First, the good news--this will be the biggest and baddest version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 yet. They're calling it Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper Upper in Japan, and for good reason. The character roster includes 38 playable fighters. That's four more than even the Dreamcast port had. Fan favorites, like Ken, Ryu, Blanka, Zangief, and Cammy, are in there. Joining them are Yun, Maki, and Eagle from Street Fighter 3, and Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Evolution. All of the play modes from the earlier console versions will be included. Yes, even the World Tour mode from the Dreamcast game, which lets you attach various attack and move upgrades to characters by completing fight-based missions. An Ad hoc WiFi versus mode has also been implemented. Sorry, no Internet play in this one.
The PSP game will add a couple new play modes into the mix too. Chief among them is the new tag battle option, which lets you pick a pair of players and swap between them on-the-fly during a match. It's nice to see Capcom incorporating features from their Vs. fighting games into the Street Fighter Alpha franchise.
Gameplay will remain mostly unchanged. Fights will still involve beating opponents senseless with a variety of normal attacks and special moves. Street Fighter fans know all about the Hadoken and the Shoryuken inputs, and newbies will learn them quick enough once they pick up this game. Our man on the scene in Japan, Lance Kwok, reported in to talk about the controls. Lance here. Remember Darkstalkers PSP? Its controls were stiff and fireball motions were tough to pull off. SFA3 is still stiff at times, but they've really loosened it up and made it responsive compared to Darkstalkers. Good news!
One thing we were surprised to learn is that Capcom has redrawn many of the game's backgrounds, and they've added new ones. For Darkstalkers, they took the old arcade backgrounds and gave players the option of stretching them or playing with black bars on the screen. Street Fighter Alpha 3 doesn't force those compromises. The backgrounds taken out of the SFA3 arcade game have been zoomed-in a little to fill the screen. Meanwhile, it looks like there are a dozen new backgrounds that have been drawn from scratch. Character animation looks great, from the video footage we've seen. They've added a few more alternate costumes too. Sodom can be chosen with sais or katanas, for instance, and Chun Li has her original SF2 outfit in addition to her skin-tight Alpha costume.
But the million dollar question is, how about the load times? Darkstalkers Chronicle, as awesome as it was, made players wait a good 8 to 10 seconds in between matches. That sort of load time is painful when you're playing a fast-paced fighting game. We'll let Lance tell you about Street Fighter Alpha 3's load times, in his own words. "There's still loading, about four or five seconds. Not so bad."
Capcom plans to release Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper Upper in Japan in November. They haven't set a date for a North American release yet, but we're confident that they'll bring it here as Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper Upper by Spring 2006, if not sooner.
9/17/2005 Frank Provo & Lance Kwok