Although this is technically an Import Week I have set up, this particular title can be found on several NTSC units. Regardless, this is the Japanese version featured in today’s review, for the simple fact that it’s the only copy I have of the title, and from what I’ve played, the only copy I’ll need. The game in question is none other than Street Fighter Zero 3 on the Sony PlayStation — a Capcom fighter faithful enough to its arcade predecessor, which is something the PlayStation has struggled mightily with in the past.
As with the series before it (Street Fighter II) and the series following it (Street Fighter III), each subsequent installment has built upon the previous titles successes, and crafted something vastly improved and more enjoyable. The Zero/Alpha definitely continues this trend, with improvements on nearly ever single conceivable angle. The roster has been expanded to include every missing Street Fighter II character, as well as add a couple of new ones into the fold. On top of that, you’ll be able to choose between three different fighting styles: X-ISM for followers of the Super Street Fighter II: Turbo ways (no air blocking, a long super bar that allows one powering super to be unleashed), Y-ISM for those that have the Custom Combo fetish from Street Fighter Alpha/Zero 2, and Z-ISM for those that just want their three level stock super bar, air blocks and every other perk the previous two titles provided.
Zero 3 was able to port over tons more animation onto the PlayStation version, providing for a smoother, more fluid experience in battle. The in-game sprite animations weren’t the only carry overs; post animation victory poses, as well as pre-battle animations have carried over, for better or for worse. While it’s definitely not a flawless transition, it feels more closer to the arcade than any Street Fighter title has on the system. The backgrounds, as well as the characters, are bright, colorful and fully represent everything they are supposed to, from the vibrant colors of the jungle area Blanka battles in, to the innocent playfulness of the school yard setting Dan fights within. Match up the typical top notch mechanics featured in just about every Street Fighter title, and you’ll be pulling off a multitude of moves with your sharply detailed characters inside their gorgeous stages with the greatest of ease.
Perhaps the most robust, and arguably the most addictive mode of play in Zero 3 has to be the World Tour mode. While Capcom has not jumped into the create a fighter motif, World Tour provides the blueprints for character customization, using existing fighters as your work-in-progress. Select one of the near three dozen brawlers and take them around the world, defeating specific opponents with even more specific win guidelines. You’ll be asked to either defeat a fighter in a certain time limit, or be forced to use supers in order to deliver any damage whatsoever. There’s a myriad of restrictions and requirements you’ll run into.
As you progress further and further, depending on which paths you take, you will unlock certain aspects and perks featured in the X, Y and Z-ISMs. You can end up with an X-ISM super bar, air blocking and no chip damage taken (blocking a command move will not chip off any damage). It’s a versatile system, one that leads to the satisfaction that you molded your favorite fighter into the way that best suits your play-style. While World Tour can be completed in less than an afternoon, the addiction factor of unlocking perks and abilities from each ISM and incorporating them into the ways that best suits you, will lead to multiple play-through.
The only real blow to Zero 3 is, yet again, the underwhelming musical score. Wile Alpha/Zero 2 beautifully remixed versions of the iconic tunes from Street Fighter II, there’s nothing substantial or important to the tunes in this game. With the exception of Dictator’s “final battle” theme, there’s nothing that will get you in more of a head cracking mood. The effects are a mix of stock and a few revisions, all of which sound well done, with no degrading qualities to be heard.
Although it’s not necessarily the pinnacle of Capcom fighters, Street Fighter Zero 3 is an absolute masterpiece. Taking away the World Tour mode, Zero 3 still has a substantial amount of substance, with three ways of playing each character, and never a dull moment to be had, tournament play or casual. With the inclusion of World Tour, you have added leverage in the way of connecting to your fighter like never before. The only experience I have had with Zero 3 on home consoles is with the import PlayStation version, and the PSP version for portables. If you can’t manage to track down a Japanese copy of Zero 3, or a US version, pick up the PSP version for cheap. Just beware of the handhelds dpad.