Puzzle Fighter was one of those classic games that had just the right mix of two genres you’d probably never think of pairing to present a truly memorable experience. Mixing Tetris-like gameplay (or a possibly more apt comparison, Dr. Mario) with the world of Street Fighter proved to be just as engaging as the biggest puzzle games on the market. But that was a long time ago, and that space began being filled by similar titles that went with a Bejeweled-esque match three approach. Despite this, Capcom has decided that it’s time to revisit the classic, albeit from a different angle. And you know what? It’s pretty damn good so far.
Now we must start off by saying that this is a free-to-play mobile game. There is no console release planned (though I would love this on the Switch, 3DS, or Vita). Normally that would be enough to turn someone away, but hear us out. The game is actually a well-done sequel to the 1996 PS One Release.
The first thing that stands out is the gameplay. The touchscreen on smart devices serves perfectly as a controller, allowing you to quickly manipulate combinations of gems and drop them where you want with rapid taps and swipes. I played on an iPad and it was very responsive with no issues or frustrating maneuvers as I quickly dropped gems into the positions I wanted. You could pull off combos and block your opponent’s advancement, but there’s also a real fighting game going on with health bars and everything. In the original game you were just focused on the puzzle before you, but in Puzzle Fighter the combinations you create along with the use of Crash Gems (which clear out gems they come into contact with as long as they match in color) will actually have your fighter do damage to your opponent, slowly whittling their health down. And yes, signature special moves are present and accounted for, requiring players to create specific patterns with their gems.
Speaking of characters and signature moves, you don’t only have Street Fighter and Dark Stalkers to look forward to when playing. Capcom has grown quite a bit since the first game, and so there are new franchises being represented such as Resident Evil and Dead Rising. And all of the characters are adorably illustrated (some even look better than their outings in recent games… yes we’re talking about Street Fighter characters).
With this being a free-to-play game, though, some may be wondering about monetization. There are definitely microtransactions available, which can be used to purchase packs or upcoming new characters. However, you can still earn everything without spending a single cent, with rewards being granted after every match, win or lose (with wins giving the better goods of course). These rewards range from currency to extra experience, to power cards which can be equipped on your characters, changing their signature move (these are, of course, character specific). There is a bit of randomness to the whole thing, earning experience and rewards that you can use to advance further and earn more experience and rewards, but the core gameplay is that solid puzzler/fighter that was difficult to put down.
In all of the hustle and bustle of New York Comic Con, this follow-up to a classic that is over 20 years old now caught a lot of attention. It’s great to see Puzzle Fighter, even if it is just on mobile. My main issue is that it’s not available in the United States just yet. In fact, it’s only available in a few select regions as part of a soft launch which includes Canada, Mexico, Austrailia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore (yeah, it somehow isn’t available in Japan or Europe either). If you happen to have a foreign iOS or Android account, you’re all good, but the rest of us will have to wait. But after some hands-on time, this mobile game may prove well worth that wait.