Prelude: It's been no secret to any Street Fighter fan or gamer familiar with Capcom's history that they've had problems counting to the number three. At least...this was the case when the popular Street Fighter 2 franchise was introduced, and went on to create an abundant (albeit a few unnecessary) sequels. Due to the high level of greed, (as this can be the only reason why the current franchise is still attracting gamers); Capcom has continued each year with a "new" sequel. Personally, when the talks were finally confirmed that Street Fighter 3 was on its way to reality, an surge of joy overcame me. Needless to say I was disappointed once the final version was released.
Upon experiencing the second wave of disappointment, also known as Second Impact, my personal desire to play the series (though existent at the time) was not as great as with the Alpha or "original" series. Though many gamers found the series to be the best among the series to be developed, I was not at all satisfied. Therefore, you can imagine how overjoyed I became when I heard that 3rd Strike (or known to those that dislike the series who affectionately dubbed the version, Strike 3; was on it's way to the arcades. I was even more eager once I heard (cue Oriental Chinese theme song) Chun Li would be joining the array of characters! "It's over!" I shouted as I began counting the months away until its release. Two weeks ago, the arcades picked up a 3rd Strike cabinet, and boy, was I in for a treat!
The First Impression
For starters, in order to appreciate and understand just how much greater I appreciate this latest incarnation of the SF3 series in comparison to the previous two versions; a few valid comparisons are required. First off, get ready for the spanking brand new intro that is quite funkadelic (cliche, I know), high strung, "amped-rocking" soundtrack to bring forth the title screen: Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike - Fight for the Future. Yes, the title made me think of the X-Files movie, but this is the least of my scrutiny. Slap in a corner, and get ready for yet more bliss and surprises. Wait, what's that I am hearing in the background? Could that be, rap music? Indeed, Capcom enlisted the aid of a music musicians known as Infinite. Though it's not the type of music you'd expect from Sean "Puffy" Combs, they're holding their own in this game enough to get your enthusiasm pumped and adrenaline fully psyched to play (if not at the very least tapping your feet to the beat).
While we're discussing the match-up screen, be sure to check out the brand new character art. I am not sure who Capcom's latest programming and layout artist are, but they've definitely upgraded the style by 100%! I haven't seen character art this sharp and surreal since the days of Super Turbo, I even found myself admiring Akuma's portrait, and that's a rare action for this gamer! :) One of the best features about 3rd Strike is that several new characters have joined the cast, which I will elaborate on shortly in the review. In the same fashion as its predecessors, select your character and then choose among 3 Super Arts. Finally, it's time for the action to heat up as you now enage each other in battle.
Additional highlights is the new announcer which, most players will overlook. In my opinion, I found the voice sample of the new p.a. to be one of the best in comparison to previous announcers in the SF tapestry. Forget the sappy high strung voice samples from Alpha 3, 3rd Strike's host is going to make you want to fight! For one thing, you won't be hearing the traditional: Round One, FIGHT! No, Capcom has decided in the manner in which Alpha/Zero 3 was handled to design the initial voice sequences to start the round with a more stylish approach. You'll hear samples such as "Now, prepare to Strike!" and my personal favorite which is so reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Picard - "Engage!!!" My eyebrow cocked up when I heard this the first time...the only thing was, I hadn't seen anything yet. There was still the matter of addressing a certain Chinese high spirited fighter which enjoys saying: Ya tai!
Looking into the new characters
Once I laid my hands on the controls for the first time, the crowds around me immediately knew (as well as my friends online) that I'd be selecting Chun Li (I mean..as if?) I am glad I am not the hysterical type because once I saw Chun Li walk in from the side of the screen, I could've screamed out "Salvation!" a few times! Chun Li is truly a splendor to see even if you don't consider her a personal favorite. Capcom has taken all the moves she's acquired in the entire Street Fighter series and literally redesigned them for a very realistic martial arts rendition of Kung Fu (but it so reminds me of Kempo or Judo). Her animations are so quick and swift that after winning a few times, I was too distracted trying to admire all of her movements. Chun plays completely as a different character unlike her likeness in Alpha 3. The rules are basically the same, but she certainly requires a measurable degree of adjustment.
