Another day, another Street Fighter. The revival of the beat ‘em up genre has most certainly been good to Capcom, the publisher/developer releasing no less than three boxed editions of Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Capcom vs. Tatsunoko various download-only titles as well as upcoming releases Street Fighter x Tekken and an ‘Ultimate’ edition of Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
What’s next? Super Marvel Fighter x Mortal Kombat Ultimate Tatsunoko Edition? Probably.
The thing is though, all the above are just so damned good. You don’t sneer at Capcom for attacking our wallets so hard and so repeatedly, you thank them for it. Well… I do, at least.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition follows in the same tradition of quality as the aforementioned titles. Not only is this a fabulous re-release of the 1999 original edition of Third Strike (Street Fighter III ‘normal strike’ came out in 1997), it’s a fabulous fighting game in own right; easily holding its own against the latest the genre has thrown our way.
The reason for that is largely down to the fast, smooth pace of the gameplay and mesmerising visuals. Third Strike uses the same six-button input (three punches and three kicks of light, medium and hard variety) as the majority of Street Fighter titles, allowing anyone with any experience of the series whatsoever to get immediately stuck in with dragon punches, spinning bird kicks and fireballs with no problems.
Technically Third Strike is arguably the most complete and thrilling fighter the series has ever produced. Parries, cancels, super-combos, the charge gauge and the character balancing are all brilliantly implemented and combine into a whole that is at first daunting but ultimately intuitive, sophisticated and loaded with opportunities to develop your own fighting style and character preferences.
Achieving a ‘Perfect’ against final boss Gill while playing as Ken by linking dragon punches into fireballs into parries back into dragon punches and finishing with a screen illuminating super combo had me literally screaming with satisfaction. (Not that I’m boasting or anything.)
And before you say it: yes, I know Ken is a ‘newbie’ character.
Parrying in particular is a skill that you’ll want to master if you harbour any ambitions of standing side-by-side with the big boys. Performed by tapping towards your opponent as they launch an attack, it offers an aggressive way of deflecting your opponent’s attacks without resorting to turtling up and blocking until an opening appears. Of course, it’s a risk-reward mechanic in that if you mess up your timing than you’re liable to take a vicious beating.
The new HD visuals result in some wonderfully vibrant colours that bring both fighters and backgrounds to life in a way the original graphics never could. In the settings menu there’s an option to play with either ‘Smooth’ or ‘Crisp’ visual filters; Smooth (surprise, surprise) prioritises fluid movements over graphical fidelity while Crisp is the opposite, favouring well defined character sprites
. Neither results in any kind of advantage (or disadvantage), their implementation merely a matter of preference.
Many of the cast will be alien to those that have only played the more famous outings of the Street Fighter series (namely SFII and SFIV). Aside from Ken, Ryu and Chun-Li, much of the cast either does not appear in other games or appear only occasionally and often as unlockable/DLC characters. This includes Ken’s half Brazilian half-Japanese protégée ‘Sean’, the mysterious overcoat wearing ‘Q’ and the shape-shifting T-1000-esque ‘Twelve’.
The genius is that no matter which character you pick you’ll always look good thanks to the quality of the animation and the art. While Q and Twelve might be difficult to master compared to the likes of Sean, Ken or Chun-Li, it’s worth playing as them if only to see what kind of a visual feast the team at Capcom have applied to them.
Third Strike also offers a points system that rewards you for completing various tasks in various quantities. For example, points are earned for achieving a ‘Perfect’, performing your first parry, performing five parries, winning 100 rounds, launching five hundred projectile attacks etc. These points can then be exchanged for concept art, ending movies, music tracks and the like in the ‘Vault’.
Perhaps more importantly though, these points provide valuable information regarding which moves you tend to plump for, which you avoid and which you just darn right can’t execute. For example, I just can’t get the hang of air parries – my points counter showing I’ve only executed them six times in over 300 rounds – all of them by accident. That pathetically small number taunting me and demanding I improve my skills.
The new online multiplayer modes just GGPO technology. I’m not going to pretend I understand how it works, just rest assured that it does – matches are impressively lag-free given the furious pace of the gameplay. A YouTube upload feature is also planned for inclusion via a free update a day or two after release (23 Aug on PSN, 24 Aug on XBLA).
If you’re a beat ‘em up fan then you should most certainly download yourself a copy of Third Strike – it’s tight, fluid, diverse and stylish. In terms of pure gameplay it rivals anything available today, boxed games included.