Capcom’s treatment of their Darkstalkers brand should constitute as abuse. Negligence is one thing, but the merciless teasing? That’s another issue entirely. Neglect a brand long enough and fans, miserable as they may be, will eventually lose all hope of a revival. Not so with Darkstalkers. Despite over twelve years having passed since the last mainline Darkstalkers game, Capcom has deviously drip fed fans of the ghoulish fighter character and art cameos in every other franchise that isn’t Darkstalkers. Marvel Vs. Capcom, Project X Zone, and even We Love Golf! It seems not a single Capcom game passes without Morrigan and her entourage representing. But still, no Darkstalkers.
As a wee bit of a stopgap, Capcom has partnered with the excellent Iron Galaxy Studios to give Darkstalkers a semi-revival in the form of the latter studio’s similar Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online and Marvel vs. Capcom Origins. That means an old game ported and touched up for the HD generation. And, generous as they sometimes are, Capcom has ensured Iron Galaxy port not one but two Darkstalkers games: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Darkstalkers 3, together in what we call Darkstalkers Resurrection.
Right off the bat, including both Darkstalkers’ Revenge (which was the second Darkstalkers title) and Darkstalkers 3 provides excellent value for money. Unlike the third entry, Darkstalker’s Revenge has a fairly muddled release history when it comes to anywhere outside of Japan, appearing only on rare collection bundles and other obscure, hard-to-find releases. For long time Darkstalkers fans, this is perhaps the best decision Iron Galaxy could have made. Darkstalkers Revenge built upon the very first game’s formula just enough to really work the series into a more personalised groove, strengthening the series’ identity. Though similar steps were also taken for Darkstalkers 3, there’s no denying the legacy of Darkstalkers’ Revenge, as the two tend to splinter the fanbase between favourites.
Personally, I’m quite a bit more fond of Darkstalkers 3 over Darkstalkers’ Revenge, largely due to the revised health bar system (which essentially gives every character two life bars to fight over one round, with pause breaking the combat upon one life bar’s depletion, versus the latter game’s traditional two round system), the more preferable character roster (Q. Bee for life!), and the boosted production values. Nevertheless, two games for the price of one is hard to pass up, and for a feverish fanbase is as close to a “best case scenario” as you can get with the exception of porting all three games.
For those unfamiliar with what Darkstalkers brings to the table over Capcom’s other fighting series, like Street Fighter, the first major point of difference most players will notice is the speed. While a tight game of Street Fighter can provide a fast moving experience, the series is out matched by Darkstalkers’ rapid motion between combos and counters. This can both work in favour and against the series depending on your taste. For some, the higher speed may prove to be a steeper learning curve, as timing frames for throw counters and chain combos are a bit tighter and less lenient. I’m light years away from the ballpark of what some might call “pro” at fighters, and having not played the series for some time, the faster motion and more demanding response time from the player threw me for a loop.
But once you get into a groove both Darkstalkers titles open up quite admirably, making allowances for combos of almost any variety, and best of all counters for pretty much everything the opposition throws at you. Again, it’s all down to the timing.
As noted, Darkerstalkers’ Revenge offers a more traditional two-round fighting system, meanwhile Darkstalkers 3 has a dual life bar over a single round. The latter also boosts health regeneration, as attacks eating away at a health bar leave a percentage open for regeneration, should the defending player keep the opposition at bay. Both of these changes better accommodate the faster flowing combat system in my opinion, further emphasising the importance of aggressive play and the costly price of stalemates. As a staple of Capcom’s fighters, each has a super bar that *surprise* allows characters to execute special attacks, while Darkstalkers 3 takes this further by allowing stackable super bars instead of just the one.
It’s for these reasons that I really do feel Darkstalkers 3 is the most unique of the two (or three, if you count the whole series) games, and in some ways makes Darkstalkers’ Revenge feel a little regressive. In my free game time I’m far more likely to spend my brawling with Darkstalkers 3, but I also know some fans would eat me alive if I ever said that to their face. Different strokes for different folks.
Basic fighting mechanics aside, one of the most enduring qualities across both games is the highly diverse and almost totally clone free character roster, earning praise sung by the fanbase for years. Though Darkstalkers 3 does ditch a few Darkstalkers’ Revenge characters, it does replace them with equally cool characters, and retains the philosophy of heavily pesonalised movesets and specials for each fighter. Even characters that can draw similarities, like Morrigan and Lilith, are distant enough to accommodate different playstyles. Darkstalkers has remained one of those few fighting series where no character has gone to waste, as new additions are always totally unique in function and form, and not a transparent excuse to remix an existing character’s moveset.
