Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits [Free] is actually a couple of years old now, and only just arriving in more countries worldwide. In some ways, it feels its age. It's less refined than the usual spins on Puzzle & Dragons [Free] we see these days, giving it the feeling of something that was slapped together to cash in on a craze before the tide went out again. It initially comes off as crudely simple, but if you give it a little time, that basic simplicity gives way to a very satisfying set of mechanics. Unfortunately, one other way shows the age of this game. While many social RPGs have loosened up a little on the monetization squeeze in recent times, Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits has its boots firmly planted in the past. On your throat. What remains is a fun game that can get frustrating in a hurry if you're not willing to pay up.

Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits 1Yes, even more so than usual. There are two main choke points in Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits. First, each round takes up a significant portion of your stamina gauge. Early on, when level-ups are plentiful and bring stamina refills with them, this isn't a big problem. Once those salad days are over, it's not uncommon to wipe out your whole meter in three or four rounds. The second big problem is in the difficulty curve. After a gentle tutorial and fairly breezy early set of stages, you'll hit your first serious boss in the form of Ryu. Unless you take some time to grind up in earlier fights, you probably won't be able to beat him. When you finally overcome him, the same pattern emerges, again and again. A few reasonable fights against generic goons followed by a somewhat silly boss that has you running away to lick your wounds and grind.

So why on earth should any Street Fighter fan put up with this nonsense? Well, it's a really enjoyable game at its core. Rather than having you manipulate pieces to make matches on the board, you simply touch a piece to clear away all adjacent pieces of the same color. This creates a spirit of that color. If you can match that spirit with another similarly colored spirit, you'll create a rainbow piece. Match that piece with another rainbow piece, and you'll enter a hyper combo mode. In this mode, you have to clear pieces while a clock ticks down. Clearing pieces gives you more time, but the catch is that your next match has to take place in the area of the pieces you just cleared. The more matches you can make before time runs out, the more hits you'll deliver in your next attack. Enabling this mode also helps charge your special moves, which you can tack on to the end of that combo for even more damage.

Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits 2Pieces come in three colors, which form a sort of rock-paper-scissors triangle of damage and defense. Your fighter will have a default color based on whichever move you've put in his or her primary special move slot, but using any special move of a different color will temporarily change your color. So not only do you need to focus on building your combo and hitting all your special moves in time, you'll also need to consider which order you're busting those moves out in. It's advantageous, and sometimes vital, to make sure you end up the color that's strong against your opponent. Provided you've collected enough pieces, you can use your special moves whenever you like, even if you're not in hyper combo mode. You won't deal as much damage, but it can be useful simply to change your fighter's color.

While the hyper combo mode has a timer on it, the rest of the game proceeds in a leisurely turn-based fashion, with your opponent set up to attack after a set number of turns. You can also run out of turns, but realistically, your opponent should be able to knock you out well before that happens. It's a nice contrast with the frantic hyper combo sections. You need to be very careful about your opponent's attacks, as they not only knock off a portion of your life bar, but can also mess with the board in a variety of ways. These attacks and the variety of effects they bring to the table help keep each round lively and unpredictable.

Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits 3 Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits 4

Being a sort of puzzle-social RPG hybrid, Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits has just about all of the usual elements of a social RPG. I've talked about the stamina system, but it also has an abysmally long download on first start-up, a random pull system for special moves, a friend system, and so on. You have to be online while playing, as well. The inventory limit on special moves is quite strict, and with the way the game hands out low-grade moves to you like candy, you'll probably hit it quickly. Premium currency can increase the size, but if you've played a lot of these games before you'll likely think to go straight to the fusion. Well, there's no joy here, because you need a ridiculous amount of coins to even do a low-level fusion. It's one of the many ways the economy is broken in this game, most of which can conveniently be done away with by opening your wallet.

It's particularly bothersome here because the mechanics of the game work so well. I think the set-up in Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits might actually do a better job of conveying the fast-paced kinetic action of a fighting game better than Puzzle Fighter does. But it's chained to one seriously heavy iron ball, and I'm not sure most people are going to want to deal with that. There are other things I could pick at, like the shortage of actual Street Fighter characters, the cheap-looking animation, or the overly-busy UI, but the truth is that all of those things are minor quibbles next to the mean difficulty curve, the unforgiving stamina system, and the overall approach to monetization that powers them.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • eufeion

    No available in the UK 🙁

    • City

      Not in France either -_-

  • HippoHumper

    Chibi Chun-Li is ridiculously cute yo.

  • imdakine1

    I used to love this game... Hate F2P! Stupid. Why not release his as premium and be done with it...

    • spsummer

      F2P and it looks like it requires an Internet connection, that's awesome!

  • Zerol3onheart

    Anytime you need to download additional data from the servers, and the progress bar moves 1% every 10 seconds, it's an automatic delete. Plus, like one person said, always on internet connection = f that.

    • Design by Adrian

      This is the so-called better Square Enix mobile experience...

  • elthesensai

    Why not just release puzzle fighter? That was a great game and perfect fit for mobile.

    • spsummer

      Because that would make to much sense.

  • Will Werneck Carvalho

    cant find the game on the android app store...

Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 3.5