The entire Street Fighter series brings me back to my youth; something I once assumed was universal for everyone. Crowding around convenience stores, playing Raiden while hoping the Street Fighter 2 machine would open up and then getting beaten handily by the store owner's seven year old son after spending hours memorizing moves downloaded from a local
BBS - yes, I thought that was part of the rite of passage for everyone. The whole thing wasn't just a game, it was a phenomenon back then, and was probably why some very unsuccessful forays into movies were made before its eventual demise.
In the Mortal Kombat versus Street Fighter days, there simply wasn't anything called 3D, but that still didn't stop people from having a hard time in replicating the balance, artistry and wonders of Street Fighter. Street Fighter Alpha 3 isn't all that much different than the Street Fighter titles from before. There may be more combos, there may be better pacing and balance, more characters or even a brand new (cough) story, but it sure doesn't look too different from the style that made its name more than a decade ago. When Street Fighter hit its full stride then, countless clones came out on the PC to help people save quarters and practice for the showdown at the local arcades. These weren't Capcom titles, they were just homebrew stuff like Stick Fighter; where you got nothing but wireframe fighters programmed on Street Fighter moves using digitized samples from the arcades.
I think in that type of environment, Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the Game Boy Advance would have been a great seller. Unfortunately, with the demise of arcades and the fact that I can't assume Street Fighter is part of every boy's childhood, it's become a moot point.
Undoubtedly, a lot of work went into this compilation. There are thirty-three characters to choose from and each character is able to fight under distinct styles. Almost all of the arcade material, secret characters and stages are included here, so it can't be said that developers went skimping when it came to the material.
One thing that irked me about playing Street Fighter without the arcade controls was the learning curve associated with each platform. I'd perfect using the num-lock keypad at home on the PC, only to find my skills weren't that great in the arcades. I'd do great with a Genesis controller, only to lose horribly when I went over to a SNES owner's Street Fighter fiefdom.
Let's face it: the Game Boy Advance doesn't have one of the best control schemes out there. For a title that is so concerned with timing and executing pre-programmed sequences of buttons, it's a developer's nightmare. Even if you know the moves of your favorite character inside out, there's room for error executing them, including the basic ones, on the Game Boy Advance. The best parallel I can think of is playing Dance Dance Revolution at home versus playing it in the arcades. There are quirks with playing it on a plastic mat, just like there are quirks with handling Street Fighter on the Game Boy Advance.
One might hope that the SP unit coming soon might help rectify some of the problems. As it stands now, you'll have a hard time getting a perfect game. And even if you do, it means you'll have to fight a learning curve.
In terms of completeness, though, you can't beat this package, especially on a handheld system. The audio effects and soundtrack have been pared down, but this is as close as Nintendo's handheld will get in recreating the arcade experience. Street Fighter Alpha 3 is also a landmark canon in the series; probably why Capcom and its developers continue to push it after so many appearances on other platforms. One could also argue the same for Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
The Street Fighter faithful will be able to appreciate this package, flaws or no flaws. Since the Game Boy Advance is not anywhere close to being a 3D monster, we shouldn't be expecting titles like Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive making the sojourn over anytime soon, if at all. Thus, for all intents and purposes, this could be one of the definitive titles you'll see on this platform when it comes to the 2D fighting genre.