Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Vs. Street Fighter Alpha 3 Review Showdown


For our first review, it's time for a face-off!There can only be one "Best Streetfighter Game on Dreamcast," and since we're pretending that Street Fighter III: Double Impact doesn't exist (maybe we'll hang out later, Double Impact?), it's come down to a 3rd Strike/Alpha 3 battle royale. Both games have their merits, but there can only be one Highlander!...
Street Fighter...
Let's start with the graphics.
Well, this isn't really fair. Alpha 3 is an older game, based on Sega's CPS II system board (originally developed for the ancient classic, Super Street Fighter II), while the newer Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike runs on the CPS...III. That's right, Street Fighter Alpha 3 is DVD and 3rd Strike is Blu Ray. 
Screw you, Alex!
Alpha 3 looks like a souped up version of the arcade game us old folks went nuts over in the early 90's (I mentioned it in an above parenthetical) and 3rd Strike looks like a Disney film...and I don't mean it's cute. 3rd Strike's just that pretty--one of the better looking pure 2D games ever made. 
Featuring flowing cloth, writhing muscles, Chun Li, and a color scheme best described as "muted neon," 3rd Strike's visuals are timeless. In motion, it is nearly peerless on the Dreamcast, with only Guilty Gears surpassing it in the 2D realm (though with a vastly different art style).
Alpha 3, on the other hand, looks like a game the Dreamcast could run it its sleep. Alpha 3's graphics are basic upconverted Playstation graphics, and considering the Dreamcast is four times as powerful as the Playstation, that's a shame.  
That's not to say Alpha 3 is ugly, but compared to a more graphically advanced game like 3rd Strike, it looks downright primitive.

Screw you, too, Zangief...but on a less graphically impressive scale.

