Street Fighter Alpha 3

Street Fighter Alpha 3 (SFA3) is a 2D fighter that plays very differently from other Street Fighter games. Players select one of three styles called Isms before each game and each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. There is air blocking, air recovering, and universal air throws. Guard Power Gauge rewards players for pushing the action. The Custom Combo mechanic gives players more combo potential than perhaps any other Street Fighter game. The famous Alpha Counter mechanic made its debut with this series.

Helpful Resources

The Alpha 3 wiki.
ZERO Division Discord server.
Kyokuji FGC's Youtube is filled with Alpha 3 videos.

Notation

Attack Notation

LP Light Punch Jab
MP Medium Punch Strong
HP Heavy Punch Fierce
LK Light Kick Short
MK Medium Kick Forward
HK Heavy Kick Roundhouse

Directional Notation

up-back up up-forward
back neutral forward
down-back down down-forward
ub u uf
b n f
db d df

High attacks are overhead attacks that must be stand blocked. Mid attacks are attacks that can be blocked with both stand block and crouch block.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 uses Legacy frame data notation. If an attack has 7 frames of startup, it hits on the 8th frame.

Throws are performed with forward/back and two punches or two kicks. There is a whiff animation if unsuccessful. Whiffing throw builds meter and you'll see players doing that occasionally. Throws have 5 frames of startup. Throws have to be softened with the same input. If the attacker does a kick throw, the defender must soften it with two kick buttons. Softening throws reduces damage and the defender air recovers instead of getting knocked down.

Throws are not used often because they're not that powerful and because players prefer to pressure with blockstrings and frame traps up close. Guard Power Gauge depletes when an attack is blocked. When it is empty, the character suffers a guard break and is completely vulnerable. To make things worse, the Guard Power Gauge permanently shortens for the rest of the round and shortens again each time the character gets guard broken. Eventually, one or two hits is enough to guard break a character. Getting the first guard break is very important as it strongly influences the outcome of the match. Learn blockstrings just for depleting Guard Power Gauge.

Guard break doesn't replace dizzy. Yes you can dizzy someone, get a big combo, guard break them, and get another big combo. Thankfully getting guard broken resets dizzy.

Using an Alpha Counter also permanently shortens the Guard Power Gauge for the rest of the round. It's best to Alpha Counter near the end of the round or when you absolutely must get your opponent away from you.

Blocking a couple frames before an attack connects is a Timing Guard or blue block. This reduces the amount of Guard Power Gauge depleted and reduces chip damage. The character flashes blue when successful.

Pressing a direction while getting hit slightly decreases damage taken. The character and their portrait flashes red when successful. The window for this is very short so it's difficult to time. The damage reduction is not much but if you're getting comboed you might as well mash directions because you have nothing to lose.

Counter hitting with a heavy attack launches the opponent. Counter hitting an airborne character with any attack floats them for a juggle.

After recovering from a juggle (not air reset) hold back, neutral, or forward and press two punches to air recover. All air recoveries have a little bit of invincibility at the beginning and become vulnerable at the end. Neutral air recovery keeps the character in place then drops them down. Forward air recovery keeps the character in place but pops them up into the air. Backwards air recovery moves the character backwards and pops them into the air. Neutral air recovery is the preferred option in most situations.

Every character can air throw. Air throw has 1 frame of startup and can be teched. Outside of being used to end juggles, it's also used to chase air recovery.

There is air blocking and it blocks air attacks and fireballs. Grounded attacks are air unblockable. Grounded attacks are attacks where the character has part of their body touching the ground. An early DP can be air blocked but a late DP cannot because the character's foot is still touching the ground.

After a knockdown or air reset, hold forward and press two kicks to quick recover roll. Keep holding forward to roll even farther. The roll is vulnerable. After a knockdown, the defender can choose to air recover or wait to land on the ground and quick recover. Most players air recover because it's temporarily invincible.

Unlike Street Fighter Alpha 2, both players start the round with full Super Combo Level Gauge. Players have a choice of one of three Isms to choose from.

X-Ism is the simple style. It has no quick recovery, air blocking or Alpha Counter. Attacks do more damage in this style but you also take more damage. The Guard Power Gauge is the longest. There is only one super combo in this Ism and it is the level 3 super combo.

A-Ism (Z-Ism in Japan) is the default style. There are 3 levels of super combos. Level 1 is performed with light buttons, Level 2 with medium buttons, and Level 3 with heavy buttons. This is a good style to choose from if you're learning the game and if your character doesn't have looping combos.

