Three strikes, you're out!
There's a war on the horizon. It will be big and it will be bloody. No, not console system wars...it's the game reviewer wars. Us, Game Revolution, versus all the rest of them (and Belgium). We're already equipped with our top-notch gaming talent, but for this battle, we're out to break heads. With the martial arts training of Sensei Gee, we've been honing our skills in preparation for the day when the one "true" magazine is decided.. We will move in quickly like the snow fox, and strike hard like the mountain gorilla.
Of course, time spent training would be all for naught if nothing actually gets better. For example, Street Fighter III: Third Strike. It's had all this time to improve, to perfect, to, dare I say, grow, and yet here it is, just the same as it ever was.
Amazingly, this is the third Street Fighter game released for the Dreamcast in the U.S...in just over one year. Add to that other Capcom SF clones like Marvel vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and you've got a whopping 5 games that are essentially identical, differentiated mainly by a few features and characters. The catch? Each one is full-priced, and you can't trade up. Argh.
Like it's been a hundred times before, fighters from across the world have gathered to fight. Apparently, there's this new bad dude named Gill. He's all painted up, half-red and half-blue, or maybe that's just his natural skin color. But anyway, he's supposedly quite a bad-ass because his body strobes and flashes. So these fighters not only have to whoop on each other, but also must take Gill out in order to "fight for the future." I wonder if that future includes even more Street Fighter games?
You really don't find out a thing about any of these characters until after that last match with Gill. I'd really like to get to know more about the character I select, aside from those empty taunts between matches. What does that say about who you are? And what's so bad about this Gill guy anyway? Okay, so he wants to take over the universe, but maybe he'd be a benevolent dictator. And his strobe light would be a hit at parties. I'm not asking for Shakespeare, just some semblance of a coherent story would be nice...it's not like they haven't had enough time to think one up.
Gameplay wise, there are two principle differences from the Alpha Series - Parrying and Special Arts. We're all used to blocking by pulling away from your opponent. Parrying adds a different, riskier style of blocking. By tapping towards your opponent at the right moment, you can deflect the shot away and create an opening for your own offensive. Of course, if you screw up your timing, you'll just leave yourself more vulnerable.
The Special Arts (SA) are extra moves you can select with your character; before the fight, you choose from one of three additions that you can execute once you've maxed out your SA meter. Most SA moves work on double joystick motions. For example, normally you would have to do a quarter-roll for a "Hadouken" fireball. For the equivalent SA move, you would need two consecutive quarter-rolls. Your SA meter can also be used for stronger non-SA special moves by hitting two attack buttons instead just one.
And for those of you who missed it, they've brought back the "Beat up the car" bonus stage. Except now, you get a pre-rendered SUV to destroy. Just enough senseless destruction and vandalism to keep you from doing it in real life.
What has always been the greatest improvement in the Street Fighter III series has been the ramped up animation. But as silky smooth as it is, it still looks and feels like more of the same.
One new character, Matoko, does have some cool new animations. She's a little karate girl who actually looks like she's getting into the fight. As she walks around, she moves her hands into different defensive stances. The bounce and stretch qualities of her animation just seem to work better than the other fighters. Chun Li is a close second for all her twirly action. If only all the characters had been given this extra treatment...
The backgrounds are washed out and completely boring. They are just sitting there, statically uninteresting and tiresome. Am I just waxing on nostalgia, or did the elephant room of India or the biking streets of China convey more with their older technology than any of these stages do combined? Those early stages were able to capture the feeling of an area better.
C'mon, people! Let's see some advancements in 2D screen technology! What if they did updates to those older backgrounds and make them more interactive? Perhaps the ability to break through the backgrounds into new areas...sheesh...anything new would be nice. Up the ante for a change.
The music either stinks or is flat out inappropriate. Play a versus match, and you get a looped rap medley that keeps repeating, "Let's get it on now." Let's not and say we did, kay?
The driving force behind Street Fighter in the arcade has always been that chance to prove you are the best. In case you didn't realize it, there's a modem in your Dreamcast. What about network capabilities? Isn't it every Street Fighter's dream to challenge others across the nation? Let's take that idea and put it to the entire world. Ranking systems, tournaments, I can see it all now. It's just too bad I don't see any of it in this game.
In terms of the actual fighting, I'm satisfied. It's still solid and to the seasoned hardcore Street Fighter nut, this mirrors the arcade experience well - sans the human challengers. Third Strike comes out marginally better than the previous Street Fighter III Double Impact only because of the additional characters, but viewed as a whole is still lacking inspiration and ingenuity. If Game Revolution can improve its martial arts skills, why can't Capcom?