Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike turns 20 tomorrow, 12th May, but since it is tomorrow, 12th May in Japan, where it first launched in arcades, it seems appropriate to now remember why it's considered one of - if not the - greatest fighting games of all time.
Third Strike is the third and final and unquestionably best iteration of Street Fighter 3. 3rd Strike was notable for being complex, with tricky systems and, well, a lot going on for a Street Fighter game. But once it clicked, the satisfaction that came from outwitting your opponent was incredible. It just felt good to play - responsive, silky smooth and bristling with energy.
3rd Strike added the Red Parry, which was, basically, parrying for showoffs, but it wasn't just the parry system that set the game apart. It also looked and sounded better than any previous Street Fighter. The gorgeous and vibrant 2D sprites were a joy to behold. They still are. The animation work is impeccable and the character design is up there with Capcom's best. And the stages! Well, just look at the way everything moves.
Speaking of character design, 3rd Strike brought back Chun-Li after a hiatus during the previous Street Fighter 3 games, and added four new characters: Makoto, Remy, Q and Twelve. Makoto is a personal favourite. I was delighted to see her return for Street Fighter 4 and I retain a probably senseless hope Capcom will add her to Street Fighter 5 one day.
While many in the fighting game community remember 3rd Strike for the wonderful fighting game it is, it's perhaps best-known as being the video game played during Evo moment 37, aka the greatest competitive video game event of all time. Here, legendary fighting game players Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong played a dramatic semi-final match in which Daigo nailed an incredible comeback by parrying 15 consecutive hits of Wong's Super Art move while having just a slither of health left himself.
While most fighting game fans have long since moved on to more modern fighting games, and with the likes of Street Fighter 5 now the focus at tournaments, it's easy to forget Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike. But it's impossible to deny its influence on a generation of fighting game fans - and for so many, it'll never be beaten.