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SF3: Third Strike...Not As Great As You Remember?

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[**NOTE:  Had originally posted this at Eventhubs, but their forums are pretty much dead so I'll be completing this little analysis here instead.  Probably should've done that from the start, altho I'm not sure how many of you play fighting games (randomly or regularly :/)**]

 

[**NOTE 2: This will be something of an ongoing thread; I'll update with more to this post when I have the time. So you can kinda look at this as an "article" of sorts, just spread among a ton of posts. I can't promise when additional parts will be up as I'm pretty busy during weekdays, so for those interested just keep an eye on the thread and share your own thoughts on the topic as well. 

Also, I'm aware this is going to be a VERY controversial thread and topic, and I'm ready for that. The opinions expressed here and in future parts are my own, but if others agree with them, that's great. If they don't, that's cool. But most importantly let's talk about it. Let's get a little civil discourse going.**]

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Okay, so a disclaimer: I've been playing 3S more or less regularly for the past 2+ years, but first got my hands on the game about a decade ago. At that time, I was like many other disillusioned types, who saw the game on a godly pedestal at least in terms of fighting games, the king whom could not ever be challenged, supremacy reigning eternal. Like others, I felt EVO Moment #37 was among one of the most amazing moments in all of competitive gaming. The game's sprite animation unparalleled, soundtrack sublime, and game design/game mechanics perfection and the pinnacle of 2D fighters...

...and then I actually started investing in the game at a higher level, and boy oh boy, did the flaws show themselves to run deep. That the game continues to get praise to this day over more deserving fighting games is a testament to the power of the Capcom and Street Fighter brand name in the FGC, and the clout the FGC enjoys with casual gamers outside of the scene who are likely only aware of its more immediate elements. But when a game that enjoys a recent re-release with better netcode than its little brother (SFV) can't even maintain a playerbase beyond its initial launch phase, or even a consistent tournament presence post-launch of said port, it's maybe time to take the skeletons out of the closet and dissect what the nature of that game truly is.

[BUT FIRST, SOME HISTORY]

The history of 3S doesn't actually begin with said game, but dates back to New Generation, the first iteration of the game released in arcades in 1996 on the venerable CPS3 arcade hardware. At the time of its release, New Generation was arguably the most visually impressive 2D sprite-based game in the industry; no one had seen animation fidelity quite as robust or smooth, and it alone garnered the game a lot of praise. However, what wasn't so fondly looked upon was the game's lacking cast; a mix of few returners (only Ken and Ryu from past installments would be present here, and they were only added AFTER initial ideas of even axing them out of the lineup!) and new characters with designs not as iconic as the now-classic SFII cast of fighters. In terms of gameplay, New Generation introduced the parry, a mechanic wherein if a player pressed forward on the joystick at the exact moment an attack would otherwise hit them (this isn't *quite* true in terms of the timing but I will explain later), they would be able to deflect the attack while taking zero chip damage, and have a small frame opening to counter-attack with almost any option of their choosing. This added a level of depth and complexity to the 2D fighting formula that was perhaps both underappreciated and too complicated to get a handle on by most of the gaming public. Such was not helped by the game's questionable balance issues or certain bugs that made high-level play a nightmare.

Adding to the mediocre reception was the presence of other, arguably more polished and flashy fighting games in arcades at the same time, some of which being Capcom's own such as the Darkstalker series, Street Fighter Alpha (and its sequel), Xmen vs. Street Fighter and even Street Fighter EX, the franchise's first attempt into the realm of 3D. Combined with the general downslide of arcade gaming in the West that was occurring thanks mainly to the powerful performance of Sony's PlayStation (and to a lesser extent, Nintendo's N64) in the home gaming market, and you have all the makings for a solid, if not spectacular, first impression of the III series that unfortunately did not make much of an impact in arcades.

