With Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike headed for online play, McKinley opines about the most niche of all the Street Fighter games, and why it’s still the pinnacle of the series.
Out of all the Street Fighter titles, Street Fighter III: Third Strike is arguably the best one. It’s the most technically sound, requiring high skill just to be competitive. And for a time, it was easily the best looking 2D, purely pixel-powered fighting game of its generation.
However, for a long time, it didn’t look like the Street Fighter series was ever going to see another entry in the “core” lineup. And in a way, it was Street Fighter III’s fault. Where Street Fighter II had been a worldwide phenomenon, spawning action figures, an American cartoon show, an anime series, a cult hit animated film, a live action Hollywood film, and, of course, more than a few sequels, Street Fighter III just wasn’t. As the red-headed stepchild of the franchise, it debuted to initial apprehension from gamers at large. And to be fair, even Capcom’s own attention had shifted to much bigger fish, with the Marvel vs. Capcom and Capcom vs. SNK projects.
But hardcore Street Fighter fans, the ones who stuck with the core franchise in those awkward years between SFII and SFIV, never deserted it, and that’s why Capcom is rewarding them with Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition
For one, the first version of Street Fighter III only featured two returning characters, Ryu and Ken, which meant many fan favorites were nowhere to be seen. Fighting games and the arcade scene were already on the decline when SFIII released, and it wouldn’t be until the third iteration, “3rd Strike“, that fans finally started to accept the game for daring to be different. Of course, the fighting engine itself was another issue altogether.
See, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike isn’t for casual fans. It’s for the hardcore players. It’s for people who really know how to play the game. If you don’t use “footsies,” if you don’t know how to parry, and if you don’t know how to block, you’re better suited playing Street Fighter IV, which is more friendly to the casual crowd. But SFIII expects — no, demands — that you learn the system, and not just the moves.
In a nutshell, that’s why Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is back. Hardcore Street Fighter fans, the ones who stuck with the core franchise in those awkward years between SFII and SFIV, never deserted it, and that’s why Capcom is rewarding them with Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition.
It’s got just about anything that a fan of the original games wants, and even things that we didn’t expect. Take the “widescreen” options, for instance. While the casual fan might not pick up on this, changing the aspect ratio of the screen can affect the gameplay, as you’ll have to re-evaluate distance for pokes, parries, and special moves. That’s why 3rd Strike Online has a “true” widescreen option that preserves the original scale of the fighters, so that hardcore players can adjust to the upscaled visuals without having to compensate for the visual shift in distance.
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is back because it’s the unsung pinnacle of the franchise. It’s the major leagues… It’s where you go to find out how good at Street Fighter you really are.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Capcom found the original character art, scanned it for HD resolution, and reinserted it back into the game. New visual filters can give you crisp pixels, or you can see the game in scan lines. There’s a mode specifically for eight people to take turns at the “cabinet” — two fighting, and the other six waiting in line (just like at an arcade). There’s new music. You can export replays of your fights to YouTube. And that’s not even touching the extra gallery content, unlockable extras, or the training modes.
When Seth Killian and the Capcom crew came by to show us 3rd Strike OE, we talked about how characters like Makoto, Yun, Yung Ibuki, and Dudley have endured through the series and become fan favorites. Even Hugo is in Street Fighter X Tekken. Heck, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Editon is all the better because of their inclusion — doesn’t that solidify Street Fighter III’s status in the fighting game fan base alone?
Sure, SFIII hasn’t always been the most popular or well-known game in the franchise. It was too different. But its fighting engine, slick 2D animation, dynamic characters, and high level of technical chops have always put it in a place that Street Fighter IV and its several iterations just haven’t matched. In way, that’s really been the thing that no one’s understood about Street Fighter III. From a graphical and technical point, it’s always been Capcom’s best, “pure” Street Fighter game.
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is back because it’s the unsung pinnacle of the franchise. It’s the major leagues. It put the EVO tournament on the map. It’s where you go to find out how good at Street Fighter you really are. It’s never been the most popular, but it’s still the best one in the series.