However, both games do run smoothly, with blinding, insane combos pulled off with nary a slowdown, though 3rd Strike's are far more impressive.
How about music and sound effects, though? Again, I'm going to have to rule in 3rd Strike's favor. Both games favor the general Street Fightery dance music nonsense blueprint. It's the kind of music you might not listen to on its own, but that gets your blood pumping when you play. 3rd Strike's is just better, though, both subjectively (cuz I like it better) and objectively (because the keyboard samples used are of a higher quality). and also because Capcom somehow convinced stellar Canadian rapper, Infinite, to rap on 3rd Strike's intro, character select screen, and end credits. A guy rapping about which character the player is going to select should not be aurally appealing, but somehow Infinite pulls this off. Perhaps this is because the songs have that awesome late 90's indie rap feel (expect some sweet, atmospheric horn samples). Whatever the case, they work, and give 3rd Strike a far more memorable soundtrack than its predecessors, including Alpha 3.
3rd Strike's character voices and face-smacking sound effects are just a bit crisper, as well.
If you want to get further into the production standpoint, 3rd Strike features gorgeously minimalistic menus, featuring a bright yet earthy scheme reminiscent of Aphex Twin's cover for Selected Ambient Works Volume II.
Shouldn't that say "Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, Untitled(Rhubarb)?"
Yes, I earned Gill. took me a long time.
Meanwhile, Alpha 3 features menus that are a little more...busy,
Technically, that's because Alpha 3 has a million more modes, but we'll get to that.
along with character artwork that is a little more TV anime than Disney film.
Pictured: Ryu before his big fight with  Rurouni Kenshin. Also, this game has a lot of characters.
Also, one can clear the menu off the screen by pausing 3rd Strike, making gameplay picture-taking a snap. For the sake of this review, I wish Alpha 3 had that option, as well, as taking screenshots of it was so difficult, I had to use that pun in the previous sentence.
Now that aesthetics are out of the way, it's time to fight.
Vega! I said fight, not...nevermind. 
Let's start with the old timer. Or better yet, let's start with what these two games have in common. 
Street Fighter games feature mano y mano battles between two...street fighters, who compete in best of three round matches. Each fighter has a light punch, light kick, medium punch, medium kick, heavy punch, heavy kick, along with a throw or two, and several special moves unique to each fighter. These special moves are performed through Street Fighter's revolutionary button input system, where the player might have to quickly push the directional pad from down to forward then tap "punch," or hold back then tap forward and kick, along with a multitude of variations. Hitting an opponent decreases their power gauge, and completely depleting it, or having more left than the opponent when the fight timer counts down to zero, results in a round won.
There are also super combos unique to each character (usually involving a gauge that must be built up through landing regular attacks), which deal greater damage, but involve inputting even more complex button combinations. 
They're called "Super Arts" in 3rd Strike. Pictured above: Dudley getting "Super Art"ed.
Screw you, Dudley!
Every character has different range and speed, as well, and their moves and techniques attack at different angles. Gameplay is highly refined, as the game developers have to create 20 some-odd characters, make them vastly different from one another, yet still equally competitive with one another in a fight. Both of these games, as with just about every Street Fighter game ever mad, do an incredible job at this. Sure, there are several similar characters (Ken and Ryu, Juni and Juli, Yun and Yang are all essentially the same from the neck down, with nearly identical moves), and sure, some characters have a slight advantage over the others (Ken and Chun Li in 3rd Strike), or a slight disadvantage (Sean in 3rd Strike), but for the most part, the developers have miraculously created a huge crew of diverse characters who can hold their own against one another.
Now, let's fight.
Alpha 3 features the most characters and modes of the two games. Both games feature the classic, "beat a character, advance to fight another random character, repeat ten-ish times, then fight the final boss" mode of the arcade games from which they were ported. This mode makes up only a small portion of Alpha 3, though.
Screw you, Vega!
In addition to arcade mode, Alpha 3 features an RPG-like "World Tour" mode, where the player can fight again and again...around the world to build up stats. This mode is pretty cool. You level up, RPG-style after fights, turning your character into a major badass, who can then be inserted into any other mode of the game. 
It's as nerdy as it sounds!
World Tour mode also presents some fun scenarios, like having to fight multiple characters at a time, having to fight using only combos or throws...sometimes you even get paired up with someone else to deal out a hilariously unfair beating.
Hey, Adon, I promise we just want to talk.
Hahahahaha! Sucker!!!
Other modes include a survival mode, where the player tries to see how many one-round fights they can win with one power gauge, There's also a dramatic battle mode, which pits multiple fighters against one, just like in the World Tour mode. Also, if you have friends, you can team up and play this mode together, but I don't have any friends, so nevermind.
Both games feature a training mode, which is great for learning each characters' moves to prevent or cause a later beat-down. Both games feature the usual two-player versus mode, so you can go head-to-head with a friend, if you're special like that. I bet you are so proud of yourself, having friends who want to play retro video games with you. Well, good for you! THAT'S JUST GREAT!!!
In lieu of all these extra modes like World Tour and Survival Mode, 3rd Strike doesn't have anything...and it doesn't need it.