Capcom would try again a short while later with Second Impact, an update of sorts with more playable characters, new stages, new music, and a further progression of the developing storyline alongside various adjustments to the game mechanics and balance. It was a noticeably better game than New Generation on most all fronts, and did help to improve the III series' reputation among fighting game players and arcade goers, but yet again, it was something of a financial flop. By this time Capcom was losing money on the CPS3 hardware by the boatloads, as other CPS3 games like Red Earth also failed to take off. While some gamers pondered of a possible home port to Sony's PlayStation or Sega's Saturn, the truth of the matter was that neither system was up to the task of doing a home translation of the III games justice, even with expansion modules in tow. PC gaming was consumed by the explosion of FPS games during this time and were never known as havens for arcade-style gaming outside of say the Sharp X68000, which remained a curiosity for the Japanese market exclusively, and whose time had already passed. Other than arcades, there was no other true avenue for the III games to do good business and both New Generation and now Second Impact had failed to make much of a dent with operators and even many of the hardcore arcade goers and fighting game players of the time.

In 1999, Capcom decided to give it one last go in the III franchise with Third Strike, arguably the most remembered and cherished release in the series. Third Strike would be a stylistic overhaul of mammoth proportions, switching up the soundtrack to something more akin to a hiphop/jazz fusion with some drum 'n bass/jungle music thrown in for good measure, and made further overhauls to the various game mechanics, such as the introduction of Red Parriesuniversal overheads, and a "pathway challenge" system for the Arcade mode which allowed players to choose from two opponents per match on a forking path, eventually culminating with a penultimate match against the player character's rival, and a final battle against series boss Gill. This edition of the game also brought back series favorite Chun-Li, as well as adding several other new characters to the roster such as Q, Twelve and Makoto, bumping the playable roster to 19. 

Third Strike would be both the final release in the III series and the last CPS3 game produced for the system, totaling out to a paltry six (6) releases in its commercial run. The hardware was now a certified anchor on Capcom financially and the company at this point eyed the opportunity to move onto other systems such as SEGA's newly released NAOMI arcade board, based upon technology of that company's then-new Dreamcast home game console. And just as well; Third Strike, outside of a small yet dedicated fanbase in parts of Japan, simply failed to resonate with most gamers in other markets, a casualty to the shrinking Western arcade market and scaling back of popularity of fighting games as a whole, particularly those of the 2D variety. The game befell the same fate of 2nd Impact and New Generation financially, even if it was a technically superior game to New Generation and *arguably* better game than Second Impact (again, I will explain later). It was time for Capcom to move on, and they did, leaving the III series behind as their time became occupied with other fighters such as Marvel vs Capcom 2 and the Capcom vs. SNK series....

...and then EVO Moment #37 happened. This iconic moment, which involved fighting game legend Diago Umehara taking on yet another fighting game legend, Justin Wong, in a heated match of Third Strike with the two taking to Ken and Chun-Li, respectively, is perhaps both the most viewed and most venerated single moment in FGC history. Daigo was able to perfectly parry every single hit in Chun-Li's SAII, as well as neutral jump for a setup into Ken's bread-and-butter combo for a hit confirm into his SAIII, WHILE HAVING ONLY A PIXEL OF HEALTH TO HIS NAME! The moment, taking place at EVO 2004, has since cemented itself in the annals of fighting game and competitive gaming history, and to those who likely nary even know anything about fighting games beyond fleeting memories of SFII at the arcade, SNES or Genesis, this single moment is likely the first that comes to mind when they think of fighting games. It's simply that iconic.

The moment itself gave Third Strike a shot in the arm that, along with the continued dedication to the game in years leading up to it thanks mainly to a small-but-closely knit scene in Japan, helped push 3S (and to a lesser degree, Second Impact) to a new place in the zeitgeist of the fighting game (and even gaming in general) pedestal. Coupled with the impending release of Street Fighter IV, a game that many (somewhat overstated) consider the "rebirth of fighting games into the mainstream", and it seemed that after all these years, the III games (Third Strike in particular) was finally getting the overdue respect it deserved. "The God of 2D fighters". "A pinnacle master of its art". "Pure. Perfection".

