||Street Fighter Alpha 3
It's kinda like Phil Hartman: late but great. - Review By BenT
Sound is typical Capcom. The music is completely unremarkable. It won't make your ears bleed, but I doubt you'll be humming many of these tunes in the shower. The sound effects are much better than the music; again, typical Capcom. Voices are clear and distinct, hit sounds are appropriate, and Guile sounds like less of a gimp than usual. True, the game does feature the same ridiculous announcer as the PSX version, but I quickly learned to tune him out. I suggest you do the same.
Finally, Dreamcast Alpha 3 is clearly superior to the game's PlayStation version in a number of areas. The most obvious improvement is that all of the animation missing from the Sony version has been restored. Loading times are very low as well. The "secret" characters are selectable from the start -- no more tearing your hair out while you try to unlock Guile. The computer AI seems to be much improved. Even on the lower settings, the computer can be a bastard at times! World Tour mode has received a difficulty overhaul as well, and is now actually challenging. Finally, thanks to the Dreamcast's copious amounts of RAM, you can play with three unique characters onscreen simultaneously in the Dramatic Battle modes. This is obviously much better than the weak palette-swapping that had to suffice in the PSX version.
The character designs get ugly at times. Thankfully, they look like their old selves in actual gameplay.
The worst trait of Alpha 3 is the terribly jagged-looking graphics. It appears the game's original art has been scaled to fit in the Dreamcast's low resolution mode, and the result is an atrocious mess of pixels the likes of which hasn't been seen since Capcom's last Dreamcast conversion. Since the art has apparently not been scaled in a 1:1 ratio, characters and other moving objects exhibit a sort of dot-flicker, as their individual pixels fluctuate minutely in size. Even the backgrounds are affected; the scrolling clouds in one level look like they drop a frame every few seconds, and if you make it a point to look, you can see that the scrolling in any stage is not quite the liquid-smoothness that it should be. If you're playing in S-Video the problem is especially bad, and you may even notice the game's other major graphical shortcoming: massive dithering. Besides the "normal" dithering found in the artwork, it seems that the game can't draw swaths of solid color without speckling them with dozens of tiny dots, which goes a long way towards ruining the look of much of the game's tiled art and backgrounds. Again, this is much more noticable on better televisions; in fact, I couldn't even notice the dithering when using composite video hook-ups, for what it's worth.
Speaking of the art, I really dislike a lot of the new character portraits. Some are so bad that they look like they were scribbled by an intern in the art department. The portraits for Adon and Zangief are particularly bad, as is Rolento's victory shot. What were they thinking?
The character animation is also not quite impressive anymore, and looks completely lacking when compared to Street Fighter III (well, duh). This didn't take away from the experience one bit, but it still would have been nice to see the characters specific to the home version (such as "New Challengers" T-Hawk, Fei Long and DeeJay) beefed up with more frames. As it is, they look almost identical to their 6-year-old Super Street Fighter II Turbo incarnations, and the age is really showing.
Ugh. Rolento has seen better days.
A minor quibble: despite the punishing computer AI, the computer-controlled partners in Dramatic Battle are as dumb as rocks. Whenever my character died first, my computer partner was rarely up to the challenge of finishing our opponent off. It was just painful to watch sometimes; one hit would have potentially killed our opponent, but instead my partner (Zangief) decided to eat fireball after fireball. Then, out of the blue, he completely wasted an air super. Then he got dizzy. Then he died. Gah.
Lastly, I've read an account or two that claim that this conversion doesn't quite play faithfully to the arcade version. One example given was that certain anti-air attacks are now a lot more iffy. I have little experience with the arcade Alpha 3 (which never achieved wide distribution) so I can't comment either way on this. Still, I thought I'd mention it in the interests of full disclosure.
The Final Word
Street Fighter Alpha 3 on the Dreamcast beats out the PSX and Saturn versions as the best version of Alpha 3 you can buy. Unfortunately, the way Capcom ported the graphics is just terrible, and takes away most of the game's visual appeal. Still, it's all about the gameplay, and in that respect Alpha 3 is the most complete 2D fighter to hit the market in ages. While it will likely be eclipsed in a couple months by Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Street Fighter Alpha 3 remains highly recommended.
Highs: Amazing variety, great control, good sound effects, fun 2D fighting.
Lows: Graphics look terrible, a bit of questionable art direction, forgettable music.
Other: 3 Players, VMU Compatible (24 blocks for main file, 13 blocks per World Tour), Arcade Stick compatible, VGA Cord Compatible, Jump Pack compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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