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how to play
The Puzzle Fighter Shrine FAQ
by Giulio Piancastelli
[10th July 2001]

Puzzle Fighter FAQ
by John Jung
[17th April 1999]

Puzzle Fighter Secrets
by Richard Uyeyama
[18th November 1998]

Puzzle Fighter FAQ
by Hunter
[28th August 1996]

Akuma Chun-Li
Dan Devilot
Donovan Felicia
Hsien-Ko Ken
Morrigan Ryu
How To Play
Welcome to the How To Play section of The Puzzle Fighter Shrine! Here you will find several explanations covering various aspects of the game; first, there is a description of the game's elements; then there is a brief overview on the game itself , its different playing mode and the basics of attacking and defending; finally, I've put down some guidelines about the basic stategies to use to ensure you the final victory in the game.
If there are any suggestion you would like to give, or questions you would like to ask, or if you would like to point out mistakes I made or things you do not agree with me about, please feel free to e-mail me.

Game's Elements
Here are the Puzzle Fighter game's elements:

Regular Gem GEM
- Also known as Regular Gem, it is the brick you will build your entire game with. You find it in four different colours: blue, red, green, yellow.

- A group of Regular Gems of the same colour in a NxM (with N,M>1) pattern. Resemble a larger solid Regular Gem.

- It's a round gem with a little flame inside; it is in four colours (yellow, red, green, blue) and it is used to destroy gems of the correspondent colour when dropped onto them.

- A gem with a number inside. Starting from 5 or 3, when the number reaches 0 the Counter Gem turns itself in a Regular Gem of the same colour (blue, green, red, yellow). These gems are the ones that are dropped on the opponent's field after an attack.

- Every n gems (I do not know exactly how much n is) the CPU drops a gem with the shape of a diamond, which is used to clear all the gems of the colour of the gem the diamond is dropped on.

Like Puyo Puyo, Puzzle Fighter is a head to head game: 1P games have the player fighting against each other. Puzzle Fighter belongs to the drop-from-the-top type of puzzle game: a pair of gems drops from column 4 (for both sides) in a 13 rows x 6 columns field, and the pair can be composed by any combination of regular or crash gems (but usually has only one diamond gem at a time).
Your aim is to fill your opponent's column 4, so that no more pairs can be dropped in his/her field, and he/she loses the game; it does not matter if the columns 1-3 and 5-6 are empty or not, because what keep you alive is having free space in column 4.
Two indicators take place in the upper part of the field. On the left there is a display of how huge is the attack you're suffering: it will say Caution for small sized attacks, Warning to indicate a mid-sized attack and Danger for the large ones. On the right there is a counter indicating how many counter gems will be dropped on your field before you can play your next pair of gems.

The stick or d-pad controls the movement of the pair of gems dropping (press left to move the pair left, right to move it right, down to drop it quickly; the up direction is not used) and actually 4 buttons make the pair rotate clockwise or anticlockwise (2 buttons for each rotating direction). Finally, there are the Start and Select buttons: the first is used to taunt your opponent (see later) and both of them are used to insert special codes to play secret characters.

There are 5 different modalities to play the PC version of Puzzle Fighter. The first is called Arcade Mode, and it is the faithful reproduction of the arcade game: you pick a character among the 4 Street Fighters and the 4 Darkstalkers (or one among Dan, Akuma and Devilot, but you have to enter a secret code to gain one of them) then you have to fight against a certain number of characters controlled by the CPU. Then, there is the Original Mode, which is the same as the Arcade Mode except from the fact that the three secret characters (Dan, Akuma, Devilot) are normally selectable, just as the other 8 fighters are, whithout needing a particular code. Next, you can play the Street Puzzle Mode where you select one of the 8 non-secret characters and fight against the CPU to obtain special goodies (please follow the link to the Street Puzzle section for a detailed description of this mode). In the first two game modalities, before selecting your fighter you will be asked to decide the game difficulty: choosing Easy will bring you to fight against three other characters only, picking up Normal will let you face all the 8 fighters plus the final boss Akuma, selecting Hard would be the same as selecting Normal except the CPU plays smarter and faster. But if you want an even harder challenge, playing the Street Puzzle Mode you can gain the new Master Arcade Mode, all in all similar to the Arcade Mode but harder and with a smarter and faster CPU even than in an Arcade Mode with the difficulty level set on Hard. Finally, there is the Versus Mode, where you fight against another human player, and where at the end of each match statistics are kept on how many wins or losses each character has gained.

