Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix Review (Xbox 360)

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, (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).

SUPERCapcom 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.

SPF2THDR is a clean production that utilizes the Xbox 360’s power well. No, it doesn’t contain elaborate 3-D graphics, but the challenge is in the gameplay, not in the visuals. Just as Tetris was a simple game with elaborate gameplay that could be played on the most basic hardware—and if you’re old enough, you’ll remember how it drove the U.S. introduction of Nintendo’s Game Boy, which had a greenish-colored, monochromatic display—SPF2THDR is one of those simple-to-learn, hard-to-master titles.

Just the same, when gem breaks and matches happen, you get a nice blast around the pieces that varies by the color (for instance, a red break creates a fiery explosion). The gems have a shiny look to them that won’t wow any hard-core shooter fans who are used to cutting-edge graphics, but here the simple touches still spice up the game adequately. The whole presentation—from the gameplay graphics to the character renditions to the arcade-y music to the sounds of the characters fighting—is campy, but fun.

Of course, SPF2THDR on XBLA has the added benefit of a dozen achievements that can earn you up to 200 Gamerscore points. They’re listed at the end of the review, if you want to scope out what you’ll need to do.

Without question, SPF2THDR is one of the higher-profile titles to enter the XBLA catalog, and it comes with a great price tag for what it offers. No, it won’t be for everyone, but for the player who wants to jump into something different or who already knows the Super Puzzle Fighter gameplay and wants to enjoy it on the Xbox 360, this is a wonderful addition.

Power Made Flesh—Play as Akuma on Normal Difficulty or harder. (6 points)

Meeting People is Easy—Join or Host a 4 person Player Match. (7 points)

Get Your Feet Wet—Win three Ranked Matches of X or X’ Mode. (7 points)

Playing to Win—Win 20 Ranked Matches in X’ mode. (15 points)

Modern Battle Master—Complete X’ Arcade Mode on Hard or Expert Difficulty. (10 points)

Classic Battle Master—Complete X Arcade Mode on Hard or Expert Difficulty. (10 points)

Alternative Lifestyles—Complete Y or Z Arcade Modes on Hard or Expert Difficulty. (10 points)

Quarter Miser—Complete the game on Normal Difficulty or harder without continuing. (10 points)

The Mother Lode—Break a Power Gem of size 25 or larger on Normal difficulty or harder. (25 points)

The Longest Journey—Complete X’ Mode on Hard or Expert difficulty using only Dan. (30 points)

Chain, Chain, Chain—Perform a 5 chain combo in X or X’ mode, Normal Difficulty or harder. (30 points)

Chain of Jewels…—Perform a 7 chain combo in X or X’ mode, Normal Difficulty or harder. (40 points)

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