Let’s Talk About Street Fighter Alpha 3

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Normally I have an issue with Capcom and their naming conventions. You know the whole spiel over Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix EX Turbo Wonky Donkey A+: The Return-

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OH GOOD GOD, ZANGIEF. I’M SORRY. STOP FLIPPING THE TABLES. I JUST HOOVERED.

Anyway, Street Fighter Alpha 3 saves itself somewhat because in reality, the reasoning behind its name works flawlessly. Now, given that the series is the Street Fighter Zero series in Japan, both conventions work under the same banner because what this game is is a prequel to the whole Street Fighter saga. It serves as the set-up for the Street Fighter 2 canon as it were. It introduces us to a fairly hefty roster of fighters who will have some impact later on in the series but it basically creates the story behind the later games.

Whereas Street Fighter 2’s interlinking stories didn’t really hold much credence as such, the Alpha series attempted to bring everyone together in some way shape or form. It extended the story in way that makes the Street Fighter 2 stuff sort of make some sense. It’s not as thought they DIDN’T make sense in the first place but it gave us the characters’ motivations and their reasons for fighting.

But even then… it didn’t seem entirely necessary to do that. If anything, the endings in Street Fighter 2 were just a means to an end. There wasn’t a “this sets up a sequel” ending in there, although that CAN be argued with a few characters, but there was an element of story-telling that was inevitably missing that the developers, writers, producers, whoever, clearly wanted to tell us about. The whole Shadaloo (THAT NAME OH MY GOD ARE THEY FUCKING SERIOUS?) story arc was written up to make sense of M.Bison’s motives, seeing as he was the main antagonist in the early games. It was totally worth doing.

But in Street Fighter Alpha 3, the closure of the series, it could have been done a HELL of a lot better.

And it raises more questions than it actually answers…

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But either way, here’s the skinny on the whole thing:

M.Bison fucking well hates everything and wants to rule the world. People don’t like it and they go to fight him. Cammy’s involved in there somewhere and there are plenty of Bison’s dolls to contend with but basically, you’re in it to fuck up Bison. End of.

Now I’m totally paraphrasing the whole story because there is MUCH more to it than that but there is a lot of gubbins to wash out from all of this. There are some prominent, necessary-to-the-story characters, all of whom tie into the story in some way and make sense to have there. For example, Cammy is the expected vessel for Bison’s subconscious once he carks it, so she’s important. Chun-Li and Charlie are after Bison for various reasons so they’re a shoe-in. Ryu is just the standout character and his inner turmoil with THE EVIL SIDE or whatever it is he’s going through is enough for Bison to sit up and take notice. And there’s Rose who is basically the anti-Bison who uses the same type of Psychic power, only for good.

And that’s… kinda it.

There really isn’t anyone else who is truly relevant to the plot as such. The rest are there and whatnot and a few people do have a hand in certain characters’ stories. Guy, for example, helps out Rose and advises her at times, Ken is of course the loyal tag-along to Ryu so excluding him would be like not putting Scorpion into Mortal Kombat UH-OH MORTAL KOMBAT 3 I WENT THEEEERE. And to a point, Ryu and Sagat’s whole rivalry thing is still a draw I suppose. Other than than… yeah. Grasping at straws.

But then again, often playing a fighting game for the story isn’t the best way of going about things. Yeah, the other characters aren’t INTRINSIC to the plot but they give us all an insight into potential for where they could fit in later in the series.

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But here’s Cody, for example, who appears in his prison garb – handcuffs included; make of that what you will, oi oi, wink wink, nudge nudge – in this game. Why? No reason really. He’s just there because why not? He’s fun to play around with at times, although he’s not exactly a traditional Street Fighter character per se. He’s all brutish and in it for the sake of fighting and being violent. Ryu loves to fight to better his fighting skills. Cody just seems to want to punch something for the heck of it. Hence the prison uniform, I suppose.

Anyway, I remember when these new characters were introduced (R.Mika, Karin, Cody and the Juli/Juni combo) and a lot of reviewers felt as though they were a bit lacklustre. One I remember likened their designs and feel within the game as if they’d been done by the teaboy or a work experience student. It’s fair to say that these characters do LACK a certain something but to be honest, Karin and R.Mika are completely original in terms of their characters anyway. They’re not modelled off something that already existed as it were (Cody was in Final Fight so there was some background to his character and the Juni/Juli pairing are basically Cammy in all but name with some add-ons). It would be a little unfair to suggest that they suck but I understand the comparison to a point. I mean… Karin and R.Mika obviously did something right to be returning to Street Fighter V whereas other characters that COULD have appeared that are perhaps more integral to the story didn’t. Basically. So suck it. Plus, Karin is ridiculously pompous enough to be hilarious. She’s insanely dislikeable but to be honest, that’s actually what makes her quite good. She is basically the spoilt rich kid who actually CAN do something (in this case, be a massive bitch… and fight, I suppose) and chooses to do something with it.