....except it really isn't ANY of those things. Not exactly, anyhow. Over the years Third Strike has enjoyed a near mythical level of fervor with gamers, many of whom have either never played it whatsoever, or only done so a handful of times at a casual level. Others still are only familiar with the game from watching tournament footage on sites such as Youtube. While this is all well and good, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to discussing the game's true merits outside of the cloud of its fandom. As someone who has sunk more time into this game than many, I feel it time to delve into what exactly elevates this game to god-like status for so many, and see in what areas what other games do these things better. For the sake of trying to keep this simple, I will be limiting comparisons only to other fighting games that came out before or around the release of Third Strike. That means no comparisons to, say, Tekken 4 or later, Virtua Fighter 4 or later, Guilty Gear XX, or Dead or Alive 3. All games in this comparison will have initial releases on or before the year 2000.

So with that, let's get on with this :/

[NEXT TIME: THE AESTHETIC (OVERALL PRESENTATION, CHARACTER DESIGNS, BACKGROUNDS, ANIMATIONS, MOVELIST CREATIVITY)]

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from a casual player standpoint, i'm perfectly fine with 3rd Strike.  I liked it when it came out, I still have the same opinion now.  /shrug

 

If anything, I don't have the patience to endlessly remember combos or game systems anymore for Street Fighter games.

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from a casual player standpoint, i'm perfectly fine with 3rd Strike.  I liked it when it came out, I still have the same opinion now.  /shrug

 

If anything, I don't have the patience to endlessly remember combos or game systems anymore for Street Fighter games.

 

  Yeah, at a casual level the game's great.  One's able to really appreciate the visuals, sounds and all the good stuff while not getting frustrated with certain other aspects.

 

  I'm nothing like a Daigo at the game, but playing it at some deeper, serious level I just can't help but notice issues, some of which haven't seen mentioned by others when they discuss the game.  The goal's ultimately to highlight those things, but still be fair to the game on its strong merits, because even with the faults there's a reason I keep playing it a little everyday (or just about).

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I've only played 3S at a fairly casual level, although I did log hundreds of hours in SFIV and could actually keep up a bit with the local tourney players (I would never win a tourney, but they'd not curbstomp me.) I'll be checking in on this discussion...

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I am an experienced but casual player of SF. My friends and I love 3rd Strike. I still play the DC port all the time. Although, it took time to like it and to appreciate all the new characters.

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Bummer.  I was hoping to read your in-depth analysis along with some juicy controversy, but you stopped short of the meat of the article.  I'm just a SF3 casual, but looking forward to the read!

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I remember being around in competitive arcades back when 3rd Strike was newish. No one seemed to particularly like the game compared to Marvel 2, CvS2, or games from other companies (Tekken, Guilty Gear X, and KOF had some decent followings at the time). It wasn't until a few years later when Capcom seemingly abandoned 2d fighting games that people went back and decided to play 3rd Strike (particularly after it had a good showcase at Evo one year). I've never been a huge fan - parrying destroys all the aspects of Street Fighter I enjoyed in favor of guessing games, and Chun Li is just ridiculously overpowered compared to the rest of the cast.

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Bummer.  I was hoping to read your in-depth analysis along with some juicy controversy, but you stopped short of the meat of the article.  I'm just a SF3 casual, but looking forward to the read!

 

  Lol, I've been kinda busy past day or so but most likely next part'll be on Saturday.

I remember being around in competitive arcades back when 3rd Strike was newish. No one seemed to particularly like the game compared to Marvel 2, CvS2, or games from other companies (Tekken, Guilty Gear X, and KOF had some decent followings at the time). It wasn't until a few years later when Capcom seemingly abandoned 2d fighting games that people went back and decided to play 3rd Strike (particularly after it had a good showcase at Evo one year). I've never been a huge fan - parrying destroys all the aspects of Street Fighter I enjoyed in favor of guessing games, and Chun Li is just ridiculously overpowered compared to the rest of the cast.

