If there was ever a game re-release that defined the concept of fan service then Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition is that game. There are very few games in the world that have as passionate a following as Third Strike and rightfully so, there is something very pure about the way the rules of the game engine are so absolute. While the game itself could never be considered as having a well balanced roster of fighters, the cleanness of the engine has produced some of the most watchable, and universally enjoyable, competitive play in the history of video games. You notice I have already started referring to the game as Third Strike, I would recommend you get used to it. Capcom issued several different editions of Street Fighter III with Third Strike being the final and definitive version so the clarification is somewhat important. What is more important is that all the cool kids call it Third Strike (or 3S) so that is what I’m going to do. It may also be worth noting that Street Fighter III takes place, canonically, after the events of Street Fighter IV. All clear, no? Good.
I am going to use the word ‘Parry’ in this review so before we get into it I thought I’d explain the the meaning of the word in the context of Third Strike. Parrying is a fairly unique game mechanic and is a key strategy in intermediate to advanced play. In simple terms it is an aggressive defensive technique. Rather than blocking an incoming attack by holding the direction away from your opponent you can tap towards them at the moment the attack lands to parry it. The downside of this is that you will no longer be blocking so if you fluff the timing you will be eating an attack, however, time it correctly and the attack will be parried, you will take no damage (not even block damage) and you will be at a considerable offensive advantage. Bear in mind that if an attack has more than one hit you will most likely need to parry them all before any counterattack. Of course there is more to it than those few lines but consider that a quick primer for those not already in the know.
Now how about that review?
The gameplay of Third Strike will be instantly recognisable to anyone with even the slightest experience of traditional 2D fighters, one on one Vs fighting with a varied cast that each have a plethora of tools at their disposal. As you’d expect each character has a set of regular and special moves as well as a choice of super move, known as a ‘Super Art’, also present is the now commonplace use of EX moves, the ability to use some of your super bar to perform an enhanced version of any special move. People new to Third Strike but familiar with Street Fighter IV will find themselves quite at home, they may however need to work on their move execution as there much less margin for error given to the player here. If you want to pull a dragon punch you will need to have the input spot on, there are no shortcuts or input leniency to be found here.
Third Strike works well as a game on many levels, beginners will have fun with the varied cast and flashy moves, intermediate players will be intrigued and challenged by the more advanced gameplay systems and advanced players be drawn to the promise of a zen like state of perfection if they are up to the task. Where the game fails somewhat is when you mix up these levels of play, modern fighting games take this into account and less skilled players can often have a chance at victory. In Third Strike fighting a player outside of your skill level by any more than a small amount will most likely result in a crushing defeat.
Graphically Third Strike has always been known for its beautifully fluid sprite animation and although this is not a HD remix, the graphics still look great. There are several filters that can be used to take the edge off the blocky sprites and they all work well. There is even option for adding scanlines and an old fashioned CRT monitor fish-eye effect for an authentic arcade experience.
There is no doubt that Third Strike is a fantastically enjoyable and deep fighting game that will richly reward any dedicated player, the real problem over the years was that it was getting tricky to find a way to keep playing it. It was clearly time for a re-released and while Capcom could have easily slapped an emulated arcade version together and released it they have instead produced a stunning package to hail the return of what some consider to be the greatest fighting game of all time.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition lives up to its name well, perhaps even underselling it a bit. The repackage features just about every feature you could imagine. The single player package offers the standard Arcade mode, both standard and parry specific free training modes and a challenge mode. Challenges are grouped by character each with some very tricky combos for you to try and perfect, there are also two sets of parry challenges. Don’t expect to breeze through these, some of them are extremely hard. It’s best to view the parry challenges as being similar to that bit in The Karate Kid: Part 3 where the evil sensai makes Daniel punch the wooden training dummy till his hands bleed. The final parry challenge is the most perfect piece of fan service I have ever seen in a game, tasking the player with recreating the ridiculously hype “Evo Moment #37“. You will also earn points by completing mini challenges while you play that can be used to unlock a huge amount of concept art and music.
To top off the package there is a feature I have not been able to test as the service is not yet live, however the promise is that on or shortly after launch you will be able to upload replays of matches directly to YouTube from within the game. I don’t have the full details of how this will work but even if it only works in a very basic form it is an inspired addition.