I see you use an old style. I wonder where you ported it from.
Eight years ago, Street Fighter Alpha 3
was the best sequel of a series of remakes of sequels in fighting game history. Confusing? Absolutely, but it really was a good game.
And for the most part, so is this ported, mini-sequel. Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max attacks with a flurry of content, most of it ported exquisitely from its console master, making it the best fighting game on the PSP to date.
There are four new characters here, each with a unique play style, which makes for a tricky 36 character balancing act. Yun (from Street Fighter 3) has been Alpha-ized and plays like a mix between Chun Li and Fei Long, while Eagle (from the original Street Fighter) is a melee-style fighter with long-ranged quick strikes. Maki, from Final Fight 2 fame, is primarily melee as well, but with terrific speed to easily throw players off their usual zoning patterns. Finally, Ingrid, introduced in Capcom Fighting Evolution, has quick flash kicks and hanging, short-range fireballs to ground jump-happy players.
Unfortunately, the somewhat rough control makes it all a little harder than it should be. As in any Street Fighter, busting quarter-circle rotations and charges is the name of the game. Trouble is, it has never been this awkward. The PSP D-Pad was designed for looks rather than skills, with the lower-left corner being especially unresponsive. Getting swept while trying to down-block is enormously frustrating. In order to save yourself the ulcer, you'll take it out on your thumb by smashing the D-Pad to make sure the block won't fail. Thumbs take a beating in this game; charging a Sonic Boom and a Flash Kick at the same time is physically painful. The analog stick nipple control doesn't fare any better, as it's simply not accurate enough for effective Hadukens.
Button-charge moves like Blanka's electricity or E. Honda's Hundred Hand Slap have their own learning curves. Trying to brace the PSP's delicate frame with your other fingers while you wail on Fierce makes for a very shaky game world. Your wrist strap has a new challenger!
Additionally, while you need eight buttons for characters like Akuma or Dhalsim, there are only six on the PSP. You're either going to have to make some decisions on how you play certain characters or go through the hassle of changing your buttons when you want to use them. It's pretty painless, since you can do that very quickly through any mid-match pause menu, but Capcom could have allotted another 32K to your memory stick for individual fighter configs.
On the other thumb, moves that don't require landing directly on the lower-left corner, such as fireballs, yoga flames, or screwdrivers, work very smoothly. You will get better at adapting to some the D-Pad's faults over time, and to be fair, that's more a hardware issue than a software complaint.
Besides, the software gives you plenty of ways to test out those hand muscles. Like its sensei before it, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max has an obscene number of modes in addition to the classic Arcade, Practice, Survival, Versus, and Team Battle. World Tour Mode lets you take any fighter through a lengthy series of challenges, gaining levels and beefing stats. Final Battle is also included, letting you take out M. Bison to see a fighter's ending the easy way. Reverse Dramatic Battle pits you against two fighters at the same time, while Dramatic Battle gives you an A.I. ally to help you maul the opposition. It's good fun watching Akuma and Evil Ryu show nice-guy Ryu the power of the Dark Side. Capcom also added Variable Battle mode, which means you can now choose two fighters and swap them out Marvel Vs. Capcom style. The mode feels thrown together, but it's a nice, unexpected addition. Completing the suite is 100 Kumite mode, which lets you fight one hundred opponents in a row. Unfortunately, you can't save your progress; when you start to twitch out in fight #78, you'll just have to go Zen and close it out. Still, it's an impressive work out and a great way to master a character's move sets.
If you just want to cheese out and make the uberest of uber Kens, you can jump into Edit Mode and boost any fighter's stats instantly. But since you only have a certain number of points to spend and since there's no way to gain any more, Edit Mode loses its novelty quickly. You're better off sticking with World Tour for a rewarding campaign experience, which has the extra incentive of unlocking buffs like Resist Dizziness or Super Guard Break that can be added to characters back in Edit Mode. You can then import your newly badass fighter to use in virtually every mode in the game.
That includes Ad Hoc multiplayer. Every major mode is lag-free and really fun with your buds, though the lack of online Infrastructure play hurts. Hope you have friends with PSPs.
The visuals retain the same high-quality anime style of its predecessor and look great at the PSP's 16:9 aspect ratio, though it does have the option to switch back to the native 4:3 as well. Despite a slight cosmetic jag during the VS loading screen, the framerate during battles never skips a beat. The sound is the typical Street Fighter rock and talk, but doesn't translate very well through the speakers.
It's a little hard to get excited about another Street Fighter game, but Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max has found an appropriate home on the PSP. Its fluid gameplay, loads of content and decent multiplayer makes for a pretty solid fighter. It's still a port of the most rehashed franchise ever, but at least this old student has learned some new techniques.