Flash back to a time in the nineties when arcades were an important part of gaming culture, when the hottest new games debuted there, and the holy grail of console gaming was the arcade-perfect port. In those dingy old halls, floors sticky with gum and spilled Coke, stacks of 20 cent pieces lined the cabinets as people queued to fight for supremacy over their game of choice, their weapons a stick, six buttons, and the twitches of muscle memory that only hours of quarter-circle-punch practice could provide. In those days fighting games were the arcade’s star attractions, their bread and butter, and Capcom was the king of the genre thanks to a little game called Street Fighter II.
Capcom established its dominance with a seemingly endless string of SFII super/hyper/turbo iterations, and riding high on its success, it looked to diversify. X-Men: Children of the Atom and Darkstalkers were the product of this burst of creativity, and while the former game spawned the massively successful Marvel vs Capcom series, Darkstalkers stalled after its third edition in 1997, its characters since limited to cameos – most recently the appearances of sexy succubus Morrigan, sexy cat-woman Felicia, and sexy Chinese vampire-zombie thing Hsien-Ko in 2011’s Marvel vs Capcom 3.
Historically, the Darkstalkers games are significant, however, having introduced several gameplay features that are still seen in fighters to this day. Air blocking, crouch walking and chain combos (that now-familiar string of attacks that go light-medium-heavy) were all Darkstalkers innovations, and its colourful cast of cartoonish monsters instantly set it apart from the more realistic brutes that populated Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Darkstalkers Resurrection is a new compilation of the second and third games in the Darkstalkers series, and both are replicated here in as close to arcade-perfect versions as anyone could want.
So how do these games stack up, 16-plus years after their initial releases? As far as graphics go, the games’ 2D sprites understandably look dated despite the number of HD graphical filters that can be applied, including adjusting for smoothness or crispness and adding scan lines to recreate the old arcade screen look. However, the character designs and animations hold up extremely well, and the flair and colour with which they are executed go some way towards making up for any unsightly pixelation. Gameplay-wise Darkstalkers is still tight, and holds its own against the current crop of 2D fighters. Today’s fighting systems may be more refined, but Darkstalkers plays blazingly fast in turbo mode, and has significant depth that requires true dedication to master. For fighting fans, this is the real deal.
Also included in the package are a helpful resource that explains basic fighting game concepts like “cross ups” and “chip damage” for total noobs, and an invaluable set of tutorials that go into detail on each character’s unique techniques and combos. It’s a perfect introduction for those new to the series, or old timers wanting to either refresh their skills or figure out why they were so terrible at the game back in the day (this player is the latter). Additionally, there are a huge number of challenges that display in the margins of the screen during matches, the completion of which allows players to “level up” and unlock concept art and videos.
Resurrection’s online play is smooth and chock-full of useful features such as the ability to create a lobby with certain characters banned, or to upload replays straight to Youtube. Happily, lag is almost a non-issue, which is of utmost importance when close matches can be decided on a frame of animation. Matchmaking is good, and online competition is fierce, meaning pretenders will have to hone their skills extensively to avoid getting owned by the pros and seeing their ratings plummet.
Darkstalkers Resurrection is the complete package: a classic pair of games updated with utmost care and attention, with robust online features and useful tutorials to give new players a leg up. Make no mistake, these games show their age, but for fighting game diehards it’s hard to ask for a better treatment of the Darkstalkers property. And with rumours circulating of Darkstalkers 4 being in development, it could be a bright future indeed for these creatures of the night.