Most of her normal moves are have dual attacks designated to one button. For example: holding back and fierce causes Chun to unleash her standing palm attack. Whereas forward and fierce will make her lunge forward with right arm (respectively if you're on the one player side). She's also been given a few new moves that I'd kill to have in Alpha 3 *sniff* One which immediately came to my attention is a standing slap move which upon connecting with the opponent turns them around allowing for throws, combos or super attacks to be pulled off on the unfortunate victim. In addition, Chun Li gets a new set of standing roundhouse attacks, one which works as a top-down attack, the other which actually lifts your character up from the ground in similar fashion to the "launcher" moves in the Vs. series. Some of her older moves perform a bit differently than they were utilized before. Notably, Chun's Sen'Shuu (Revolving Bird kick move from the Alpha series) is more a air top down now, also borrowed from the Vs. series. In addition, her Falcon-Claw Kick (aka known as the Toe Tap Kick) works a bit oddly for my taste, perhaps because I am still adjusting. Other moves I noticed she received were a new jumping roundhouse kick (similar to Alex's new jumping Roundhouse move where he attacks with his legs spread 180...ouch!).
Chun Li retains generally all of her Supers from the older series, but now have brand new animations and I love them all! Her Senretsu Kyaku (Thousand Burst Kick) was redrawn and with splendid animation at that! Chun now rushes towards you and kicks you repeatedly with one leg, shifts to the opposite leg and finally hits you with her classic close standing roundhouse kick! Many hurrahs and oohs were shouted throughout the arcade when I pulled this move off as surely the same will occur during your initial experience. Her Kikosho truly looks more devastating then the large "puffball" in the Street Fighter Versus series. Lots of energy swirls and effects can be seen here and her stance looks more...stable and dynamic! I need to get her on tape! Finally, the Supreme Mountain Ascending Heaven Kick, which I for short always nicknamed the move - Rising Bird Kick is also quite impressive albeit short! Chun Li thrusts you up in the air which depletes 40% of your energy and at the conclusion of the super, hits you with a top down kick. Very impressive effects there Capcom, truly sweet.
Sadly as much as I did play the game, I gave my initial attention to Chun. However, I did play Makoto enough to express my opinion of her! The first thing I thought when I first saw the female fighter was, Akane Tendo! Funny, but it's true, she really does resemble that girl who's built like a brick and dumb as a...err, sorry! Moving on, Makoto has a more, accurate portrayal of what Shotokan is supposed to be represented by (take it from someone who's practiced the style). Forget any Hadoken clones here; Makoto is all fist and kicks! She moves with quick speed and a very adequate degree of grace (though, not as much as Chun, hehe). Oddly, I heard reports that this character wasn't very good or effective against the roster of players in 3rd Strike. From personal experience and observation, I found this to be false. Makoto has a great deal of attacks that when put in the hands of a skilled player could be quite deadly.
Her supers, though, unique aren't easy to attack characters with, thus making the character at a loss when she misses her move. One Super Art begins with an air kick which she sprints to the ground toward the attacker, punches them several times, then finally, one large uppercut punch that Akane herself would be proud of doing to Ranma (add to the fact Makoto speaks a phrase here in Japanese which is purely humorous I am sure). The other supers I cant' recall at the moment, I believe another consist of...well, more punches and such (she seems to like doing that a lot). Though she could easily be defeated by a Ryu, or another high class character, Makoto shouldn't be overlooked.
Someone on the Third Strike team must love Omega Red, because this guy really does remind me of that irritable character from X-Men. 12 is the character you're going to love to hate, or just love having people hate to play you. For starters, the character possesses no combos, thus all of his attacks can be quite deadly. Shotokan characters are advised to play with caution as 12 can use his arms to stretch underneath the ground and come up from below you to attack. Lots of patience and wit have to be used with this character, although, he can be played offensively. It's recommended that you try an air game tho.
