Retro Re-Viewed… Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
There are a few reasons why I’ve never been overly fond of the Street Fighter series, not least because whichever version of Street Fighter II that was available on the ZX Spectrum is one of the first games I remember being terrible at. Many followed, and sometimes whole genres became such terrible banes that I recused myself when they were played socially in order to both hide my secret shame and to avoid the desperate post-facto rationalisations and flaring tempers well-known to those who lose relatively infrequently and, thus, relatively badly. I’m not much better at either of Namco’s fighting staples, the Tekken and Soul Calibur series, but where they require you to learn combinations of ten buttons in order to pull off spectacular and cartoonish acts of aggression, Street Fighter has tended to require spreadsheets and flowcharts to achieve anymore more technical than chipping coquettishly away at your opponent’s health bar with feeble taps and smarting kicks to their ankles.
Having never progressed beyond such staccato attempts to prosper, and being regularly defeated so brutally that I developed empathic bruises about my person in anticipation of being thrashed again, I put away my aspirations to be better at the game. In the intervening years I had brief, exciting dalliances with other Capcom fighters, generally those with “vs.” their names that promised the opportunity to pit the accursed figures around whom my formative failures clung against the more powerful superheroes whose cartoons played out the hours on wet Welsh Saturdays, before attempting an earnest return to the fold with Street Fighter IV. It (he said with dishonest “t”) was terrible; I had no more useful ability than my childish self had mustered and I found that I was able to play against others all over the world, not one of whom I did more harm to than the mild irritation I sometimes caused by surviving my punishment slightly longer than they had anticipated.
Being somewhat older, and therefore allowed, I offered several “fuck-you”s to the capricious gods who bet and bait one another over the outcomes of such Herculean bouts, then buried the mocking faces on the cover beneath a stack of books I’d just been given the opportunity to get on with reading. I resumed my hermetic life, playing only those games which did not begin with that sinking sensation of inevitable defeat and focusing on those where it was merely probable. Years later a friend, who scorned my enjoyment of “simple games”, persuaded me to give Street Fighter III a chance, on the grounds that it was “different”. It was, insofar as most of the characters were unconnected to pre- and post -decessors. That their moves consisted mostly of the same combinations mattered little given no-one else was familiar with their specifics either, and the psychological disconnect that more experienced players felt in using these unfamiliar forms gave me something of an edge…
I still almost always get beaten, resoundingly, but it’s more fun than it used to be.