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GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-2
August 24, 2011
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition

Super Street Fighter IV

Super Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

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Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition
Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition
 Written by Brian Lelas  on August 23, 2011


Street Fighter III has always had the reputation of being the Street Fighter game that seemed a bit out of place. It's the one with lots of new faces and some very notable missing characters. It was also comparatively hard to find in arcades. There was never a truly definitive home version, just an arcade port on the Dreamcast that lacked extra features, until now. It was also unlucky to arrive at a time when Tekken, Virtua Fighter and later Soul Calibur were battling for dominance in the fighting genre. There was also a strong attitude of if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it in regards to Street Fighter 2, so when Capcom inevitably made changes, not all fans were pleased about them.

The first big difference that comes to mind in SFIII is the character roster. Players will be forgiven for thinking that they were playing an entirely new franchise, as only Ryu, Ken and Akuma were carried over from the many (many!) iterations of Street Fighter 2. Chun Li was later added in Third Strike, but despite three versions of the game being released, characters like Blanka, Guile and Sagat were not present. Capcom's bravery in insisting upon a new set of fighters meant that players were forced to change their play style, with characters like Necro, Twelve, Q and Uriel diverging hugely in move list from the traditions set in stone by SF2. Granted, there were some clone characters, like Remy, who was basically a French, anime inspired version of Guile, but there was far more variety on hand for people to tackle to discover their favourite technique.

Also new was a levelled power gauge that allowed the use of Super Combos as seen in Xmen Vs. Street Fighter and later, Marvel Vs. Capcom. This new dynamic gave defensive characters and players alike something to strive for and allowed novices to get closer to advanced players if they could time these beefed up attacks well. A blow parrying system was expertly crafted that gave more depth to the standard attack/block mechanism of the genre and allowed for more fluid timing and response countering.

What this new downloadable version brings to the table is the usual modern age attachments such as achievements, trophies and the titular Online mode, which runs extremely well with review code lag-free. Also added for this superb home version is a plethora of targets and goals to obtain, collect and in the case of later ones, throw your controller across the room over. A very clever design element in Third Strike has given players the traditional 4:3 ratio picture, but filled in the borders of the arena with a record of how far along each player is to getting certain XP granting targets. Sometimes you find yourself watching the numbers going up on the side of the screen, even performing attacks you wouldn't normally do in each situation, just to advance your XP further to clock up more costumes and abilities for later. This system feels far more intuitive and useful than the old score system hidden under the health bars and actually gives players incentive to change what they do and in turn learn more about the game.

The best new feature in the 2011 version is the Training and Trials modes, which give new players a fantastic run down of how to do absolutely everything they need to one day take on the masters of the game in ranked play. The Trials start out with simple short tasks like learning to parry, do combos and jump to the top screen, then later encourage changing attack style and concentrate on defending. I genuinely found this mode to be very informative and easy to follow and was even more addictive to get through than playing against a friend in local play.

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition is not without its drawbacks though. The most glaring one is the extremely dated visuals. These are not optimised for HD or given any kind of overhaul for modern displays. Capcom made a huge noise about the visual upgrade when they released Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, which breathed new life into the legendary game, but here, it's a bare bones direct port, complete with pixilation and dodgy anti-aliasing. It's a shame, because the character design and art direction is exceptional, and with a bit of polish this could have been a 2D game to master Bastion's incredible visual flare. Given that there is a planned update to allow YouTube uploads of spectacular fights, it's a pity they couldn't up the ante that bit more.

Another baffling artistic selection is in the sound department. There is a mixed bag of quirky voice acting, narration and weird music that describes what to do next, with the singer rapping along to a track while telling you to choose a character. The atmosphere in the middle of an epic battle is quite deep and dark, but as soon as you get back to a menu the feeling is lost in the bizarre world of cheesy presentation.

Hardcore fans of the series will probably own Arcade Stick peripherals to play with, but for the average player, the controller is a little flimsy. The Xbox 360 version, which I tested, is a little uncertain with its limit of four face buttons for six types of attack and I imagine that the problem is identical on the PS3. Fierce versions of Punch and Kick are assigned to the R buttons, which is logical enough, as the other side of the pad and your left hand are reserved for the lightning quick movement of your character. I would recommend that if you are serious about being competitive online, an Arcade Stick is essential. It is how the game was meant to be played and adds quite a lot of reflex time and control.

Bottom Line
The decision whether or not to buy Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition entirely lies with what your opinion of the SF series is like. If you are interested in casual play, you're much more likely to enjoy Super Street Fighter 4 or Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, both of which are already available on PS3 and 360. If you didn't find joy in the fireball hurling antics of other SF titles, this one won't sway you either. You should probably hold off for Soul Calibur V. If you are a fighting enthusiast with an Arcade Stick, a lot of patience and a vast hunger for competitiveness, you'd be hard pressed to find a better experience than Third Strike. It has that bit more depth and is geared heavily towards players who are ready to take on a learning curve that will help them improve step by step and finally take their challenge online.

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