Monday, August 29, 2011

You Know What They Say, The 3rd Strike Is What Counts... The Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition Review

Capcom has had some successes and failures with downloadable games on this current generation of consoles, but their latest effort on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network is quite arguably their best game on the services. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike finally goes downloadable, but this is not just your average port. Capcom took their sweet time to make this version the one to get especially for hardcore fans and tournament players that have been playing for many years since its initial arcade release in 1999. They finally met players and fans' demands of what features have to be in this port. There are still some issues that might irritate certain crowds, but Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition is definitely the best fighting game out there to download.

Many people probably didn't remember 3rd Strike when it originally came out. The III series for the Street Fighter franchise was a pretty big departure from the II series and Alpha games. Other than Ryu, Ken, Akuma, and Chun-Li (3rd Strike is her only game in the series), the III series was pretty much a whole new cast of characters to fight as and a big change in core gameplay. Those changes turned many fans off until Street Fighter IV came out. What most people missed with 3rd Strike though that it is arguably the most technical game in the franchise. Players appreciated that it actually took more skill to win than just relying on projectiles and dragon punches. Spacing of normal moves and execution play a huge role when playing these specific games. The most noticeable mechanic the Street Fighter III games were known for is the concept of parrying. Parrying is one of those easy to learn, difficult to master mechanics as it is simple to execute, but on most match scenarios, it can be pretty tough to pull off. 3rd Strike was the pinnacle of the III series, which is why it is a no brainer for Capcom to release it as a download.

Online Edition contains an arcade perfect version of 3rd Strike along with additional features seen in previous Capcom games this generation. Being arcade perfect means the game is untouched balance and gltiches-wise with the same frame data for all characters in the original release. This also means you'll likely see a lot of players using Chun-Li and Yun online since they're arguably the best characters in the game along with your fair share of shotos (Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Sean) since they're second nature to anyone that has played a Street Fighter game before. There have been claims of input lag, meaning the inputs are delayed by little number of frames on the PSN version, but only serious tournament-level players would notice such a big issue like that. The big twist in this version is how in-game achievements are being tracked. If you're playing the game in its default 4:3 state, you'll notice a ticker of sorts on the borders of certain tasks being done for points. These range from doing multi-hit combos, win a round by a super, parry a certain number of moves, and so on. These points can be used to buy things from the vault containing such things as remixed music, character endings, fan-art that have been handpicked by Capcom. There's not really a special item to unlock like an episode of the Street Fighter cartoon from Final Fight: Double Impact, which makes the vault a bit disappointing. The achievement tracker can be distracting for some people even though it wasn't for me, but you can customize the screen size, and filters in the options menu. The various filters, especially the arcade cabinet view, are nice to have, but the default view seems fine personally.

Other than the standard arcade and training modes, the other big single player mode in this new release is the trials mode, as seen in Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. If you played that mode in the games I previously mentioned, 3rd Strike is no different with the character trials, but some additional trials are added in for parrying and specific handicap challenges. The parrying trials are nice to have if you're new to the game as this is one way to learn how to parry effectively against certain moves and situations. For example, you can recreate the infamous Daigo parry video in this game, which is obviously titled Evo Moment #37. The character trials let you learn bread and butter combos high-level players usually use in a tournament along with trying out some difficult ones that are not impossible to do as well. Trial mode in 3rd Strike Online Edition is a nice feature for anyone to mess around with whether you're new or someone that wants to be challenged, but let's move on to how "online" this version really is.

