Capcom’s late ’90s Puzzle Fighter carried a self-mocking title – Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. There never was an original Puzzle Fighter; Capcom took a chance and riffed their endless Street Fighter II revisions. The game itself turned out sensational, a versus gem-falling puzzle game with frenetic pacing and genuine strategy.
Capcom finally released the original in 2017. Or rather, it seems that way. Puzzle Fighter plays like a work in progress, the first in a series. Where Puzzle Fighter II Turbo used gems filling the screen as a loss condition, this mobile iteration relies on health bars. The back-and-forth, give-and-take tension of Turbo disappears. Puzzle Fighter plays like a placated edition of the classic gem matching cross-over.
Mobile Puzzle Fighter takes an all-timer and reduces it down to a rapid fire, multiplayer focused shoot-out. It’s not the same, but the essence is still there. Also here? Not-so-micro transactions, puffing up statistics with deep impact on the eventual playfield. Out goes the purity of Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and in comes the imbalance inherent in free-to-play mobile games. It’s as if Puzzle Fighter were once trapped in time, discovered, and now retouched for a different marketplace. It’s catchy, it’s different, but Turbo remains among the elite on its own.