Street Fighter 3 Online Edition: Fight for the Future is an update of Street Fighter III: Third Strike â€” the last version of SF3 Capcom released prior to Street Fighter 4. SF3: Third Strike brought back more classic characters than the previous versions and added a few new faces to the SF3 roster, making it the most complete version. This downloadable release expands on it again with several different graphics filters, achievements, and a slew of unlockables.
Street Fighter 3: Online Edition's roster is an odd mix, featuring characters you may have expected from a game like Mortal Kombat. Thereâ€™s a shape-shifter named Twelve, a Final Fight character called Hugo, and possibly the creepiest final boss in the series: Gill, a red-and-blue-coloured fighter wearing nothing but a g-string â€” just like your average football fan. (Go team!?)
The roster change was a huge shock back in the days of Street Fighter 2, although it's not so much of a surprise now. That's because, canonically, Street Fighter 4 fills the void between SF2 and 3 - so fans who have played either Super Street Fighter 4 or the Arcade Edition will be familiar with a few of the characters who were first introduced in Street Fighter 3 ten years ago. A few staple fighters are retained despite the huge roster shift, including Ken, Ryu, and Akuma.
It's a good thing those 'beginnerâ€™ characters are in it too, as Street Fighter 3: Online Edition ramps up the difficulty level a notch above Street Fighter 4 â€” even in the easiest difficulty it poses a big challenge. Part of the reason for this is that Street Fighter 3 introduced the parry system. Parries allow you to counter a move by pushing a direction at the moment of impact, similar to the way counters work in Tecmo Koei's Dead or Alive series. Because they require precise timing, they can be hard to pull off in a heated fight. Moreover, certain super moves mean the player needs to parry in quick succession, or take damage.
Street Fighter 3: Online Edition's options menu is a bit of an odd one â€” some of the options don't apply to the arcade mode. While you can alter the difficulty, you can't change the number of rounds for arcade mode. The option is there, but it only affects multiplayer games. This can be a problem if you want to unlock Gill quickly, as unlocking the boss requires you to play through the arcade mode with every character. Of course, that could be a clever ploy by Capcom to have players fork out 80MSP to unlock Gill via Xbox Live.
Apart from Gill, Street Fighter 3: Online Edition features a plethora of content to unlock via in-game currency (or VP). Extras include artwork for every fighter, backgrounds, music, and each fighter's ending â€” regardless of whether you've finished arcade mode with them. You acquire VP by completing certain challenges such as electrocuting your opponent, or taunting X number of times. The side bars show your current progress in a few of the challenges; they only show up in normal (4:3) view mode, so players who find them distracting can lose them by switching view modes to either stretched or wide screen.
Multiplayer modes on offer include tournaments for either four or eight players, player matches, and ranked matches over Xbox Live. With a lot of gamers discovering SF3's new characters for the first time, you might expect to see some of them online... but no. Every time I jumped online I saw nothing but Ken and Ryu exchanging hadoukens. In addition, there was a little lag â€” not a lot, but still too much for a title where timing moves and counters is everything.
Visually Street Fighter 3 is a mixed bag. It feature two filters: a scan line effect (for that old TV feel), and several view modes, including an arcade cabinet border, a wide screen mode and standard 4:3. The sharpest setting is 'crisp' with normal view mode - even wide screen looks a bit stretched. However, even on its best settings, SF3: Online Edition pales in comparison to the sharp visuals of 2008's Street Fighter 2 HD. That said, the highlight of Street Fighter 3's graphics wasn't even updated: the animation is smoother than the other sprite-based Street Fighter titles, particularly notable in Ryu's hadouken and sweep animations. In addition, Street Fighter 3's characters also sport some of the most unique, albeit disturbing, designs in the series â€” you'd run away if Ureil came up to you in his fighting attire and offered you a cookie.
While Street Fighter 3: Online Edition is the least beginner-friendly of the series, that's precisely why it's favoured among the series' biggest fans. The parrying, super moves and timing make this a challenging and surprisingly addictive game.
Now if you don't mind, I have some hadoukens with Gill's name on them.