12 has a rather admirable array of supers. The one which struck me as pretty ingenious was X-C.O.P.Y. Basically, this super is similar to the morph attack Shang Tsung had in the Mortal Kombat series. He can also disappear for a short time, and pounce on the opponent who in essence is blind because you're free to attack the character unless your position is tracked and attacked. Twelve's super meter at this point converts into a time gauge. At this point, he is free to use any special move attacks (except that characters super art). In addition, because you can not block (though you can parry), you must be weary of how you attack your opponent. The perk for this super is that your attacks take twice the amount of damage as the character you are emulating! Therefore, pulling off a string combo could easily work out as a standard Super Art attack. X.N.D.L is a ground super attack that is very deadly. The move works as a perfect deterrent to characters that try to turtle with projectiles or have a habit of jumping indiscriminately. Twelve's other attack is similar to Cammy's "Lock-On" attack from Alpha 3. Again, another deadly super which will quickly teach you not to jump randomly only to suffer a horrible death!
In short, Remy is basically a "Guile" clone of the 90's. Clothed in a Soho getup, Remy is quite stylish although very basic and plain with a low repertoire of attacking finesse. Unlike his predecessors, Remy has the ability to throw high AND low projectiles (move over Sagat!). All of his moves are exclusive, and aren't rips from Guile or Charlie...though his roundhouse is pretty similar, but not by a large degree. His Super Arts, namely the Light of Justice resembles Charlie's Super from the Marvel vs. Street Fighter title. Remy can throw several projectiles which flutter quickly towards the opponent, taking off a significant amount of damage. In addition, he also has a Flash kick super and a defensive counter super. Though many players may not choose Remy, it's good to know some form of Guile is present on the new series. I really love Remy's stage as well. Very sharp, and accurate to his persona. Even one of the background characters respond accordingly to Remy's performance (just as Dhalsim's wife does in his stage).
Q is um...weird. I personally nicknamed him, Dick Tracy. In short, he's all power, no speed. And, not true combos (in fact, most of the characters lost this, a bit more on that soon). Although the character is fluid, I don't find him to be one of the more interesting characters in 3rd Strike. His Supers left me...scratching my head and wanting more! One particular Super called Total Destruction converts Q into a walking time bomb. According to my observation, hitting punches will deplete damage off you if you aren't in close proximity but will dish out only an average level of damage. Apparently, hitting kicks is safer and more dangerous. I still find him to be weird. Even his win poses made no sense to me.
Where would a new version of Street Fighter be without a few tweaks to the characters. No, I am not jinxing things, they truly made a number of changes which can cause for some complaint or praise, depending on how you address the modifications. Here is what I personally observed for each character complete with a description of the new stages:
- Ryu: Returns to his classic stage from Street Fighter 2, but is now in broad daylight. Also gains a brand new soundtrack (very Oriental and dynamic). His face looks redrawn, no longer that old. Seems a little bit slower now, but a bit stronger than he was in Second Impact.
- Ken: This guy does not need any more moves! Ken now possesses all of his kicks from the previous Street Fighter including a new knee attack. Ken shares Alex stage in a subway stage, ironically in one of the New York stations; 42nd Street. No new supers, but his ability to take damage has increased by 40%. (This will make John Pulizzi very happy in Chinatown!)
- Ibuki: A few tweaks to the young deadly ninja. Ibuki loses her Hashin Sho but gains a new super similar to the effect that Rolento's Tripwire functions. A new somersault move was acquired which allows her to attack with a air dagger making cross up attacks more effective for her. Say good bye to the classic Ibuki theme that many players loved, and her old voice sample. She sounds a lot cuter now, albeit high pitched! New win poses such as one which associates her with...a boyfriend? Go figure! Plus, she gains a pseudo-Charlie style win pose reminiscent of his "Too Easy" stance...I like hers better though, she just makes the motion, no words! >:) A few combo strings were removed making some players feel that she's no longer effective.
- Elena: Very much improved in my book. Now she really does portray the Capoeira style more accurately. A number of new animations were given to older moves making it very hard to anticipate her attacks. Elena doesn't gain any new supers, but she definitely does seem a bit faster and stronger. Perhaps I'll begin using her! Shares stage with Ibuki on a road adjacent to a vast wheat field during the sunset. Also gets a new tune, which I like better than the theme from Second Impact, very upbeat
- Hugo: Two words. Stronger, Faster (cue Million Dollar Man theme song). Hugo really is better than Zangief now. His grabs have the same effect as a Super Art move. O_o I personally recommend leaning to parry any attacks and throwing him as much as possible. No new supers were acquired. I believe I did see a new top down attack (hard to tell for sure, many players kept selecting Ryu, Sean, Makoto, um ... Chun!) Brand new theme and gains a new stage is in a room surrounded by, toys! o_O A few of the background objects will bounce according to Hugo falling on the ground at impact, nice touch. Just ... stay away from him.
