Third Strike is the third and final tweak of Street Fighter III and is one of Capcom’s finest games. The first thing newcomers will notice about the brawler is the gorgeous visual presentation. Whilst the resolution is lower than that of the Guilty Gear series, the detail and animation is unparalleled by any other fighter. Clothes ripple as if real wind is actually blowing against individual pixels, muscle definition is expertly shaded and the use of light and shadow adds a subtle depth to character animation that somehow achieves a level of realistic movement that is uniquely different to that of 3D fighters. If you’re sceptical about this then load up the game and get someone to play as Elena; watch her duck and weave across the screen and you’ll swear she has been rotascoped. The backgrounds can at times be just as aesthetically stunning as the fighters can. So much so that players will often find themselves trying to launch their opponent as far into the sky as possible just to catch a glimpse of every last corner of the scenery. Hugo's attic stage is a particular highlight as flooring an opponent triggers a number of incidental animations as the wrestler's belongings bounce in reaction to the impact of fallen warriors.
Whilst none of the musical themes will ever be as memorable as those from Street fighter II they are adequate at their worst and exuberant at best. Unlike many of the orchestral themes that accompany the big budget games of modern consoles these are tunes that unmistakably belong to videogames; a quality that some dev-cos seem to underestimate these days. Some of the character themes seem to ape the classic Streets of Rage soundtrack, but no one in their right mind would complain about that. The same thing, sadly, cannot be said about the blatant James Bond rip-off score on Yun’s stage.
The attention lavished upon the presentation would all be a shallow waste of time if the game played like Poker without a complete deck; thankfully Capcom’s hand is good and the aces are high. For the most part Street Fighter III plays like a regular 2D fighter except that each combatant can only use one of three selectable super moves (known as Super Arts). This removal of too many over-the-top combos encourages the player to experiment on their actual fighting strategies rather than relying on cheesy energy depleting moves. This is helped along by the addition of parries: a strategic type of blocking that reduces damage to zero and gives the player a split second to counter attack. Performed by tapping forward at the precise time that an enemy attack would connect, the parry is a risky manoeuvre that could leave the player even more open to a beating. Get the trick right though and the rewards are plenty, the score bonus and the ability to turn the tide of battle to the player's advantage are well worth the risk. Mastering the parry in single player mode is an essential exercise if a cocky victory in versus is desired; there has never been a greater feeling of euphoria in any Street Fighter than parrying oneself out of a corner and using that split-second pause to achieve a win.
The ability to increase the damage of special moves (by pressing two attack buttons simultaneously) also adds an element of strategy as doing so drains the player’s Super Art meter and also has some interesting side effects. Doubling up a fireball, for example, can often catch an opponent off-guard as they block the first ball but not the one that sneakily follows on its heels. Capcom’s bonus rounds make a welcome return in Street Fighter III. The ritualistic destruction of the motor-car makes its third appearance since Final Fight and Street Fighter II and the blocking training, where the player is bombarded with Sean's basketballs, is a great opportunity to practice high and low parrying.
Only previously available on the Dreamcast, the PS2 version offers a handful of refinements that only the most hardcore of World Warriors will notice. The vertical borders are gone and the graphics and sounds are slightly augmented although no one could ever improve the dreadful Street Fighter rap, which remains in this edition. The most significant improvement is the addition of the arcade moves that were removed from the DC version, although some may see this as a detriment to the game as many of those moves are unblockable. The thorough customisation of the versus mode thankfully makes the transition from Dreamcast intact and Capcom have clearly learnt from their mistakes with Hyper Street Fighter II and wisely included a save function.
As with Street Fighter II, Third Strike has the perfect mix of accessibility and depth needed to make this a hit with both amateurs and veterans. For owners of the DC version the PS2 incarnation can only be recommended to the ultra-hardcore who long for a near arcade perfect rendition. Everyone else though should consider this an essential purchase. “We await your return, Warrior”.
Text by: Ashley Day