I must confess, there are aspects of it that I hate. Let's get those out of the way first I loath this game's hip-hop score to the point that I have it completely disabled. And as much as I did not care for the similarly hip-hop-ish announcer either, I have to admit he's nowhere near as annoying as, say, Alpha 3's salesman recording on crack or Super SF2's oblivious and upbeat optimist for that matter. Neither the music nor the announcer bother me enough to knock it down a peg on the rating scale the core of SFIII is a fighting game, and it's being reviewed as a fighting game (not a jukebox) however it is worth mentioning.
More negatives (this one actually pertinent to the fighting):Gil, the red and blue / fire and ice final boss. More specifically his rainbow-of-death Super Art, which takes away about a quarter of your life *if you block.* And let's not forget the counter-able, but still irritating "Resurrection" SA which gives him a second shot at the round with anywhere from a quarter to a full life bar (I advise learning how to preempt this SA to actually be able to beat Gil.) Neither SA would be too big of an issue if the AI didn't read your button input and counter appropriately (I also advise learning the art of parrying before jumping in) and even that wouldn't be a problem if he didn't have 2nd best range, and 4th best speed and even *that* wouldn't be a problem if he didn't have highest priority, and supreme damage, and sorry, Capcom, I thought ridiculously overpowered bosses was SNK's territory?
Nevermind. On to the positives: After releasing five iterations of Street Fighter 2, Capcom took the hint and came through with a unique new fighting game. Not a retread (gasp). A new fighting game. It has its roots in Street Fighter, don't get me wrong (shotos are still around, unfortunately), but the subtleties in the game mechanics are worlds apart from its predecessor(s).
Enter the parry system, which all but defeats the snooze-fest fireball wars of fighting game's past. Tap forward on the joystick the moment an attack (or fireball) is about to hit, and voilà! A parry. You take no damage, your super-meter fills up and their's does not. Now you actually have to use fireballs strategically. For example: jumping in with Akuma, tossing out an air hadouken, and then performing a crouching forward as soon as you land. The air hadouken and low attack will come roughly at the same time will your opponent defend against them in the right order and be able to time both defenses? And if the crouching forward lands, you can unleash the Instant Hell Murder (or "Raging Demon" as it is erroneously referred to.) But standing across the screen tossing fireball after fireball will get you nowhere.
SSF2T introduced overhead attacks to hit the crouching turtle's all but unbreakable blocks, and SFIII continues the tradition which keeps mindless turtles on the losing end of the fight where they belong assuming their opponent has a good mix-up game. Crouching attacks defeat standing guards, overheads and air attacks defeat crouching guards, and thus monotony gets punished.
Third Strike brings the SFIII character roster up to twenty diverse and mostly unique characters, and even though a few bear a passing resemblance to SF2 characters (like Necro with his stretchable limbs reminiscent of Dhalsim) they do play very differently. And even though the button input is the same, the timing and range in landing Hugo's Gigas Breaker is far stricter than Zangief's Super Spinning Pile Driver.
The cast is an uncomfortable mix of realism, freaks, and everything in between all drawn beautifully in large sprites featuring the uncontested most fluid animation of any 2D fighter. On the more serious side of the roster we have Yun and Yang, small, quick, and acrobatic Hong Kong martial artist brothers; Dudley, the swift rose-tossing British gentleman boxer; Alex, American street brawler/grappler hybrid; Ibuki, Japanese ninja-in-training and queen of poking games; bikini-clad African Elena and her capoeira style; and Sean, the Dan-stand in, who looks, sounds, and plays like a joke character.
Over to the oddball side of the fence, let's look at Q, the masked trench coat-wearing enigma who likes to charge across the screen for his attacks; Necro, the flexible zombie-colored experiment who can channel electricity through his skin; Twelve, the helmet-headed pale-skinned synthetic life form with the ability to X.C.O.P.Y his opponent and fight as them; and Oro, a small bouncy old man in a sheet who fights with one arm and can summon a kitchen sink to fight for him (don't ask.)
And the inbetweeners include Urien, muscles in a speedo with insane corner-combo potential using his Aegis Reflector; Hugo, the Final Fight cameo and Andre the Giant tribute, slow as a sloth on downers but God help you if he connects with a Gigas Breaker; Remy, the Frenchman Guile-clone in leather with blue hair capable of throwing out a storm of sonic booms; and Makoto, the Ranma1/2 tribute who specializes in charging in and hitting with lightning fast fists.
Let's not forget returning characters the obligatory Shotos (Ryu, Ken, Akuma need I go into detail?), and Ms Lightning Legs, herself, Chun-li who can all but guarantee connecting her Houyokusen with a crouching forward.
Despite some serious aesthetic flaws, the core of Street Fighter III is the best of any 2D fighting game. Yes, I hate the music with a passion, but call me crazy I spend most of my time *playing* a fighting game, and think it should be judged upon its game play merits. If I want to listen to good music, well, that's why I have an iPod.
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