Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition Review (Xbox360)

When does generosity start to become a bad thing? Alongside three iterations of SFIV, Capcom have now released three other Street Fighter titles onto the Xbox Live Arcade. Alongside SFII and it's sexier remake, 3rd Strike Online Edition has come strutting along. As far as fighters go, 3rd Strike is often lovingly looked back upon, and rightfully so. In my experience, those who love the game tend to defend it wholeheartedly, citing it as “the best fighta evor.” These are often the players who enrole themselves within the confines of the competitive gaming scene; a community where 3rd Strike has its own very special place.

The funny thing is, 3rd Strike has often been criticised for its lack of balance. Certain characters have always held the upper hand, but the hardcore players will always maintain any style can be beaten by someone who is good enough. Yun is often the cause of much sighing and rolling of the eyes, a fact that is no different here. As this is pretty much a straight port of the original release, he's still majestic, even in less capable hands. Unlike many Street Fighter titles, 3rd Strike also throws in a handful of truly unique characters. Twelve is incredibly difficult to defeat if you're new to the series, but his combos make for a visual feast. Even though he's hard to master, giving Twelve a whirl highlights just how diverse this game is.

Any player who doesn't want to receive an absolute beating will need to learn the parry system. This is essentially a defensive manoeuvre that puts an emphasis on halting your opponent's attack in favour of unleashing your own. A correctly timed parry can turn the momentum of a fight to your advantage, but may take some time to incorporate outside of the practice arena. In the heat of battle, new players should not be put off if they're accidentally running head-first into fireballs instead of knocking them away. As the game points out, practice makes perfect. After a little time your parry success rate should improve, and along with it, your likeliness of taking the victory.

It isn't all about the defensive side though, as Capcom have all bases covered when it comes to learning the main routes of attack. Alongside the practice arena there's various trials and challenges to work through. While some of these introduce the basics of the game and then force you to improve on them, each character also gets a set of stern tests. If you want to learn combos and strings of attack that'll have the best fighters retreating, here's where to do it. While plenty of frustration, swearing and broken controllers may arrive for those who want instant results, patient players can learn everything they need with a bit of dedication.

Aside from the trials, Capcom have also introduced a subtle way of monitoring your progression. During a fight various statistics will appear down the side of the screen, often highlighting a particular aspect of your game you need to improve. If you've played a hundred rounds and only parried once, it's obvious which areas need more work. Everything you achieve can be exchanged for goodies, including concept art, character films, and many other bonuses that'll have series veterans sweating excitedly from their red headbands. Just like Mortal Kombat's Krypt, the introduction of Capcom's 'Vault' will extend the longevity of the game for those who intend to play casually.

Heading into the online arena, this version of 3rd Strike brings together everything most Street Fighter fans have ever wanted. Tournament play is available, as well as the ability to spectate on other matches. This isn't revolutionary by a long shot, but for a title that has a competitive legacy like 3rd Strike, it's vital. Battles can be recorded, and if you're looking to show your prowess to the world, uploaded to YouTube. Not only is this a way of showcasing talented players, it's also another tool for learning the intricacies of the game. See something you like on YouTube? Go to the practice area and see if you can utilise it in your own game. This will undoubtedly let players evolve fighting styles and techniques as a community, something that hasn't been so widely available before.

To top it all off, 3rd Strike Online Edition provides a lick of paint that improve the dated visuals considerably. Not quite as beautiful or as vibrant as SFII Turbo HD Remix, the graphical adjustments do their job without taking the starring role. Capcom really have fine-tuned their beat 'em up to ensure there's something for everyone. Whether you plan to embark on a journey of personal gratification by taking on the world, or simply want to “step your game up” like Cher Lloyd moronically advised, you won't be disappointed.

Top Gaming Moment: An excellent return to 3rd Strike, with all the tools to learn the game too.

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