Super Puzzle Fighter II X (Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo in the US) was arguably the most accessible puzzler of it's day. It had the draw of popular Capcom characters, a simple yet formidable game engine, and countless extras and unlockable features. Now, in this new generation of graphics dominated videogames, Capcom brings us back to the basics with the solid gameplay, cute characters and mad chaining action of Super Puzzle Fighter II X For Matching Service.
SPFII X FMS (that's quite the acronym there!) was released for the DC through Dreamcast Direct, as many of the system's other later titles were. Matching service in this case refers to the ability to compete against human competitors over the Dreamcast network. SPFII X FMS is not quite a sequel to the original Super Puzzle Fighter II (for those who do not know, Capcom did indeed begin with 'II', sort of as a joke on themselves and their endless sequels/variations), but does update the titles in ways which make your purchase worthwhile. The graphics for instance have not changed a bit, other than now being VGA compatible. All of the characters are the same, even the hidden ones. The sound is very good, but identical to the original as well. In terms of music, now you can choose the arcade music instead of the console-exclusive tracks (which are unchanged), though to be honest I like the remixes better.
But graphics and sound are seldom the reasons why we buy puzzle games. No, we buy them for their addictive gameplay. This is where Capcom delivers enough steaming heaps of game goodness to whet the appetite of even the most ravenous puzzle game connoisseur. If you're not familiar with the game's play-system, I'll outline it here. As in many puzzlers, you drop paired colored blocks down a well. You must match these colors together, and if they form a rectangular structure, they become a large crystal block, worth more (point wise) than the sum of its parts. You can 'shatter' these crystals with Crash Bombs, and the main goal is to shatter them in such a way that you will create huge chain reactions, which sends numbered blocks onto your opponent's side. These numbered blocks count down every time you land a group of blocks, and once the counter reaches zero, they become solid blocks of a particular color. These can also be very useful when planning chain attacks. As an additional bonus, you can edit your attack patterns this time around. The whole system makes chaining a bit more accessible to newcomers than a game like Puyo Puyo or Columns, what Insert Credit would consider SPFII X's main competitors in the puzzle genre.
What I just described is the original play-system. But since this is an 'update' of sorts for the title, Capcom has chosen to add two other modes. In more self referential humor, these modes are chosen like the 'isms' of the Street Fighter Alpha series. Xism is the normal system. Yism is akin to the Sega developed puzzler Columns, wherein you must link four like colors together vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Zism is the newcomer here, and is far more complex. In the Zism mode, you are given a well filled halfway with colored blocks, and you must rotate these using a two-by-two square cursor in order to create large crystals, or relocate Crash Bombs. All the while, the screen is filling with blocks, one layer at a time. Naturally your opponent's attacks can heighten the speed at which your screen fills. The Zism system takes a while to get used to, but can be very fun once you get into it. Both senior members of insertcredit.com consider themselves to be excellent puzzle gamers, but were utterly trounced at this mode by an ambitious friend. These two modes add depth to the game, but at the same time bring down the accessibility average, as they're both a bit more difficult to get into in terns of chain attacks, which is the main goal.
SPFII X's original mode has stood the test of time, and the two new modes just push the game right over the top. I should mention also that all of the extra modes of the original remain equally playable; in 'street puzzler' mode, you go head to head with the computer, battling for new win icons, new colors, music tracks, and secret characters. And the hi-res image gallery is back, this time with a few new additions. So yes, this game is worth the price of importing from Japan if you're any kind of a puzzle fan. Since the game is set entirely in VS mode (vs computer or human, or across the network), this is also a great one to play with your friends. Plus it's still fun to watch the tiny SD Capcom characters duke it out while you play. Actually this is where my one complaint for the game lies, if you can call it that. In the original, you see Lei-Lei's sister Lin-Lin represented in full-bodied super deformed glory at the end of the game. I have always wondered if she was unlockable somehow (she's so cute!!), other than in her 'ghost card' mode, and hoped that the dreamcast mode would yield this change. Sadly it did not, you only play as full-bodied Lin-Lin for a fraction of a second before she returns to her usual self. Ah well, I must settle for what I can get; an excellent puzzle game with huge replay value and immense two-player appeal. Maybe that's not so bad after all!