First, I'll get into the shiny foil wrapping of the presentation. They're definitely going for... shall we say, Street Fighter Thug. The whole hip-hop motif is pretty apparent throughout the menus, player select and so forth. Actual rappers [as in fluent English speakers; nice change of pace] are rapping here, and they're rapping about the elaborate process of choosing a character. ''Let's get it on now. Choose and make your first pick. Let's get it on now. 10 9 8 7 6. Let's get it on. Choose and pick the best one. Let's get it on. 5 4 3 2 1.'' ...Hey, -I- didn't write it.
And then there's graphics. One of the other points of the SF3 series is the beautiful artwork and character animation, which was ironically overshadowed by the inferior, but bigger and more spastic art of the Vs. games. But, if you're not looking for the old screen-filling explosions, the movement and expressiveness of the characters is incredible. For practical reasons of gameplay, you can't have -too- many frames within an attack. The more frames an attack has the slower it is and the easier it is to counter. However, once you get to the things that don't affect gameplay, such as taunts and win poses, you can really see the kind of work that the art team has put in at its best. This isn't to say that the attacks are poorly animated, far from it: just that there is a noticeable difference that occurs for reasons of gameplay.
I didn't expect good sound after Alpha 3. But I got it anyway. Not only are there decent character themes and the much-needed element of rap about blocking shoryukens, but they have different mixes for every level. Pretty good, and not as monotonous and painful as the stuff in A3. Smacking sounds are the same as they ever were. In an interesting voice-acting note, the English-speaking characters in the game actually speak English through native English speakers as opposed to a Japanese actor approximating English words. Except, of course, for Ken, who apparently remains a Japanese man with natural blond hair. Like Benimaru. Anyway, the acting comes off nicely, and the effort in hiring English voice actors is appreciated.
On to the gameplay. This is the part I really like. A non-fan might just say, ''oh, this is more Street Fighter'', but it's really very much a departure. The first thing you'll notice is the character selection. Nobody from Alpha. Nobody from SF2. Well maybe some people who are like people from SF2. But not quite. All these new characters, and slightly new characters, allow the system to show just how original and interesting it is within the nuances of playing these characters.
For one thing, you've got the specialized Super Art system. Super Moves are Super Arts. You may pick one of three per character, and they each have different super bars. Some are three-level, some are one-level, and most are two-level. For one thing, this greatly simplifies the [relatively quite simple] SF move-list. It also balances out the strong and weak attacks, and figures into how much a character can use EX attacks. EX moves are the next feature of the game's engine. These are lifted directly from the Vampire/Darkstalkers series, and are basically enhanced special moves which take Super Art energy. You're forced to make the choice between the practical EX moves and the big-combo-use Super Arts. Another interesting idea. Then there's parrying. I believe enough has been said on parry elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the changes made to how the free spiele game is played are pretty drastic. Makes things a little tougher for the offensive minded.
Probably the best thing Capcom could have done, however, is the System Direction mode. Don't like the rules? Change them. Hate parrying? Kill parrying. No problem. There are pages and pages of minute adjustments that one can make on the game. Many of the cool little tweaks you might want to make can get done here. Turn it into SF2, if you like. Fun!