Saying that SF3:3s would be better if it was better balanced has resulted in a lot of personal attacks and hatred directed toward me. Not about the stated idea, but about me personally. That's sad to see after all the support I've given fighting games over the years, from helping running tournaments to working on the games themselves. Not real encouraging, you know. There's also a really strange claim that I only want 3s to be better because I don't like the game. As hard as it is to wrap your mind around that, let's think about it.
Street Fighter Alpha2
What would a love letter to the players of Street Alpha2 look like? I really like this game. Is the reason I like it because of the balance? No, it's because of the gameplay system. Regarding the balance, there's a top tier of ken, ryu, chun li, rose and they're pretty solid all around. I mean maaaaaybe chun li's Custom Combo does a bit too much damage (or maybe it's ok), but these top characters don't really need fixing. Zangief and Sakura are just below them, within striking distance, and they happen to have an unusually interesting match against each other. Probably don't want to mess with that. It is kind of annoying that Sakura's main combo is ducking short, short, stand short, dragon punch and that it overlaps with her near-useless triple hop move that gets you killed. Probably should make that a non-overlapping input, but the fun and balance are both ok here.
And then there's Birdie. Birdie is terrible and literally the worst character in the game, worse than Dan. Yes, really. If you write a love letter to me as a fan of the game, would it involve giving me the known-bad quantity of Birdie, a character who I can't really reasonably pick, or would this "love letter" give me what I liked about the game originally AND a pickable Birdie? Well, because I love the game, I would love to have a new choice in it, so of course I'd rather have reasonable Birdie instead of worthless Birdie. I played Birdie a bit in SF Alpha1, even, and he was stronger there but not even that good. It's not to hard to adjust him back up to at least be half-decent.
Adon is another example. He doesn't have much going for him, and just making his stand roundhouse half a decent hitbox and frame stats would be at least something. One of the very few good things he has is a good low strong, and interestingly that was actually *redrawn* and made worse in SFA2 Gold. So uh, that is not a love letter. A love letter would be fixing up Birdie, Adon, and a few other things with some of the worst characters. As I outlined above, there isn't really a problem with the first and second tiers.
I love Puzzle Fighter! Is the reason I love it because of the game balance? No. (There's a strawman argument I see all the time that I think balance is the only important quality in a game. It just happens to be an easier one to quantify than general fun.) Anyway, what a great game, but there's only two characters you can pick. Would a love letter to me give me 2 characters I can pick and the entire rest of the cast worthless, or would a love letter give me a whole cast to actually enjoy? To give me just those 2 guys playable when you know full well all the problems seems pretty sloppy to me, so yes please do something about that. There's a lot of reasonably playable characters in Puzzle Fighter HD, and I don't think anyone sees that as "bad."
Another great game. Is the reason I like this game because of the balance? No. It has to do with how the game system works, how attacking is rewarded so much, how fast it is, etc. As far as fighting games go, the balance here is pretty good. It does have problem matchups and it could be better, so as "controversial" as it is, a love letter to me about this game would give some low tiers a little help, like maybe let Cammy's cannon drill be safer.
Ok now here's the plot twist for you. Street Fighter HD Remix does *not* really fit into this list very well. My original proposal at the start of development was to fix a few balance things amongst the low tiers, and it was like less than 10 things total. Maybe like 5 or something, I forget. Capcom said they would prefer that instead of changing a couple things, that it actually be a new version of the game, like a sequel, and that it also include the original game. There wasn't even going to be any old music or any way to see the old sprites. Luckily we *were* able to add support for those anyway later on in development (business people said it was too costly to include the correct implementations of the old backgrounds though). Anyway, the point is a new game. Very surprising to me, but sure ok let's do it. In that case, more drastic changes are on the table, like fixing all sorts of overlapping motions and the randomness involved in input detection. Remaking characters entirely like Fei Long and Sagat. So even though I think HD Remix turned out great, that it's more accessible, has improved balance, and has more fun (example: boring OP O.Sagat vs more mobile, fair Remixed Sagat), it doesn't fit into the list in this post very well because it's a sequel. It's not fixing a few things, it's a new game.
Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting
I really, really like this game. Some people think it's even better than ST, and I won't really take sides on that but I think it's on par, at the least. Is it because of the balance? Again, no, it's about the gameplay. How is the balance though? It happens to be pretty fantastic. The top tier of about 5 characters are all solid, and not there due to some degenerate strategy. The second tier, and actually--almost the entire cast--is reasonably pickable. Wow!
And then there's Vega and Bison. These poor guys stand out as weaker than the rest, and they really could use some help. Poor neutered Vega. And Bison, who was way too good in the previous version of the game, really got overnerfed here. A love letter to me about this game would do something about these two guys. I really like the game, and the game plus a decent Vega and Bison would be even better. The only two other things that come to mind are the bug allowing low short to chain into fierce (that should probably be fixed...) and maybe something about throw softening. I like that throws are good, but it's a bit harsh that they do huge damage and can't even be softened. That one's negotiable though. Basically fix up Vega/Bison and show that you cared enough and I'd be happy.
In the comments section for my last post on this, someone suggested disabling parrying in the air and parrying of projectiles. The reason would be to increase the importance of zoning. I think that is likely to lead to more interesting gameplay, but that is a real big change. It sounds more like a sequel to me. A "love letter to fans" would be more like everything else in my list above. You love the game because of the gameplay system (not because of the balance), so you'd want that intact. But if you could play that game with a decent Q or Twelve or whoever, that would be quite a love letter. It would show that someone cared enough to fix the very well-known balance problems with the game, and hopefully they'd leave most things how you liked them unless it was an actual sequel to the game, like HD Remix. In the games I listed above, I didn't mention changing any of the top tier characters. Often it's a good idea to leave those, but in the special case of 3s, such a love letter might slightly weaken the two best characters because the gap happens to be so large.
You might think a love letter means intentionally leaving known-problems unfixed, but to me it means treating those with care and doing something about it. I also noticed some people are offended(???) by my mention of my own games in a post on my own website. I think bringing up Puzzle Strike is very relevant to this discussion actually, and not as some sort of marketing plug (though if it had been a marketing plug--which it wasn't really--I don't see the problem there either). I mentioned it before because the issues were talking about here aren't just theoretical. I have to deal with them all the time, for real, in my actual work. We've found that Puzzle Strike has some balance problems, so what should we do about it? The most common answers in traditional board games are to do nothing or to release an expansion that addresses whatever the issue was while leaving the first game in a problem-state. Well, I don't really like those answers. That isn't a love letter to the community in my opinion, and I think I have sort of an obligation to address the balance issues that have been shown in tournaments after the game's release. If someone likes Puzzle Strike, I think they'd like it more with the worst couple guys reasonable to play and the best couple guys not dominating all the tournaments. Same for 3s, same for Puzzle Fighter the video game, and so on.
So if someone said that a love letter to fans about Puzzle Fighter involved making sure that *only* Ken and Donovan are good enough to pick, and that true-love means keeping the other characters in a sorry state, I'd be pretty mad as a player. It would ruin the much better love letter of giving fans the game they love with, say, 6 or 8 real characters instead of 2.