While Capcom is best known for such hallmark franchises as Street Fighter, Mega Man, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, the publisher has also made its mark with quirkier fare, such as Phoenix Wright and Viewtiful Joe. It also has had success with a casual game of sorts, which harkens back to the mid-’90s arcade debut, with its Super Puzzle Fighter series.
Now we see a further expansion of the latter with the launch of (with what might be the longest game name ever) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on Xbox Live Arcade. With previous releases on other consoles sporting a full retail price, at 800 Microsoft Points (or about $10), this might also be one of the best bargains on XBLA.
For those who’ve never played it before, SPF2THDR (which we’ll call it so as not to run out of pixels on these pages) takes Capcom’s lineup of characters, shrinks them down and drops them into the puzzle game as peripheral combatants. The main action takes place on the playfield, where you control colored pieces as they drop—and similar to such games as Tetris or Columns, you rotate and push them into place at the bottom.
Unlike those other “drop” games (at least in the main “X Mode,” which replicates the coin-op original), though, instead of eliminating pieces when you complete line or match a certain number in a row, SPF2THDR has players creating groups of like-colored pieces, which are then eliminated by dropping a circular “Crash” Gem onto pieces of the same color. From where the Crash Gem lands, any adjacent gem will break, so there’s some strategy in building up a number of gems on your side, because breaking gems on your side dumps Counter Gems in your opponent’s playfield.
Additionally, if you can clump together like-colored gems into a square or larger rectangle, they’ll group into a larger Power Gem, which is more damaging when a Crash Gem breaks it. If you can create Chain Combos, by having gem breaks cause other Crash Gems to drop on matching pieces spontaneously, the clutter on your foe’s side is even bigger. And every 25th piece that drops contains a diamond, which will remove all gems of the color it hits, though with a damage decrease. One person wins when the other player can’t fully place a piece into the bin.
The game makes good use of the Xbox 360 hardware.
While it sounds simple, SPF2THDR is one challenging strategic contest. At its most basic, it takes a little time for players to pick up the methods of creating Power Gems and arrange combos; at the higher echelon, players pay attention to “drop patterns” (each character has a specific pattern that Counter Gems are dropped on the opponent, and knowing them might help the recipient clear them out faster).
Capcom has also expanded the gameplay modes, throwing some variety in the mix : In addition to the X Mode (as well as an X’ Mode, which the publisher claims has the characters rebalanced from X Mode for better competitive action), there are also Y and Z Modes:
• Y Mode involves the same concept of pairs of pieces dropping one at a time, but here Crash Gems are removed and pieces are eliminated from the board when three or more of the same color are lined up in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
• Z Mode is a wildly intricate variation, with a continuous collection of pieces moving up from the bottom, which threatens to fill the playfield. Each player controls a square-shaped cursor that highlights four pieces, which can then be rotated to make breaks (using the Crash Gems that are also in the playfield), Power Gems and combos.
If this is all confusing to you, it’s much easier played than explained, but Capcom also includes a Tutorial Mode where you can try each gameplay mode out without risk.
As for player configurations, one player can take on an AI opponent, engage in matches against up to four players on the same system or go on Xbox Live for ranked or unranked competition against up to four players.