3rd Strike suffered from terrible timing, rigorous complexity, and an audience unwilling to accept change in a major franchise. Thus did the Street Fighter III series fade into relative obscurity. Still, as stated in our previous installment, 3rd Strike ruled the roost of the fighting game tournament scene until Street Fighter’s revival in 2008 (the release of SFIV, of course). That doesn’t mean Capcom wasn’t grateful to the community, both in America and Japan, for keeping the fighting game scene alive and well even through a relative Dark Age.
Thus, we had the release of 3rd Strike Online on Xbox Live and PSN; finally, people who lived in remote parts of the world (like, say, me, who lives in the thriving (sarcasm) fighting game community of New Hampshire) could battle and fight with other players. What improves the experience beyond other fighters comes in the use of the software known as “GGPO”. GGPO fixes a notorious problem of online performance in fighting games – frames. Basically, in a normal game that accounts for lag, having two software clients hooking up to a single server and trying to align them in the same time works. This does not work in fighting games; frankly, American internet speeds just aren’t fast enough to process 1/60 of a second timing on red parries, let’s say. This has been a problem for so long that many declared you shouldn’t even bother with the online mode in said games. That might work for people who live in SoCal or New York, but it’s a hassle if you live anywhere far from an arcade/gaming center.
GGPO does the next best thing. It doesn’t keep both players in the same time, but it does something called “rollback”. If one player’s connection goes faster than the other, there’s bound to be a time discrepancy. What it does, then, is rollback the frames on the faster connection so that both of them, while they might not be playing at the exact same moment, aren’t losing frames or arcade-style timing. GGPO keeps all the inputs on record and then rolls back and re-implements them. This can lead to some weird occurrences, when someone thinks they won a match, a rollback happens, and they actually didn’t. For the most part, though, it works well enough, or as well as current technology will allow.
Most fighting games, for whatever reason, refused to use rollback technology; Capcom finally saw fit to license it (as it was a fan-made project, surprise). Lo and behold, now a fourteen year old game continues to garner new fans. And patches! And additionally, new music for some reason!
The original soundtrack was, in a word, perfect for the game and it’s still included here. Yet, we have an arranged version here that is, frankly put, very weird. The disc contains the rap songs from the original in newly remastered format (which I should have covered last time, but oh well!) and the new mixes remind me of a rap/electronic vibe. Take “Knock You Out”, which is the primary menu theme:
Frankly, it’s really different from the original, although I imagine it will appear to a contemporary crowd. The whole “Adult Urban Contemporary” (I did not make that terminology up) has dominated the pop music charts for some time. Not sure why Capcom thinks that Street Fighter needs such a make-over. However, the test isn’t finished in a mere menu screen, but in the stage themes. Let’s contrast the exact same music we found in the previous review with these remixes:
The drum & bass component moved to the forefront; the synthesized parts of the song have almost entirely dissapeared, replaced by pounding beats, brostep-style “wub wubs”, and the stuff you’d expect at a DBM concert nowadays. Still, the original songs manages to come through, but I’ll be darned if it sounds very jazzy anymore!
I actually like this version a little better. The shakuhachi flute comes into its own here in a way that synthesized versions can’t recreate; that mournful wooden quality isn’t overwhelming by the beat at all, which I found really surprising. The taiko drum disappeared entirely, though – I imagine the flute’s a suitable replacement.
Now we’re really getting somewhere. Ryu’s theme became much more complex and interesting; I’ll be honest and say the original was rather similar throughout. Still, it had a Japanese cultural influence that seems to have disappeared from this version of the product. Honestly, what’s the second part supposed to sound like, anyway?
This one takes an interesting variation on the original, certainly evoking an R&B vibe more than “sampled vocals”. Still, that guitar part’s awesome and contributes to the more fast-paced, and less relaxed, version of the song. Not sure which I prefer, to be honest! The second part, especially, sounds quite similar to the original song with better quality.
Unfortunately, improving on a classic tries to capture lightning in a bottle. Surely, no one’s ever going to make a game as obtusely complicated, or music as diverse in genre, as the game’s first incarnation. That doesn’t mean the arrangers here haven’t done a fabulous job of recreating some of the songs (if not others) into something wholly competent and diverse. Though it takes more from D&B than jungle, can you blame them for making the music a little more relevant to the current music scene? At least the original heart of the songs remain the same; there’s enough restraint to know a good beat when they see it.
Even if I don’t particularly care for the remixing and arranging done here, the intention behind it seems clearly to be a labor of love for an old classic. It’s not as if Capcom had to do it, nor did they need to use GGPO or remix the ENTIRE soundtrack, or add tons of new content into the game, but they didn’t do a slapdash job. That I can appreciate. I suppose it’s a case of seeing the good in everything as in Philippians 4:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I’m just happy more people get to play it. Who knew that, after I picked up the game in 2000 and 2004, there’d be yet another version of it? Good games keep getting re-released, as they say.