Capcom has gone HD happy with a lot of classic games lately, and that's not a bad thing. For the last few years they've released a bevy of Street Fighter titles that have been upgraded, shined and sparkled for HD ready televisions. It's no surprise that it finally moved Street Fighter III Third Strike to the HD list.
What is surprising is that they added a little sparkle to it for the hardcore fans.
If you know anything about the Street Fighter series then you probably know that most hardcore SF fans consider Street Fighter III Third Strike as one of the more definitive versions of the series. Button mashers don't belong with this game, as it spits out accurate, well-timed movements that only the most dedicated fans of the series can appreciate. This time around Capcom has upped the ante with the inclusion of a very good online component to the game, some other goodies and, more importantly, a lovely HD upgrade.
Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition has some new Capcom technology packed into it that allows fans of all connection types to sit back and enjoy the online play with little to no lag. In my experience this has always been one of the great faults of Street Fighter games. I've played all the SF titles on the next gen consoles, and those with online components always seems to be just a bit laggy. I remember when Street Fighter IV first arrived and I remember the extremely slow response from controller to screen when playing it online. It was not only frustrating, but a bit disappointing; no one likes lag in a fighting game. With that said, it was a pleasant surprise to see the online component of the game work so well.
What about the transition from SD to HD? Despite some so-so backgrounds here and there, the character animation and the colorful costumes made it through the upgrade nearly perfectly. Much like the past SF games in the past that have been given the high definition treatment, Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition looks for the most part gorgeous. Again, there are some backgrounds that probably could have used a little bit more love here and there, but to be honest most gamers playing a fighting game will be paying attention to their opponents and not the beautiful African sunset in the background when fighting Elena.
Now, speaking of backgrounds, let's talk about the 4:3 ratio (I know that has nothing to do with backgrounds, but I couldn't think of a better transition -- don't judge me). One of the neat things about Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition is that Capcom makes the most out of the original 4:3 ratio that was present in the arcade version of the game. On the sides you'll get small challenges popping up as you perform moves or win rounds. Each comes with a VP (vault point) value, and as you complete your challenges the ante is upped on them. For example, if you're continually winning rounds then you're given the challenge to win 100 rounds total. If you complete 100 rounds (and that is a hefty task) you get VP, which can be spent on a variety of things. If you can picture the story mode/challenge mode for Soulcalibur then you've got the concept. You earn money, you spend money (though it's VP). Much like how I felt about this in SC when it first cropped up, I like the idea of earning and rewarding in a fighting game. It not only lengthens the time of the gameplay experience, but it also keeps you playing for a purpose. Though you may not want to throw a projectile 10 times it might earn you something cool.
Again, earn/reward systems are fantastic, and this just follows in the same trend perfectly.
Other things of considerable note in the game include trials and training. N00bs and hardcore people can hone their skills through the trials and training. You get things like learning to parry and other precise technical moves that can save your butt during an online match. Anyone who isn't born with an infinite amount of Street Fighter patience may get annoyed by the precise moves required to keep your head from exploading. Those who are dedicated to the game, that stray away from button mashing, will find these trials/training/challenges interesting and enough to keep the game fresh. Honestly, this is the part that might keep the majority of non-hardcore Street Fighter fans away. It's understandable, but like I said at the beginning -- this is made for hardcore fans of the series.
Having said that, is the game fun and is there enough value here to warrant the $14.99 price tag? The game is a blast, and in my opinion, the best of the Capcom downloadable series. This was the last great hurrah for the Street Fighter franchise in the arcades, which means the world to me since arcades are pretty much non-existent and since I played every SF game in the arcades (even the punching fist-pad one). Capcom pushed the limits when it first released this title, as it came roaring in at a whopping 60 frames per second (you could just absolutely tell how gorgeous it was on the arcade screen. Flowing costumes, crisp animations).
People who love and enjoy the SF series know exactly how absolutely enjoyable this game is, especially the hardcore gamers. It was the first of the series that required precise timing and it was the first of the series that was far less forgiving when it came to defense and offensive maneuvers. If you're a non-button masher and you want a real challenge in the SF series then the $14.99 is nothing, if not a mere formality to what most certainly will be one of the best challenges you've experienced in a fighting game online. If you're not that person then this game may not be for you.
Regardless, Capcom has performed its best HD upgrade yet with Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition.