Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
Article by Andy Keener | August 18, 2009
Refined: freed from impurities
Street Fighter III: Third Strike is the most carefully refined fighting game to ever hit the market. Fellow GameSpite contributor Johnny Driggs once wrote about the level of attention Capcom paid to the creation of a single character's walking motion, and it's easy to extrapolate that out to the rest of the game.
The first release of Street Fighter III -- called simply Three -- was positioned as a true sequel to the Street Fighter II games, taking place several years after its events and almost completely wiping the character slate clean. Ken and Ryu were the only two returning characters; Capcom instead opted to create a whole new generation of fighters, even going for far as to subtitle the first game New Generation. But this being Capcom and Street Fighter, they iterated upon the previous games twice. Unlike some of the more callow revisions of Street Fighter II, though, with this entry those revisions ultimately led to one of the most complex and precise fighting games ever made: 3rd Strike.
On top of everything that Street Fighter II brought to the table, 3rd Strike adds and perfects a few new elements that crank up the complexity to new levels. Players can now dash forward or backwards, use an attack that goes through a crouching blocking character called "leap attacks", and are also given the choice to pick between one of three advanced skills called Super Arts. Perhaps the biggest addition to the Street Fighter series, though, is the addition of special blocking maneuvers called parries.
In most fighting games, holding back away from an attack will throw up a character's guard. If the guarding character is hit with a normal attack, he receives no damage; if he's hit instead with a special attack, he'll take a fraction of the damage, or tick damage. Thus while it's acceptable to play defensively, tick damage means that playing too defensively will ultimately lead to your demise regardless. With parries, however, the tables can quickly be turned. By pressing forward towards the attack within a very small window of a few animation frames, the attack will be blocked one hundred percent and no damage will be taken. In addition to this, the attacker will be momentarily be frozen giving the parrier a chance to properly counterattack. The parry system truly embodies the risk/reward system of fighting games; on one hand, a successful parry will place you in an advantageous position, allowing you to counter and potentially turn the match around. On the other hand, if you mess up, there's no blocking; you take full damage.
When I said there was a very small window for parries, I wasn't kidding. The window often falls within fifteen frames of animation of the initial attack, which is a quarter of a second; some moves, however, have windows of one-tenth of a second between parries. There are FAQs online in which truly hardcore 3rd Strike players have counted how many frames per seconds are required to completely block multi-hit special moves, which really showcases the depth of the game's parry system. In the right hands, the parry system can really bring out some amazing fights -- a true testament to the attention paid the game by Capcom as they iterated and refined it across its different revisions.