything else stays true to the PS version except for a slight decrease in the graphics department. If you like puzzle games, SPF2 will satisfy your puzzle needs with a great game concept and challenging A.I. This game takes minutes to learn, but will take a great deal of time to master.