Saturday, August 27

You Can't Teach That

I've had Deus Ex: Human Revolution pre-loaded on my computer for over a week now. I finally sat down to play it last night, only to be greeted with a message advising that the game files were fragmented. So, I did what any responsible, tired gamer would do: I gave the go ahead for a clean-up operation.

I thought it would take no longer than five minutes; besides, how can files I've only just downloaded be in need of maintenance? Ten minutes passed; then twenty. "Stuff it," I thought. On to Street Fighter III: Online Edition.

While I am still very much looking forward to playing Human Revolution, SFIII is somewhat of an enigma: a fighting game so deep and polished that I had very rarely engaged with prior to now. If you don't know, I love my fighting games and I spent the better part of my childhood playing Street Fighter II: Championship Edition on the Sega Mega Drive. I was addicted to Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Namco's Soul Edge, Soul Calibur and Tekken games.

You could argue that the timing for Street Fighter III - across each of its three revisions - was just plain wrong. Arcade gaming was on the decline and Street Fighter III hit the console scene during a time of generational change. Not that I didn't have a Sega Dreamcast, but most titles of note were difficult to find in Australian stores; particularly when the machine hit "fire sale" status.

Now, more than a decade after the release of each three versions of Street Fighter III, I finally have a copy of the game loaded on my PlayStation 3's hard drive.

Last night I played solo. I tried the Challenge mode first up, hoping to get my head around the parry: a Street Fighter III fundamental that would only see light again as a "Groove" in Capcom Vs SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium. There's no hand-holding, you select a mission and are thrown in against an AI opponent who'll typically perform a move that you are to parry. There's not even any hint for new players on how to parry. "Just do it," Capcom says. The hands-off approach worked well enough: I can now confidently parry projectiles and even parts of super combos. Whether I have any chance of emulating Daigo's daring escape from certain defeat at EVO 2004 remains to be seen.

I also had a bash at the standard Arcade mode and can report that the standard difficulty is pretty tough. Once again, Capcom doesn't appear to be interested in easing new players into what Street Fighter III has to offer. It is sink, or swim. 

Just this eve, I spent a solid three hours playing the game in local multiplayer with my brother. When we did have access to a copy of Street Fighter III previously (via the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection on Xbox), he handed my own ass to me for a week straight using the blue-haired Guile clone, Remy. I learned that Ryu's forward strong punch could undo my brother's turtling (for those who don't know, that means blocking most of time and then performing the odd, opportunistic attack), but that time he had me pegged was unbearable. 

Things were different this time. We were about even after it was all said and done, and we made some interesting observations:
  • Akuma is a wee bit overpowered
  • Double KOs are still hilarious
  • Half the cast was almost entirely disregarded: Twelve, Oro, Urien and Necro were the most unpopular.
  • Hugo and Alex were the biggest surprises. Their move sets are by no means accessible (lots of full and half circles), but they had enough power behind them to keep us both wary. 
  • I am no good with Chun-Li
  • There is nothing more satisfying than performing a much-needed parry
I hope I get the chance to sit down with family and play this some more. Solid netcode is great, but fighting games are most effective when you're battling the people adjacent to you. 

I haven't yet taken the game online but am enjoying it regardless. The persistent challenges (which measure projectile spam, super finishes and more) are terribly addictive and the game still looks beautiful. If you've got the money, the time and - most importantly - the friends: I strongly recommend that you give it a go. 

What are you playing this weekend?

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