Anyone who's ever stepped foot into an arcade is aware of the Street Fighter franchise, but few know that back in the 90's the series had a puzzle game spin-off for the arcades and the PlayStation (One). Yes, there have been a few iterations of the game on handheld consoles, either as standalone packages or as part of some Capcom game compilation.
But until now, none of these versions did anything to improve the quality of the game. Which is why I had really big hopes for the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game — "Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix". Quite a mouthful, isn't it?
For those not aware of the series, the game features a fighter roster from the Street Fighter II and Dark Stalker series of games. To give it a more casual look, however, the characters have been given a big-headed anime kid look, to suit the appeal of the game. So while the game is a competitive drop-down gem puzzle, the character you select and the opponent are represented by the fighter you have selected that pull off moves and super-moves in coordination with the number of gems you destroy.
The thing here is that it doesn't really matter which character you pick up, as it doesn't affect your gameplay mechanics in any way, unlike the version ripped off by Mortal Kombat (titled "Puzzle Kombat"), where the character you select gives you unique abilities. In Puzzle Fighter, the game is identically balanced between both opponents.
There's enough you can do to strategise your play method. You can stack up the gems for multiple damage combos, be aggressive and destroy everything in sight to overwhelm your opponent, or simply play it by ear. The old-school play style is still a lot of fun on the XBLA.
Visually, the biggest difference between the original Puzzle Figher and this one is in the game's replaced textures. Almost everything has been recreated to befit the high-definition iteration of the game. There are new backgrounds, new texts, new character select screen, and even new gem textures.
Unfortunately, the animation sprites of the characters you select have simply been upscaled from their original sprites. This doesn't go too well with the rest of the game. While everything on your screen looks crisp and high-res, the animated character sprites look dull and forced.
Developer Backbone Entertainment probably did this one in a hurry so they couldn't afford to get each frame of the animation redone in higher resolution, as they are doing with "Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix".
The in-game audio is as loud and chirpy as I remember it to be. In fact, you may want to turn down the volume a bit, as it tends to be startlingly loud when compared to regular games on the console.
Though the game has a robust single player mode, the best way is to play against a live opponennt. The good thing is that Xbox Live multiplayer is supported, so you can hook up with someone online in case you're short on people who can come over to play.
The Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix does more than just gratify your sense of nostalgia. The game is quite a robust title in itself that has been well ported to suit today's visual needs. Though the character animations remain an eyesore, you'll learn to ignore that pretty quickly and concentrate on what really makes the game so much fun — its timeless gameplay!
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