Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX
Capcom 2D fighting lands on the PSP. We go one-on-one with the World Warriors in our review. A video too.
Capcom's Street Fighter series is no doubt one of the most recognizable gaming properties on the planet. Having seen a seemingly countless number of updates, rehashes, weird cross-platform marriages and whatnot since its inception, the series has definitely been around the block, and then some.
And while the Street Fighter formula has become a bit tired throughout the years, every so often Capcom hits just the right notes with one of their updates, as was the case with Street Fighter Alpha when it first burst onto the arcade fighting scene in the mid-90s, with its updates following in the late 90s.
The Street Fighter Alpha series has always been a favorite among 2D fighting game aficionados and with good reason. The Alpha series took the Street Fighter franchise in a slightly different direction by presenting the world warriors in their more youthful, less seasoned years as fighters. That along with the Alpha series ever-improving fighting mechanics, colorfully detailed new art style, solid sound design, and large roster of fighters helped endear the series to the fighting game crowd. So now with the third and arguably the best in the Alpha series finally landing on Sony's portable gaming wonder, fans can enjoy a near-perfect port of this fighting classic, on the go.
When news of the PSP version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 first surfaced, we were a bit skeptical. While it was great to finally get this game on a handheld powerful enough to deliver an arcade perfect experience, the thought of trying to play it with that accursed PSP d-pad just didn't seem worth it. The experience we had with Darkstalkers Chronicle and other fast-paced 2D games was enough on that end. Fortunately, Capcom realizes how unfriendly Sony's d-pad is for such games and has come up with a pretty simple, yet very effective solution with their d-pad cover included as a bonus item with Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (aka Street Fighter Zero 3: Double Upper in Japan). The d-pad cover works great and we couldn't be happier.
As for the game itself, total joy we must say. Capcom went beyond just doing a simple arcade port and has added some brand-new elements in addition to migrating over some of the newer features found in previous home conversions to provide the game with ample replay value. The result is a game that looks and plays like its arcade forebearer and then some.
For starters, what makes Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX such a great PSP offering is that it's jam packed with lots of game modes and fighters to choose from. A wide range of game modes are available to players from the outset, including standard Arcade, VS., Training, and Score Ranking modes. There's also a World Tour mode where players travel the globe and engage in various types of battles while building up their fighter's attributes and "ISMs". In addition, there's also an Edit Mode where players can edit a fighter's attributes and "ISMs".
Other game modes include a Dramatic Battle mode that lets players team up with a CPU-controlled partner of their choice and go 2-on-1 against their CPU opponents with Reverse Dramatic Battle mode allowing for the opposite to happen, giving the CPU a 2 on 1 advantage. In addition players can engage in various types of battles in the Free Battle mode, battle through an onslaught of opponents under different battle conditions in the Survival mode, battle through 100 matches in the VS 100 Kumite mode, experience some 2-on-1 team battle-like action in the Variable Battle mode, and quickly jump to each selected fighter's respective final boss battle in the Final Battle mode.
In addition to a plethora of game modes, SFA3MAX also features a pretty sizable fighting roster with more than 35 fighters to choose from, including 4 new characters that weren't in the coin-op original. New to the Street Fighter Alpha 3 fray is Eagle, an old favorite who first began his fighting career in the original Street Fighter and later appeared in Capcom vs. SNK 2. Also from Capcom vs. SNK 2 there's Yun and Maki, as well as Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Jam.
All of the fighters are pretty cool and thanks to Capcom's d-pad overlay and the game's analog nub support, controlling them is a painless process. The all-familiar Capcom 6-button layout is present and accounted for allowing players to use the PSP's face and shoulder buttons to dish out various types of kick and punch attacks, combos, juggles, as well as perform each characters' special and Super moves by charging their attacks or performing quarter-circle motions with the d-pad or analog nub. While the default control scheme works really well, players are provided with the option to reconfigure the control scheme by remapping the buttons, enable rapid fire functionality, and also simplify command inputs.
While the gameplay and controls are pretty standard Street Fighter fare, one of the newest gameplay elements introduced in Street Fighter Zero/Alpha 3 was the "ISM" system. The use of "ISMs" not only supplements the offensive and defensive capabilities of the fighters but also serves to better balance their abilities and attributes and allow for additional play strategy. There are three types of "isms" to choose from and each representative of different fighting styles with their own pros and cons. And not only do the different "isms" affect your general fighting style but also the way super moves are performed and the manner in which their respective super gauges are depleted and replenished.
When it comes down to it, SFA3MAX is a whole lot of fun to play. Players can string together a variety of cool combos and the action moves at a pretty brisk pace with the option available to adjust the game's speed settings. In addition to its wealth of single-player options the game's Wi-Fi function allows up to 8 players to battle it out in a variety of Wi-Fi battle modes via Ad-Hoc connectivity. Sorry folks, no online play.
In addition to its great gameplay mechanics the game also sports some top notch 2D visuals that are displayed beautifully on the PSP's wide screen. Despite the game's age, the graphics of Zero 3 have stood the test of time quite well with well-designed, smoothly animated character sprites, colorfully detailed and animated backgrounds with a touch of parallax scrolling present in some of the stages, and a rock solid framerate. In addition, while the graphics have been stretched out a bit to accommodate the game's full-screen display players have the option of toggling between a wide screen setting and a normal screen setting (original 4:3 aspect ratio) with the option to use some generously included wallpaper to fill up the remaining screen real-estate and cover up the black borders.
On the audio front, the game's sound effects are also handled quite well with every hit registering with great clarity. In addition the game contains various speech samples in the form of short character phrases, an excitable announcer, and to top it off a pretty solid soundtrack that fits the action well.
All in all, Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX is a highly addictive game that's really fun to play on the PSP. The graphics are pretty solid, the load times are blazingly fast, the sounds are good, and the controls are pretty good with the analog nub and when using Capcom's d-pad cover which makes the game an absolute joy to play.
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Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (PSP)
Direct feed trailer (No audio though which is admittedly retarded) (640x480, 1Mbps)