Originally released back in 1996, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is one of those cult classic games that, at the time, you simply didn't see coming. Since then, Capcom's fighter-filled puzzle game has become a bit of a rarity in North America. Supplies of the PlayStation and Saturn release have long since dried up, and the enhanced Dreamcast version never found its way out of Japan. However, Capcom is changing all that by releasing a new version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo on a platform that should have had the game all along--the Game Boy Advance. While the port to the GBA sacrifices some of the original game's graphical and sound quality, the gameplay is intact.
Puzzle Fighter's brand of block-dropping action is roughly identical to Sega's Baku Baku and has a little bit in common with Sega's other block-dropping game, Columns. Blocks enter your pit in groups of two. You can rotate the two blocks around at will and drop them into your pit by pushing down. There are two basic types of blocks. Your standard gems are split up into various colors. When put into squares or rectangles, blocks of the same color will join together to form giant slabs of rock. The other common gem is a circular gem that also comes in various colors. Dropping these gems onto your standard blocks causes the whole mess to explode and disappear from your pit. By carefully stacking up a mixture of standard and breaker gems, you can put together gigantic chain reactions for higher scores. The final gem type is a diamond; when you drop this diamond on any colored block, all gems of that color disappear from your pit. Even when you're playing alone, the game puts you up against a CPU opponent, so the eventual object is to put together enough chain reactions to cause a gigantic flood of blocks to dump into your enemy's pit.
Puzzle Fighter's penchant for combos makes the game more strategic than your average puzzle game, as you need to carefully balance the need to keep your pit clean with the need to set up raucous combinations to obliterate your opponent. Get too greedy with your attack setup, and you're likely to get wiped out yourself before you have time to unleash your combo. Attack too often, and the game will go on forever because you won't be attacking with enough blocks.
Along with the requisite arcade and link cable multiplayer modes, Puzzle Fighter lets you play two-player games on the same Game Boy Advance by splitting up the controls. Left, right, and the L trigger control the left player, while the A, B, and R buttons are used for the right player. If both players have steady hands, this works pretty well, but it can be a little tough to keep the system steady while playing like this, so link cable games are the recommended multiplayer option. The game also has a street puzzle mode that puts you up against each of the game's other characters in a series of more difficult matches. Beating these opponents opens up unlockable items, such as new character colors. It would have been nice to see the additional modes that were added to the Dreamcast version of the game here.
On the presentation side, Puzzle Fighter does a passable job, but the game has been slightly scaled back. The game's soundtrack is mostly intact, but it doesn't sound quite as good as its console counterpart. The character voice samples are a little scratchy, also. Graphically, the game looks just fine, though busting up medium-to-large-sized blocks causes the superdeformed Capcom fighters in the middle of the screen to start moving around a lot. Unfortunately, the GBA can't keep up, and all of this movement translates into some pretty heavy slowdown.
While it may not be a pixel-perfect port, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo for the Game Boy Advance plays very well, makes a great link cable game, and still stands as one of the best Tetris-style puzzle games ever made. Purists may find the slowdown a little disappointing, but people looking for a great GBA puzzle game certainly won't go wrong here.