Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Soundtrack September: 3rd Strike

Game: Street Fighter III 3rd Strike: Fight for the Future (1999)
Platform: arcade
Composers: Okugawa Hideki, Iwai Yuki

I remember playing 3rd Strike for the first time in an arcade at the mall. I hated it. My favorite character from Street Fighter II was missing (yes, I've been playing Blanka since SFII). All the new characters except for Ibuki repelled me on sight. And although I liked Ibuki's design, she was difficult to pick up and I wasn't willing to invest the time nor the quarters necessary to learn her at the arcade. For years to follow, I would avoid 3rd Strike.

Much later, when the game was released via download on Xbox Live Arcade, I gave it another chance and learned to appreciate why so many members of the fighting game community so vocally sing 3rd Strike's praises. It's excellently balanced, has a simple-but-subtle parry mechanic (especially compared with Street Fighter IV's goofy focus-parry system) and has the best sprite animation in the entire franchise.

The music is pretty good, too.

With a distinctly 90s-sounding blend of hip hop, lounge, breakbeat and jungle elements, the Street Fighter III sub-series used its music to carve out a reputation decidedly cooler than that of its rock-centric predecessor. Memorable as Street Fighter II's songs may have been, this new chapter's soundtrack grabbed people's attention by sounding current, using vocal samples and utilizing music to set the mood of a stage, as opposed to just providing a theme song for a character. Later Capcom fighters would extend this formula to disastrous effect (like the awful Marvel vs Capcom 2 soundtrack), but 3rd Strike did it right.

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