Darkstalkers Resurrection Review
At long last, it’s here. It’s finally bloody here.
Darkstalkers has been the one Capcom fighter notable for its absence in recent years, while the likes of Marvel vs Capcom: Origins and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure have found their way onto Xbox Live and PSN (Capcom vs SNK 2 is still somewhere further back in the queue, snivelling and wiping its nose.)
Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono has been banging the Darkstalkers drum for several years now, dropping hints and teasers at a full-blown revival that never. Worse still, there didn’t seem to be any real reason for Darkstalkers being held back, given it’s one of the more interesting fighting games in Capcom’s back catalogue.
But there’s no point going over all that history now though because Darkstalkers is finally here. And it’s really good. Really, really good.
Chain Combo System
If you’re new to Darkstalkers, what seems like a typical 2D fighting game starring monsters instead of Ryu and Ken actually has plenty of unusual mechanics under its surface to match the eccentricity of the cast. Like we said, it’s one of the more interesting fighting games Capcom has.
The main method of comboing is to use chain combos, which is to tap moves in a sequence from lightest to hardest. Roughly translated, that means you can do sequences like light kick, medium punch, medium kick, hard kick. It’s an easy combo system to grasp even if the timing is more demanding than you might expect (as with all fighting games made in the mid-late 90s).
Not all characters rely on it – B.B. Hood is more about tight links, Victor is more about throws and so on – but chain combos are often the easiest way to inflict damage. They are the fundamental core of attacking in Darkstalkers.
When you knock someone down, you can follow up a pursuit attack by hitting up and punch, leaping after them to do more damage if timed correctly. Another change from the expected formula is that ES attacks replace traditional supers, the key difference being that there’s no pause to signal an incoming super.
Darkstalkers And Its Odd Moves
The commands also wonder into unusual territory for a Capcom fighter, with some moves pushing you beyond what has been committed to muscle memory by thousands of hadoukens over the years.
For example, Demitri initially seems like the typical shoto character but he has a dash-cancel dragon punch (towards, towards cancelled into SRK + P), grab super (down, towards, down/towards + PP) and a raging demon (LP, MP, towards, MK, MK). Felicia can charge meter, Sasquatch has a down, down + P move that seems him blast ice and Hsien-Ko has a super activated with LP, HK, MP, MP then up. Which is… bizarre.
Even dashing isn’t straight-forward. There are air-dashes, diagonal air-dashes, ground dashes that allow for air moves and teleporting dashes. Individually, those moves aren’t particularly awkward but collectively, they add to Darkstalker’s unique edge.
Capcom was already experimenting with a Custom Combo system in Street Fighter Alpha 2 by the time Darkstalkers 3 had released, and so the latter title saw something of an equivalent with Dark Force. Initiated by hitting two buttons of the same strength, it temporarily powers up characters in different ways – Felicia summons a cat helper, Rikuo can move freely around the screen with super armour, B.B. Hood can fire endless missiles and so on.
Matches don’t centre around Dark Force like they did with Custom Combos and later V-Ism in the Alpha series but again, they add an extra touch to Darkstalkers, helping it stand out as unique.
Darkstalkers’ Defensive Options
Just like attacking is unusual, so is defending.
Pushblock is a familiar concept nowadays but the way it’s done in Darkstalkers will challenge you. You have to drum punches while in blockstun and the more punches you hit, the more chance you have of activating pushblock.
What this means is unlike the press-two-punches-and-activate-pushblock we’re all used to now, where the only consideration is if your opponent will cut his blockstring short to bait and punish a failed pushblock attempt, merely doing pushblock in Darkstalkers requires dexterity and skill. It’s the cornerstone of defensive play.
Guard cancel moves are another unique element of defending yourself. Each character has a move that can be used to cancel out of block stun, without having to spend any meter to do so unlike an Alpha Counter or suchlike. The drawback is that these moves can be baited (and some guard cancel moves are useless) and again, keeping with the fact that Darkstalkers comes from an older fighting game era, the input timing is quite strict. You can also roll on wake-up, so you can avoid pressure as you get back to your feet.
Yet for all the bizarre mechanics, Darkstalkers never descends into the sort of anarchy you see in, say, Marvel vs Capcom. The fighting remains grounded and mostly plays out as an extremely fast-paced fighting game that favours rushdown.
