When Good is Just Okay Enough: Street Fighter EX3

The following post originally appeared on Recollections of Play, February 14, 2013.

Street Fighter EX3 (EX3), released in late 2000, was the first 3D Street Fighter game I ever played. Up to that point we had been wearing thin our copy of…which game was it? Super SFII or SF Alpha 2…one of those.  Plus, we didn’t have a fighting game for the PS2, so why not?  It seemed awesome enough that SF was finally being moved into the world of 3D graphics.  It seemed like the new tag team battled would be loads of fun.  It seemed like there’d be new stuff to learn with new characters mixed in with old favorites.  We weren’t entirely wrong in our assumptions, but we weren’t entirely right.  EX3 was a good game, but not the greatest the series had to offer.

EX3 brought together a cast of old favorites and a few new (to me) faces.  Ryu, Chin-Li, Zangief (yay!), Sagat were all there looking nicely rendered in their familiar costumes.  New characters included the likes of Nanase, Doctrine Dark (he quickly became a favorite), the wacky Skullomania, Sharon, and Cracker Jack. And there were unlockable characters: Bison, the nasty and formidable Garuda, Pullum Purna, and others.  Most of the new folks were introduced in earlier SF EX games.  They made for a large cast and it was fun playing each and discovering their strengths and weaknesses.

But since a number of characters were locked when the game started, we first worked to unlock them all. This meant having to beat the game in Original Mode several times over without using continues. Once done, the character that became available depended on how many times you had beat the game before. It took the better part of a weekend for him to open the full cast, but the game was wholly more fun once we had everyone at our disposal.

Having not played the previous SF EX games, it took me a little time to get used to the game’s terminology. The controls were basically the same as with any SF game — throws, kicks, punches, various combos. There were also “surprise” moves that stunned opponents, and “cancel” moves in which you could cancel an opponent’s regular attack with your own special attack.  In addition to laying the CPU in original mode, the game offered tag team play (so fun!) and dramatic battles of 3 on 1 or 2 on 2. There was also a character edit mode in which started as a generic fighter that you could build up in points and moves as you progressed through a series of battles.  I remember trying this mode, but never got very far with it.

Being a SF fan but not an SF expert, my words about EX3s gameplay probably don’t hold much weight, but here goes.  This game was fun, fairly in-depth, and offered a lot of variety. But I also found it to be very…what’s the word?…leaden.  I read a couple old reviews calling it a “fast-paced” game, but I don’t recall it that way.  Compared to the 2D SF games, the characters in EX3 felt like bags of rocks.  Accomplishing moves and combos wasn’t all that difficult, but everything felt slow or delayed.  For me, the game lacked a sense of urgency that came with the fight or be beaten mentality of previous SF games.  In those games, I really had to think on my feet and be quick.  EX3 felt more mature, more deliberate. It was fun but…different.  And I never did find a “perfect team.”

For a PS2 fighting game, Street Fighter EX3 looked great and played well, really…despite how I remember it. Until we got Marvel vs. Capcom 2, it was our staple fighting game.  If you’ve never played it, it might be worth checking out just for the nostalgia factor (it doesn’t really hold a candle to more recent SF games).  It was fun in the moment. Not the best, not the worst; just good enough.

What game do you find is “just good enough” for you to neither love nor hate?

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