This guide is primarly written for those of you coming from SF4, and are most familiar with that game. So, much of what I’m going to discuss will often directly reference SF4 or be written with SF4 in mind.
I really hope that this game enjoys a serious revival, and remains relevant for many years to come! This is my favorite SF game if you can’t already tell. I hope many of you newbies and veterens alike come to share my enthusiasm. Let’s get started!
Welcome to the world of Street Fighter 3
Street Fighter III:3rd Strike is the 3rd iteration of the series (1996-1999). It introduced 5 new characters, completely new backgrounds, music, and presentation, and tweaked/revamped with a tighter, better gameplay than the previous two games. To many (myself included), it is the pinnacle
of the Street Fighter series. It is the SF title that seperates the men from the boys. Fight for the future, the 3rd Strike ya’ll.
Firstly, those coming from SF4 are going to immediately notice how much different SF3 feels. 3rd Strike is a smoother and faster playing game to 4. Speed wise, it is quicker but not ST fast. ST>>SF3>>SF4 is the pecking order regarding game speed.
The first thing I advise for new players is to feel it out in training mode, practice simple bread and butter combos, dashing, walk speed, etc. It won’t take you long to adjust, but it may be kind of jarring going back and forth between SF4 and SF3.
SF3 is fairly well balanced. What it amounts to in 3s is that some characters simply have better options than other characters. Lower tiered characters are far, far from being worthless. It just means that for one, there tactics, while decent, aren’t as good as others and that 2, it just means you need to know matchups better.
Characters with good balance and a great offense are Alex, Necro, Ibuki, Elena, Yang, Akuma, Ken, Ryu. Urien and Oro have unblockables and can do sick damage off of them. Characters with great defense include Chun Li, Q, Hugo. Yun and Akuma are the glass cannons. Dudley has the scariest mixup in the game. Twelve is the only character in the game built completely around pokes, but he takes little damage. Remy has underrated pressure, can play safe, and great offensive but his low vitality is his weakness. Finally, Sean may be the “Dan” of the game, but you’d be suprised to see that at high level he is actually a somewhat decent character
The game isn’t as balanced as 4, but what I find interesting is that in Japan for instance, there is actually more character variety at high level in 3s than there is in 4. Check out TheShend’s youtube channel for proof of this.
Super cancelling is very essential in 3rd Strike. Unlike SF4 where few characters need this, in 3rd Strike -everyone- uses Super Cancelling so learning this is key. Now, remember, I’m talking about Super Cancelling and not hit Confirming. There is a difference.
Super cancelling is simply cancelling a normal move into super. For instance, with Ken you can cancel his target combo (MP into HP) into SAIII. Practice this and crouching MK cancelled into super over and over until it is second nature to you.
There is a big misconception amongst new and even old 3s players as to what hit confirming is, and the importance of the tactic. I want to state that hit confirming is one of the last things you should be implementing into your game. Players tend to put so much weight on hit confirms, that they try to learn it before learning the basics of the game first. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Putting all your emphasis on hit confirms before you have a strong foundation of the basics will result in you losing and getting frustrated in high level play.
That isn’t to say that hit confirming is some incredibly difficult, high level tactic. On the contrary, hit confirming is alot easier than it seems at first. I know this sounds contradicting, so let me explain.
Hit confirming is activation of a super on a “hit” of a move. For instance, Ken’s c.MK into SAIII can be hit confirmed. You “confirm” the hit when you see your c.MK landed on screen, then activate the super. If your c.MK is blocked, you don’t activate the super. In training mode, this seems like it would be extremely difficult. And it is at first. However, hit confirming is something that comes very natural with experience.
What you will come ot learn is that any time you are going for a c.MK into super, you can actually not finish the combo if you so choose. For some people this means not pressing the final K if the move doesn’t connect, for others it means not releasing the final K (negative edge). Remember, you must first master cancelling into super before you can master hit confirming. We crawl before we walk.
When you first try this at first, you may find it is almost impossible to be quick enough. You may think to yourself, I must need godlike reaction to make this work. However, what you will find in your experience with 3s is that you will actually be able to do this, without thinking about it, as you get better. That’s why I say, it’s something that will come later, and not something that you should strive to learn early on in training mode. It’s only something that will come with time. And I promise you, it will come. I promise. It just takes time, and even the best players screw it up from time to time, just like even the best players drop combos, fuck up 1 frame links, or miss easy parries.
There are really easy hit confirms though, that you can learn right off the bat. C.MP into SAIII is an easy hit confirm for Ken, and one that you will have no trouble with.
C.MK is the difficult hit confirm with Ken. Here’s one way to practice it in training mode. Simply practice doing c.MK into super every time. Over and over. Once you have mastered this, now just do the motion how you would normally, but instead don’t press the very last input (K). Do this until you can do it on will. This is where you will learn a little something about yourself, in that you will see if you naturally are a negative edger or not. Some people need to input K at the last second, while others negative edge by nature.
