Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Aug 23, 2011 07:08

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online, or rather its previous offline iterations, holds a special place in my heart. It was the first fighting game that I was seriously competitive about, and played an important part in my growth as a player. Combining a diverse roster and some interesting game rules with traditional Street Fighter action, Third Strike stands out as one of the more noteworthy entries in the genre. It is however roughly a decade old, so it’s worth wondering what new material Capcom has brought to this classic. While the core game is generally unchanged, a lot of little bonuses wrapped around it may make this ’aged’ game a bit more enticing to today’s audience.

Street Fighter III: Third Strike OnlineWith nearly two dozen characters, Third Strike offers a very diverse roster. Classics such as Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li return but the majority of the cast are characters that at the time had not been seen in many other games. Dudley presents a ’fancy footwork’ take on the typical boxing styles in fighting games, while Oro’s unusual movement and attacks allow for fans of oddball characters to mount a confusing yet surprisingly effective game plan. Even characters that are clearly based on Street Fighter II cast add some interesting wrinkles to old ideas, such as Necro combining traits from Dhalsim and Blanka to strangely enough become a unique fighter in his own right. While the roster has all sorts of fighters in it, the basic idea does remain the same; you and your opponent pick your characters, then exchange punches, kicks, throws, energy blasts, and so on until one player has won... it’s classic Street Fighter in that regard.

What makes Third Strike different from its peers is the rules and engine surrounding these characters. While all the usual 2D fighting mechanics are there, Third Strike gives everyone access to a few useful tools. The most noteworthy among these are a ’universal overhead’ attack that ensures everyone has at least the basic components of a ground attack game, and perhaps far more noteworthy is the inclusion of parrying. Parrying is done by pressing your directional control (be it stick or pad) toward your opponent’s attack just before it hits, and if timed right your character will deflect the blow and be in position to immediately counter-attack. There is a little more nuance to it than that, but this is basically how parrying works and it adds an additional layer to the usual interactions between you and the opponent. Primarily used to punish predictable attacks and make it easier to get past fireballs, parrying rewards spotting patterns your opponent has and reacting to them with precise timing in order to encourage more varied attacks on their part. Despite a few oddities, it is overall an interesting mechanic and one that makes Third Strike truly unusual amongst its peers.

This is a very authentic port, kept as close to the original releases as possible aside from certain tweaks and updates for modern console play. While this is mostly a good thing, it does introduce a few problems. Chief among these is character balance; Third Strike has roughly three to a half-dozen characters that lag behind the others, and about that same number that are notably superior with Chun-Li, Yun, and to a lesser extent Ken serving as the cases in point. While this does disappoint me somewhat, it seems to be a subjective matter; some players find the matches amongst the ’top tier’ suitably interesting and varied that they’re quite content with this group. Others are willing to ignore those superior characters, finding that the remaining roster is balanced enough against one another and offers plenty of fascinating fights, so it may be a matter of finding a group that shares your interests and opinions on the roster.

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Our Rating for Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Review (XBLA)
8.0 Replay
The cycle of learning and improving with your character of choice is often very rewarding, and going up against other players on a similar ’journey’ to get better is exciting. With strong online play, you should have no shortage of opponents to enjoy.
7.5 Graphics
Well animated sprites still show some beauty today, though some age is also starting to show and visual filters only do so much to help. Nonetheless, these visuals were amazing a decade ago and still hold up decently now; you won’t mind what you’re looking at.
8.0 Sound
While the soundtrack is not as iconic as that of Street Fighter II, several great tracks are featured here and put players in a competitive mood.
8.0 Gameplay
A smart engine that offers important tools to all characters helps keep most of the roster relevant, and parrying is an interesting mechanic that rewards innovation in offense; predictable attacks get parried and punished. Despite some significant imbalance amongst the best characters, the rest of the roster is satisfying and creative.
9.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
GGPO network code makes serious online play practical for anyone on an even remotely decent connection, which will give people a much wider audience of opponents than they had for previous Third Strike releases.
8.0 Overall
A classic and important part of the fighting genre’s history gets a worthy port to modern systems. While it won’t interest those who dislike fighting games in general, other players will find it more exciting and should give it a try.

Rating: 5.0, votes: 1

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