Thursday, October 2, 2014

Viva Oktober-Fist! Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX

Tastes great, more fighting!
(image courtesy of RickDavisPhotographic)
It's officially Oktober-Fist, so step up to the bar and have a nice frothy mug of whoop-ass! Our first selection is Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX, originally brewed in 1998 and served in a chilled mug we call the PSP eight years later. It's even more refreshing in 2014 thanks to the crisper screen and the fighting game-friendly joypad of the PS Vita.

Like trying to stuff Godzilla's foot into
Cinderella's glass slipper.
(image courtesy of the Street Fighter Wiki)
All right, enough with the strained beer metaphors. MAX isn't the first time Street Fighter Alpha 3 was released for a handheld game system... it was ported to the Game Boy Advance four years earlier by British development team Crawfish Interactive. However, as valiant as that effort was, it was still burdened with compromise... not just the kind of compromise that the limited hardware made necessary, but the compromise of a cartridge that was much too small for the designers' lofty aspirations. The sixteen megabyte cart size demanded by Capcom meant that stages had to be cut, voices needed to be recycled, and the World Tour feature from the console games had to be trimmed down to a simple character edit mode. There are rumors that a more complete GBA version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 exists in some form, but since Crawfish disbanded shortly after the retail game was released, it's unlikely that it will ever surface.

Two opponents for the price of one!
(Image courtesy of
Luckily, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was less of a handful for the PSP. The spacious UMD format left more than enough room for all the features from the console versions of Alpha 3, plus a few extra bonuses. (Well, Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Evolution counts as a bonus, right? Right? Hello...?) It's not just a more complete game, but a more satisfying one thanks to the PSP's cutting-edge hardware. The characters are larger, the soundtrack no longer has a shrill chiptune edge, and the control improves considerably with four face buttons instead of two. Alpha 3 on the Game Boy Advance is good for what it is, but it's hard to imagine why anyone would slum with it when it's so much better on the PSP... and better still on the Vita.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 introduced Sakura's
rival, the Nellie Oleson-esque Karin.
(Image courtesy of Fighter's Generation)
How does it compare to past Street Fighter Alpha games, though? Well, to be honest, the X-Games presentation of Alpha 3 was a turn off to me, at least at first. You get a lot of flashy ticker tape messages, a more intense soundtrack, and a fight announcer so obnoxiously earnest, some CPS2 emulators give you the option to turn him off completely. ("Beat 'em up, guys! Go for broke! I sure hope my check from Capcom clears...") However, like so many things from the 1990s, the revamped look has sweetened with age. What seemed like desperate trend-chasing then seems charming now; a nostalgic snapshot of a bygone age. The high-energy presentation also lends a sense of urgency to each fight which the previous two Alpha games lacked. When the pace has shifted into fourth gear and your heart is pounding along with the thumping background music, the stakes- and the excitement!- of each battle are raised considerably. I didn't see the wisdom of the turbocharged design in 1998, but it makes a lot more sense in hindsight.

No comments:

Post a Comment