Game Review: Darkstalkers Resurrection [Xbox 360/PS3]
In 1994, Capcom finally moved away from Street Fighters for a little while to birth an altogether darker, more fantastical fighting game. That game was Darkstalkers (known as Vampire in Japan), a tale of mythical and demonic beasts clashing for control and pride. The series grew from strength to strength, and Darkstalkers 3 - or Vampire Savior as it is more commonly known – is still played competitively in Japan to this day. Recently, a hardcore subsection of fighting gamers have been petitioning for a new Darkstalkers installment. This fact makes this package seem more like testing the waters than anything else. So is this package worth telling Capcom by way of your wallet that a new game in the franchise should be made manifest? In a word, yes. Or yeeesss, in a disturbing, gleefully evil tone, as uttered by the game’s fearsome announcer.
Darkstalkers Resurrection features two games in the series: Vampire Hunter / Night Warriors and Vampire Savior / Darkstalkers 3. Savior is by far the more sought after game, but that doesn’t relegate Hunter to a curio, as it holds up in a different way and offers some exclusive characters.
Resurrection is based on the arcade releases of each game, and as such is practically arcade perfect, which while not such an impressive feat these days is still vitally important. The natural home of such experiences is in the murky trenches of the arcade, and as such that is the experience you want. It’s also encouraging that you can play the game filterless and in its native 4:3. Stretching is especially distracting in this genre, and the blurring effect produced by most “HD Filter” systems is rather off putting and detracts from the truly beautiful sprite work and animation that helped the franchise rise to the top.
On the subject of visual feel, Darkstalkers has always tried to take a turn towards the creepy, being a series about mythological evil. It’s usually successful, with such monstrosities as a very alive train with facial features strewn about it and the inside of a womb with a giant demon baby. Fighting in there is not pleasant. It drips. Oh god, it keeps dripping. The horror vibe also passes to the roster, which includes Vampires, Bigfoot, Werewolves, non-corporeal beings of light and Little Red Riding Hood. On the subject of Little Red Riding Hood, B.B Hood / Bulleta is possibly the best character ever to exist. A murderous, twisted reflection of the innocent little girl in the red hood, she carries a picnic basket full of ammuntion. This basket is capable of firing missiles, and she also uses uzis, daggers and mines to maim and dismember her foes, all the while singing gaily as she walks. Being that cute just makes her all the more sinister.
This menacing tone is further punctuated by the musical choices. With pensive strings, boistrous guitars and bold synths, the music either demands attention or builds tension, perfectly complimenting the colourful, in-your-face nature of combat.
The main perk from a player’s standpoint to moving away from an arcade release is the presence of a training mode, and the modes available in Resurrection provide enough customisation. Crucially, the essential ability to record dummy motions is available in order to test strategies. There’s also a ‘Save State’ option, which allows you to setup any position you require, be it the starting position in the middle of the arena or in a corner, and then reload that position with one button combination. This has various applications, such as testing specific spacing for jumping and dashing attacks.
Both games in this package are satisfying to play, but Darkstalkers 3 is the most well-realised. With a diverse cast of characters, all archetypes of playstyle are present, but it’s hard to deny that the game focuses intently on offense. By providing basically every character with a jumping attack / low / command grab mixup (jumping attack beats low guard and command grab, low beats high guard, command grab beats guard), everyone can get in your face and stay there until you perish. That’s not to say defensive options aren’t available – for example, most characters have a way to cancel blocking into a special move – but realistically, your desire is always to knock the opponent down then put them in the middle of a whirling vortex of dashing and limbs. It’s also possible to literally kick a man while he’s down by using the Pursuit attack to stomp on a freshly knocked down foe. Combos are often hard to execute for maximum damage, but more basic chain combos where you press the buttons in rising order (from light punch to heavy kick) allow novice players to execute damaging combo strings also.
Darkstalkers 3 also emphasises the pace by not having the situation reset when you win a round. Instead, it says ‘down’, then a few seconds later you dust off, get up in the same place you landed and carry on. This means essentially the game is 1 round with 2 health bars, which further accentuates the speed and brutality created by the mechanics.
Just as the characters are from a higher level of existance, the gameplay often feels like there’s a higher level waiting to be unlocked. As such, mastery will surely take dedication. Complex inputs combine with an abudance of tools to confuse opponents with, affording freedom of approach hampered only by your own dexterity. The broad range of options and angles of attack allow for you to create your own style, within reason. At the stunning speed the game progress in, reaction times can be stretched to the limit, and those that can thrive on pressure will surely reap the most rewards from the combat system.
One of the biggest issues the fighting game has is its ability to develop a new audience. The genre has never truly figured out how to effectively teach core concepts, and that doesn’t change here. While both games feature a fairly comprehensive tutorial / challenge mode for each character, these modes are for intermediates and up, realistically. They offer sound advice, but they also make assumptions with terminology and understanding which suggest that this certainly wasn’t a package they were aiming at those new to fighters. Really, this makes sense, as the series is a technical one. The pace is furious and as such decisions have to be made very fast, which is rather intimidating even for someone like me who is an enthusiast of the genre. However, everyone has to learn somewhere, and by not properly implementing tutorials on spacing, footsies and anti-airing, they leave online battlefields spread with people who just like to press lots of buttons. I’m sure they’re enjoying themselves, but they’re missing out on so much tantalising depth.
There are certainly a limited amount of modes in this bundle, with single player content confined to an arcade mode and the aforementioned tutorials and challenges. Just a survival mode would’ve been nice, but this is a minor quibble, as versus play against other humans is where fighting games thrive. The repackaging in fact adds precious little, which will irk the more casual player. Like 3rd Strike Online Edition, also by Iron Galaxy, Darkstalkers Resurrection makes use of Tony Cannon’s GGPO netplay system, which almost completely eliminates input lag, with the trade-off being occasional rollbacks of play as two conflicting game states are found. While some find these rollbacks annoying, especially when they make it seem like a fight is over when in fact the final blow didn’t connect, most dedicated players much favour response time of controls. When such games require frame-perfect inputs, it’s easy to see why.
If you like fighters at all, and especially if you like being aggressive, Darkstalkers Resurrection offers two magnificent titles for the price of one. A suite of creative, outlandish characters combine with blistering pace to produce a thrill ride of a fighter. Just don’t expect to be converted on the genre if you’re on the fence, this one is for the veterans.
A review copy was provided for PS3 for the purposes of this review.