E3 2011: Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition preview

Loved SFII but skipped part three? This new version might suck you back in

Everyone and their mother knows Street Fighter II. Its rise to arcade supremacy made Chun Li a household name and influenced countless other games to this very day. Despite this world-famous allure, many skipped the lavishly animated Street Fighter III when it arrived years later, partly because there were so many iterations of SFII and Alpha already clogging arcades, and also because SFIII introduced an unfamiliar cast of characters with advanced play mechanics that required a serious time commitment. Didn’t have the time, money or inclination to sit in an arcade and learn how to perfectly parry Ken’s Super Art? Then you probably got stomped by those who did.

For all its beauty, SFIII seemingly left the mainstream audience behind. The pro-level players, however, consider it “the” competitive Street Fighter game, and continue playing to this day. If that many people have stuck it out, clearly the rest of us are missing something.


Above: Any game that can generate this response deserves a second chance

So, with fighting games back on the forefront and online multiplayer offering better and more stable experiences than ever before, now is the perfect time to give SFIII (specifically the refined Third Strike version) another chance to shine.

Capcom’s aware of the perceived learning curve this time around, so Online Edition comes packed with training modes for each character, plus tutorials for the game’s all-important parrying system. If you time it just right, you can intercept and nullify any attack, be it a jab, a fireball or a Super Art mega-attack, simply by pushing forward on the stick at the moment of impact. Nailing this deflection move consistently means hours of practice, plus a familiarity with every other characters’ play style. That’s quite a tall order, one that likely hurt SFIII’s initial appeal when the arcade machine was the only way to play, but now that can be addressed by hopping into the new practice modes and learning at your own pace.

If one particular character is giving you a lot of grief online, you can head into yet another mode that allows you to record a character’s input commands and then practice blocking or parrying that string of moves. Tired of falling for the same combo or cross up time and time again? This could be a way to break your losing streak.

That’s all well and good for newcomers, but what about those who’ve kept the faith? Well, fan service comes in a couple of different ways. First and foremost is theGGPO (good game, peace out)online service that hardcore players already know and trust. This custom built, fan-made technology masks latency issues and allows for smooth, uninterrupted online play, better than any current console fighting game. Last year’s Final Fight Double Impact used GGPO, but Street Fighter III is a much better test of its abilities.

Longtime players can also enjoy a tome of official art and music, which can be unlocked by accomplishing in-game achievements (seen above, on the left side of the screen). Granted, that’s basically yet another “Extras” mode seen in a million other games, but SFIII happens to have some of the best 2D art out there. Finally, longtime Capcom musician Simon Viklund (Bionic Commando Rearmed, among others) is remixing the already impressive soundtrack - though if you prefer the original music, it’s in here too.

As with most HD sprite conversions, there are a handful of visual filters and display options to choose among. The oddest (and intensely nostalgic) is seen above, which adds blurry scan lines and a slight color bleed to the picture, mimicking old arcade cabinet screens you’ve probably seen in countless bowling alleys and pizza joints. There are also smoothing filters and widescreen/4x3 options as well, none of which alter the core gameplay.

Online Edition lands on XBLA and PSN on August 26. I was one of the many who passed on SFIII the first time around, but always admired the gorgeous animations as well as the prowess needed to play on an expert level. Now that I can actually practice parrying and run through some other tutorials before heading online, I fully plan to check this out. Maybe it’ll still be too much for me, but at the very least Imma try one more time.

Jun 13, 2011

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