While everyone was plunking quarters into Street Fighter 2 mega ultra hyper sexy extra-characters revenge alpha beta omega crazy edition, I was dropping silver into a game that never got as much attention – Darkstalkers. Part of the same glut of 2D sidescrolling spritefests of my childhood, Darkstalkers only saw three titles in the arcade. The game featured characters from popular folklore from all over the world including succubi, vampiric lords, mummies, undead samurai, yeti, and more. Pushing away from the overused ultra-combo attacks of other games, Darkstalkers focused more on the quirky interwoven stories between the characters, as well as crazy (and sometimes disturbing) backdrops for battle. Forever cosplayed, this series gave us characters like Morrigan Aensland and Felicia as well as integrating some of the better improvements from the aforementioned Street Fighter titles. It has been since 1997 since we’ve seen a major console release for Darkstalkers (and that’s the original Playstation for those keeping score) but thankfully Capcom has kept the series alive courtesy of HD remakes and compilations. Today we take a look at the latest – Darkstalkers Resurrection.
The most impactful update to Darkstalkers Resurrection is the addition of online play. Once again taking a note from Street Fighter, we see the same care and attention paid to netcode, and tournament bracketing that we saw for Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online make its way into this title. For this title we also see more appropriate matching (i.e. regional play and the ability to check latency between you and your opponent – a critical item for a game this fast-paced) as well. This means standard and ranked player matches, a full online tournament mode, uploading to YouTube options, and much more for those wanting to test their skills worldwide. None of this comes as a shock as Iron Galaxy handled the HD update for all of those titles I just mentioned.
[singlepic id=11075 w=320 h=240 float=left]The second major update comes with a bump in the graphics department. The game is still the arcade-style sprites we all know and love, but carefully remastered to bring it up to high resolution. Additionally you can use several different aspect ratios while you play – 4:3 as it was for the original arcade release (the sides is filled in with cab-art style and scrolls with information like your character level and side objectives), widescreen, or even a mode I’m going to call “I got next” as it gives you a view from an angle like you are peering over the shoulder of the current player. I can’t see using this mode in any context, but it’s still pretty cool to see it included. All of the levels, whether they be beautiful or very disturbing are also lovingly updated to current standards. Sure, the dog barking in the background still seems to have all of about 4 frames of animation, but that’s how we purists like it. Adding HD filters to the mix can clean up some of the rough edges, but this is after all a pair of decade-plus old games we are talking about. Thankfully the animations are as crisp as ever, trumped only by the incredible amount of color we have come to know and expect from a Capcom fighter – few games hold up this well.
Included in this package is a pair of titles – Vampire Hunters: Dalkstalkers Revenge and Darkstalkers 3. While it may seem odd to bring two games to the table, there is enough of a difference between them to justify their inclusion. Night Warriors carries with it the old-school fighting style from early Street Fighter titles with a slightly slower pace and round-based fighting. Darkstalkers 3 pushes into more current-generation fighter styles with energy bars that extend through a knockout, guard health, a little faster speed, and a bevy of deep strategies like chip damage, specials, unblockables, resets, and more. Thankfully, Iron Galaxies has included a full guide system to train new players (or refresh rusty ones) on how to tackle all of these attack types with a full training system. While it isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it will take you from button masher to moderately experienced fighter before you step online by showing you the when and how to use specific attack and defense types. This is a welcome return given it’s conspicuous absence in Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins. Given that all 16 fighters present in Darkstalkers 3 play very differently, this mode certainly justifies its worth quickly.[singlepic id=11088 w=320 h=240 float=right]
The subgoals I mentioned aren’t in any way altering the gameplay – they are in fact a way to add a collectable element to the game. Allowing players to earn XP through their attacks (the more advanced the more XP) gives you a chance to unlock concept and character artwork, videos, and a few other goodies. Given some of the incredible work Stanley “Artgerm” Lau and the rest of the team at Imaginary Friends Studios has given us for this series, it is very much worth the effort. Goals like executing a specific attack a certain number of times, a few mid-air throws, and various combinations begin to stack up XP whether you are paying attention to it or not. This is a cool addition as it gives players new and veteran something to work towards without creating an impossible barrier for newbies.
Heading online with Darkstalkers Resurrection is a lag-free snap thanks to the GGPO netcode. The ability to lock things down even further by region, ping, and rating further narrows the field, allowing newer players to not end up overmatched by more seasoned players. Additionally you can create up to 8 player lobbies for bracketing, as well as locking down certain characters that you’d rather not tangle with. You can ban up to 5 characters, and I’m constantly seeing Bishamon, Sasquatch, and Felicia among them for some reason – it seems folks are casting their “these characters are overpowered” vote.
[singlepic id=11080 w=320 h=240 float=left]Since both of the included games are the arcade versions, the balance and controls are 100% as they were when you were fishing quarters out to play them. This also brings me to one of my only concerns with Darkstalkers Resurrection. Since Darkstalkers 3 is the arcade version, you are presented with a shorter roster of characters. Donovan, Shadow, Marionette, Huitzil, and others are conspicuously absent. Will these characters end up as DLC to be purchased? While I’d love to add them to my collection, I’d hope I wouldn’t have to pay extra on top of the $14.99 price for this title pair.
In the end, Darkstalkers Resurrection achieves what it set out to do. It brings together arguably the most memorable cast of characters in a fighting game and the recent advances in online gaming netcode to make a nearly two-decade old fighting series feel fresh again. The purity of the arcade modes when combined with the HD updates and locked-tight controls encouraged me enough to brush the dust off my arcade fightsticks, and I found myself back in the arcade, plunking quarters. Darkstalkers Resurrection is worth every shiny quarter.