V-Ism is the custom combo (CC) style. Instead of a Super Level Combo Gauge, you get an Original Combo Gauge. You need 50% of your meter to be filled to activate Original Combo but meter builds the fastest in this style.

With at least 50% meter press both the punch and kick button of the same strength to activate Original Combo. The activation is invincible and the more meter you had on activation the longer it is invincible. It is the best reversal in the game. It's commonly used to beat meaties, fireballs, and jump ins. It can be activated in the air to escape juggles.

The strength of buttons pressed on activation determines the speed of the following shadows. Light shadows repeat actions quickly. Medium shadows repeat actions after a delay. Heavy shadows repeat actions slowly.

Here are the rules of canceling attacks in Original Combo. Normal attacks can only be canceled on hit. Special attacks can be canceled on hit, whiff, and during recovery. The recovery of special attacks can be canceled into a special attack or normal attack. Attacks that hit during Original Combo are given counter hit juggle properties.

Let's look at a basic Original Combo. Ryu's hop kick is a good normal attack because it moves him forward. On hit, he can special cancel it into a fireball. Then the fireball's recovery frames will be canceled into another hopkick. He can loop this combo until the gauge is depleted.

Original Combo has uses outside of combos. It can inflict a lot of chip damage.

It can deplete a lot of Power Guard Gauge.

Crouch canceling is a technique used to indefinitely extend juggle combos in the corner. This is what it looks like. It looks very simple but the execution and explanation of it is rather complicated.

If you try this without knowing how crouch canceling works, your opponent will air recover out of the juggle. This happens because the defender air recovers when the attacker returns to neutral. Crouch canceling takes advantage of an exploit in the game engine to guarantee the attacker doesn't return to neutral. If a character crouches during their landing frames then jumps before 4 frames elapses, the game does not consider this returning to neutral.

Crouch canceling most often happens after an Original Combo has left the opponent juggled in the corner. There's no drawback to crouch canceling outside it being very difficult to execute.

If you have Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, you can test if your crouch cancel combo is a real combo. Go into training mode then turn counter hit and air recovery on. If the training dummy falls out of the combo, air recovers, or the combo number changes color it is not a true combo.

What can you do to prevent yourself from dying to an infinite combo? If both players have V-Ism stocked, the first player to activate is considered to be at a disadvantage. The defender can try to run away to run the timer out. They can Alpha Counter to waste more time. Or they can activate Original Combo themselves and use the invincibility frames to avoid attacks and start their own combo.

A lot of crouch cancel infinite combos are not real combos. A lot of juggles involve letting the defender air recover to hit them afterwards because the end of air recovery is not invincible. However, the defender can activate Original Combo during air recovery to become fully invincible and escape the juggle.

Alpha Counter

An Alpha Counter is a defensive mechanic that cancels blockstun into a predetermined attack. It is used to escape pressure and is one of the few tools you have that can escape true blockstrings. Most Alpha Counters require meter and are either fully invincible or strike-invulnerable. Alpha Counters that are not invincible or invulnerable are usually free.

The best time for a defender to use an Alpha Counter is after blocking an attack with a lot of recovery. Stronger attacks inflict more blockstun, meaning more blockstun is canceled and the Alpha Counter is more likely to hit.

Don't get obsessed with Alpha Countering on reaction. Remember that blockstun is a range. Alpha Countering during the last frames of blockstun may be too late to punish attacks. You will have to Alpha Counter most attacks preemptively before you can even react to what you just blocked.

In blockstun press forward and a punch and kick of the same strength to perform the Alpha Counter. Street Fighter Alpha 3's Alpha Counter requires 1 Super Level in A-Ism or 50% Original Combo Gauge in V-Ism. It permanently shortens the Guard Power Gauge for the rest of the round and should be used sparingly. While it does very little damage, it can actually kill.

Beating Alpha Counter

The attacker can do an attack with little recovery then recover quick enough to block the Alpha Counter. While it doesn't guarantee a punish in most games, it gives the attacker frame advantage.

In many games Alpha Counters are fully invincible. In other games they are strike-invulnerable but not throw-invulnerable. Throw them.

Depending on the range of the Alpha Counter, they can whiff and be whiff punished.

If the Alpha Counter is invincible, safe on block, and won't whiff the only way to beat it is by avoiding it and punishing the recovery frames. This can be done with movement or with defensive mechanics like a parry.

You shouldn't always try to beat Alpha Counters. Getting your opponent to Alpha Counter is a small victory for you because you forced them to spend meter and now they'll have less resources to fight you with.