The basic things you can do playing Puzzle Fighter are the same standard things you can do playing whatever fighting game: you can taunt, you can attack, you can defend. Yes, even the taunts are in the game: to taunt your opponent you just have to press the Start button. The character's animation is the same as a small attack (in fact, the first move of all the characters is called Taunt and corresponds to a Small Attack and you can taunt your opponent only once in a round, except if you're playing Dan, who has infinite taunts. As far as attacking is concerned, there are two ways of doing it. The first one is to drop a crash gem on a same coloured regular or crash gem: doing that, all the regular or crash gems of the same colour which are adjacent to a gem which is to be broken will be destroyed as well. Notice that if you drop a crash gem onto a counter gem, this one will not be destroyed until its counter reaches 0; indeed, if an explosion provoked by a crash or a diamond gem happens near some counter gems, all the counter gems adjacent to the first broken gem are destroyed as well, thus not considering if their counter has reached 0 or not.
There is just one way to defend yourself during an opponent's attack, and it's to attack on your own. If you are able to destroy some gems (regular, crash or possibly power gems) during an opponent's attack, you will be able to reduce the number of gems that will be dropped on your field. There are different kind of reduction of an attack: if you're able to only negate less than 1/2 of the original attack, then less counter gems will be dropped but all of them will have their counter starting from 5; if you manage to negate more than 1/2 of the attack, not only you'll receive less counter gems, but also their counter will usually start from 3 instead of 5; finally, if you manage to negate all the attack, there is the possibility you cause the opponent to have some gems dropped thanks to your defense only. Notice that your defence power is usually half the equivalent attack power, but that is true only when you're negating an attack: if you manage to attack with your defense only, the number of gems dropped on your opponent's field will not suffer the defending gems have to.

There are at least two strategy levels people have to deal with when playing Puzzle Fighter: the first one involves the number of attacks you're planning to realize in order to finish off your opponent; the second level is about how you're going to realize that number of attacks.
As far as the first level strategy is concerned, there are basically three options. You can just attack with everything that falls on your field, building little or medium sized power gems and blowing them up as soon as possible, in order not to let the opponent take a breath between an attack and another. The aim of this strategy is to continuously mess up your opponent's field burying each opponent's setup with a line or two of counter gems. Consequently, a right timing is essential to this kind of strategy: often, you cannot make a little attack follow another little attack without waiting for the opponent to put down some gems, because in this way it would be much more simple for your opponent to setup against your attacks thanks to the regularity of every attack pattern. In fact, your fighter's pattern is very important when you choose either the first or the second level strategy. In this case, for example, it would be very hard for you to win choosing this strategy when using Ken or Dan, while it could be a reasonable strategy when using Chun-Li. Please note that this first level strategy automatically implies the use of a certain second level strategy (little or medium sized power gems, or short chains, and so on) leaving you no freedom in this choice.
Another kind of first level strategy is the one-shot-one-kill option, that is killing your opponent with a huge single attack (and maybe a little sprout here and there to finish him/her off). Timing is not really important here, but you have to be very accurate (and as fast as possible) in building up your setup, because it may happen that you will not have another chance to attack, being that huge single attack your only chance to win the game. This is especially true for Dan, who people playing with are forced to use this kind of strategy; however, this strategy can be applied to all the characters. Finally, as far as second level strategy is concerned, you can choose anything among huge power gems, long chains, towers of power, and so on: just check the combination of these elements to be deadly.
The last first level strategy option is maybe the most used, because it's quite effective, it can be applied to all the fighters, and it is easier to learn and practice than the previous approaches. It provides to attack with a certain number (usually from 2 to 6, but this number can increase with your opponent's skill) of medium or large sized attacks, sometimes to finish off your opponent with a little sprout or two. Obviously, speed and accurance can improve the effectiveness of this strategy in a determinant way, and the only way to improve these skills is to practice, practice, practice.
Finally, some words on second level strategy. Be careful when you choose it: some things as building a single huge gem a being able to blow it up, protecting it from the opponent's counter gems at the same time, are really difficult to do and require skill and, as in every game, a bit of luck. So, try to combine first and second level strategy in the most effective and deadly way, in order to win most of your games and, obviously, to have fun.