Gaming & Technology

'Street Fighter III,' now online, is a fight game for the ages

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, revives the popular arcade game.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, revives the popular arcade game. Photo courtesy Games Press

Why would anyone play a console version of Street Fighter III — a 1997 two-dimensional arcade game — when its excellent, modern follow-up Street Fighter IV debuted a few years ago?

It's not just for historical value, although the game has plenty. It's a bit dated, but it is better than its sequel. In fact, Street Fighter III might be the best fighting game of all time.

Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition is fun nearly 15 years after the original's heyday, which speaks volumes about the work that developer Capcom put into it. Almost every match delivers a memorable, unexpected moment.

Such unexpected events proved years ago that a few seconds can live in the collective consciousness of gamers forever; just search online for a video called Street Fighter: The Beast Is Unleashed. You'll find a tournament match between superstar players Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong.

Umehara, playing as Ken, successfully parries 15 rapid-fire kicks by Wong, who plays as Chun-Li, before coming back from near death to win the match. If just one of those 15 kicks had landed, Umehara would have lost.

The match was at the 2004 Evo Championship Series fighting game tournament and brought hundreds of attendees to a standing ovation. The reason that moment lives on is that it's hard to parry even once. To parry, or block an attack without taking damage, you have to press forward or down on the directional pad the instant an opponent's attack connects, which usually requires guessing what move your opponent will make before he makes it.

A normal block, which is automatic if you hold the back button, is much easier, but you take a small amount of damage. Parrying, which cancels all damage and creates an opening for a counter strike, separates the elite from the merely good.

And parrying is ultimately Street Fighter III's most controversial addition. The technical skill it takes to pull it off is largely the reason the game isn't as universally loved as its predecessor, Street Fighter II, and its sequel, Street Fighter IV, neither of which included it.

The other reason Street Fighter III languished is because Capcom took almost all of its iconic characters from Street Fighter II and scrapped them in favor of a new roster. Only Ken, Ryu, Akuma and Chun-Li returned.

But for every player who was turned off by the technical gameplay or unfamiliar characters, another was enthralled by the most elaborate character animations and the tightest controls the genre had ever seen.

In the new version, Capcom has re-created that experience in your living room.

There has never been an easier way to experience this former arcade hit.

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