Developer: Iron Galaxy
Release Date: 8/23/2011
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So, on August 23rd, 2011, a certain game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time was finally released for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Being the only new game I’ve played in a long time, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write my first review. Unfortunately, life got in my way, and I wasn’t able to release the review as quickly as I had wanted. Semi-fortunately, this proved fruitful, since it gave me more time to enjoy, then assess the game. To those unfamiliar, this game is called Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition. A mouthful, to be sure, but what iteration of Street Fighter isn’t these days? Although it’s technically a release with a bunch of nifty new features, I felt there was enough freshness in it to warrant a true review.
As the name implies, and I’m sure you’ve realized with your undoubtedly admirable background in video gaming, Street Fighter is a fighting game series. To state what I assume is the obvious, two characters are controlled to fight it out in an epic display of (often) absurdly inaccurate martial arts. Street Fighter III (and it’s third iteration, 3rd Strike) was a unique step away from formula, introducing a whole new cast of characters, a new story, and remarkably unique fighting system. Not only could players do the usual of beating the crap out of each other with their punches, kicks, and fireballs, but they could also parry their enemies’ attacks, negating its damage and setting them up for a counterattack. This doesn’t seem like much, but it completely changed how players had to think about the game. Since parrying takes some degree of risk, one had to determine whether it was really worth it, or if it would be better to simply block (thus continuing to suffer “chip” damage)
Japanese players (Daigo, most famously in the West) took parrying to new levels, by parrying whole combos, specials, and Supers, laughing in the face of poor calculated attacks and attempts to chip them to death. One famous incident of such god-like skill came during Evo 2004, where Daigo fully parried his opponent’s (Justin Wong) Super, and made an unbelievable comeback to claim victory. It was this particular video that got me into fighting games, and got me into Super Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Unfortunately, there was never really a good console port of the game, so I could never enjoy as entirely as I did when I got to play it in arcades (which were, and still are, quickly dying out). Years later, imagine my delight when Online Edition got announced, which would be an “arcade perfect” port to current generation consoles.
How did the game fare against my dreams? Fantastically. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. To be honest, I would’ve just been happy with a straight port that also happened to come with online capabilities. But no! What I got was game chock full of extra goodies, like a host of trials, extra little achievements that can earn you “VP” (which, by the way, I don’t believe serve any purpose yet), online tournaments, GGPO matchmaking, filters for upscaling it to HD, etc. It gives you all new reasons to play the game, even if you’ve already played all past iterations into the ground. Plus, it naturally has everything that made the old game great, like a complex fighting system, and a unique cast of characters whom almost (damn shotos) all play radically different from one another. However, it does certainly have its issues.
For one, it carried all the issues from the past game into the new one. The main problem, of course, is the absurdly disproportionate character tiers. To those who are not fighting game savvy, a character’s “tier” is basically how good they are, usually in terms of damage, frame data, and the amount of tools they have to their advantage. Some games are relatively well-balanced, where no one character is radically more powerful than the rest. In high level play, tiers aren’t all that important, as a player’s skill can easily balance out the strength differences. This is especially true in 3rd Strike, where parrying helps even the odds even more. However, at the lower levels of play, the top-tier characters destroy nearly all those below them. They are, in no particular order, Yun, Ken, and Chun-Li. Naturally, these are the characters who get used the most.
Aside from the usual accusations of “tier whoring,” there are several reasons for this. For one, Ken and Chun-Li are “legacy” characters from previous iterations of the game. Thus, people are acutely familiar with them, and it would be easier to continue to use them rather than learn how to use a new character. The other reason is pretty obvious. When it comes to video games, everyone plays for fun… but a lot of people also play to win. It is easier to win with a character high on the tier list, than one on the low, and there really is no arguing against that. Take Twelve, for example. He’s currently my go-to character, and is almost dead last on the listings, ranking only above Sean (also Hugo on some lists). He has almost zero practical combos, low damage, and low health. For an artificial super soldier, he’s a bit of a pushover. Nonetheless, you can still win with him if you work hard enough for it. When facing someone like Ken, however, most skilled Twelve players’ advice is this: try not to lose that badly. EH?? What kind of advice is that?! … is what you must be thinking. Having faced many (many many many many) Ken players, I would unfortunately say the same thing. Against a decent Ken player who knows his character, there’s not much for (most) Twelve players to do except die with dignity.
3rd Strike is also substantially more difficult to play for casual players. Not learning any combos and/or button mashing is far more costly in this game, where random but predictable attacks can easily be rebuffed with a parry. Additionally, unlike the modern fighting games today, the execution is far less forgiving. In Street Fighter IV, for example, you could get the gist of the movement on the joystick, and the special move would still probably come out. Not so in Street Fighter III. Instead, it will laugh at your feeble attempt, and then merrily watch as your opponent wails on you for your mistake. It’s not a savagely difficult game to pick up for casual players, but it certainly isn’t a breeze.
In spite of writing about them in length, these aren’t huge complaints from me. It’s still a great game, which Capcom has awesomely brought to a new generation of fighting game players to enjoy. It’s also at a very budget price of $15 (or $11 if you’re like me and prepaid early as well as having Playstation Plus). If you’re a fan of fighting games, this should be a definite buy for you. Nonetheless, there is one glaring issue which may delay your purchase: the matchmaking. According to Capcom, the current matchmaking system creates more clients than there are hosts to match up with, thus creating a rather long wait time for matches. Not absurdly long, I should note, but long enough to be painful. It’s going to be patched as soon as they can manage, so I wouldn’t see this as a deal breaker. Get the game, and fight for the future (by playing in the past)!
—By Kevin H. from 1 Frame Advantage