In the heat of battle, after some experience, you will be able to quickly discern a hit from a block, and thus on hit you will press K, while on block you won’t thus you will not finish the combo and you will stay safe. You will do this without even thinking eventually. Eventually, it will be second nature. Trust me (I know I’ve stated this twice now, but it bares repeating!)
I’ve touched on hit confirming, but let this be the last thing you implement into your game. For right now, learning the basics of 3s is much more important. Having a strong foundation is key to mastering 3s.
Footsies at midrange/far midrange:
Works basically the same as they do in other SF games, since you are effectively outside of parry range. One of the great advantages of Ken and Chun Li is that from this range, if they counter your normal with a c.MK, they can super off it. Also, from here you don’t have to hit confirm, since you obviously can’t combo off a c.MK if it misses. Versus some characters, Ken can litterally sit at this range and be almost completely safe, risking only minor damage off a countered poke.
Zoning and Space control:
Zoning and space control are mostly just the same as any SF game. You need a strong foundation of your characters footsies, poke range, and move properties to become good. However, this is where parrying differentiates 3s from any other SF game that has come before.
You know how you always read that fireballs are best used as a “poke”? IE, from the right range, you are essentially using it as an extended footsie that has better range. With 3s, that philosophy is completely realized. You cannot, like in other games, use FB’s to bait an opponent into jumping, you can’t spam them from a distance, and you can’t really use them to pressure like you can in SF4 and SF2. Instead, they are best used at mid/farmidrange, sparingly, and as a poke. Think of your fireball like you would Rufus’ c.HP. A quick poke that covers a lot of range. With Ken, EX FB is very useful against characters like Chun Li for instance, because it disrupts their poke game.
Sit right outside of her poke range, and use it to punish her whiffed pokes. Safe and effective strategy that scores a knockdown every time. Just be careful when she has SAII stocked, as she can super right through a FB (just like Ultra 1 Chun in SF4).
Parrying can be the most fun, but also the most frustrating tactic in SF3 if you are not careful. Parrying, like hit confirming, should be one of the last things to implement into your game.
It is good to practice parrying in training mode to get a feel for the system. In 3rd Strike, there are two kinds of parrying: Blue and Red. The only difference between the two is that with Red parrying , you are parrying while in hitstun. Both forms of parry act the same: with the stick in a neutral position, tap down to parry low and forward to parry high. In the air you only need to tap forward.
Parrying multi-hit moves is more difficult. However, the good news is that 90% of multi-hit parrys in the game have the exact same timing. This timing is most easily learned by practicing against Ryu’s EX and Shinkuu Hadokens.
Both the EX and Shinkuu hadoken have the exact same timing per hit, and it never changes. The only difference is, obviously, one is 2 hits the other is 5. I can’t describe to you the timing, but I will say it is not hard, and after a little bit of practice will become second nature.
Parrying supers with 1-2 frame startup: Again, just like with the Shinkuu hadoken, the timing on these is exactly the same, with one small difference: You need to have already pressed forward before the super freeze. If you have not already pressed forward by this time, then immediately hold back to block, because otherwise, you will eat the super. You cannot parry it after the super freeze.
This is why that Evo Moment with Daigo and Justin is such a big deal. It wasn’t so much parrying down the super itself, but rather that Daigo was actually able to bait the super, pressing forward at the exact right moment before the super flash to catch it. Parrying the rest, anyone can do that with enough practice in training mode*
*still, doing a full parry and not screwing up with a lot of people watching you and screaming is not so easy. Practice, practice, practice!
Anti air in SF3 is very different from any other SF game for the simple fact that parrying can negate any attempt at it. This means that anti-airing an opponent goes from brain-dead easy
(using a simple AA poke) to needing an entire strategy behind it!
The first option you have against an opponent jumping in on you is to parry the jump in. At first this may seem to be the best option, but there are a few problems with this. Some characters, like Dudley and Alex for instance, can hit you high (in the head) mid (in the chest area) or very low to the ground (thigh area), land and do a combo. This makes parrying a jumpin much more difficult.
Some characters have good AA pokes to counter this, but Ken isn’t one of them. Standing HP isn’t bad, and you can combo afterwards if they parry it, but that combo can still be parried. Now you see 3s can get complicated!
You also do have an SRK, but it doesn’t have invincibility in 3s so it might trade. Another tactic you can use is dashing underneath a jumpin. This puts you on the other side and can confuse the opponent, not to mention with Ken it sets you up for a mixup. A move like EX Shoryuken with Ken isn’t a terrible option. It hits 3 to 4 times depending on where it lands, and many opponents have difficulty doing multi-hit parries. Still, I would only use this sparingly. Most really good players will have no problem parrying all 3 hits if they see this coming.
