Street Fighter is really the only fighting series I like. The whole genre just seems boring and stale to me, but somehow this series defies that. As much as I enjoy my SNES cart, I was still only cautiously optimistic about this game. Yet it was still one of the major factors in my breaking down and buying a PSX. Fortunately, my optimism was justified. Why? Probably because this title is much more worthy of the name Street Fighter Collection than Alpha 3. After all, this game perfectly blends together every other SF2 and SFA game into one almost perfect fighting game.
See, this game encompasses practically everything that was put in any Street Fighter game before it. Take the characters for example. Every single Alpha and II character is represented (although some are hidden characters), and then some. The total cast is 34 fighters, a number otherwise known as frickin huge. After choosing your character, you get to choose your “ism,” or style of play. X-ism is slower but stronger (reminiscent of the II series), while A-ism plays much more like the previous Alpha titles. And then there’s V-ism, which is even faster and weaker, but allows custom combos. There are numerous other options as well, of course, such as game speed, difficulty, or the starting level of your power bar for super combos. Tons of choices, eh? Now throw in the numerous modes of play. Besides the typical Arcade, Multiplayer, and Training modes, you have Team Battle (play as two or three different characters), World Tour (improve yourself through numerous levels), Survival (fight numerous characters until you die), Final Battle (skip straight to Bison), or Dramatic Battle (co-op play). And every character, every ism, and every mode is done in the same high quality Street Fighter style we’ve all come to love.
So why is Street Fighter so good? Beats me. As I stated, I’m not a fighting games fan, so I can’t tell you that the combos are easier to pull off or the balance is better or whatever. But speaking as one who can’t pull off every move ever created, it just seems to do everything right. For one, the focus is not really on special moves. You can’t necessarily win just by doing hadokens and stuff. Super Combos, although powerful, leave you very open for attack, and must be used with caution. And button mashing won’t get you a ridiculous 30 hit combo or anything. This could just be my lack of experience talking, but I think the focus seems to be more on balance and timing (especially when using X-ism), instead of stringing together super combos. Sure, it probably has tons of depth with making and breaking combos and whatnot, but at least it is also accessible to people like me who hate that aspect of fighting games. I guess that’s why I like the series. It can be played just fine without using special moves and combos and stuff while still being fun. This has been present from the beginning, and, despite all its refinements, can still be seen in this version.
And this is the best version of Street Fighter I’ve played. Much of the reason for that comes from the fact that it is all the rest of them put together, resulting in something greater than simply the sum of its parts. It’s more fluid and offers more options than the SNES games, yet still retains the same feel. And then there’s the new stuff. The World Tour Mode - a half RPG style mode where you level up and customize your character by fighting tons of characters in pre-set levels - is a blast. Some battles have special rules attached, some are easy, some are hard, yet all are fun. The whole mode is easy to finish yet difficult to gain enough points to unlock stuff, making you want to play it numerous times. Besides, the end result of this is your own customized character, accentuating your own personal strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. This character can be used in the other modes as well, making it worthwhile. This idea has numerous benefits - it can be used to further intensify a match between two players of roughly the same skill, or a novice player can use one to try to level the playing field somewhat against a better opponent. This is easily one of my favorite aspects of the game. The other extra modes range from good to great, with the Survivor mode being my favorite. Yeah, this game is loaded.
Besides, it brought back Chun-Li’s old costume, not to mention many of her old moves, when you choose her using X-ism. We’re talking nostalgia-induced coolness here, especially since Chun-Li happens to be my favorite. Heck, seeing all of the old characters again side is nostalgic in and of itself. And then there’s Dan, otherwise known as Capcom making fun of themselves, who is always fun to watch (you know you’ve got a gold mine when there’s an entire FAQ devoted to his taunting). Heck, I think it’s safe to say SF has the most memorable and recognizable cast of any fighting game, and there’s not a bad character design in the bunch. Well, except for R. Mika. Blecch.
This game comes so close to perfection in my oh so humble opinion, but it just misses it thanks to a few slight problems. It should be noted that almost everyone has the same boss (the evil scum bag himself, Bison), which some people do not like. This doesn’t bother me though. And due to this circumstance, some of the stories for the characters are kind of lame, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. My problem is with Bison himself. He’s hard, which is good of course, but he’s also cheap. His only super combo move available is a ridiculously souped up Psycho Crusher, which is both unavoidable and ridiculously painful. There’s only one way to survive - fight regularly until his bar is charged up and then stop what you’re doing, get in a corner, and just block until he does his move. That’s just stupid, Capcom. The other major problem is the announcer. His overenthusiastic voice and lame announcements (“Triumph or die!”) is really grating. Minor problems, to be sure, but they do detract from the game.
As I’m sure you all know, this is not the only platform that SFA3 appeared on. Unfortunately, I never played it in the arcades, and I only played it on the Dreamcast once, so I don’t know how they compare. However, simply judging by the PSX version’s quality alone, the DC version can’t be much better. The graphics are nice, the animation smooth, and the sprites perfectly acceptable. It certainly doesn’t feel like an inferior version. Not even load times are all that bad. In the normal Arcade mode, you have the option to make a quicker game by bypassing everything in between matches (your character taunting the loser, and a brief look at your next matchup). Instead, a cool drawing of your next opponent is shown while the next battle is loaded. The loss of those taunts is a small price to pay for a maximum of five seconds loading in between levels. This is certainly a very polished port of an excellent game, and there is no shame in owning this version over the Dreamcast one.
I don’t think I’ll ever buy another fighting game again. Quite simply, there’s no need to anymore. Barring a few problems, this game is as close to perfection as I think it’s going to get. It blends the SNES style SF with the Alpha series perfectly, giving one a choice of conflicting yet excellent styles of play. The sheer size of the cast insures that there’s bound to be a few characters you’re good with, and experimenting with all of them will take quite a while. Throw in the World Tour Mode, not to mention the rest of the extras, and the end result is a game that I’m sure I will be playing for a very long time. And for less than $20, the price was right. Street Fighter Alpha 3 is proof to me that there’s an exception to every rule, and there are some fighters that can get through to someone like me.