Ever since the advent of the best selling (and often imitated and pirated)
, there has been a small genre of 'puzzle games' that
have existed in the background of mainstream gaming. With little or no
emphasis on graphics, gameplay is their bread and butter.
Most of these games are one-player games, and have had more impact on the
gaming industry than you might think. Don't believe me? How many hours have
you spent playing Tetris? Or Columns? Or Minesweeper?
It is my contention (I have no proof) that the most-played video game of all
time is Windows Solitaire. It just has to be.
A newer trend has given us a few competitive, two-player puzzle games like
Dr. Mario and Bust-a-Move (aka Puzzle Bubble). Enter
Capcom with a new game and the unlikely title Super Puzzle Fighter II
The game incorporates young versions of characters from the popular
Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games. But these characters
are really only there for show, and a little comic relief. The gameplay is
The game itself most closely resembles Columns. You have a rectangular playing field
and pairs of colored gems drop down from the ceiling. You can
move them left and right or rotate them, until you drop them strategically
where you want them. The goal is to gather many gems of the same color
together and then drop one of the occasional round, glowing 'crash gems' of
the appropriate color onto your group. All the gems of the same color that
are touching will burst apart, and remaining gems will fall as gravity
The key here is that there is another rectangle on the other side of the
screen, where your opponent (computer or human) is doing the exact same
thing. Whenever you burst gems, you drop extra gems onto your opponent's
side that they have no control over. Do it right, and their side fills up
more quickly than your own. A player loses when their side fills up
completely and there is no room for more gems, much like in Tetris or
Now back to the 'fighter' part of the game. You get to choose one of 8
different child-like fighters, such as Ryu from Street Fighter or
Felicia from Darkstalkers. They stand in the middle of the screen
next to your opponent's fighter. When you burst gems, your fighter beats up
on the opposing fighter automatically. Your choice of fighter also
determines the pattern in which you drop gems on your opponent. However, for
the most part, they are just eye-candy.
Games are fast paced, fun, and leave room for amazing, last-minute,
turnaround victories. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo simply took over
the PlayStation and the big monitor in the Game Revolution offices for
several days straight. People played (mostly) against each other, a few
played arcade mode, but 'street puzzle' mode also got a lot of play.
'Street puzzle' mode allows you to win different easter eggs, such as
special icons, songs, graphics, and access to three additional fighters (Akuma,
Devilot, and Dan). Seldom have I seen a game so addicting.
Unfortunately, I discovered a serious flaw in the game after a few days of
play. The best strategy is not to intelligently place and rotate
gems. It actually works better if you just drop them as quickly as possible
and let the great god Chaos sort them out.
This is made possible by one final type of gem that occasionally falls from
the ceiling: the 'rainbow gem'. This gem simply destroys all gems of
a single color, allowing the rest to become more concentrated. Unlike other
games of this type, there are enough 'crash' and 'rainbow' gems that you
will not kill yourself by just dropping objects as quickly as possible.
More speed means more 'crash gems', which means bursting more gems, which means burying
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is much more fun when you spend
the time dropping your gems carefully in order to win. Dropping them as
fast as you can, with no thought, is really kinda boring. It made the game
feel much more like luck than strategy.
I'm not sure why they made the game this way. It would certainly make the
programmer's job creating an AI simpler; however, that seems like a bad
reason. I searched the options in vain for a way to turn off the 'rainbow
gems', which would have limited the speed strategy and made the game fun
again, but there was none.
It seems a shame to lower the grade of a game that showed so much potential,
and for such a seemingly minor flaw. But this 'minor' flaw changed the
gameplay dramatically. And suddenly you had to play that way if you wanted
to win. And suddenly it wasn't as much fun. And suddenly it wasn't the most
popular game in the office any more.