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Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition Playtest – Striking Down the Barriers to Entry


I admit it, I’m a 3rd Strike newbie. While I’ve played various incarnations of Street Fighter III on and off in arcades and dorm rooms for years, I’ve never given the game the time, effort, and energy it deserved, partially because it seemed so daunting.


Between the famous Seth Killian-commentated videos, the ridiculous number of frames of animation for each character, and the ten years of competitive history behind the game, I simply assumed that I would never possess the skill required to play and enjoy 3rd Strike in any capacity. That having been said, one of Capcom’s stated goals for Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition was to attract people like me who missed out or felt overwhelmed by the highly technical game.


When I began playing the game, I was skeptical. Since then, I’ve played nearly 250 rounds in the past two days. To 3rd Strike’s credit, it does try and ease you into its complexities; however, it could certainly have done a better job of this.


One of the primary additions to 3rd Strike is the Trial Mode. These trials are designed to help the player understand the parry system and the way that certain characters work. Each character has their own set of five trials that teach the player how to chain certain combos together. These trials are interesting and helped me figure out certain elements of 3rd Strike (I had no idea how many options there were for continuing a combo against an enemy sent airborne, for instance). As a beginner, however, I can’t help but wish the combo trials were a little more explanatory, especially considering how ludicrously hard they can be to pull off.


You’re simply given a list of attacks to string together properly, with some witty pre-trial text. Being able to see a demonstration of a combo (a la BlazBlue: Continuum Shift’s equivalent Challenge Mode) would have been fantastic.


The parry trials shared a similar issue. Each one started with a little bit of dialogue such as "One of the easier super arts to parry… if you know the timing," then simply drop you into a situation, such as Ryu throwing a Shinkuu Hadouken at you. If you don’t parry all five hits, you’re told that you have failed, and are given the chance to retry. Expect to see that failure message a couple hundred times before you finally accomplish the task at hand.


While these sort of trials-by-fire are helpful for muscle memory, I found myself hoping for some sort of demonstration or a little note telling me if I had pressed forward too early or too late to successfully parry. It seems as though there’s a certain degree of familiarity with 3rd Strike that the game expects of the player as it never really explains just how to parry (aside from a little text-only explanation in the options menu). If I didn’t know that crouching at the right time allowed me to parry low, the third parry trial (parrying a Shoryuken, which starts with a low hit that leads into two medium ones) would have driven me crazy.


These complaints aside, I feel as though the trial modes did eventually give me a deeper understanding for a game that I had only ever really played on a casual level. By just putting me in front of an opponent and giving me a goal, I had to learn the fighting system by myself, but it allowed me to craft my own combos.


Trials aren’t the only thing that enrich the single-player aspect of 3rd Strike Online Edition, as the game’s inbuilt “challenges” create an engrossing metagame. Curiously, nearly hidden if you play on a 4:3 TV, 3rd Strike Online Edition’s evolving challenges track the player’s accomplishments and reward them with points. For instance, a challenge may start with something as simple as "throw a projectile," "light an opponent on fire," or even "win a round," but as you meet them, the difficulty begins to mount.


Won a round without taking any damage? Great, now win three. Feel cool that you finally pulled off an air parry? Do four more! On a widescreen TV (assuming you’re playing with the original 4:3 aspect ratio), the challenges that you’re closing in on appear on the edges of the screen as you play, making them easy to see, but not cluttering the onscreen action at all. As I alluded to earlier, there’s no way to get these running challenges onscreen on a 4:3 TV, but rather they’re delegated to a notification at the end of arcade mode and a menu option that explains what each one is and displays how close the player is to obtaining it.


Regardless, the challenges are surprisingly addicting, and the rewarded points can be used for unlocking things in the game’s "Vault," which contains remixed music for every stage (done by Simon Viklund of Bionic Commando ReArmed fame), character art (everything from the original 3rd Strike portraits to fan art), stage background art, and even a few pages from Udon’s Street Fighter comics! The challenges also unlock achievements and trophies, if you’re into that sort of thing.


Bonuses and trimmings aside, there are a lot of ways to play 3rd Strike. One of my favorite little features in the game is the dip switch menu which allows you to enable and disable certain elements, such as taunts, extra hits after a KO, and even parrying! While it’s pretty useless to play what amounts to a prettier version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo from a competitive perspective, with a friend it can be a lot of fun.


As we’ve reported before, there are a numerous display options in the game. While (once again) these are more limited on a 4:3 TV, there are enough options to play 3rd Strike in a number of visual modes. The graphics filters, while initially off-putting, actually look quite nice once you get used to them, although some purists might be upset about not being able to see all of the details in Ryu’s pixelated hair. For those people, there’s the option to display the game as if it were in an old arcade cabinet, with a bowed-out screen and scanlines (curiously enough, this option doesn’t look as sharp in 480i, blurring the image instead of making the pixel art pop more).


Also, on a widescreen TV, you can stretch the screen to a 16:9 image, although this makes my beloved challenges disappear. If you’re as indecisive as I am, you can switch between the different visual styles on the fly, too, which is much appreciated.


Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition is an impressive step toward making an incredibly complex fighter more accessible. While I’m certainly not the greatest player in the world, even after my limited time with the game, I feel like I understand the mechanics at work a lot more than I ever have in the past. While there are still a few hurdles to overcome to properly get into the game, it does make it a lot easier to enjoy 3rd Strike.


Food for Thought:

1. The game’s final boss, Gill, has different elemental attributes on his attacks depending on which way he’s facing. Sure, that news is over 10 years old, but it’s still cool!


2. There seem to be a few glitches with the way that challenges unlock. For instance, after beating three parry trials, the game’s challenges only seem to think that I’ve beaten two, no matter how many times I re-beat them.


3. The challenges that appear onscreen vary from mode to mode. For example; Versus has different challenges than Arcade.