Welcome back to Johnny’s Arcade! Every month I will pull a retro game off the shelf, blow off the dust, and talk about its history and why it’s awesome! This month I will give you a little insight on Street Fighter Alpha 3, my favorite game in the Street Fighter series.
What Is Street Fighter Alpha 3?
Street Fighter Alpha 3 is the third game in a series of spin off titles released in arcades and on home consoles. The “Alpha” series of games are actually prequels. They take place after the original Street Fighter and before Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter Alpha 3 was originally released in arcades and on the Sony Playstation in 1998. It came to Sega Saturn and Dreamcast one year later in 1999. The Saturn version was only available in Japan, though. It was also made available later on for the Game Boy Advance, Sony PSP, Sony PS2, and as a digital download on the Sony PS3 and Vita.
The Alpha titles can easily be recognized as Street Fighter games, but are set apart by a more anime-like art style. For the first time, original characters like Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li were given a artistic overhaul, separating them from their counterparts in the older games.
New characters made their appearances in the series such as Cody, Charlie, Adon, and Rose. With styles all their own, they continue to be fan favorites in modern Street Fighter titles. With each subsequent release the game was updated with a larger roster and slight changes to gameplay.
Many believe the definitive version of the game to be Street Fighter Alpha 3: Saikyo Dojo on the Sega Dreamcast. It had the largest roster of fighters and the most game modes, including online play.
The Street Fighter Alpha series introduced a bunch of new gameplay mechanics, many of which are still used in current Street Fighter games. The player was able to choose from three different fighting styles or “isms” as they were referred to here. Each one had unique movement, blocking, and special move abilities associated with them. Depending on the “ism” chosen, the player could really choose how they wanted to fight.
The movement also feels better than in previous titles and is much faster. Characters feel like they have weight and move according to their fighting style and abilities. Fighters were also given the ability to block, counter, and fire off special moves while in the air.
The movement system was so good that it stuck through multiple future titles including the several Street Fighter 3 titles and was iterated upon for the Marvel vs Capcom series. The game just feels good to play, even on the bulky Dreamcast controller. Movement and attacks were easy and have never been smoother in a fighting game.
A Story To Tell
The Alpha series was also the first time Street Fighter started to develop some sort of story arc for its fighters. This time it’s more personal, and not just about being the best and winning a tournament. Characters have unique allies and enemies and fight their own personal struggles and inner demons as they challenge opponents across the world.
Take Ryu, for example, who is possibly the most iconic Street Fighter. In older games he was just a clone of Ken, using the same moves with a different skin. There isn’t any story there to be seen besides trying to win the World Warrior Tournament. Beware his dragon punch!
In Alpha, he is on a journey to find the mysterious warrior known as Akuma who defeated and murdered his master Gouken. Along the way he battles long time foe, Sagat and spars with his best friend and training partner Ken Masters. All the while, he is fighting against his inner demons in the form of the Satsui-No Hado (Dark Hado), the very power that Akuma used to defeat his master. In the end, he either stays pure and defeats Akuma or succumbs to its dark temptation and becomes Evil Ryu, fighting alongside the monster that he wanted to destroy.
Sounds good right? That’s just one example. There are many other characters with their own adventure to go on and story to tell.
Street Fighter RPG
Easily my favorite thing about Street Fighter Alpha 3 is World Tour mode. There are many different modes to enjoy, but this one is the deepest and most fun. For the first time, and maybe the only time in the series, Street Fighter has an RPG like challenge mode.
In World Tour, the player takes a character across the world map, facing different challenges and earning XP. As your character gains XP and levels up, new abilities are able to be unlocked and applied, making your fighter more powerful. This extra power is needed to continue though, as the fights and challenges subsequently get harder and more varied.
One fight you could be facing an over powered Zangief that is only damaged by combos, only to move on to facing a trio of Cammy clones attacking you from all angles. Move past those challenges to face off in a dramatic final battle: A one on one with an enhanced M. Bison with ultra fast movement and the ability to wipe you out in one super move! Good luck!
How And Where Can I Play?
Ok, so Street Fighter Alpha 3 sounds like a lot of fun, but where can I play this game? Unfortunately the game was never remade or re-released on current gen consoles. The most recent consoles with the game available are the PlayStation 3 and Vita, where it can be bought and downloaded digitally. If you’re like me, you still may have a PS1, PS2, Saturn or Dreamcast laying around. Mine are all still hooked up! If you don’t have any of those, a PS1 can be found at most vintage game stores for around $20-30.
The PS1 version will be the easiest to find as it was the version with the most copies made and sold. On PS2 you can pick up a Street Fighter Alpha Anthology which contains all three games. The downside to this is that they are the arcade versions and don’t have all the extra modes found on the console versions. The Dreamcast version is usually the hardest to find stateside and can run anywhere from $40-$80. I do believe this version to be the best though, so it’s worth seeking out.
If you are one of very few gamers to have a Sega Saturn, well, good luck! Street Fighter Alpha 3 was only released in Japan for the Saturn and is extremely rare. The cheapest copy I could find recently on eBay had a starting bid of $450, not including international shipping costs. I’m currently waiting on the right price to pop up on one, as it would be quite a collectors item. Also, for the Saturn version, a 4 MB ram expansion pack is needed to play the game.
Coming Up Next
I hope you enjoyed Johnny’s Arcade this month! Street Fighter Alpha 3 is a fantastic fighter. I hope you all have an opportunity to check it out. Come back each month for new articles on some of the best retro games ever made. Next month, I’ll be burning up the track on the classic NES racer, RC Pro-Am! See you then!