"While you're puttering about on your half of the screen, your opponent is on the other side doing the same thing. Whenever you score a combo or string of combos, blocks will be rained down on your opponent. These blocks do not solidify for around 4 or 5 drops of other blocks, yet they quickly build up on the screen and make things difficult for your dastardly foe."
Violence is for babies. Real men drop blocks in a fashion similar to Tetris in order to take out their opponents. This is the sort of logic that drives Super Puzzle Fighter II, yet somehow the game manages to be fun. In fact, it's one of the most enjoyable puzzle games on the market, and has been since it originally debuted on the Playstation and Saturn many moons ago. But the transition from console to portable is often a painful one, as many a jaded gamer knows. With that said, it would make sense to wonder if Super Puzzle Fighter II is worth the price of admission.
The first thing you'll notice when you plug this baby into your Game Boy Advance is that the people who ported this title are not feeling the love for the black. Gone are the amazing black backgrounds, and they've been replaced by a sickly white that looks like it would be more at home in a hospital than on your screen. If not for the fact that this makes absolutely perfect sense due to the notorious dimness all games for the system suffer from, I would be angry. Incensed, even. Instead, I'm willing to put up with the small sacrifice.
Oh, if only it were a lone sacrifice, though! The tribulations continue in the form of squatty characters, tiny playing space, and text that oddly seems too large for the screen. The squatty characters were present in the original, you must understand. They accounted for part of its charm. But here, the squatty characters look even squattier, and suddenly it's not so cute as you squint to oogle Felicia. It's amazing Capcom even left the characters between the two fields where your blocks are dropping. Of course, it's not like they had any choice.
See, Super Puzzle Fighter II really is a simple game at heart. As those who played the original know, the basic idea is that you drop colored blocks. They come in groups of two at a time, and those two are at least temporarily joined at the hip. You can rotate those two blocks however you like. The goal is to join together blocks of the same color. Get enough blocks positioned together and they'll link into a single larger block, which is all very exciting. Or you can just have a snake of green blocks amidst the yellow, red, and blue ones around it.
You'll continue putting these blocks together, the entire time waiting for what one might consider the fuse that sets off the dynamite. Every once in a while, a block will fall that contains a circular, glowing magical medallion thingy. It of course bears a particular color. Set it down so it touches a matching color, and suddenly all connected blocks of that color will vanish and things will shift down.
The obvious goal is to make sure that all green blocks on the screen are connected, and all red, and so forth. That way, a single medallion can really improve your lot in life. There's also this cool concept known as the combo. Suppose you have a stack of red blocks at the bottom, and above that a stack of green blocks. Suddenly, your next piece is a block composed of a green medallion and a red one. You drop it so the green one lands first, takes out the green, then the remaining red medallion lands on the red blocks and suddenly you've just chained together two explosions. That's a simple example, of course. Two combos chained together is actually pretty sad and pathetic compared to what's possible.
The whole thing gets quite addictive. But wait, there's more! While you're puttering about on your half of the screen, your opponent is on the other side doing the same thing. Whenever you score a combo or string of combos, blocks will be rained down on your opponent. These blocks do not solidify for around 4 or 5 drops of other blocks, yet they quickly build up on the screen and make things difficult for your dastardly foe. Of course, he'll be happy to return the favor.
Reflecting all this intrigue at the middle of the screen is a little window that shows your two squatty friends duking it out. Wham! You perform a dragon punch as you cleverly clear two yellow blocks. Oh, but your opponent won't take that lying down! He counters with a fireball as he quickly clears three yellow blocks. And so it goes. The idea to have them there is quite cool, but for the most part you won't be bothering to look until suddenly the action slow-mos and the screen starts to fade to gray. Then you quickly glance in time to see your goon take out the opponent with deadly precision.
Is this rewarding? Perhaps. But that in and of itself would of course simply not be enough. Fortunately, the developers have thrown together a few reasons to keep playing. For one, there's the high score. It's always a challenge to see if you can do better, if you can survive all 9 rounds of the arcade mode without going down, or whatever. This is expected from any good puzzle game.
The developers take things one crucial step further, however. They included the 'Street Puzzle' mode. What happens here is that you pick your character. Each of 8 selectable characters has 6 challenges to complete. You can pick which one you want, then play a single round against the computer. If you win, you unlock a new feature. These features range from different colors for characters to new characters (so cool, how they manage to sneak in 3 hidden characters) to artwork you can squint at on your tiny screen.
This Street Puzzle mode probably wasn't necessary, yet it makes the game more enjoyable overall for those of us who don't have many friends. However, a friend you might find hanging around can join in on the action, too! All you have to do is link up to another Game Boy Advance and copy of this game and your dream can come true. You can take your friend's ego, roll it into a ball, and smash it. Very cool.
In fact, 'very cool' can easily describe just about everything there is to say about this title. There aren't a lot of good puzzle games out there that copy the Tetris style yet somehow improve on it in some ways, but Super Puzzle Fighter II is one such game. If you like the puzzle genre and a little bit of addictive action, it's hard to find better for the system.
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 24, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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