Capcom showed off a new incarnation of its puzzle game Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo at its press event last night. The game, dubbed Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD, is an HD upgraded version of Capcom's classic arcade puzzler for the PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade. We had the chance to try out a work-in-progress version of the game running on the Xbox 360, which gave us a taste of the upgraded visuals.
For those unfamiliar with the title, the original game hit arcades in the late '90s and served up an addictive dose of puzzle action wrapped in a hefty dose of superdeformed cuteness. The game marries a Tetris-style clear-the-falling-blocks mechanic with one-on-one street fighting. The glue that holds the package together is the superdeformed incarnations of characters from the Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Red Earth, and Cyberbots games. While the premise is quite simple, once you spend any time with the game you'll find there's quite a bit of strategy to it. The playable characters have unique patterns for the falling gems that will require you to tailor your play style to their strengths. As you clear gems off your board, your character will perform his or her signature attacks against your opponent. You'll win the match when your opponent's area overflows with blocks. If you want to work some flash into your victory, you can get your character to perform special and super moves by removing a series of block rows and creating chain combos with them.
Though Capcom has released versions of the game for the Game Boy Advance and PSP in the US and for the Sega Dreamcast in Japan, this latest incarnation for the PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade is aiming to bring some new elements to the mix. The most striking is an HD makeover that entails redone character portraits, backgrounds, and gem blocks. Udon, the art studio of Street Fighter comic fame, is being tapped to redo the character portraits and backgrounds in the game while developer Digital Eclipse is redoing the gem block visuals. The driving force behind the visual tweaks is the game's 1080p support, which requires some work on the developer's part to ensure the game pops at the HD resolution.
The work-in-progress version certainly did just that, with one notable exception: the actual character sprites. It hurt us inside to see the razor-sharp character portraits segue to slightly fuzzy character sprites on crystal-clear backgrounds. Some smoothing has been done to keep the sprites from looking too chunky, but the Puzzle Fighter gang isn't looking their HD best. In speaking with reps on hand, it sounds as though more work is being done to clean up the appearance of the sprites, but a full-on makeover is unlikely. The game will also offer a second graphics option that is a pixel-perfect re-creation of the original visuals.
From a content standpoint, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will be a conversion of the version of Puzzle Fighter that appeared in the recently released Puzzle World for the PSP. The PSP conversion was actually based on the Dreamcast incarnation of the fan-favorite title, which was available only on consoles in Japan via Sega's D-Direct service. The game features three new gameplay options (dubbed X, Y, and Z), which offer gameplay variations on the core concept. X mode will offer the classic Puzzle Fighter gameplay. Y mode will offer a more Tetris-style experience by letting you remove gem blocks by simply lining up three or more blocks of a similar color. Finally, Z mode will have you dealing with blocks falling upward. The X mode has been rebalanced from previous incarnations to ensure that characters aren't overpowered. You'll also find a counter-gem edit mode to let you customize your character's counterattacks.
Aside from the single-player game, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will feature ranked and player matches online. For the voyeurs out there, the game will also feature a spectator mode. To advertise your awesomeness, Capcom is offering worldwide rankings and leaderboards to tout the best of the best.
Based on what we saw, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is coming together pretty well. The gameplay is just about spot-on, although there were a few odds and ends, such as some controller lag issues, in need of some polish. The visual overhaul is almost perfect. Almost. Yep, we're going to be nitpicky and whine about the lack of redrawn character sprites. Udon's art in comics is so fantastic that we're a little bitter it's only redoing some bits of the game art. The artists' collective touches in the game are pretty slick, so we'll lament not getting to see what they could do with the character sprites. However, people without nitpicking issues will likely be fine with the game as it stands now. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is slated to hit this summer. Look for more on the game in the coming months.