Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Online Edition
Even at the time of its launch in 1997, Capcom’s follow up to Street Fighter II made an incredibly brave statement – rather than simply build upon and embellish what had gone before, producer Tomoshi Sadamoto crafted a title that stubbornly refused to be tied down by fan expectations. In many ways it cleaned out the Street Fighter closet and ushered in a new era, whether gamers wanted it or not. Series veterans approaching the arcade cabinet for the first time were no doubt stunned to discover that all but two of Street Fighter II’s iconic cast had been jettisoned in favour of a rag tag bunch of new fighters, tweaked mechanics and punishingly fast gameplay. In short, Sadamoto had grabbed the franchise by the collar and violently shaken it into a new form. With only two console versions ever having been released – on the doomed Sega Dreamcast and PS2 – the arrival of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike: Online Edition on PS3 and Xbox 360 is more than welcome; but has the title stood the test of time, or has it merely become a playground for the hardcore in contrast to Street Fighter IV’s more welcoming fighting-suite?
This isn’t the first time that a Street Fighter game has been reworked for the HD generation of consoles, with 2008 seeing the launch of Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix. While that title managed to retain the most of original’s magic in terms of gameplay, Backbone Entertainment’s decision to laboriously redraw all of the games assets was arguably a little misguided, with the HD sheen coming at the cost of losing some of the original’s aesthetic charm; it felt more a of a fan-tribute rather than an authentic recreation. Thankfully, at the core of SFIII: 3rdS- OE lies a faithful port of the original, with developer Iron Galaxy Studios liberally applying new technology to enhance the overall experience while still allowing gamers to play the game as it was originally released.
Even though many of the game’s cast reappeared in Street Fighter IV, playing Street Fighter III can be a daunting prospect for fighting fans who missed it the first time around. Initially, the lack of familiar faces on the character select screen retains its shock impact – the cast of strange faces leering out of the screen offer a challenge, rather than an opportunity for you to simply settle back into your Street Fighting groove.
Thankfully, Ken, Ryu and Chun Li are there to help smooth the transition somewhat, but there is no denying that SFIII: 3rdS- OE places heavy demands on the player, forcing them to adapt to the character roster. The sense of the unknown is driven home even further when you see the game’s cast in action – where SFII’s characters felt warm, welcoming and, in some ways, even cartoonishly entertaining, many of the denizens of SFIII: 3rdS- OE are strange, twisted and borderline nightmarish. As fearsome as he was, Blanka always felt kind of cuddly – this is not something that could be said of wheezing robo-sleuth Q; grizzled, one-armed hermit, Oro, dead-faced wrestler Hugo or Necro – the long-armed hook-nosed puppet.
Should you plump for Ken or Ryu (which, let’s face it, many will!), combat in SFIII initially feels very familiar, even if the pace of play has been kicked up a notch or two. Executing Dragon Punches and Fireballs is as intuitive as ever and the concept of Super Arts will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s executed an Ultra Combo in SF IV. Heaped on top of this however, are a range of moves that the series has since discarded – parries, air-parries, quick-stands and leap attacks, all of which require lightning quick reflexes and perfect timing. In short, SFIII: 3rdS- OE feels more technical and it’s unsurprising that it has found favour with the more hard-core Street Fighter fans. Despite being a long time fan of the series, this reviewer would never profess to be a master of the SFIII-arts – but the depth of the fighting system is clearly there for all to behold and it is without question as satisfying to unravel today as it ever was.
Layered on top of the refined fighting mechanics is an impressive suite of options. Following the lead of other recent HD reimaginings such as Golden Axe and Final Fight: Double Impact, players can play SFIII: 3rdS- OE in its original form, or choose to apply a number of visual filters that smooth out the pixelated sprites (it works well on the whole, though there can be some loss of fidelity in the sprites), apply arcade-authentic scan-lines or stretch the game into a wide-screen format. Though these settings have no impact on the gameplay itself, it clearly demonstrates Iron Galaxy Studios desire to deliver a crowd-pleasing package catering to all tastes and preferences.
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