Though all of this might sound intimidating, Iron Galaxy have gone the extra mile to provide both Darkstalkers games with character specific “challenges” that, in function, act like tutorials. Pick a character and take on the AI directed guided challenges and you’ll sooner or later get a hang of the basic combo fundamentals, as well as specials, specifically for your chosen avatar. Thus any argument of a steeper learning curve is kinda made moot, as Darkstalkers Resurrection does more than enough to accommodate new players.
In addition to the above, enhancements to Darkstalkers Revenge will strike a chord with anybody familiar with Iron Galaxy’s other enhanced port work. Numerous visual tweaks offer togglable filters and perspectives for how the original pixel art is rendered, including 3D “arcade cabinet” play, cleaning up the old pixel art or, if you’re a traditionalist, keeping those pixels sharp and pure. Regardless of the choice (both look good), I’ve always been very fond of Darkstalkers artwork and animation, both richly colourful and lively in motion. The series iconic 50′s horror inspire designs give the games a peculiar look that stands out among not only the current crop of fighters on the market, but the genre entire. There’s something brilliantly sassy, sexy, and naughty about all the characters in Darkstalkers, a cheeky, dark sexuality, which serves as yet another reminder of the disappointment surrounding the franchise’s baffling end.
In-game challenges allow players to accumulate points for completing game objectives, pre-determined combo and special abilities, and so on, which can be then spent in the vault to unlock a multitude of character concept art, videos, and other content. It’s the kind of content padding that best suits a game that never really had anything like this to begin with. Easily ignored by those who don’t care about anything other than the fighting itself, and a nice, inoffensive bonus for those after a little extra.
As with their previous games, Iron Galaxy has made use of the GGPO netcode for online play, which is more than serviceable for a game like this, along with several welcome enhancements like regional filters, frame tweaking to better suit ping fluctuations, and tournament options. The additions are all logical steps forward for Iron Galaxy’s enhanced ports, filling gaps, small and large, in what the previous titles offered. From the online pay I experienced lag was minimal-to-non-existent, and though I’ve heard reports of one or two frame control delay, I can’t say I ever noticed such issues (though pro players far more sensitive to even the slightest delay may see what I do not). The newly introduced YouTube upload feature seems to be the only addition that’s a bit shaky. Audio delays are not unusual and upload system itself is a bit rough, but I’m sure it can be ironed out in a patch or two.
To put it frankly, it’s quite hard to fault Darkstalkers Resurrection, as it achieves the two most important things I think an enhanced port should: value for money, and how the ported games have stood the test of time. Value is self explanatory: Darkstalkers Resurrection is two games, not one. Two games that have plenty to differentiate them, whether it be roster and stage selection, to the fighting mechanics themselves. Iron Galaxy have also picked the two Darkstalkers titles most popular among the fanbase. I like Darkstalkers 3 the most, and quite easily. But plenty of other gamers prefer Darkstalkers’ Revenge. Why have one when you can have both, ported with absolutely faithfulness to their original releases? At a measly $15, there’s your value.
As for standing the test of time, I maintain that both Darkstalkers games not only diversified Capcom’s fighter line-up back in the golden age of arcade games, but still fill a void in the genre. The series is not one of palette swapped clones and copy-cat mechanics. Darkstalkers plays different enough to basically everything else on the market that it has every right to be considered it’s own damn thing. Because it is. And that’s just in play. In presentation, there’s few if any other fighters that manage to capture the dark and sexy horror of Morrigan, Felicia, Lord Raptor, Q. Bee, Hsien-Ko, and the rest. And sure, the pixel art has aged in technically, but hardly in style. Animations as lively as the best Capcom has ever produced. And the soundtrack really goes without saying. There’s moody jazz and upbeat electronic tunes here that old school fighting fans have been humming for over a decade.
If you’ve never played Darkstalkers but have a flavour for fighting games, it would be criminal to pass up Darkstalkers Resurrection. If you’re a fan of the series, Resurrection might just be the hit you’ve been hungering for too long. Regardless of which group you’ll fall into, the real glaring fault you’ll find with Darkstalkers Resurrection is that it’s not Darkstalkers 4. For old fans, we’ll just have to keep those mangled fingers crossed that an announcement is due in the not-too-distant-future, because it’s not like Capcom has much left to port. As for the new fans? Welcome to the club.
Both games stand the test of time | Iconic presentation and themes | Solid netcode
It's not Darkstalkers 4