Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition review: Capcom brings back sprites with a vengeance

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition

[originally posted at Total PlayStation]

It is somewhat amazing to me that Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is over 10 years old. An even longer time ago, as a child, my brother and I would spend hours together and with friends pummeling each other’s faces in games such as some iteration of Street Fighter II or Street Fighter Alpha. That feels like an eternity ago. Sometime between then and now, the gulf of skill dividing my brother and I widened to a grand canyon. I, of course, was left behind on the side of slightly informed amateurs and button-mashers, while he advanced to the realm of watching tournament replays and modifying arcade sticks (yes, more than one). Unsurprisingly, it became less fun for me to play against a seeming master of the arts, and I eventually lost interest in fighting games in general a short while after the Dreamcast and its delights of Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom. The only game I could beat him (and anyone else) at with ease and consistency was Power Stone 2.

That was a long-winded introduction to my perspective on fighting games, so you might understand a little better the lens through which I view a game such as Street Fighter III. It is like a thick tome in a foreign language to me, filled with wisdom and delights that would enrich and entertain the life of anyone who invests the time and effort to wrest the secrets from its cracked, dusty pages. This may come easier to some. To me, it is a daunting, futile task. It would take me years to improve to the point of mere competence, and even then I feel that the upper limits of my skill potential are but a dank cellar ceiling compared to the gleaming towers of others.

Playing Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition, the latest release of one of Capcom’s 2D masterpieces, was a harrowing reminder of my maladroitness. This version of the game has been updated to include a bevy of tutorials and challenges designed to ease the beginner into the intricacies of the game and its various systems, and I was keen to apply myself to its education. I soon found myself blockaded by several brick walls, each impeding my progress through multiple avenues of advancement.

For example, I could not get past the fourth stage of the basic parrying trial. It took me at least a quarter of an hour to successfully parry Ken’s three-hit Shoryuken. I spent half an hour trying to parry his four-hit EX Shoryuken before giving up. Was I inputting too fast? Too slow? Too late? Too early? There’s not enough feedback to actually teach someone who has practically zero idea what he’s doing. I even researched outside the game to learn how to perform certain techniques, such as canceling. Even then, I couldn’t execute most of the combos. Yes, you may mock me.

All that said, I can still appreciate the game for its depth, technicality, and comprehensiveness. It’s no wonder that it is still played competitively by professionals, who have surely earned such a title. This version performs beautifully, with nary a hiccup or dropped frame in each crucial moment. Even the online mode performs admirably, with hardly any noticeable lag on decent connections.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition is available as a downloadable title on PSN, and is a veritable cornucopia of extras and features, with plenty of modes, unlockables and miscellany all wrapped up in a tight, attractive package with gorgeous high-definition art and snappy remixes. The Street Fighter enthusiast will not find themself wanting.

While my experience with the game was one comprised mostly of humiliation and frustration, I can still heartily recommend it as an incredible value for anyone who loves fighting games. Advanced players will appreciate the multitude of multiplayer modes and challenges, while novices will find plenty of benchmarks for improvement should they have the dedication. I may not be able to fully appreciate the nuances of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition mainly due to my sheer incompetence, so I shall leave it to better fighters to appreciate it for me. Are you up to it?