Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Release Date: Summer 2007
At Capcom's Gamers Day event, alongside the obligatory Mega Man sequels and the nth Street Fighter II reissue, there was yet another classic game that has been ported to more than a couple of systems in the last decade: Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Considering my usual cynicism towards this seemingly endless practice of over-milking a franchise without really improving the experience, I expected my eyes to roll immediately. But they didn't – they widened.
You've snared me again, Capcom. The silliest (and perhaps longest) title in all of gaming has just become downright ridiculous, as Capcom will unleash Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network Store this summer. The HD Remix part tells you a lot about what's changed, but there's a bit more than meets the eye. It won't just be a high-resolution version of those decade-old pixels (though that option is available); instead, Capcom has enlisted the talents of comic studio UDON (who previously worked on Capcom Fighting Evolution) to overhaul the visuals and bring Puzzle Fighter to a next-gen audience.
While the original style of the game (with its bright color palette and super-deformed characters) prevails, the visual difference is immediate. The pixelated characters of the past have been replaced by sharper hand-drawn designs, though the result isn't quite Guilty Gear; at this point, the crude animations have yet to be expanded or noticeably enhanced. However, the updated gems really shine in HD, with the large blocks showing flashy exuberance, while each crash gem has a unique animation (such as a flame on the red gems) that really stands out on the playing field.
At its core, Puzzle Fighter is the same game it has always been, as two players (or one player and an A.I. opponent) must link and destroy similarly colored gems to send their trash (counter gems) to the opposing side. More specifically, HD Remix is most similar to the version of Puzzle Fighter that appeared in Capcom Puzzle World for PSP in February, as it also features the bonus Y and Z game types, which add a bit of variety to the experience. Capcom has also promised to "rebalance" the gameplay, as some had complained of inequalities between the characters.
Cleaned-up gameplay and a makeover are both nice and well, but after playing a few versions of this game, what's going to draw me back again? Two words, my friends: online play. Via Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, gamers will be able to experience unbridled puzzle brilliance against others across the country and around the world. Cross-platform play seems unlikely, but each version should play host to a full complement of worldwide opponents. Ranked matches will be available for the hardcore set, while casual gamers will likely flock to player matches, where the "Quarter Match" system allows spectators the ability to queue up for a challenge. Leaderboards and a worldwide ranking system are just icing on this glorious digital cake.
I had a chance to play a couple matches on the Xbox 360 at the event, and I came away impressed, as the new visuals complement the established (and fantastic) gameplay. Both versions are likely to be identical, so your decision between the two may rest on less obvious factors. The Xbox 360 version certainly has an edge with its 200 Achievement points, but I'd take the SixAxis d-pad over that of the Xbox 360 controller any day. It's going to be a tricky decision for multiplatform gamers, but both versions should have no trouble getting across the core experience.
While no official price point could be confirmed at the event, the $10/800 point price mentioned for RocketMen seems likely to carry over to HD Remix. Though in its sixth North American iteration, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix looks to be the best yet, with 1080p support and the all-important online play. I want to resist, but I just can't – you've earned my $10 this time Capcom, but don't think you'll get it again. Well, except when Super Puzzle Fighter III 3rd Strike EO+ Live shows up.
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