Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition
In 2002, the Third Strike epidemic took the West by storm at the first Evo’s Japan vs. USA 5 on 5 – memorable for the crash course lessons exhibited by Tokido and Mester, showing the rest of the world the beasting powers of Urien and Yun. In 2004, Capcom answered the call of non-Dreamcast users with the release of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, finally allowing players to sate their 3S hunger on the PS2 and Xbox. But since the Street Fighter IV craze, warriors yearned for a chance to continue the madness, and with reliable online play. Has Third Strike Online delivered?
First off, let’s go over the face features. The game has been given a facelift with more defining menu and character select screens – with their respective themes remixed. Personally, I didn’t think that was necessary, but Adam Tensta’s beats can get rather catchy from time to time. 3SO also includes a fetching array of attractions such as a Challenge Mode, which also allows players the chance to relive Evo Moment #37, and unlock secret content through the collection of Vault Points.
Vault Points are gained from little challenges completed during playthroughs of Arcade Mode and matches. These include, but are not limited to, throwing your opponent a certain amount of times, parrying an allotted number of attacks, or super canceling in abundances. Like with any of today’s new gen remixes, 3SO is played on a portrait display, however, to the side you can see the panels of different challenges you can tackle. After leveling up the challenges, you’re awarded trophies. It’s nice to see how many more throws or combos I have left to perform before earning a trophy, but it can be initially distracting seeing the panels shift. The game does allow you to turn off the display, but the only options that allow such are ‘widescreen’ and ‘stretch’, both having a tendency of funhouse mirroring everything.
Unfortunately, the network play barely holds up in putting the ‘Online’ in Third Strike Online. Quick Match is almost nonexistent as the game tends to yield zero results for any available players. Ranking Match might as well replace this, but the game doesn’t reveal your opponents’ ping until the last minute when the match is about to start and often times I got stuck playing frame skipping matches reminiscent of Capcom vs. SNK 2: EO. Obviously, one could just quit the match due to the connectivity but doing so would, of course, affect your disconnect log. Lobbies aren’t any better – you have to wait in line to play the winner but there’s no peeking at the match in progress. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there’s an absence of simulated health bars that gives an idea of when a match is finished. So you either twiddle your thumbs or leave. Fortunately, player invite matches run just fine, about 99% clean of lag. Got some great matches in the other night with our favorite Associate Editor, Sean Kelley, reminding me of our younger years playing head-to-head in his den.
Whichever mode you choose, 3SO provides a nifty chance to not only save your replays, but upload them onto YouTube. The only flaw is that uploads will always be at 240p quality, but it’s a nice glimpse into the future of online replay sharing. Interesting to note, despite whatever issues you may encounter with online connectivity, the uploads will always display smoothly. Be prepared for occasional YouTube flaming.
Those familiar with the fighting community may be aware of the recent hot topic of offline lag. This began when Arcade UFO streamed its offline 3SO matches on the PSN’s date of release. On the mic, a depressed Fubarduk noted that the game lags by at least 2 frames. Since then, there’s been much debate on the SRK forums as to whether or not there is any substantial lag to begin with, bringing the age old phrase of “results may vary” to light. I took the liberty of conducting a little experiment of my own. On my modest, flat screen, PC monitor, the game runs fine. On my larger HDTV, the game actually does lag, unless I set the display to Game Mode. I’ve actually encountered this gap of frame difference before with Vanilla SFIV so, in a way, it doesn’t surprise me that another Capcom fighter behaves the same. Interestingly enough, the recent Mortal Kombat does not suffer any discrepancies between display settings on my HDTV. Last but not least, the only major differences that can’t be overlooked are sound bugs. Often times, sound effects will either misfire or just not play at all. One time, the announcer shouted “KO” way before I defeated my opponent. There are also occasions where the music suddenly stops playing, but will start back up in the next round. Additionally, in giving the game many facelifts, the super meters are shorter in comparison to the original 3S, I’ll leave that up to you to figure out the effects.
Third Strike Online is indeed applaudable for allowing today’s Street Fighter virgins to harken back to the origins that defined today’s fighting game scene. However, its less than arcade perfect makeup may restrict the full glorified experience that newbies deserve to concisely learn from. Its nowhere near perfect online play continues the classic case of being bummed from losses or wins thanks to lag and being S.O.L. if players have no fellow Street Fighters to game with locally. Worth mentioning is the fact that Fubarduk was actively emailing Capcom during the UFO streams, so it’s alluded that a patch may be released. Until that happens, and whether you have an outdated TV to spare, it’s highly advised to exercise your best judgment when shelling out that 15 bucks.