There's no way you can downplay the importance of Street Fighter II. Its many variations basically defined a genre, and it ate up such a huge part of my adolescent time. For many years Street Fighter II was a measuring stick of how I thought other fighting games should be. And while I still consider all those iterations of SF2 to be the most important fighting game in my gamer DNA, it's the third mainline entry in Capcom's Street Fighter series that I'll call my personal favorite. Looking at fighting game tournaments over the years, I doubt that I'm alone.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike is the - you guessed it - third revision of SF3 (1997) and it is absolutely glorious. Capcom is currently revisiting all things Street Fighter to celebrate the series' 30th birthday. So I went ahead and picked up the Switch version because - hey, a bunch of Street Fighter games that I can play portably or on my TV? Yes! Plus, retro games really feel at home on the Switch.
I should note upfront that while I'm talking about Third Strike specifically, I'm basically just talking about Street Fighter III in general here. Third Strike just happens to be the sort of complete 'deluxe' edition of the game. If Street Fighter III were released in 2018, then Third Strike would be the game once the final patches and updates and DLC were applied.
What I've always loved so much about Third Strike - and I suppose what initially threw me off - is the unique roster. When you first see how different the roster is coming from Street Fighter II, it's almost jarring. Familiar faces will include Chun-Li, Akuma, Ryu and Ken. That's it. So basically Chun-Li and Ryu and then two variations on Ryu. Everyone else is new... ish. Hugo you might remember as being "obviously Andre The Giant" from Final Fight. The rest of the cast is bursting with personality and frankly, rather weird at times. Like Urien or Necro for instance. These dudes are WEIRD. And I like that. I like that Capcom took some big chances with this sequel so that it really feels DIFFERENT. And it does. Compare it to Street Fighter IV for instance which just feels like a rehash of Street Fighter II, for better or for worse. At least Third Strike feels ballsy.
The game looks absolutely stunning by the way. I mean even today this is one of those shining examples of just how timeless some well-made sprites can appear. Take a look at the level background for Elena and it's just incredible. And all the characters are just full of personality in their emotes. It's really great.
Of course the big draw here is the gameplay. And I think that's a huge part in why Third Strike is still so competitive today. The game is fast and controls are spot-on. There's a super gauge which can make things more strategic (and bombastic) and there's the inclusion of a parry system which has led to some frankly insane Youtube videos.
As for me myself playing the game... I think if you'd asked me like five years ago I would have called myself competent. Now I'd say I'm pretty much terrible. But that's fine. I haven't been taking the game online or anything. I'm treating it like a true arcade game. I put in my quarter and see how far I can get. Sometimes not very far. I marvel at the game just like I've been doing for years. I lose and then I go and play something else. It's perfect.