Thursday, September 8, 2011

A new return to 3rd Strike part 1: Picking a main

There are two people who play 3rd Strike Online: those who played the game for years in arcades and those who didn’t. I fall into the latter because there were never any cabinets near where I grew up. However, during my first 3 years at Cal State Long Beach, there was a cabinet of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.

But I could never get comfortable at the cabinet to pick a main. On the arcade cabinet, I always felt pressured to play quickly because I was playing on a quarter which was limited. 1 quarter will either carry me to the end of arcade mode, 3 matches against the CPU, or 3 CPU fights plus a human challenger. So I could never get comfortable with picking a character to thoroughly learn and understand.

Now I finally have the time to take my time and play an optimized version of 3rd Strike (as opposed to the Xbox original Street Fighter Anniversary Edition version which was plagued by framerate problems).
So who did I pick? Place your bets now and skip to the end!

1. Q – I loved watching Kuroda’s Q. It was a masterful display of parrying, mindgames, and footsies. While there’s already been many discussions on tiers (and there’s also the phrase “tires don exits” to live by), Q does lack some tools and have certain qualities that make it hard for me to play him.

Right away is that Q’s main special attack is a charge input. I’ve never been particularly good with charge characters. My only experience is SFIV’s Guile (who can zone all day) and Balrog (who is actually good). But Q is neither a zoner nor particularly good. The biggest problem to overcome as Q is that he only has one special cancellable normal: close forward kick (MK for those big on arcade notation).

This is kind of difficult to achieve as it is close MK. So anytime Q is further away, you’ll get far MK, which is not special cancellable. Q has a great character design and he’s extremely tough when you figure out his strategy to taunt 3 times in order to bring up his stamina but he’s too much for a newbie like me to pick up.

2. Alex – The supposed main character, Alex is popularly referred to as the other half of Hugo. He’s a faster grappler than Hugo with more flexible specials and normals but his command grabs suffer from fatally long startup animation. His SA1, Hyper Bomb, has an abnormal number of startup frames for a super grab. Essentially, instead of holding back to block when the super flash occurs, you only need to hold up to jump and avoid the grab.

After trying Alex, I couldn’t really get into him. SA1 (Hyper Bomb) and SA3 (Stun Gun Headbutt) can both be avoided unless used to punish mistakes. This all pretty much pigeon holes Alex into using SA2 (Boomerang Raid). Even then, Flash Chop can't be super cancelled but Slash Elbow can, but it's a charge input. Alex feels kind of restricted in terms of usable options.

3. Akuma – I've seen some pretty nifty stuff from Akuma in recent days. As a shoto character, his moveset is easy to understand if you've played any Street Fighter. He has a few interesting resets that would be pretty cool if applied correctly and your opponent sucks at parrying. There are still some hurdles though.

Some of Akuma's combos are awfully technical. By itself, maybe it doesn't sound all that daunting unless you remember we're of course talking about 3rd Strike, which in of itself is already fairly technical. Still, it's not like it's impossible. It's just that there are some things that aren't immediately appealing. Low stamina, low stun.

I'll need to practice more with Akuma to get any real results and he has too many tools that I can keep track of and many combos but for now, he doesn't click with me. Certainly interesting if I keep at it but I'm just not feeling compatible.

4. Hugo – LOL, maybe next time.

5. Makoto – In the past, with Street Fighter Anniversary Edition, I've played Dudley and Yang but could never get around to really meshing with their style. I decided to give Makoto a shot, who often times may be spotted nearby the other two in terms of rank and something just clicked for me about her.

One of my favorite things about Makoto are her normals. Not only does she have a lot of them which move her in different ways, but they're also really good.

Makoto also has access to an incredible dash. Combine that with some of her faster normals (like cr. Jab) and mix in Makoto's signature move, Karakusa, and you have some of the most fun I've had applying a rush down mentality in a long time.

Because of my weakness at technical ability, I was simply attracted to the power and priority of Makoto's incredible normals like HP, cr.HP, LK, cr.LP, and f.MP. Combined with the ability to trap your opponent with quick Hayate dash punches, Karakusas, and the sheer power of SA1 and SA2, Makoto just meshes well with how I wanted to play. She is fun for me to play and no amount of tier discussion has dissuaded me.

I've even gotten profecient at pulling off Karakusa and Abare Tosanami combos. I'm moving on up!