To say that Street Fighter II changed video games would be a massive understatement. It gave way to a sea of imitators and practically birthed an entire genre overnight. The game did unbelievably well but left many die-hard fans asking one thing. “Where is Street Fighter III?” Sure, they got mountains of revisions and ports, and even the Street Fighter Alpha series which improved on SFII’s formula so much it might as well have been SFIII, but fans never got to see that magic number. That is, until February 1997. Street Fighter III: New Generation was unleashed onto the masses boasting beautiful visuals, a whole new cast of characters, amazing music, and a new fighting system to truly give itself its own identity.
And it flopped. Hard.
Street Fighter III did okay at first, I mean it was a sequel to Street Fighter II of course it did, but it struggled to keep arcade goers’ attention. It was a combination of a lot of things, really. There were only two returning characters (Ryu & Ken), it was released at a time where the fighting game genre, in general, was becoming oversaturated, it got rid of a lot of the cool things the Alpha games introduced, and above all else the game kind of sucked ass. No, for real, New Generation is a dull ass game and I hate it.
I freely admit I’m coming at this game with a weird perspective because I freely admit I’m coming at this game with a weird perspective because my first experience with Street Fighter III wasn’t with New Generation but the far superior Third Strike, so what I say may sound like I’m punching down on an older game. But New Generation sucks. It’s half a game. It does cool things! But I can totally see why it didn’t do well.
New Generation gets a lot of things right in terms of being a sequel. The sprite work and art direction are absolutely gorgeous and the music is fantastic, both utilizing Capcom’s CPS-3 arcade board to great success. The gameplay also got some new additions, adding three selectable super arts for each character each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and even usage. For example, Ryu has three super arts: Shinku Hadouken, Denjin Hadouken, and Shin Shoryuken. Shinku Hadouken has a medium-sized super bar and has decent combo utility, Shin Shoryuken has a large-sized meter bar and does INSANE damage but is harder to use outside of combos, and Denjin Hadouken has the smallest bar and does the least amount of damage but deals a huge amount of stun if charge up fully AND becomes unblockable. This allows players to experiment with their playstyle and I find it adds a ton of depth to the game.
Now, let’s get to the big boy shit: Parries. Parrying is probably New Generation’s biggest contribution to Street Fighter as a whole and what sets it apart from most fighting games, at least at the time of release. Parrying allows you to completely negate an attack during its active frames, including specials and supers, by pressing either forward for high attacks and down to low attacks at no cost to your health and allows you to perform a counter-attack however, it isn’t something you can just do whenever you want.
The act of parrying requires you to not only be able to accurately predict your opponent’s next move but to react on the EXACT frame of the attack. If you are a second too late or too soon your ass is getting hit by the attack. This adds SO much to the game in terms of both offensive and defensive play and it really separates the casual players from the high-level players and even though I am AWFUL at it, I think it’s a wonderful addition to the game.
All of this sounds awesome, right? Like, wow, New Generation seems like a great game. Well, it would be if the damn thing was a finished product.
First of all, the game is a bug-filled mess. Character’s like Ibuki can juggle you simply by pressing her standing HK (Heavy Kick) and walking forward because it resets the game’s juggle counter. Hitboxes are all over the place too either with moves that will flat out miss for no reason and characters having invincibility frames where they shouldn’t. Also, let’s address the elephant in the room here, Ryu and Ken are the only returning characters. Why they did that, I don’t know, but I think it makes the game feel like it’s missing something. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new characters in this game, but No Chun-Li? No Guile? JUST Ryu and Ken? That’s not really a deal-breaker I guess but I can see why it turned so many people off to it on release.
Also, to be honest? The game just doesn’t feel that great to play, especially in comparison to games like Alpha 2. It’s tight and precise, yeah, but it’s just not as fun to control. New Generation clearly needed more time in the oven before it was ready to come out. Well, Capcom agreed I guess because 7 months later, we got a revision. We got their Second Impact.
Now, this? This is a fucking fighting game. Better movement, better hitboxes, better balancing (Outside of Sean, but I’m not complaining), and best of all? Hugo. Every game is better with Hugo. Oh, and Yang is his own character now too I guess. In all seriousness, Second Impact is better than New Generation in almost every conceivable way. The game keeps the good things about New Generation and expands upon them with even more features. The selectable supers having longer meter bars now serve an extra function this time around with the addition of EX moves. By doing a special move input and hitting two corresponding attack buttons your character will perform a slightly better special move at the expense of your super bar. Ryu’s EX Jodan Nirengeki (His step-through sidekick) for example, will cause a wall bounce instead of a knockback. Adding more moves to a fighting game is always good and this shit is no exception.
Second Impact also had the decency to add throw technicals which is a damned godsend. A throw technical, or a tech-hit, allows you to break your opponent’s grab by timing your throw input with theirs (Forward+Medium Kick or Medium Punch) which saves you from getting scooped up. This stops the opponent from just throwing you around all day and it’s insane it wasn’t added sooner. The game also just looks and sounds fantastic, man. All the returning stages have extra flourishes that make them pop out more and the new ones are far more lively with extra background elements and details. And the music. My god, the music. I know Third Strike is a lot of people’s jam but Second Impact has some bangers. EVERY CHARACTER has their own unique stage and theme and they’re all so good. I urge you to listen to this game’s soundtrack if you ever get the chance.
Street Fighter III: Second Impact is a massive improvement from New Generation in every way and it did perform far better, but it never attained the level of success and hype that Street Fighter II did. Maybe it was oversaturated market, maybe it was New Generation’s underwhelming release, or maybe it was something else. I can’t really be sure, but I do think Second Impact is well worth your time to check out. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s a LITTLE busted but in a fun way. It quickly became one of my personal favorite entries in the series and I’m glad I checked it out. In regards to New Generation though? There’s no reason to go back to it outside of curiosities sakes.
But, as well all know, Street Fighter III didn’t end here. It may have missed the mark the first time around and it may have struck a lucky shot the second, but we all know that it’s the Third Strike that counts.