Just when you think Capcom is finally done rehashing Street Fighter titles, they throw in yet another version for those of us who simply cannot get enough Hadoken action. Whether you are a lover of all things 2D or more a fan of the visceral speed of current polygonal brawlers you have no doubt been privy enough to play at least one version of this infamous franchise. Sure the series has had some rough spots, can we say the EX series, but it still manages to retain it’s fanbase and continue to thrive regardless of the fact that even after 20 years they still haven’t made it past part three. Now Capcom is bringing the perennial franchise to the portable realm with the introduction of Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max for the Sony PSP. Is the flame in Ryu’s fireball finally fading or is Chun-Li still “teh hawtness” when it comes to gaming girls?
For those of you who have not played Alpha 3 in its previous form let me bring you up to speed. Alpha 3 is by far the most complete SF title ever conceived, with over 40 characters, tons of modes, and enough fan service to make Itagaki blush there simply isn’t a more complete SF package currently available. This version introduced what are called the “isms” which are basically different ways to perform your super combos along with new recover moves and even a block breaker for those gamers who simply love to play defense the entire match.
Capcom also went the extra mile by adding even more to the mix by introducing a brand new multi-player mode that can be played wirelessly with your friends, sadly they did not include an online mode, but this works just as well. There are four different modes available in wireless mode; the first two are your basic VS. and Team Battle modes, which are plenty of fun in and of themselves. The third mode is called Dramatic Battle; basically you and a friend go into a three person battle with one computer-controlled player for an all out free-for-all. Keeping track of all the action really makes you change up your usual strategy and can account for some intense matches. The fourth and final mode is called Variable Battle; if you are familiar with the single-player then you already know how this one works. This is basically you and a buddy taking on a computer controlled opponent. All in all the multi-player is completely lag free and a great addition to an already stellar package.
Of course if you are picking up the game to fly solo there is more than enough to keep you busy for the next six months at least. All of the modes from the original are packed onto this UMD including Edit mode, which lets you customize any character in the game, Final Battle which is a simple contest between you and the ultimate boss character M. Bison with an insane difficulty curve, and of course the World Tour mode which gives you the chance to take a character through a series of events and gain experience very similar to an RPG, but with real time fighting. Regardless of your taste there is plenty to see and do in SFA3 Max; in fact this could easily be the most feature heavy title to grace the PSP so far.
Now of course for the big question on everyone’s mind, how does it control on the PSP, especially the D-pad. Well to be honest I actually prefer using the analog with this title and I will tell you why, the D-pad simply feels constricted. You will miss jumps and fireballs more often than you would like, plus the size and placement are a bit off for the precision that is required by a game like this. Thankfully the analog controls superbly, after a few minutes of getting used to it I was pulling off crazy combos like a pro. Other than that the game is a carbon copy of the PS control scheme, the triggers are heavy attacks and the face buttons map out the mid and low blows. These of course can be revamped to your personal preference in the options menu.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with the way this game looks I can’t help but feel disappointed that Capcom didn’t revamp the visuals just a touch. Sure the PSP screen really shows off the bright colors and stellar animation, but we would have liked to have seen a slight increase in resolution and pixel count, as it stands though this is one fine looking 2D game for Sony’s handheld. The music is also directly lifted from the previous PS outing and even the load times are minimal between fights. It is evident after this and the latest MegaMan title that Capcom knows how to program games for the PSP.
Street Fighter Alpha Max 3 isn’t going to win any awards for innovation, but what it will do is bring back some great memories and remind gamers that it isn’t all about bump mapping and resolutions anymore. Capcom has delivered a truly epic game to an outstanding platform that truly is a joy to play no matter where you are. If you aren’t a fan of the 2D game play this isn’t going to change your mind, but if you have been aching for that old-school fix this game is more than worth the price of admission. Add all of this to the fact that SFA 3 is probably the most well constructed fighting game of all time and you have the second must-buy title to grace the PSP this month. Highly recommended for all PSP owners.