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Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Review

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Review

Get ready to hear Ryu and company belt out the infamous Hadouken scream as the Street Fighter franchise arrives on the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Capcom has released a near-perfect arcade conversion of the classic fighter Street Fighter Alpha 3 (SFA 3) for the PSP. The newly re-dubbed Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max is the second version of the fighter to appear on a handheld with the first being a Game Boy Advance (GBA) release.

Sure, the GBA release was great, but it didn’t feature all of the fighters’ levels, nor was the soundtrack up to par with other home console adaptations. The game was also limited due to the lack of buttons on the GBA. Now, does the PSP version fair any better?

The answer is yes, and surprisingly no. The game itself is a perfect port of the arcade version. It looks and feels like the famed Dreamcast rendition, which was, up to now, the best version of SFA 3. The audio is top notch, something you’d naturally come to expect out of a Capcom fighter. So what’s wrong? Let just say it’s not the game, but the PSP itself.

Sony’s handheld wasn’t really designed with fighters in mind. The D-pad is pretty inadequate, which translates in hard to reproduce combos and special moves. Gamers who’ve had the opportunity to experience the game on other platforms will wish they had the opportunity to use a more precise D-pad. Don’t even think of trying to play SFA 3 Max using the so-called PSP analog stick as it’s rather unpleasant, and quite frankly, unplayable.

You could always scour the Internet and attempt to find one of the adhesive D-pad covers that were issued by Capcom as a pre-order bonus, but who would really want to permanently modify their PSP for a single game? Also, a PSP Grip add-on also helps quite a bit when playing marathon sessions of SFA 3 Max.

Controls aside, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max is probably the best looking version of the game, something that has a lot to do with the PSP’s LCD display. Every color and pixel look crystal clear in comparison to its former PS One incarnation. The attention to detail for the characters and backgrounds are just phenomenal. The anime style of SFA 3 has never looked so good.

The visuals can also be enjoyed either in wide or normal mode settings. The wide setting presents, or stretches, the game in a wide screen mode, while the original option shrinks down action to be viewed the way Capcom originally intended it to be.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max contains a total of 15 game modes. Besides the traditional Arcade and Practice modes, the game offers two-on-one battles in the form of Dramatic (play with an AI-controlled character) and Reverse-Dramatic (play against two computer-controlled opponents) modes. One of the most interesting game types is World Tour. In World Tour, you get to fight in various locales across the world in order to level-up your character, which can then be imported into other game types.

The SFA 3 Max soundtrack is also faithful to its original source. Every song from the arcade version is included in the PSP iteration. This is definitely a game that you will enjoy playing with your favorite set of headphones. A custom soundtrack feature would have been a welcomed option. Imagine being able to fight an opponent while listening to your favorite tunes. I guess we’ll have to wait for Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting on Xbox Live Arcade for the ability to play to the sound of our favorite songs.

A total of 37 playable characters are available out of the box. The game includes all of your favorite cast from Street Fighter 2 mixed in with characters from previous Alpha titles and various Capcom franchises. Four new faces are introduced in this version of Street Fighter Alpha 3. Three of the new characters (Yun, Maki, and Eagle) hail from Capcom vs. SNK 2, with one character (Ingrid) hailing from the forgettable Capcom Fighting Evolution.

SFA 3 Max also features an Ad-Hoc Wi-Fi functionality, which lets you duke it out with a few friends within close proximity. You can single, league and tournament games in VS Mode and Team Battle. The game also includes Variable and Dramatic Battle where you can either host or play as a guest.

Sadly, no online play was included with the game. Third party applications such as Xlink Kai Evolution VII can get you playing against others across the globe, but be warned the application can be a little difficult to setup. An official online mode would have definitely made the game a lot more interesting.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max definitely delivers, and if it wasn’t for the PSP control scheme, the game would have been perfect. SFA 3 Max will surely be a favorite in your PSP collection. I definitely won’t shy away from recommending this title, a definitive four out of five star game.

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Connect360, an iLife-to-Xbox 360 media solution

Connect 360

One of the most interesting features of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 at launch was its ability to connect to a Windows XP-based personal computer in order to stream digital content such as music and photos to the console. And as usual, Mac users got the cold shoulder. The only simple solution for them was to use an iPod as a form of content mediator. For many, whose media collection exceeded that of their iPod, this was not the best method for getting their music from their preferred digital hub to an Xbox 360 gaming system. That is, until Nullriver Software released Connect360, a piece of software that does exactly what the Windows Media Connect feature did on the Windows XP side of things, except better.

Nullriver first got on the gaming scene with the release of its user friendly PlayStation Portable content manager PSPware. PSPware used a simple Mac interface that fit perfectly with Apple’s iLife vision. The independent developer brought the same amount of attention to Connect360, and gave the software a distinct look and feel that surely doesn’t seem out of place on a Macintosh computer.

Installing Connect360 is simple as the program practically configures itself. The only thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that the internal OS X firewall is configured for the use of the software and that either port 1900 or 9335 is open on your network router.

After the program is up and running, Connect360 automatically indexes your iTunes and iPhoto libraries in order for them to be viewable on Microsoft’s gaming console. Afterwards, you’ll need to configure your Xbox 360 in order to view your computer’s media. All you need to do is open-up your Xbox Dashboard and go to your Media blade, then choose the music option and select the information that relates to your Macintosh computer. Simple and easy!

The current version of Connect360 (version 3.23) automatically updates your iTunes play count and play date for songs played through your Xbox 360. This is a great option for those who enjoy tracking their listening habits.

Sadly, due to digital rights management issues, you won’t be able to listen to songs you’ve purchased through the iTunes. Besides that, you’ll be able to stream MP3, WAV, AIFF, unprotected AAC and Apple Lossless files without a hitch.

With Connect360 you’ll also be able to view your iPhoto library on your television screen. The software supports several formats including jpeg and RAW images. A great way to share memories with friends and family.

Another nice Connect360 feature is its ability to function on both wired and wireless networks. In other words, any form of network that connects to a Mac OS X 10.3.9 (or better) system is compatible with Connect360.

Currently, Connect360 does not offer any form of video streaming. Hopefully, if Microsoft opens up the format for viewing on the Xbox 360, the function will be opened up in a future update. (UPDATE: Connect360 now supports streaming video. Supported codecs include WMV+WMA, AVI (DIVX/XVID), H.264 and MPEG4)

Interested parties can purchase Connect360 for $20USD through Nullriver’s website. The software is definitely a bargain when comparing it with TwonkyVision’s TwonkyMedia, which sells its basic software package for $39.95USD. If you still aren’t sure about the program, Nullriver has a trial version available for download.

Nullriver’s Connect360 is the must have application to extend your Macintosh digital hub away from the home office. And for $20, this is surely the cheapest solution for your multimedia needs. Check out Connect360 at http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360. Connect360 gets a perfect 5 out of 5 star rating.

System requirements:

Review edited on 01/07/08, added a streaming video update and changed the product’s pricing.

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