Saturday, December 24, 2011

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike - Strike Out!!!

I was going to title this post "Fuck you, Capcom," but decided that it might be too off-putting to the people who actually use "safe search" during their Googling.

Having just purchased and played this game for the first time today (Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade is selling it today half-off the normal price of 1200 Microsoft points, so I thought I'd give it a go), I have to say that my impressions aren't overwhelmingly negative, but I will probably never play it again... so, yeah -- there goes $7.50 down the toilet.

Back in the early nineties, my friend Brian and I began a short love affair with fighting games. We weaned ourselves on Street Fighter 2 for the Super Nintendo, attempted Mortal Kombat, and loved Killer Instinct. Brian was always better at them than I was, and to this day I really have no skill whatsoever in fighting games; they're just too fast, too unpredictable, and the single-player A.I. is so cheap that any fun they might have given me was quickly washed away by controller-chucking anger. This culminated in the absolute worst thing that I have ever done: I had spent weeks practicing SF2 to give Brian a run for his money, and my sister wanted to play video games with me, so I picked SF2 just to take a break from the A.I. (keep in mind that I had never managed to play the whole way through the game, always, ALWAYS losing at M. Bison). She picked the only girl character (Chun Li) and promptly handed me my ass on a plate. I don't think that she had ever played the game before, and yet simply by mashing the controls she could best me at my best. I saw red rage, not for the first time, but for the first time ever I struck a person, and even worse, a person who didn't deserve it. That was pretty much it for SF2 on the SNES for me. I would never play it again out of shame and disgust, and rarely a day goes by that I don't think about what I did to my sister and hate myself for it. Brian eventually got Super Street Fighter 2, and we played that for awhile, but I didn't get back into fighting games in the strictest sense until I purchased a Sony Playstation years later.

I nearly ended playing fighting games altogether when I was duped into buying the horrible video game "Criticom" for the PS1, a game so broken and terrible in retrospect that the people who created it should have been banned from the industry. We messed around with 3D fighting games for awhile, but after all the arcades in the world were simultaneously invaded and destroyed by a roving army of SF2 clones, I began to feel just a little bit bitter about them. I wouldn't get back into fighting games in a big way until I purchased a Sega Dreamcast and got the original Marvel vs. Capcom, which quickly became a favorite of mine, and then when I got MvC2: New Age of Heroes, I began to forgive fighting games and even Capcom (after all, this one was a fighting game that was fun, and even I could beat it!). My interest in the Street Fighter series, however, had waned. I never played Street Fighter 3 when it finally came to what was left of arcades (movie theater lobbies, mostly).

So it's been about 14 years since I've played a Street Fighter game. Street Fighter Alpha 2 was the last one, years and years ago, so seeing the one I had missed for cheap seemed like an opportunity, but it was really just wasted money. You see, Street Fighter III is really just made for one group of people: People who are already good at Street Fighter. There is no learning curve involved; I just played MvC2 on my Xbox 360 the other night, beat it on the normal difficulty, had a great time, and thought about how fun it was. This new game is IMPOSSIBLE by comparison. I can't figure it out. I selected half of the characters, and couldn't get by the second match with any of them. I don't know whether it's the A.I., the nearly unmanageable move lists, or the characters I selected, but I couldn't get any further than second stage at best (with most characters, I couldn't even beat the first guy!).

I really don't understand what I was doing wrong, then it hit me: This game is for people who already know how to play Street Fighter III, not for people who want to learn or are familiar with other fighting games. No! This was my mistake - I should have been one of those dicks at the arcade who would come up while you were playing and mop the floor with you just to cost you your quarter. You know the type, or, at least you WOULD know if arcades were still around. Training mode, shraining mode - this is the most pointless thing in the world, because no matter your settings the game's A.I. is so nearly perfect in its timing and execution of moves that you will never get a leg up on it.

It's not that the gameplay isn't tight, mind you -- this is some of the most spot-on control I have ever experienced in a fighting game -- it's just that even with that control you feel helpless because super-moves aren't in the least bit intuitive, and those of us who have played Street Fighter 2 have no way of understanding how you are supposed to do two fireball quarter circles in a row before hitting the button. I played for an hour with that goal alone and never once got it to work!

It looks good in a dated 16-bit sort of way with big sprites and lots of animation, and the sounds are there, if not memorable, but what good is it when the game is so tough (no difficulty select) that you can't see all of it.

I'm done. You suckered me again, Capcom, and I won't soon forget this.

UPDATE: There is a difficulty select, so now I can get past stage 2 all the way up to stage five before I get my keister kicked. Hoo-rah.

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