Instead of a bunch of great modes, 3rd Strike has one incredibly awesome, ridiculously highly-refined, meticulously fine-tuned one (along with the aforementioned versus and training modes, but those would have ruined the flow of my sentence, and caused me to use even more adverbs).
I haven't even delved into Alpha 3's three "-ism" fighting styles, where the player can select whether they want to be really strong, do a lot of combos, do both, block in the air, and all this other insane minutia that I frankly don't care that much about. 3rd Strike let's you play around with that stuff as a bonus reward for beating the game with all of the characters (both games contain merit-based unlockables), but it throws only one real gameplay option at you: an arcade mode that leads directly to a character select screen, that leads directly to a fight.
I'm not going to lie: I prefer the minimalism of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. The gameplay feels just a bit tighter and balanced to Alpha 3's arcade mode, and the better graphics and sound lift the experience even higher. The cast of characters is even more diverse, featuring several fighters that aren't even human, and stretching the dynamic possibilities of fights even more. On top of that, 3rd Strike's characters are bursting with more personality than Alpha 3's, even though Alpha 3 has more of an integrated storyline for each character built in to its arcade mode. For instance, 3rd Strike's Sean is charming and fun to use, even if he isn't quite as strong as the other characters.
He shoots...
He scores!!!
He has the same character design as Ryu and Ken...but don't tell him...he's really touchy about that, along with his Mickey Mouse-shaped back mole...he really needs to get that thing looked at.
While 3rd Strike's arcade mode may not include as much of a story for each character, each character does have a unique ending, and a few share dialogue before a fight with certain fighters. Most have a special nemesis to fight before they face Gill, the game's supernatural final boss.
Despite the minimalism, 3rd Strike's arcade mode does include some new additions that are unique to it compared to Alpha 3.
First, there's the ratings system, where a player is graded after every fight. The higher the grade, the higher the player's score will be in the end.
I need a D+ opponent, stat!
The game also brings back Street Fighter II's awesome every-three-fights-or-so bonus rounds, with the SUV smash bringing back the most nostalgia.
Screw you, car!
However, what really sets 3rd Strike apart from every previous Street Fighter game is the parry.
A player parries by tapping toward their opponent the moment the opponent is attempting to attack. If performed correctly, the opponent will flash blue, and for a very brief moment, be stunned, giving the player a split second to retaliate with a counter. Of course, if you mistime the parry, you get clobbered. You could always hold back instead of parrying, but blocking does not completely mitigate damage, nor does it stun your foes.
Parrying is a bit like putting your hand flat on a table and rapidly stabbing a knife in the gaps between your fingers ala Lance Henricksen in Aliens. You really don't need to do it, but it sure looks cool.
I can play through the game on the easier modes (you can set the difficulty on the options screen) without parrying. Unlike James Cameron-directed table abuse, though, parrying can help a lot when dealing with the higher difficulty settings, or facing off against a professional human opponent in the versus mode. With my old geezer reflexes, I am awful at parrying, but the times I've made it work, like parrying a Gill deathblow and countering with one of my own, successfully ending the match (and the game), have given me a greater high than almost any other video game accomplishment. Successfully parrying really gives a great feeling.
Parrying adds an entirely new level of strategy and skill-mastery to 3rd Strike. It also helps add to 3rd Strike's replay value (mastering parrying and the use of all 20 characters puts 3rd Strike's play time on par with Alpha 3's) and gives the game an even more unique feel.
Screw you, Gill! Also, Q rules.
Really, that's what pushes 3rd Strike up to the top for me. It's got such a wonderful, unique personality, from the aforementioned Disney-esque graphical style, to the muted neon color scheme, to the highly original and highly likable stable of characters, to the singular high of a perfectly placed parry, to the inexhaustible, timeless cool of the indie rap soundtrack, I respect and enjoy Street Fighter Alpha 3, but I love Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. I love it even more than the nostalgia-soaked Street Fighter II, and that's saying a lot. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is a beautiful game.
Also, if you're 12 and lonely, it's got just as much Chun Li butt as Street Fighter II.
She has to wear that to fight efficiently.
It's function over form, really.
Not to be outdone, Alpha 3 has plenty of Cammy butt for the kids (Chun Li is inexplicably wearing track pants (It's like they don't even want you to look at her butt!)).
From a gameplay standpoint, I want to reiterate that preference between these two games is almost subjective. 3rd Strike is a bit more refined than Alpha 3, but Alpha 3 has so many modes. It's really a matter of taste: do you like to master one complex thing over a long period of time, or do you want to have a ton of different things to do?
However, from a graphical, audio, and design standpoint, it's no contest: 3rd Strike wins hands down.
Nice job, buddy. I knew you could do it.
Better luck next time, Saikyo Dojo. Also, what is a Saikyo Dojo? Is it Salkyo Dojo? Samyo Dojo? Snkyo Dojo? Saik Yo Dojo? "I don't see any Dojo here...Psyche! Yo, Dojo!"? Choose a better font next time, Capcom
Of course, there is an even better choice than choosing between the two.
Buy both!
And finally, I feel like I have one more thing to reiterate.
Screw you, Alex!
Screw you, Dudley!
Screw you, Zangief!
I'll get to you later, Rolento.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
2000 Capcom

Graphics - 9.5

Sound - 9.0

Gameplay - 9.5

Lasting Value - 9.0

Final Score 9.3


Street Fighter Alpha 3
1999 Capcom

Graphics - 7.5

Sound - 7.5

Gameplay -9.4

Lasting Value - 9.0

Final Score 9.0