I’d buy that for a dollar.
Back when Capcom could still afford to say “can we” instead of “should we”, Street Fighter III was dropped into a 1997 gaming warzone along with other competitive fighters like Tekken 3, Rival Schools, King of Fighters ’97, Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, and Mortal Kombat 4. In 1996, we had just seen the releases of Dead or Alive, Killer Instinct Gold, Samurai Showdown 4, Soul Edge, Virtua Fighter III, X-Men Vs Street Fighter, Street Fighter EX, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Street Fighter Alpha 2. These only represent the really popular games of the genre. Of all these games, I paid the most attention to Tekken 3 and Mortal Kombat 4 simply because they came to the PlayStation. Street Fighter III was the game I would play the most in the arcade when I had the opportunity. I was eventually able to acquire Street Fighter III: Double Impact for the Sega Dreamcast down the road. Up to that point, and very seldomly afterwards, Street Fighter III has been elusively unavailable on most platforms.
Street Fighter III and its arcade updates have slowly gained traction as a competitive fighting game over the years as its shallow competitors fell by the wayside. This fighter is easy to jump into, deep with extensive new mechanics it brings to the genre, and is hard as hell to master. While still on the shortlist of the top competitive fighting games nearly 15 years after its release, Capcom tried to do it justice in 2011 with a comprehensive Online Edition to coincide with the opening of the high-speed internet gaming floodgates onto the PS3 and XBox 360. Now, here we are on the eve of the Street Fighter V release, re-evaluating Street Fighter III Online Edition‘s merits almost 20 years after its initial arcade run.
Street Fighter III Online Edition is the best home version of the game. Although it’s a port of a port, its extensive approach to giving us the ultimate SF3 experience is a satisfying taste of the original game even if the smudgy sprites are found lacking. Keep in mind that this game is not in widescreen so the creators decided to run stats that lead to achievements/trophies in the empty space on the side of the screen, which can be distracting. Every character is in its prime Street Fighter III: Third Strike fighting shape sans any character balancing since Third Strike originally hit the arcades. There are a slew of training modes, video recording and sharing modes (although the YouTube uploading feature seems to be defunct at this time–after an exhaustive search), online multiplayer, and other customization options that really let you control the experience of the game. There are four familiar faces including Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, and Akuma. The rest of the cast are totally new to the series.
One of the things Street Fighter III introduced us to that we never saw before is parrying by tapping forward, the most controversial mechanic ever added to the entire spectrum of Street Fighter. With extremely precise timing, a player could negate all strikes and projectiles coming from the opponent at instant speed, leaving the attacker completely defenseless while still finishing their attack animation. A well-practiced player can sucker an opponent into using up their super meter and becoming vulnerable. With blockstun capably locking out a fighter from retaliating, the option of any character being able to parry makes every action in Street Fighter III possibly safe or unsafe depending on your mastery of parries. While anti-air attacks are very possible, they are not 100% plausible.
We were also introduced to EX moves in Street Fighter III. This is the spending of super meter to enhance special moves by tapping an extra punch or kick button during the execution of the move. These versions of the specials offered upgrades like extra frames of invincibility, setting up the opponent for follow-up attacks, or extra damage. These are great for using after a confirmed hit to get some extra damage on the enemy and possibly lengthen a combo. Street fighters could also do new things like dash, leap attacks (low jumping attacks that ducking opponents cannot block), far jump, and fast wake-up (stand up quickly after being knocked down).
Combos are tough to perform in this game. This game has more tiny windows than Smurf village. The combo tutorial will start you with canceling a regular move into a special, and then immediately having you jump in with the deepest fierce punch to a low forward kick and then cancel that into something else. What the combo tutorial doesn’t tell you is that you only have a few available frames to connect moves before you drop the combo entirely. The timing is extremely critical, as windows of opportunity for connecting hits are tiny (see my answer for this in the DLC section at the bottom of this review). While playing online, people often try to take advantage of these small windows, thrown off by lag, and will try to hit you while you are waking up from the ground. Trust me when I say that the window to throw a dragon punch in Street Fighter V, or IV, on wake-up is much easier than Street Fighter III.
If you are brand new to Street Fighter III, think of this game as The Temple of Doom version of Street Fighter. We take the best known SF character and his palette swaps and drop them into probably some strange dystopian South American setting. Every character they run into seems like an evolutionary step towards a Morlock, a palette swap for the final boss, or a lady fighter. Each opponent you’ll face, depending on how in tune they are with their Super Art, is like a Batman villain with a diabolical plan to catch you in a certain trap that just kills you. Urien summons a psychic wall then repeatedly hits you off of it like he is warming up for a tennis match. Oro uses telekinesis to summon parts of a building that’s obviously not from around where you are to juggle you until you die. Even Ryu has an electric fireball that can be added after a canceled attack to 100% stun your opponent–and it can’t be blocked (but it can be parried). With all of these elaborate death schemes in place as you play Street Fighter III Online Edition, as well as the chance you might face a parry master at any moment, there is a barrier to entry when fighting online opponents you have to be ready for. Perhaps having a clean pair of underwear nearby is in order.
While getting competitive with this game is rough, playing the single player or local multiplayer with friends can be fun. I really have enjoyed throwing shocking hadokens over the past 19 years. Even though I found the new cast largely forgettable, you may not. This game is known for its balance between characters, so you might find that Batman villain-esque character you’ll want to bring to the big time. Just do me a favor and leave a riddle or quack like a penguin into the microphone every time you put down a Urien, Q, or Oro player.
There are some wierd DLC options. Street Fighter III Online Edition with no DLC is $15. If you pay the full $20 for the most complete edition, you unlock color schemes for the characters, Gill as a playable character, access to bonus dip switches which wildly change the physics of the game, and access to a bevy of bonus video content which is basically a bunch of videos of high level competitors playing that you could easily find on YouTube. Without buying the full edition DLC, you can unlock Gill by spending $.99 or beating the game with every playable character. You also have the choice of spending $.99 to gain access to all the dip switches or unlock them by beating the game with every character. Being that the final boss, Gill, is unbearably tough to bring down, and that he has a super called resurrection, I opted to get the $.99 dip switch access so I could immediately turn on auto-combos, canceling of every regular move to a special, the ability for characters to have access to all their super arts, and more. While this is not true to the arcade experience, it does allow me to throw some good combos without having to hit tiny windows. Smurf village is safe.