|Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition|
|Platforms||PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade|
|Genre||Great fighter, poor sensei|
|Keep Playing?||Yes, but...|
I have a soft spot for fighting games. Even though my multiplayer game time has dwindled to almost nothing, I relish the chopsocky action too much to quit entirely. My interest has further grown alongside the genre's worldwide revival, sparked by 2009's Street Fighter IV, which produces more and more games that exhibit extravagant martial arts action with tournament balance. This pleases me.
Not content to milk just Street Fighter IV year after year, Capcom's digging deeper into its past to re-release what many consider its finest fighter, Street Fighter III: Third Strike. The fan favorite finds its way onto Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, adorned with bells and whistles that appear to go beyond what fans would expect from a modern port. SF3:TSOE boasts visual filters, remixed music, concept art, detailed tutorials, expert trials, Youtube match uploads, and even renowned GGPO netcode that promises smooth and customizable online performance.
I have played Third Strike a few times in days long past. I remember some of the game-specific basics, like parrying, but am unfamiliar with most characters. I'll see what the trials can teach me about the game's mechanics beyond parrying. Next, I'll see what trials are available for Dudley, a boxer I recognize from Super Street Fighter IV but have never used in Third Strike. Finally, I'll check out Arcade mode and see what the game has to offer as a singleplayer experience.
Check out five minutes of parries, Corkscrew Blows, and everything else that makes up gentlemanly fighting.
- The basic and character-specific trials can useful for those with some knowledge of the game, but I suspect they'll only frustrate newbies. The "How to Play" section in the options menu is no more than an instruction manual, treating you to two pages of bullet points on the game's core mechanics, like parrying and EX attacks, but omits their importance, uses, and best practices, let alone any visual aids. Similarly, the character and parrying trials teach nothing: they merely present a specific challenge and expect players to succeed through experimentation and luck without framework or demonstration.
- I love the visual filters. Third Strike features some incredible sprite animation, and the option to Smooth or Crisp the characters is welcome.
- The persistent challenges that populate the left margins of the letterboxed screen are excellent. They monitor your progress towards small goals (parry five attacks, score a five hit combo, etc.) that contribute to unlocking bonuses like concept art, remixed music, and character ending videos. More importantly, they layer an evolving metagame onto the action, influencing the player to try new tactics or polish blossoming skills. Unfortunately, those playing in 4:3 will have to miss out on the real-time challenge updates: the fighting action takes up the whole screen.
- Holy crap Arcade mode is tough. At my best in Street Fighter IV, I was cruising through the Arcade mode on the toughest difficulty. Things aren't going so smoothly in my first run through Third Strike. I did eventually succeed on the default three star rating after about ninety minutes of struggle. The unfamiliar characters are giving me plenty of trouble. It is nice that you can choose your next opponent from two options, though.
- Online play has been almost flawless so far. I have noticed no input delay or serious lag in the 30+ matches I have played online, ensuring a steady connection that is nearly indistinguishable from offline play. When hiccups do arise, the character frames may jump around a bit, sacrificing visual consistency to retain an accurate tactile feeling. Players can also adjust their Frame Delay between zero and seven in the options menu, allowing some prioritization between visual fidelity and mechanical function. When hosting a room for up to eight players, there are welcome options like character bans, adjustable rules, and saving private slots for your PSN Friends.
- The in-game Youtube uploader is an easy way to get your fight replays onto the web, but not quite as convenient as it sounds. Upon selecting "Upload to Youtube" in the replay menu, the game first must recreate the match using game data in order to create a video file. Then the file must be uploaded to your Youtube account. This process took me about five minutes. The following is a replay of my first online match.
It's a rather lo-fi solution, as the video seems to be capped in some rather compressed 240p. I suspect that most uploaders will not mind the quality, as long as their masterful beatdowns are preserved and displayed. There is also an in-game online collection of replays that are more convenient uploads, but can only be watched by Online Edition owners, as far as I can tell. Also, the replays run from game data rather than video, and on one or two viewings, the outcome of the match was altered. Specifically, that Shin Shoryuken that Ryu whiffed in the above video connected in a subsequent viewing. The match continued with both players whiffing at the air, then standing around for about forty seconds until the timer ran out. It seemed to work fine after that viewing, though.
- Our old friend Tiny Text has come to visit yet again. Because Kyotokei exploded my small HDTV monitor, I am now playing on a flatscreen television in 480i with a 4:3 aspect ratio. On the bright side, the screen has roughly twice the area of my old monitor. And the text is still unreadable at times.
Minutes to Action: 0
Would I Keep Playing? Yes, but only because I am starting with some working knowledge of the game mechanics. An hour of barebones tutorials and punishing Arcade battles would probably be enough of an alley beating to scare away most would-be street fighters. Capcom's additions are little more than window dressing, and Third Strike Online is exactly the same brutal game it has always been. Newcomers beware, you are unlikely to receive much help from the game's new trials. If you can take a little frustration and are willing to check out some strategy guides, you may escape the urge to button-mash. That is when you can begin to appreciate one of the most beloved fighting games of all time.