Self-Indulgent SFIII: 3rd Strike Online Post
It’s nearly out soon! Capcom promised to bring Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike to PSN ages ago but it was only as recently as E3 that it showed up in playable form for the first time. Which is good because it means its release on PSN is what we would describe as EXTREMELY IMMINENT (self-indulgent Play in-joke in self-indulgent blog post. Apologies. I’ll explain it one day.)
If I had to make a list of my top three games of all time, it would go Shenmue II, Final Fantasy VIII and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. The order might change depending on what day you asked me but if the order was in terms of time spent playing said game, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike would be top by miles.
I played over 5,000 matches of it online on Xbox (no online for PlayStation2 version) when it was released as part of Street Fighter Anniversary Edition. I played it almost every night against my housemate for two years. I played it in London Trocadero almost every Friday and/or Sunday when there were 3rd Strike meet-ups of London’s best players. I entered tournaments for it. I even went abroad for a 3rd Strike tournament. I have spent more time and money on 3rd Strike than I have any other game ever released ever in the world ever. Ever. EVER.
Why is it so good? The parry system. Instead of blocking and taking chip damage, you can tap towards (or down for low attacks) the moment you’re about to get hit to parry the opponent. This freezes them for a split-second and allows you to counterattack. The downside is that it requires perfect timing and balls of steel. If you get the timing wrong or simply guess wrong, thinking an attack is coming when one isn’t, you leave yourself wide open.
It’s the kind of game mechanic where journalists bust out the ‘risk/reward’ cliche and hope that covers the appeal. But it’s more than that. It’s almost a showboating tactic. Parrying shows how deep your knowledge of the game is – not only knowing what your opponent is capable of doing but knowing exactly what he’s going to do and exactly when he’s going to do it. One of the most famous examples of a parry-happy match starts at 1:46 below, with the blue flashes showing a successful parry:
It also allows for insane comebacks:
Parrying makes 3rd Strike fun to play. It lets you grab the momentum with a correct guess and keeps the pace of matches high. You rarely find yourself locked down in defensive blockstun, unable to move out of fear of getting hit, because the option to parry your way out of trouble is always there. It’s a small enough window that it’s a gamble going for a parry and immensely satisfying when you land it.
Then there are the characters. 3rd Strike isn’t even remotely balanced with Yun, Chun-Li and Ken dominating high levels of play but the cast are fresh, different, unique and interesting. 3rd Strike also has Q, one of the best fighting game characters EVER.
I’m actually not a huge fan of Street Fighter IV. It’s fun but it’s also overly defensive at higher levels and some simple, dry tactics emerge dominant because the engine and design isn’t flexible enough to allow characters to overcome them. Even Daigo, who stood as one of the world’s best SFIV players, has moaned that it’s too defensive.
Not that this is a bash on those who play Street Fighter IV and enjoy it. Far from it. SFIV introduced lots of new players to fighting games and even in our office, there are players who have picked it up and are finally learning what fighting games are like beyond the jump-about-smashing-buttons stage. When you take pride in your combos, when you outsmart the other player, when you engineer incredible comebacks… that’s when you start to really get hooked on fighting games.
When Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online finally hits PSN – remember it’s EXTREMELY IMMINENT – the least you can do is give the demo a try. There should be a demo. There has to be a demo. Everyone needs to try it. In any case, I’ve got another 5,000 matches to rack up online…