Another element to jumpins in 3s is that your opponent may jump in “clean”, IE without attacking. What they are actually doing, though, is looking for you to poke them out of the sky, so they are tapping forward trying to parry that attempt. Standing Jab is your friend in this situation. You can simply press Jab, and if it’s parried press it again, which if it hits will reset them out of the air. Some characters, like Ryu, can actually land a Super on the resetted opponent.
Finally, you can simply block the jumpin, obviously this is your safest option, but you will be at the mercy of the opponents mixup game when they land.
There is no focus attack in SF3. So, just forget about focus attacks and focus attack dash cancelling. Instead, MP+MK is your universal overhead attack. Every character has one. The universal overhead is a quick overhead attack that can be parried or blocked high. It varies for each character, and most characters can combo or even super after a successful UOH, making this a very strong tool. With Ken, practice UOH into SAIII. Remember, this only works if the character is crouching. Hitting a standing character with UOH will not combo.
Unlike SF4 where only Ken (correct me if I’m wrong) has a decent Kara throw, lot’s of characters in SF3 have them. The best in the game are Chun Li’s and Q’s. Learn the distance of these’s throws and you can learn to tech them. Characters with good Kara throws have a great answer to Ken’s up close pressure. They can simply try to block you, and counter with a Kara to get out of harms way. Learn to judge the kara range, and bait your opponents kara throw. Staying like a pixel out of range, baiting the kara and then punishing with a target combo into Super is good, one of many options.
Ken is really awesome at controlling space. Standing HK is fast, does good damage, and covers alot of ground. Forwards +MK isn’t terrible at the right range, but it’s not as quick as standing HK, and definitely not as good as it is in SF4. So use it sparingly (if at all, really). F.HK is also not advised at high level. It’s simply too slow. Crouching MK has great range, and can be cancelled into SAIII. C.MP is suprisingly effective, and very easy hit confirm SAIII.
Counterpoking is mostly the same as in any SF game. One of Ken’s strengths is that he can cancel a super off a succesfful counterpoke in c.MK. This is definitely one of his strengths.
Ken standing MK is an excellent tool to use at close/midrange to effectively keep the opponent grounded.
Shoryuken’s in SF3 are still an ok reversal on wakeup, but unlike SF4 you cannot make them safe with an FADC.
Ken’s mixup is one of the best in the game. A good Ken can pressure from a wide range of distances. Up close, you want to mixup from 3 different options: Crouching LK Crouching LK super. MP+HP (target combo) into Super, UOH into Super, or throw. This makes Ken an insane threat from up close.
From close but not in-your-face close, you have a couple good options as well. Back+MK is a fast overhead that hits twice, and can be comboed into SAIII. UOH into SAIII is also good at this range. If you think your opponent will try to jump away, standing MK will keep them grounded. Of course, you’ll want to use c.MK SAIII or c.MP SAIII at this range as well. Dashing in for a throw, or dashing in for in-your-face pressure is good too.
From close-midrange, c.HK has deceptive range. Be warned, sweeps in this game have a lot more recovery than SF4. It is possible to punish a blocked Sweep by some characters.
Parrying and Mixup:
Mixup works just like it does in any other SF game, except here your opponents have a new option to deal with it: Parrying. Now, parrying is a great defensive system, but it is very risk/reward base. Parrying low opens you up to mid attacks, parrying high opens you to low attacks. Ken is awesome here. You can punish parry happy opponents big time. Both c.MK into Super and MP+HP into Super deals immense damage. Most opponents know that the best option versus Ken is to just block block block. Of course, this opens them up to throws and overheads.
In 3s it is not uncommon to watch a Ken player repeatedly throw their opponent twice even three times in a row, and you typically see this even at the highest level! It is possible to option select downback+throw, but this opens you to overheads. Again, this is why Ken is such a badass in this game, because he has great answers for everything.
Parrying and offensive:
Another high level tactic that you will see alot of Japanese players doing is offensive parrying. They will get within footsie range of you, like say mid-closerange, and tap forward or down looking to
parry a baited normal poke. Again it comes down to risk/reward. If a Ken player is sitting on a stock of SAIII, he can get into range and try to bait a footsie to parry, then punish with C.MK SAIII.
The risk/reward varies depending on the opponents character. For instance, this would be a very stupid tactic against Chun Li, because if she goes high OR low she can cancel into SAII, and it’s your ass. But against Q, the risk is very low since he can only use S.MK or C.MK,
and both pokes do minimal damage, whereas your reward for a successful parry is big damage. Again, this is another reason Ken is so powerful at close and close-midrange.
Ken final thoughts:
Ken is the “perfectly” balanced character in 3s. Not overpowered, but still has an advantage or even matchup with most of the cast. A great character for 3s newbies and vets alike, he’s top 3 or 4 in the game depending on whom you ask. His best matchup is against Twelve. His worst Chun Li.