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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Capcom

Ups: All the best of SF and customizable; cool online aspect; all the fave characters. 

Downs:  If you've had your fill of SF, then this isn't for you.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

Check out our review of the SFA3 Official Strategy Guide from BradyGames.


I remember a time when the name M. Bison would bring tears of frustration to the eyes of many an arcade patron as they made a mental tally of all the money they had lost to the cheating dictator of Shadoloo. Then Street Fighter II came home via the Super Nintendo and gamers let out their own evil laugh. By my calculations, M. Bison has been wearing his ass for a hat for about a decade now. And he returns on the Sega Dreamcast, underhanded as ever, for what may be the best 2D fighter to date: Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Capcom has given Dreamcast owners an arcade-perfect translation of Street Fighter Alpha 3. The graphics are as good as they have ever been: crisp, colorful, and full of personality. They are by no means a demonstration of what the Dreamcast is capable of, but hey, we’re working in two dimensions here. I especially appreciate that the backgrounds in this game are rendered in the same 2D fashion as the characters, as opposed to the unconvincing, unfinished look of 2D sprites grafted onto a 3D background (see Capcom’s Plasma Sword). And gorgeous updates of classic levels like Sagat’s Thailand touches the heart of a nostalgic gamer like myself. However, I could have done without the overzealous level presentation. Before you begin each fight they have to show you the world map, giant pin-ups of the fighters, then a "Street Fighter Alpha 3" graphic closes over the screen, etc, etc. All of this flashy MTV crap is a one-trick pony, the effect lost as you pound the buttons, just trying to skip it so you can enact sweet revenge on a particularly tricky foe. And with all of the fireworks in the middle, why are we still stuck with lackluster in-game endings?

The sound accomplishes what it needs to, and is about what you would expect. The hammy Capcom announcer is back, but thankfully his tone is right for this game (his presence in Tech Romancer, however, was as intolerable as the Howard Cossell impersonator in the pod race of The Phantom Menace).

But all of this is just surface texture. The most impressive part of Street Fighter Alpha 3 is its seemingly unending list of options. This is by far the single most customizable fighting game I have ever seen. For starters, every character ever introduced to the series up to this point is available, 33 in all, and even some characters from other Capcom games, such as Final Fight are included.

Then you have the choice of playing Arcade Mode, Versus Mode, Training Mode, Team Battle, Survival Battle, Dramatic Battle, Final Battle, or the best addition to the series: World Tour Mode. The first five are familiar, I am sure, and need no explanation. Dramatic Battle is a three-player addition where one player can take on two adversaries at the same time in any human/computer opponent combination (i.e. Player 1 vs. Player 2 and Player 3, or two computer players, or Player 2 and a computer ally, etc.). Final Battle is you against M. Bison, one shot, no continues. World Tour Mode goes beyond simple knockout victories and gives you some long-range goals to shoot for. Your character of choice travels the globe, fighting each character on their home turf. With each victory your character earns experience points which lead to increased power and abilities. These customized characters are saved on the VMU and can then be downloaded into other modes, so you can use him or her in a Survival Battle or take on your friend’s World Tour character stored on their VMU, and so on.

Gameplay is further customizable through your choice of Fighting Styles and Fighting Modes. The basics always stay the same, meaning that Ryu’s fireball and Guile’s sonic boom will work just as you remember them. Fighting Styles, referred to as –ISMs, involve different techniques of offense and defense that have evolved throughout the Street Fighter series. There are 3 basic styles: A-ISM, X-ISM, and V-ISM. A-ISM is based on the Street Fighter Alpha series. It includes Air Guard, Air Recovery, and Alpha Counter as well as Super Combos (such as Ryu’s Shinku Hadoken and Guile’s Somersault Strike). X-ISM is based on the Super Street Fighter II Turbo system and, so, is more limited. Fans may enjoy its simplicity, eliminating the Air Guard, Alpha Counter and most of the crazier Super Combos. But what the X-ISM style lacks in extras it makes up for with greater attack strength. V-ISM includes Custom Combos like those of Street Fighter Alpha 2. A Super Combo Meter at the bottom of the screen builds as the fight progresses. When the meter is filled, a player can initiate a Custom Combo by pressing a punch and kick button of the same strength and use it until the Meter is empty or the character is hit. This is balanced by significantly lower attack strength than the other –ISMs. And note: just because you choose a particular fighting style does not necessarily mean that the other players or the computer are limited to that style. X-ISM fighters will often find themselves matched against A- or V-ISM fighters, so know your strengths and weaknesses.

The Fighting Modes are just as complicated. They consist of Classic Mode, Saikyo Mode, and Mazi Mode, and are only available in the Arcade Battles. Classic Mode is the closest to the old Street Fighter II gameplay. There are no Combo meters, guard meters, and it automatically chooses X-ISM for all characters. Saikyo Mode is designed to challenge more experienced players. Your character inflicts less damage, but takes more, has a shorter Guard Meter, cannot Air Recover, and is dizzied twice as easily. Mazi Mode may be the ultimate challenge. In a high stakes battle, your character character’s attack strength is doubled, but so is the damage he or she receives. And no matter how many rounds you set the game for, your opponent only has to beat you once. Fighting Modes can be eliminated altogether in the option menu.

Sound confusing? Well, sure, it is. But it takes all of the options of Street Fighters past and lets you play the kind of game you want to play. Plus, it leads to some interesting possibilities. If, like me, you are a fan of the less exacerbating Street Fighter II fighting system, but your friends have given it up for the Alpha counters and combos, now you can show them who’s boss by pitting the old against the new. Or get humiliated. The point is this game gives you the best of the Street Fighter series as a whole, and lets you customize it all to boot.

The Dreamcast version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 is also Internet compatible. Don’t get ahead of me here, as of yet you still can’t battle friends over the Internet. What you can do is download "Master Characters," changed weekly, to do battle with your World Tour Characters. Basically, these are suped-up versions of existing characters, which provide a new challenge and add to the long-term playability of the game. Beware, however, of the 65-block toll they will take on your VMU.

Considering the overabundance of Street Fighter incarnations already available (including the PlayStation version of this game which has been available for a year), as well as the saturation of Capcom fighters on the Dreamcast market, you may wonder if this title is worth giving yet more money to the Capcom marketing machine. If you have left 2D games behind in favor of the ever-evolving world of 3D fighters, then no, it isn’t. If you already have the PlayStation version, then the upside would be better graphics, Internet capability, and access to all of the previously hidden features. Otherwise, this is simply the culmination of every Street Fighter game to date, and the title most likely to satisfy any 2D fighting fan.

--Jeremy Kauffman