Available on: XBox Live Arcade, PSN
Genre: Fighting/Finding Out You’re a Very Small Fish in a Big Ocean
Looking back on my history with fighting games, it’s very difficult to determine which game I’ve actually purchased the most, due to collections or revisions—I own three separate versions of Guilty Gear X2, four if you count Isuka (and you shouldn’t). I mean, I recently calculated that with updates and DLC, I’ve spent about $215 on Street Fighter IV, and that’s just in a span of about three years. But whenever it comes around, I will always immediately drop money to pick up a new copy of Street Fighter III.
In 1997, Capcom finally caved to the jokes of not being able to count to three and proved its detractors wrong by releasing Street Fighter III: New Generation on its CPS3 hardware, giving smooth, Disney-level animation to a beautifully-detailed cast of original characters, along with returning heroes Ryu and Ken. Building upon the growing competitive scene for fighting games, SF3 introduced a deep combat system revolving around the use of parries, split-second defensive maneuvers that allowed advanced players to run rings around careless newcomers. Eventually two updates were released, Double Impact in late ‘97 and 3rd Strike in ‘99, the latter of which is considered by numerous publications and fighting game communities to be one of the best fighting games ever made, deftly combining complex and fast-paced combat with a huge cast, each of whom plays very differently from each other.
Whereas many fighting games are content with just having characters smash against each other until one life bar is depleted, two skilled players make a 3rd Strike match play out like an intense life-or-death duel, creating openings and trying to trap an opponent, only to parry and land a counter. Highly aggressive players (like me) are at a disadvantage to players who’ve studied, practiced, and completely understand the ins and outs of their opponent’s character.
This is really what makes 3rd Strike so timeless, and why it’s still played competitively today after being out for almost twelve years, this being its third console release—it was first released on the Dreamcast, then on the PS2 and XBox in Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. All in all, and after playing this game side-by-side with the PS2 version, this recent release is the very best version of 3rd Strike available on the market. Aside from the obvious graphical adjustments, 3SOE comes with a huge list of Challenges and Trials, ranging from the facepalmingly simple (parry a Hadouken, or perform a 3-hit combo) to the insane (win ten Ranked Matches in a row, beat Ryu with Akuma with no health), but each and every one teaches you how to be a better player, even if it’s very much the “throw you off a cliff and let you climb back up” kind of teaching.
My favorite feature of the game has to be its filesharing system—play a match and you can save the replay, and either upload it to YouTube or to the Match Servers for viewing online. You can search and view replays by character or ranking, and with the amount of people uploading matches you get what amounts to a dedicated 3rd Strike channel with tons of matches from players at all skill levels. The only issue I have with this is the low resolution matches are uploaded at—regardless of what kind of TV you're playing on, your match will be uploaded in 240p, and with large grey borders if it's played on an HDTV.
My only real problem with the game was the remixed music—which can all be switched out at any time from the menus or the huge vault, where you spend earned points from Challenges to unlock music, artwork, and bonus material like the original arcade opening movie. Like this release’s trailers say, the third strike is what counts—and the third release of Street Fighter III: Third Strike is an absolute steal. Fifteen dollars gets you the best fighting game ever made, with solid GGPO-built netcode and the incredible added value of the Challenges and Trials. If you like fighting games, there’s little reason not to pick this up.