With modest combos in comparison to most fighting games and limited defensive options, the priority here is shifted onto overwhelming your opponent with fast mix-ups, mostly forcing guesses between overheads and lows.
For the sake of completion, Darkstalkers 2 (or Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, to give it its full and official title) is also included. There are subtle differences between this and its sequel – the lack of Dark Force, the slower speed and ‘proper’ rounds being the main ones. There are also some characters present that were dropped for Darkstalkers 3 – Donovan, Pyron and Huitzil are the unlucky names that weren’t brought back.
There’s a tutorial mode across both games that’s not hugely comprehensive but does a good job of covering the basics such as movement, anti-airs and staple combos. The descriptions are user-friendly and have a healthy dose of personality injected into them. They’re useful too, going right up to advanced 1-frame link combos for characters, ensuring most bases are covered.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution is still the standard for teaching players the basics and intricacies but for a tutorial mode, this tutorial will still go a long way to helping those new to Darkstalkers find their feet.
Darkstalkers Visual Filters – Scanlines And Cigarette Burns
If you’re familiar with Darkstalkers, you’ll be pleased at the wealth of options available here. You’ll know what to expect from Iron Galaxy simply by looking at what it did with Street Fighter III: Online Edition, because a lot of the options crossover.
There are various visual options, ranging from the awful child-like potato print colours of the smoothing to the scanline filters that recreate the smoky atmosphere of arcades. You can manually set how many frames of delay there is for the GGPO netcode and a series of in-game challenges are ticked off as you play (pulling off a certain amount of EX moves, winning with a timeout and so on).
Most importantly, this is an excellent port. We’re told there are two frames of delay in comparison to the arcade version but it’s impossible to tell in-game. The only notable differences are aesthetic considerations such as the inclusion of remixed music or the lack of an attract mode.
Training mode is as comprehensive as Street Fighter III, allowing you to record and playback so you can work how to punish certain attacks or practice against certain moves. New players will be annoyed that move lists involve calling up a character select screen and selecting who you want, adding an annoying (and needless) layer of hassle when trying all the characters out for the first time, but that’s the only real complaint.
Darkstalkers Resurrection Online
Get over the abundance of Talbain and Lillith players and online play holds up extremely well, a reflection of Capcom’s generation-long trial and error in getting the netcode right for its fighting games. Unsurprisingly, given they share GGPO roots and the same studio, the Darkstalkers netcode is remarkably similar to how Street Fighter III: Online Edition performed.
That means online play feels remarkably smooth and seamless and the ability to tinker with the GGPO frame delay – the better your connection is, the closer to zero you should set it – means that matches within your region (Europe, America, etc) will run as well as they possibly can. The GGPO magic has been talked about by PC players for years and Darkstalkers is another title that shows it works just as well on console.
One issue is that rage quits seem to incur disconnection penalties for both players, which is why the leaderboards are peppered with players who have a 1% or 2% disconnection rating. It’s unlikely to matter too much in the long-run, when the community shrinks down to the hardcore and the majority of online play moves towards Player Match, but it does render the disconnection rating useless for Ranked Match if it’s not an accurate portrayal of how likely a player is to quit out of the game.
Like Fighting Games? Get Darkstalkers
It may have taken a while but there is no denying that Capcom and Iron Galaxy have had enough trial runs to figure out the perfect way to re-release older fighting games. The upside to Darkstalkers taking so long to hit Xbox Live and PSN is that it’s benefited hugely from this long wait, as the package works on a nostalgic level for fan service and it also has an online mode to be proud of, which may not have been the case had this been released a few years ago.
Those new to Darkstalkers will find the pace of the series thrilling and frightening, and the lighting speed is almost certainly a bigger barrier to entry than the occasionally awkward commands and strict inputs.
Even so, while Darkstalkers fans will obviously be pleased by this release, those who haven’t yet tried the series will find themselves won over by how well put-together the overall package is.
It feels fresh and relevant even today, while the eccentric nature of its characters and design ensure that even with the genre feeling somewhat bloated, Darkstalkers Resurrection belongs with the best fighting games have to offer.
Version Tested: Xbox Live Arcade