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Oh. And Dan’s in it.

Fucking Dan.

What numpty thought he was a good idea? Fucking prick that he is. He’s just awful. GO AWAY DAN. NO ONE LIKES YOU.

EVEN YOU DON’T LIKE YOU I’M SURE.

The dickhead.

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So essentially what we have here is the third game in a series that really tried to do something a little bit different. The first one was the first real Street Fighter game for the Playstation that implemented the improved Super Move idea and completely overhauled the graphics. This one was done in an anime style that looked much flatter and cartoon-like without being so kiddified that it looked awful. If anything, this series showed off the characters in much better ways that the original game ever could. The original art style was obviously ‘of-the-time’ but it didn’t really show off the characters as well as they could have done because the sprites couldn’t really show off the expressions THAT well. Yeah, you can see them but they are murky now and they do look a bit dated.

This graphical style is very much in your face and pretty incredible. It’s clean, neat, textured and yet clear at the same time. The sprites much fantastically well and they really try to bring across expressions well. It took its cues from the Darkstalkers art style and one-upped it rather well.

And the majority of the backgrounds are rather nifty too. What’s nice about them is that everyone actually has one of their own again (save for a few) which the original Alpha game did NOT do. God, that game really did not do itself any favours with its cheap background shit. I mean, The backgrounds were basically night and day versions of the same background and it felt cheap. This time around, the majority of the stages are home to a single character. I’m still not entirely sure why British Cammy has a stage in Greece though. But hey ho. Explanations are few and far between in this game.

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What the game attempts to do here though is give the game something special. There’s an announcer throughout the game that runs the whole thing like it’s an ACTUAL televised tournament or something. He sets up the fights before they begin with a cry of “GO FOR BROKE” or “GO FOR IT, MAN!” and on the victory screens, he’s all positive and shit with his “I’VE NEVER SEEN A BATTLE LIKE THIS!” or “CAN YOU PUNCH YOUR WAY TO GLORY?” – he’s trying to gee up the battles so hard that it can almost feel a little bit embarrassing. He’s trying to be cool and be everyone’s friend but to be honest, he’s so happy about ANY result that it seems quite fake. He’s that friend who basically says: “I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!” whenever he guesses the wrong answer twenty times.

His attempt at adding atmosphere sorta feels very tacked on. It’s good that they tried to do something different make the game a bit more modern, especially as the first two games in the series followed the same set-up as each other, including the same sound effects are versus screen load-up style. They tried to show change and that’s definitely admirable. It could have chosen to stick to the same, slightly outdated style as before but it’s a good thing they chose to be original at least.

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To go slightly off again at the story, the major issue is that essentially, every single character’s ending finishes the same way. Bison gets defeated, he basically blows up in a blue light and everything sort of seems likes it’s back to normal. Everyone goes on their way and there’s seemingly no way for Bison to come back to life. I mean… he exploded. He dissipated into nothing… his entire existence sort of stops. So… if this is the prequel to Street Fighter 2… how did he come back in Street Fighter 2? I mean… it’s never truly explained… even though plenty of characters do that whole brooding to the characters “something tells me this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him…” shtick.

Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. BUT WHY?

We’re never told and somehow it just happens. We just have to go along with it.

Which is oddly disappointing.

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But either way, there’s plenty to be enjoyed here as a whole package. The graphics are clean and crisp and everything moves as a Street Fighter game should. There’s enough depth here with three different styles of super gauge, including an EASY version for less experienced players, and there are plenty of good home console modes of gameplay that are the standard stuff expected from fighting games.

But why is there something… missing?

It’s difficult to put a finger on it but if I’m going to say anything, the distinct lack of proper storytelling and the mechanical approach to the presentation kind of gleans a lot of the drama away. The way that the characters’ endings all merge into one feels less like a personal character’s experience and again, more like a means to an end. The original two games didn’t QUITE have the same problem. Every character felt as though they had some impact in the story. In this case, Bison curses you being a dick and killing him and then does his explodey-blue bobbins.

It’s lacking a little bit of charm.

And you know how much of a sucker for charm I am.

And at least they didn’t name it something over the top ridiculous.

Well… I say that but we did get Alpha 3 Max and Alpha 3 Upper…

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NO. NO. ZANGIEF. BAD ‘GIEFY. BAD.

VERY BAD.

I JUST CLEANED UP.

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