Being the hardcore SF enthusiast, (which Nercm fondly addresses as 'freak') for the past 10 years, it's actually impressed me that Capcom has managed to still keep the series going. As the course of time progressed, Street Fighter 2 has spawned a number 3D, tag-team, anime-inspired editions; respectively the EX, Versus, and Alpha franchises. Several years ago, before Capcom became enamored with the Naomi board and CPS3 was evident in the hidden sleeper title Warzard, I eagerly awaited that coveted number 3 to show itself in the arcades. My woes of impatience were met with bickerings from others forecasting the imminent doom and expressing the lack of innovation the series recently displayed.
Finally, the dawn of New Generation had arrived and I felt pretty cheapened as to the entire experience that seemed to take eons to develop. Gone was my ability to airblock, I was now limited to one super art for the entire match, and a cast of newbie characters which hardly appealed to me whatsoever. Second Impact wasn't a walk in the park for me either, despite the vast degree of nuances I've watched my arcade cliqúe perform, it wasn't enough to divert me from the enjoyment I gained from Alpha. Yes, it's true...I found it hard to appreciate the game being totally "Chun-less"; after all, the entire shoto clan was available - what was Capcom thinking to deprive me? Naturally this disposition changed when I received hints that the third version was in the works and that a certain chinese female fatale would be among the cast. Spiteful? Alright, maybe just a little. Though in all honesty, the latest in the SF III series is certainly one of the most challenging to date.
"Yah, I see..."
Third Strike comes packaged with the fundaments that are relatively easy for anyone to pick up on, especially if you're already familiar with the gameplay from 2nd Impact and New Generation. The cast of playable characters is exceptionally large, offering 19 characters to choose from; though still not as close as to the roster found in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (56) or Alpha 3 (33). The entire cast from the SF3 universe return including Alex, Ryu, Yun, Dudley, Yang, Necro, Hugo, Ibuki, Elena, Oro, Yang, Ken, Sean and Urien. Joining the cast include Matoko, a new female fatale Karate expert who certainly appears to be inspired from Ranma 1/2's Akane; Q, a mysterious entity who has no recollection of his existence; 12, a humanoid weapon developed to follow orders and destroy upon command; Remy, a character which Guile and Charlie players can associate with, and of course - Chun Li who naturally requires no explanation, unless you been in a chasm the past 10 years.
In addition to the basic arcade, versus and training modes, Capcom has made several adjustments to spice up the entire arcade experience. Players now can choose alternate paths when engaging opponents (respectively two characters per bout); the taunt feature now increases a characters' offensive or defensive attributes, parrying has been tweaked; (2i players especially were not fond of these adjustments as it's been noted that it's now too easy to perform the move), and a new grading system has been integrated. While the latter feature has no direct significance on the game itself, it's a keen aspect which evaluates the efficiency of your overall performance. The training mode has become more effective then ever. While parrying basketballs on Lvl. 5 as featured in Second Impact may impress your friends, it means spit when you're not able to anticipate another players' attacks on the fly. The new blocking mode feature allows players to program any basic or special moves into the dummy character, which then in turn, you can practice parrying against. Thus, if you've always had trouble parrying Denjin fireballs or Rolling Uppercuts, making full use of this mode is highly recommended in improving your gameplay.
"Prepare to strike, now!."
Graphically, the game is a solid conversion. While all the animation remains intact, the characters carry a small degree of pixelization due to the fact the screen has been somewhat compressed. Additional perks include a System Direction mode which allows players to modify the blocking distances, reaction time, parry response times, and other factors within the game. Spanning seven pages, this mode is packed with a variety of options offering players to experience the gameplay aspects in a different fashion which was otherwise unattainable in the arcades. One of the most startling features I found featured in the Versus Mode is the ability to save matches to your VMU. Man, the times I have wished for such a feature to be available during my early SF days back in the day...if only those games could be reprogrammed for the Dreamcast. Of course, I know that's wishful thinking. Sound effects are crisp and by all means if you own a solid sound system - crank it up! Purists who were fond of the character stage themes may be somewhat disappointed being the music has been remixed. Oddly, the music is no longer looped, but jumps to a new segment respectively to each new round. Stage and character select screens are quite the depature from the typical tunes you've become accustomed to, hosted by the music talents of the underground rap crew known as Infinite. In my opinion, It's much more pleasant to the ears than the wa-wa, laden mesh of jazzy-esque tunes featured in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
"Now, fight a new rival...."
Yes, there's also a network mode within the game; sadly which I can't embrace (besides, do you know how expensive it'd be to play online via Japan's server?) Along with the ability to check out the Third Strike homepage (which surely will feature a code to play as Gill, and whomever could be hidden within), there rests the Network Battle option which is somewhat similar to the style and presentation seen in Chu Chu Rocket Online, (only flashier). Naturally, unless you own a copy of the Dreamcast Passport, don't expect to jump on-board in hopes of playing some online competition. Here's to hoping that Capcom and SegaNet are at work with making sure that this will be one game which we all can enjoy stateside.
The controls are hardly something I've come to elaborate on within past SF reviews, unless it was truly signficant. Once again, the Dreamcast pad has been taken into effect;, and while it's certainly not the worst configuration, it's not winning any golden points from this gamer. I wasn't too happy to discover that my Dreamcast/Saturn configurations weren't being recognized (in fact, I had to turn the analog feature on my "NiGHTS" pad just for it to work). Why the standard 6 button configuration isn't available on 3S is beyond me. My advice is to purchase the ASCII pad, the Agetec (ASCII) stick...the one which has green buttons for those of you scratching your heads. Or, if you're loaded on cash, purchase the MAS joystick which you can preorder at any import shop (if they have no idea what you're talking about, email me and I can help you locate purchasing one online). Remember folks, when it comes to Dreamcast fighters, everyone should have user-friendly peripheral.
Without a doubt, Third Strike certainly offers much more than what's available in the Double Impact package...despite the 2-for-1-deal to boot. With an extensive array of playable characters, an enhanced training mode, and a network mode which certainly needs to be implemented when the game arrives domestically; Third Strike is a solid fighter which can be enjoyed by the casual and hardcore players alike. Not to mention Chun Li is back, a plus if you're definitely fond of the popular female fatale like myself. Street Fighter aficionadoes owe it to themselves to add this to their current lineup, while newcomers can embrace the game and discover another title offering solid gameplay and hours of entertainment.
· · · Bahn