Since this is called Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition, the online has to be pretty good right? That seems to be the case for the most part with some minor issues that could affect your experience with this release. First of all, the GGPO netcode finally gets put in a console fighting game, so you're pretty much getting lagless matches with no slowdown at all. Playing someone with a bad connection however can still be a problem, in which the game can get all skippy for a bit. An example would be hearing the K.O. sound even though you think you won a round, but you didn't as the fight goes on. Speaking of sound issues, the background music sometimes stops playing until the beginning of a new round during online matches as well, a similar issue found in Super Turbo HD Remix. Most of my online matches ran smoothly based on my time with the game, but there will be those moments where the issues I just mentioned can happen. Online matchmaking is also a problem with the game at its current state now. It can take a while to find ranked matches at times (a while meaning over a minute), which is pretty bad. Well the matchmaking in general is pretty weird in this version as there is no custom match setting in ranked, but is in player matches when making rooms with up to eight players (quarter match settings seen in past Capcom downloadable releases). In ranked matches, the game tends to match you up against a similarly ranked opponent, which they do a good job on that. There's also a bug where a person's disconnect rating goes beyond 100% when being matched up as that could be easily fixed in a future patch. Despite some little issues, 3rd Strike's online works functionally especially with having GGPO.

Other than standard player and ranked match options, 3rd Strike also has spectator mode, a must for online fighting games these days, online tournaments with up to sixteen players, and a robust replay feature. There is a huge database for your unsaved replays of all your matches played locally and online as of course you can save the ones you want to keep. In addition, they can uploaded to the game's match server for others to see and get rated. These match replays can also be upload to YouTube as the gameplay videos you see above are from my own YouTube account. The quality of these videos are not that good when uploaded there as they're in a way lower resolution than it should be. Unfortunately for 360 owners, uploading to YouTube means you're uploading to a master Capcom account compared to uploading to your own YouTube channel on PSN. Other than that, at least the feature works and it is nice to have even though it could of been so much better.

Graphically, 3rd Strike is the same 3rd Strike you have seen for over a decade. No HD remix was done to the graphics, which is a good thing because the 2D sprites still look great even on 360 and PS3 to this day. As mentioned earlier, there are various filters to mess around with and screen size to adjust especially if you're the widescreen type of person these days. The art has been redone for this new version as well as they are seen in the menus and the character select screen. The soundtrack is still one of the best fighting game soundtracks around even though this online edition defaults to the arranged versions of the tunes. There are remixed versions of the themes to buy on the vault, which are done by Simon Viklund (popularly known for the Bionic Commando Rearmed soundtrack). These remixes are basically hit and misses as the popular theme songs ended up being the most disappointing. The new menu rap song is tolerable, but you can change to the original menu music as well. Other than that, the in-game sounds are as arcade perfect as it gets.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition is definitely a great package for fifteen dollars driven by fan-service. Many wished features that previous fighting games didn't have such as GGPO netcode, arcade perfect gameplay, and YouTube uploads are finally in. The in-game achievement tracker is nice to have, but I can see it be distracting for some players. Other than functional online play, there is still tons of replay value from completing the vault and tearing through trials mode when playing offline. There are still some nagging issues that affect online play, but it is still a good time to return to one of the greatest fighting games of all-time with 3rd Strike. Newer players may have a tough time since it requires a different learning curve, but it is definitely worth sticking through if you want to get better. This is one downloadable release any fighting game fan should not miss.

Score = 8.5/10

  • Arcade perfect gameplay (Same 3rd Strike that has been around for over a decade)
  • GGPO netcode finally in a console fighting game and works well for the most part
  • Feature-heavy for a downloadable release from trials mode, the vault, and a robust replay system
  • YouTube uploads are nice to have
  • Looks great even in 2011
  • Still one of the best fighting games of all-time
  • Online matchmaking issues - can take a while to find matches at times
  • Even when facing someone on a bad connection, skippy moments can happen that can dramatically affect how a match goes.
  • Not as easy to pick up and play as you think (especially for first timers... it can be a tough learning curve especially if they skipped this one and recent games like Street Fighter IV "spoiled" them)
  • Input lag is a problem on the PSN version assuming the claims by tournament-level players are true (only an issue for that certain crowd)
  • YouTube quality of videos when using the game's upload feature to YT is not that good