 

  Yeah; remember David Sirlin mentioning this in his blog entries years ago.  At the time it got me curious but I wasn't playing the game as much then as am these days, but I can feel what he was on about in those posts. 

 

  Chun's completely ridiculous in the game; I love the hell outta her (obviously ;), but every button of hers is godly safe, and almost every button feels like a safe hit confirm into her SAII, which is one of the best in the game without question.

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i think it's a great game, i'm no expert.
but i think gil and the bosses are super cheap,
especially with regenerating energy.

i could care less about SF4, or SF5.

SF3 was scraping the barrel, and trying to bring back 2d fighting. big deal.

i had moved onto virtua fighter 2, and then 3/4/5, and still play that.

street fighter has been dead for awhile, and these new pseudo 3d looking versions are terrible.

later
-1

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Badass fighting game, like all the Street Fighter games.  As a casual, I wouldn't know how to nitpick such a classic.

 

  Lol don't worry, that's what I'm here for ;)  Hoping to post the next part tomorrow.

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i think it's a great game, i'm no expert.
but i think gil and the bosses are super cheap,
especially with regenerating energy.

i could care less about SF4, or SF5.

SF3 was scraping the barrel, and trying to bring back 2d fighting. big deal.

i had moved onto virtua fighter 2, and then 3/4/5, and still play that.

street fighter has been dead for awhile, and these new pseudo 3d looking versions are terrible.

later
-1

 

  Gill's a bastard, but right after him's Elena w/ Healing, although it's much easier to stop since it doesn't push you away like Gill's.  Also Gill's meteor shower Super that does INSANE chip damage but hey, that's a boss character for you :/

 

  I'm really itching to get into the VF series again, I think it's woefully underappreciated in the West, tho it didn't help the first few installments were on platforms that didn't necessarily set the West on fire and arcades were declining at the time.  It's just so alien to see so many other fighters get updates (even Fighting Layer!), but not the originator and standard-setter of 3D fighters :/

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  Looks like I WON'T be posting it today because shitty Notepad magically happened to delete 3/4 of the post and then SAVED the file contents without me realizing.  Really, REALLY hate when that crap happens; I won't have time to redo all of that text until the next weekend maybe (plus quite honestly, I'm pissed off that all of the that text just got deleted.  Can't be arsed to re-type all of that right now.

 

....Damnit...

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Looks like I WON'T be posting it today because shitty Notepad magically happened to delete 3/4 of the post and then SAVED the file contents without me realizing.  Really, REALLY hate when that crap happens; I won't have time to redo all of that text until the next weekend maybe (plus quite honestly, I'm pissed off that all of the that text just got deleted.  Can't be arsed to re-type all of that right now.
 
....Damnit...


if you're quick, next time try the 'undo', and sometimes, the last action or two
can recover the text.

save often and early, and of course use a different filename, so even if you lose
the current text, you'll still have your prior one.

later
-1

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  Apologies for being late with adding to that initial post guys; truth is playing 3S even more has rekindled some of my hatred for the game.  Like, it's *really* shit in some monumental ways, and I was even considering if it was worth doing a write-up over.

 

  More to that though, I want to dig in a bit deeper with some of the games I was going to be comparing it to, including VF2, Tekken 3 (again; it's been a while since I last played it), Last Blade 2 and Garou: MOTW.  Games that I remember actually being more fun than stressful to play.

 

  In other words, I'm kinda gonna put the rest of this thing on hold and come back to it in a couple of months, by then should have all my thoughts organized and written down.

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I still love playing 3rd Strike on the DC, as with anything a retrospective has a certain weight to it any game requires that you look at it through the lens of the time it was created in not your present day one.

 

Oh and for the love of god, please edit your text in something else. Make a google doc or word online or anything but notepad.

Edited by power

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