Long answer is as follows: I've been a fan of Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo for a long time. I've always loved the arcade version, personally, even though it's less balanced and glitchy. I sort of prefer the glitchy unbalanced version anyway. Lately I've been playing it online via nFBA emulator and P2P netplay client with some people, and I really enjoy it in general.
First of all, to you Puyo scrubs out there, Puyo Puyo is actually a much "easier game" to play. Puyo doesn't have a lot of strategy and the game is designed for very easy chain-combos, and doesn't emphasize the need to pay attention to your opponent as much. You can basically play it optimally as if you were playing against yourself, ignoring your opponent entirely, which makes it feel more like a single-player game. However, in Puzzle Fighter there's quite a few different strategies, and watching what your opponent does is significantly stronger than only paying attention to your own board, which makes it feel very interactive. Plus, while chains can be strong in SPF2T they aren't always the best option and you have to work to build chains properly. They don't just fall from the sky automatically like they do in games like Puyo Puyo.
Anyway, Some things to note:
- Gems. The squares you build.
- Breakers. The circles that break the squares.
- Damage. The counter-blocks you drop on your opponent.
- Diamond. The shiney white bit that will break all pieces of the same color.
- Chains. When you break some pieces, then break more pieces afterwards on the same "turn".
- Life column. The 4th column and the column that will end the round if it is filled to the top.
In this game the characters have different drop patterns for their Damage. One of the very first tactics that most newbies learn in this game is to specifically counter their opponent's Damage pattern, since it's not random. In most cases the character's "weakness" is either red or blue on the left side. Usually column 2 or 3 are the ones that players start stacking the color that their opponent drops and they throw all their "junk" in column 1 or 6 (using 4 only if necessary).
Honestly, this isn't such a bad tactic since you don't get breakers whenever you want them. But if you're stacking breakers up in your "junk piles" then you may be able to access them when you want, instead of relying on luck to get the color you want when you want it.
What this usually results in is really tall power gems of a single color. It's fairly easy to do against most characters and it leaves a large power gem open to be broken at any time, since it's difficult to cover such a large gem with damage. If a gem was built horizontally it could be easily covered in a row or two of damage, forcing the player to "dig" the gem out with breakers. But with a vertical gem the player can fairly easily place a breaker on it at any time because it's difficult to cover it in damage. But because not all drop patterns are created equal, this leads to character strengths and weaknesses, in other words: tiers.
The first names you hear about in regards to Puzzle Fighter tiers are always Ken and Donovan. They have probably the best drop patterns out of any normal character. Honorable mentions go to Morrigan and Devilot.
The reason Morrigan is interesting is because her colors change in her third row of damage like Donovan. Even though she drops a lot of red in her center, if the opponent tries to counter her by building red, they are taking a huge risk by gambling with their 4th column (since building red means there's red in column 4), making them prone to sudden-kills. Otherwise they will have to either build blue in the left corner or yellow in column 2 and 3, which can be stifled if Morrigan drops 3 rows of damage in one turn, followed by another row of damage in her next turn.
Gouki (Akuma) and Devilot both have diagonal color drops. However, their damage is also nerfed. Even so, Devilot's damage isn't nerfed as bad as Gouki's. She actually does a fair amount of damage both with single large breaks and chaining, as apposed to Gouki who really has to rely on very large chains to do significant damage. Her only real weakness is to Red in the left corner or Blue for columns 2 and 3, but she can easily make it a chore to try and counter her by dropping two or three rows of damage which puts a variety of mixed colors all over the board.
Meanwhile it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the worst character is, master of self ownage, Dan. Though honorable mentions also go to Chun-Li and Felicia who also have some pretty pathetic drop patterns.
However, if your opponent is aware that you are going to try and do this, they can take counter-measures of their own by throwing lots of mixed damaged at you rather than singular rows for you to counter-build against. The best way to do this is with "double breakers" and chaining.
Whether by glitch or design, breaking two colors simultaneously counts mathematically as a singular break. Thus, when you get a piece that contains two breakers of different colors you have the potential to cause a lot more damage with a double-break than with a chain. In the scenario seen to the right, the double break actually does slightly more damage than if the breaker piece is flipped and causes a 2-hit chain.
However, this only really applies to small chains and short chains. A small chain meaning the hits involve very tiny amounts of gems (like one or two gems per chain hit). Or short chains like 3-hits. The multiplier for chaining is actually quite ridiculous, I don't exactly know what the multiplier is but it's pretty obvious that it increases per hit of the chain which gives 6-hit and 7-hit chains the potential to flat out kill your opponent. The playing field is 72 spaces (6 columns, 12 rows) so assuming your opponent's field is clear then that number would result in death on the next turn, and if they have a row of blocks already on the field then instant-death.
But one (dis)advantage to chaining is that Attacking is much stronger than Defending. When playing, if you do damage the damage doesn't actually fall until the opponent finished dropping a piece (ending their "turn"). Instead a number is put on the field and you have a chance to reduce that number with your own damage. But, the amount of damage you do to the counter is actually a lot less than if you had attacked.
In other words, if your opponent does 20 damage and the counter is set to 20, and you break the same number of gems you won't decrease the counter to 0. Actually I think it decreases only to 10. Which means defending is only about half as strong as attacking.
The reason this effects chaining is because you're unable to act while a chain is going on, but your opponent can.
This brings me to the next subject, which is something I like to call "parking". Basically, when your opponent drops a lot of damage the blocks are set to timers, each turn reduces the timer by one. When the timer hits zero it converts the damage into regular gems.
You can take advantage of this by placing breakers on top of damage. And over the next five turns if you placed breakers on all the colors by the time they convert then they will all break simultaneously. You know what that means, huge damage. So although defending is weaker than attacking, countering-damage or "parking" can actually be ever stronger. You send back the same amount of damage that was done to you, plus some.
Now, remember I said this game was glitchy? Well, one notorious glitch in the arcade version is known as "the diamond glitch". It basically involves flipping a piece that contains the diamond vertically. To do so you have to have a column that is blocked off on either side, leaving a 2x1 space. Then you press down to land the piece, and just before the piece locks you rotate the piece by pressing either button to flip the piece vertically. For some reason this only works vertically, not horizontally. And it only works if you actually flip the piece, not rotate it. I believe it also doesn't work if the piece you're landing on is a damage block, but I could be wrong. At any rate, the game calculates the damage you'd do approximately twice instead of once. I don't really know the specifics of the calculations, but I just know that there is a major, significantly noticeable difference between a normal diamond break and a glitched diamond break. I've seen a diamond glitch do about 20-30 more damage than it would have done without the glitch.
In closing, here's some casual online matches between myself and an "anonymous" player:
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