- Yun/Yang: Share the same stage...but, what else is new? :) The theme for the two kung-fu brothers resemble James Bond's classic soundtrack more then ever, but, it works folks, it really does! Yang gains a new uppercut kick. Yang pretty much seems the same. Neither gained any new supers but a few new normal moves were given to Yang making him a much more rounded out character.
- Alex: Alex is now much faster and a tad stronger than before. He acquires a new top down attack, and a new grab in which he jumps in the air, lands and grabs you. No new Super Arts, his music though was remixed, and I am personally enjoying it (must get the soundtrack). Shares stage with Ken in 42. (Hmm ... a shame ... you'd think CPS3 had enough memory to create individual stages.)
- Urien: Brand new stage reminding me of Adon's Alpha 3 stage, except Urien's is darker, but much sharper in details and color. I found that Urien can still use some of classic juggle combos. In addition, he can now charge his electrode ball, in similar fashion to Ryu's Denjin Fireball. Nothing else spectacular to point out, other than a new soundtrack.
- Oro: Um...he's Oro. Just more nasty.
- Necro: Ah..they changed this guy's voice sample. Why!?!?! Didn't really see anything to report on him. New stage takes place in Russia, nice snow effect renders there!
Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike is not going to appeal to everyone. For one reason is the fact that the parry system was modified. There is now a smaller margin of error and response to pull off the defensive counter. Furthermore, because of this, parrying multiple hits require a larger degree of timing and skill. I noticed that since this was giving players some difficulty, they were compelled to fight more as opposed to waiting around to deflect attacks for the entire round. I found this to be a plus as I always did admire the feature until I felt that it actually was a offensive deterrent to a otherwise unique engine. The bonus stages are really a plus, I loved taking out the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Sean's new Parry Bonus stage is a nice touch, nice renders and motion captured were displayed here. The grading system isn't really worth getting into because it merely analyzes your performance based on offensive attacks, throws, supers, perfects, reversals, parries, etc. A nice feature, but it neither adds or diminishes by its presence. I like the fact that 3rd Strike expands the choice of fighters you encounter. It minimizes the level of linear gameplay which generally all fighter up to now have demonstrated. Hopefully, this concept can erupt a new trend in future fighting games.
Combos for most character thought still present aren't to the same effectiveness as they had been implemented in the last version. Because of this, you'll get the impression that you're playing a classical form of Street Fighter in contrast to that of the more highly offensive titles such as Alpha 3 or Marvel vs. Capcom. Ryu and Ken however have no problems in this department as they can still connect with several of their old combos, along with a few new ones.
As it was expressed earlier, the stages and graphics overall are really much improved over Second Impact. I personally would've hoped that with the new music and approach to the fighting engine that Capcom could've spared some more stages to add to the ingenuity that they sometimes implement in sequels such as these. Just take a look at Alpha 2 the next time and compare overall music integrity to that of the Alpha 3 cabinet. There really was a great deal of time and development put into that title.
In retrospect, the Street Fighter series has regained one of its lost fighters, although, it may also give way to a few players willing to go AWOL. Third Strike isn't a intensive game where players can simply have an all out brawl. The combination of aspects form Second Impact and Alpha 3 give balance to a series that shouldn't been designed like this in its very initial debut to the gaming populace. With the abundant amount of appreciation I have gained for this series now, I am only hoping that when the home version is addressed, Dreamcast will be able to make a accurate conversion as I don't want any faults when I am playing with Chun and the cast. No lost animations, no missing modes, just pure solid gameplay with no slowdown is all that I ask. If a RAM cart of some form must be developed, by all means Capcom, do so. In the meantime, I'll be working on how to perfect the art of fighting with Chun so that I can continue making opponents lose their money to me. (Pops in quarter!) Ryu ... ikuwayo!
Pics courtesy of: Game Fan Online and the only person I know that loves Chun Li equal/more to me, Terry "Mike" Bogard!