In the realm of fighting games, few are held in as high regard as Capcom's 1999 effort, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. The second follow up to 1997’s Street Fighter III, 3rd Strike is beloved by die-hards as one of the pinnacles of the genre. It doesn't take a genius to realize that replacing M.Bison with an anime version of Fabio in a banana hammock is going to cost you some fans, but Capcom wanted a different experience, and made sure 3rd Strike played and looked differently than Street Fighter II. So does this HD Remix live up to the hype?
Above: DON CHAAAAAAAAN
The short answer is yes, absolutely. So what does Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online bring to the table? First off is the much mentioned "arcade perfect" gameplay, this means that the game is 100% loyal to the definitive arcade version. Unlike previous ports, each move’s animation frames, damage and hitboxes are all true to the original, glitches and all. This is good news for long time fans, but means little to newcomers.
More importantly, 3SO is the first Capcom game to officially support GGPO, a fan-made netcode system that sidesteps input lag by recording seconds of the gameplay at a time, and subtly tweaking the visuals so that inputs are precise regardless of connection strength. This worked perfectly in the matches we played online, though extremely bad connections lead to some odd visual stuttering as the game fiddles with what you’re seeing in order to preserve the inputs. Even so, it completely removes the “underwater” sensation you normally get when playing on bad connections.
3SO includes Trial modes, two of which briefly explain the game's parry system, but they go from reasonable to crazy quite fast. The last challenge asks you to perfectly imitate Daigo Umehara’s come from behind EVO victory against Justin Wong, so don’t think you’ll be clearing all of these on day one. Each character also has five individual trials to complete, though these also quickly become quite difficult.
Above: Da na na na nuh nah, My Shoryuken
Almost all of the Trials involve very tight links or specific spacing that isn’t always explained. A video replay of the combo being performed would also have been a huge help, and should really be standard in training modes at this point. More practical combos or tutorials would have been more helpful to new players, especially given how technical 3rd Strike is. As usual, expect to boot up YouTube or your favorite fighting game community site for help.
The game also features Challenges, in-game milestones that reward the player for performing specific tasks like performing ten Super Arts moves, or parrying a jumping attack. Completing these Challenges gives you Vault Points, which can be used to unlock music and concept art. The unlocked songs can be manually set to replace existing menu music which is a nice touch.
For a lot of players, this will be their first exposure to 3rd Strike, and there’s some major differences to note. One of the first things SF4 players will notice when switching to 3rd Strike is the much stricter input requirements. Sloppy Dragon Punch and double fireball motions will result in little more than whiffed standing punches in this game. It may sound like a minor complaint, but you really will have to tighten up your gameplay if you hope to survive in the world of 3rd Strike.
Above: Even his wince animation is classy
Unlike the modern "fun comes first" design of MVC3 and SF4, 3rd Strike is a game based on skill, and the better player will generally always win. For dyed in the wool fighting game fans, this is a huge plus, but for casual players looking to have a little fun, their experience with 3SO will be brutally difficult and unforgiving. Bear in mind that the oldest 3rd Strike fans have been playing this game for 14 years already, so don't feel too bad when you get perfected online.
If you've never played 3rd Strike, this is a great, convenient way to check it out, and the $14.99/1200 MS Points price is more than fair, but be prepared for the brutal difficulty of a fighting game, and rabid fanbase, circa 1997. If you're a long time 3rd Strike fan or just a fighting game fan in general, you'll find more than your money's worth here. 3rd Strike is an incredibly rewarding game to play, and you can easily spend hours in training mode trying to master the tricky links and parries you'll need to win. It's been a long time coming, but 3rd Strike has finally gotten a console port worthy of its legacy.
Aug 23, 2011