Considering the dearth of good puzzle games for the PC, it's not surprising that companies are turning to their console cousins for animated and challenging titles. Capcom, known for its collection of fighting games, enters its ported puzzler into the fray. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, complete with the characters from past Capcom titles, blends the customization possibilities of a PC with the proven enjoyment of the PlayStation original.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is a Columns variant of "stack the falling blocks." Instead of disappearing when a column is completed, however, the falling gems must be eliminated by special "crash gems." Doing so unleashes a flurry of "counter gems" on your opponent. The end result is a fast and furious competition demanding foresight, dexterity, and some luck.
The "Fighter II" reference in the title comes from the miniature versions of the famous combatants of Street Fighter II that duel it out in a center column between the two play fields. Capcom, king of the character crossover games (e.g., Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter), includes eight disproportional characters from Darkstalkers and the Street Fighter II series, including Ryu, Felicia, and Morrigan.
Each character requires a different strategy, adding another facet to the furious action. Score a combination of gem crashes and be rewarded with a special move from your character. The tiny avatars taunt each other, and it's easy to get attached to the pint-sized pugilists. Be careful not to get distracted by their antics!
You can also crush your opponent with an avalanche of counter gems and trigger your characters' special finishing move. Winning, the obvious goal, fails to compare to the exultation of watching spectacular finishing moves like Chun Li exploding a massive fireball to knockout her foes. After destroying all human challengers, you can unlock 48 "goodies" ranging from mundane character color changes to several secret playable characters: Akuma, Dan, and Devilot.
The PC version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo addresses performance issues associated with a graphics intense puzzle game. The display menu gives no less than 11 display options, varying from the lowest end of 320x240 resolution with 256 colors to 800x600 with 32-bit color. High-end machines produce graphics surpassing the PlayStation version, and most computer owners will be able to find a perfect balance between performance and graphics quality.
Sound quality is also improved on the PC, given that the speaker systems on most computers outperform the majority of television speakers that limit console sounds. Each taunt, smack and yell of the tiny characters rings true.
Unfortunately, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo also ported over some of the console versions' shortcomings. Chiefly, the game allows for only two save slots to store data. The computer's hard drive could hold many more, as each save uses minor amounts of memory. Also, the game is designed for two players using two joysticks, an aspect not supported by this version. Indeed, players will have a small skirmish of their own to see which one gets the keyboard or the gamepad. Networked players can solve the problem easily, but there's no Internet support for that long distance crash gem dedication.
Although the dueling characters certainly offer tasty eye-candy, the real staying power of the title is the robust gameplay. Players will continue to come back for the five different variations that include Arcade, Original, Super Puzzle (unlocking the goodies menu), Vs., and Master Arcade. Each mode can be modified to match the gamer's ability, offering younger puzzlers a chance against the proficient computer.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo helps fill the void of puzzle games that are fun to both play and watch. Like all great puzzle titles, the game is accessible and addictive, mysteriously devouring minutes and hours with deceptively simple gameplay. Even after unlocking all the secrets, you'll still want to return for more gem crashing action against human and computer foes alike.
Graphics: Customize the display to your system's liking. With enough computing horsepower, graphics rival the PlayStation original. Mutant miniature fighters are a blast to watch.
Sound: Computer speakers add bass that's missing from most television speakers. Cute taunts, solid smacks, and a jaunty tune mixes well together.
Enjoyment: Tiny Capcom fighters add insult to injury, which is fun if you're the player not on the receiving end. Fun graphics aside, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is a solid puzzler with furious action.
Replay Value: Great two-player gameplay adds terrific replay value to the title. It takes time to defeat the competent computer opponents who guard the "goodies" menu, giving more than enough incentive to keep playing.
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