Street Fighter EX3
Developer: Arika | Publisher: Capcom | Release Date: 2001 | Genre: Beat ‘Em Up | Website:N/A | Purchase: Amazon
Street Fighter EX 3 had a lot of pressure on its shoulders as not only was it a launch title for the new PS2 hardware, but it also had to compete with two other brawlers, Tekken Tag Tournament and Dead Or Alive 2: Hardcore. The problem is that despite the Street Fighter moniker, this spin-off franchise has never been as well received as its 2D counterparts. Some issues with the Japanese version like slowdown and lack of anti-aliasing has not been too good for the reputation of this title either. The western release has been polished a bit more before release, but was it enough?
The original Street Fighter EX had the distinction of being the first game in the series that used polygon visuals. The game still played like a traditional 2D title, but with 3D characters and environments. It was a bit on the slow side but did well enough to receive a PSone port and a sequel. While the series had some oddball characters like Skullomania and Doctrine Dark it never quite had what it took to compete with the Tekken franchise. With the move to mower powerful hardware capable of pushing out way more polygons, one would think that this is finally the chance for the series to shine, but once again it fails to make much of an impact compared to what else is available.
Right off the bat, you have 16 characters available to play with. Fifteen of them are classic Street Fighter staples like Ken and Ryu along with some Arika creations that are exclusive to this spin-off. The last character is “Ace” who is customizable through playing the “Edit” mode and earning new moves for him. Nine further characters are unlocked as you play through the game so all in all not a bad roster. The main mode in the game is called “Original” mode and this is where you square off against foes in 5 battles before taking on main baddie, M Bison and seeing your characters ending. The endings are all just one paragraph of text as is standard for the series. The novelty comes from your ability to recruit characters after you have defeated them where after you can use them as tag team partners in subsequent fights. Besides the new “Tag” battles there are also “Dramatic” battles where up to four characters can brawl at once. This is obviously to show off the hardware, but feels a bit gimmicky. At least the crippling slowdown that plagued the Japanese version has been addressed.
Visually you can see that this game is running on better hardware than its predecessors are but I would not actually call it a showcase title. Characters all have increased detail and look better than ever, but I would still place them a step or two behind the likes of Tekken. Backgrounds are as bland and unremarkable as ever as well. The special effects however have been polished to the point where every hit seems to produce sparks. It makes everything look very flashy, but is perhaps a tad overused. The game is speedy enough apart from jumps, which still feels a bit floaty for my tastes. Character animations are also very stiff which is even more noticeable when compared to the competition. There are some neat touches like Vega smashing his opponent’s faces directly into the screen when executing a throw but that is about it.
The gameplay remains faithful to the series bar a few tweaks here and there. The tag team possibilities obviously adds a new layer to your strategic options, but you can still get far on button bashing alone. Once you have filled up two super bars as well as your tag meter you can unleash a devastating double team attack using both of your fighters. Those familiar with the series will find that the guard break system has been revamped and is now called “surprise blow.” Overall, the game feels a bit bare bones to make it worthwhile for fans interested in it for single player only. With a multi-tap and some friends, it fares better so loners might want to skip this one. The character edit mode has a few challenges, which upon completion can then be used to purchase new moves and combos for Ace. Only his move set can be customized and not his appearance which is a bit of a letdown. Completing original mode rewards you with a bit of a mini game where you can beat up hordes of generic foes in a side-scrolling beat ’em up fashion. Lastly, there is “Arena” mode, which is basically just for setting up multi-player matches.
Thankfully, the Japanese voices have been retained for all the characters as we all know how bad subbed voices usually turn out. The music on the other hand is pretty unremarkable and I found none of the tunes to be particularly memorable. While playing the VS and Team Battle modes you will hear songs from the earlier games, but Original mode has all new music. The controls are responsive and the moves easy to pull off so I have no issues there. Fights still take place on a mostly 2D plane, but it just does not have the feel of the 2D titles in the Street Fighter series.
It is hard to recommend Street Fighter EX 3 since there are already superior beat ’em ups available for the system. The Tag Team feature is nice, but both Tekken and Dead Or Alive has something similar to offer. The four player battles also feel more like a novelty than anything else because it takes place on a 2D plane. While I am sure the game will find its fans, it just does not have what it takes to compete with the big boys.
*Review originally published in 2001.