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In 1996, the world was introduced to a puzzle game from Capcom which incorporated super deformed versions of characters from their various fighting games and gameplay similar to Sega?s Puyo Puyo series. With the introduction of the home version of this game, it garnered a pretty huge fanbase of gamers and while the game never got a proper sequel, it did see releases across several generations of consoles as well as handhelds. So it was surprising that in tail end of August 2017, Capcom unveiled to the world a new iteration of it?s beloved puzzle game. Rather than releasing it on current consoles, it would find a home on the two major mobile platforms and it would be free to play. Fans of the series had reservations, some which were founded and some it unfounded, but most folks would not get their hands on the title until the last week of November 2017.
The core concept of the original Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo is a pair of gems come falling from the top of the screen and you have to set them on the playing field. Gems on the playing field can be cleared by having them touch a “crash gem” that matches its color. Clearing gems also dumps additional gems onto the field of your opponent. The amount of gems varies depending on the complexity of the gems you broke or how many chain reactions you cause when you set off your first crash gem. The match would end when your opponent is no longer able to put gems on the field. That was how the first game played…this latest Puzzle Fighter iteration, not so much.
In Puzzle Fighter, you still drop pairs of gems and break them with crash gems of a matching color, but the way to end the match isn?t forcing your opponent to run out of space to put down gems, but rather you need to deplete their lifebar to zero. It?s absolutely jarring the first time you play it, but if you think about it, this make the game mirror fighting games more than its predecessor did. The problem with the lifebar system is I often found it hard to gauge how much damage I would need to do to finish the match, so in a rush to finish matches I would break gems quickly rather than build something substantial.
The cast is rather sizable, there are some notable exclusions (I like Dan as much as the next guy…but how did he get included and Sakura get the snub). Character choice also matter more in this version than in the original. Characters have different health levels, strengths and special moves and of course a specific gem drop pattern. Special moves can be leveled up once you have collected enough special move cards and paid a specific amount in the earnable currency. As you level up the moves, it causes the character to level up, which in turn increases the damage output of your attacks. However it becomes harder to upgrade as you collect more fighters as the pool of available unlockable cards gets larger.
Since it?s free to play, one must always worry about the elephant in the room, In-game purchases. It?s there and I have a love hate relationship with it. The first couple of levels don’t require a lot of resources to advance, however after the 3rd level the requirements become a bit more harsh and the drops become a bit more scarce. The urge to buy some gems increases, and make purchases in the store is harder to resist. The store however seems to almost works against your desire to spend all your money there. The cards available are limited and randomized and I can say it would be days before the store stocks cards for characters I want to use. So it?s almost hard to give Capcom money and I?ve spoken to players who have made it high in the rankings without spending a dime.
So despite initial trepidation of the public regarding a new Puzzle Fighter, Capcom put out a version that slightly strays from the original but is still very fun. With adequate support this title definitely has long legs.