In the 1990s, there were so many fighting games on the market that many were banished to obscurity or at least failed to rise to the top. Some deserved it; few will seriously mourn the loss of weaker games like Time Killers or Shaq Fu outside of possible nostalgic value. Yet there were some whose only ‘crime’ was being overshadowed by Street Fighter, such as the horror-themed Darkstalkers series. Darkstalkers Resurrection puts Night Warriors (a.k.a. “Vampire Hunter”) and Darkstalkers 3 (a.k.a. “Vampire Savior”) together in a $15 (1200 Microsoft Points) download, keeping the original gameplay intact while adding several ‘quality of life’ upgrades. The result is an excellent mix of old and new as a creative cast of characters are given a well-deserved second chance.
While there are meaningful differences between the two titles, they have enough in common that a general summary can describe how either one is played. They both use a one-on-one format with an engine that seems weighted toward aggressive play, yet offer several nearly universal options for defense. Ground and air dashes usually retain their momentum even when you attack from them, so it’s important to develop the reflexes and positioning to exploit or defend against openings that wouldn’t exist in many other games. Defense mostly revolves around good blocking, though guard cancels and push-blocking ensure you get a turn to attack as well. Darkstalkers 3 is generally the faster game of the pair, due to both overall speed plus design choices such as fight positions and health meters not resetting between rounds. The overall flow in either game has some similarities to Guilty Gear and other ‘anime fighters’ (used in a positive sense), though that’s admittedly a very simplistic explanation.
Though the fighting mechanics are excellent, they only matter if there’s a good roster to capitalize on them. Thankfully, this is what Darkstalkers does best! You probably already know series regulars like Morrigan and Felicia, but there are others who are far more clever. Anakaris, for example, is a mummy who can choose to float in the air while still attacking from the ground. Or there’s Lord Raptor, a zombie that is able to move while crouching. He even has a hilarious attack set, combining chainsaws with the ability to turn opponents into basketballs (which he then slam dunks) and knocking foes away by rocking too hard. Most of the other characters are similarly interesting in both art design and play style, so it’s actually fun to just explore them before you even compete with anyone. Darkstalkers goes for quality over quantity, as both games in this pack have a roster of roughly fifteen characters. A few characters appear in only one game or the other, but the roster total is about the same.
While apparently based on the arcade versions, there are some welcome improvements to the interface. The most obvious is a proper training mode, one that is a huge improvement over what was available in Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins. While MvCO’s save state system returns, the actual training options now include telling the dummy what stance to use, what blocking behavior to follow, whether to tech roll or not, and so on. There are a few things left out, but this is now a legitimately useful mode. Other smart inclusions carried over from that previous release, including the ability to set your controls at the select screen. It still uses the faster ‘press through’ system showing what command you’re mapping, allowing you to press the key you want rather than wasting time scrolling through choices. These sort of inclusions may seem minor, but they’re conveniences we’ve rightly come to expect and it’s good to see them here.
These are fairly deep and complex games, but you’re not just thrown to the wolves. A chain combo system allows you to just ‘dial through’ the attack strengths and do decent damage before you learn better combos, and there is a character-based tutorial system. Each tutorial is short and has significant gaps in what they teach, but they nonetheless represent a realistic starting point. It doesn’t just give you a fancy combo and turn you loose; you’re taught things like what a character’s anti-air attacks are, important traits about certain moves, and even some nice tidbits like their unblockable setups. Anyone serious about getting good at either game will have to do additional research online, but having a useful teacher for the first steps is wonderful.
Online play is considered a ‘must have’ these days, and Darkstalkers Resurrection does it very well. Its mix of quick, ranked, tournament, and lobby matches is nothing unusual on its own, but the inclusion of several replay-viewing options (including YouTube uploading) stands out. Even more important is the use of GGPO netcode, which causes most matches to play very smoothly so long as you have an even halfway decent connection to your opponent. If you’re among those who have no local fighting game community and can only compete online, you should do fine so long as the player population stays healthy.
Like several of Capcom’s previous retro two-packs, this one throws in several things that don’t affect how the game is played but rather how it is viewed. You have your choice of visual filters, ranging from looking like it did on a slanted CRT monitor (complete with scanlines) to having it stretched and smoothed out to fit contemporary displays. The ‘over the shoulder’ view has also been improved, with more detail in both the arcade cabinet and the environment around it to make for a very fun way to spectate matches. The unlockables vault is back as well, allowing you to earn access to things like character ending movies and concept art. None of these are vital to have, but they’re nice details and those who enjoy exploring arcade history will appreciate it.
Darkstalkers Resurrection is unusual for a retro fighting game re-release, as it doesn’t need cautious justifications like “nostalgia is part of the charm” and “it’s fun if you know what you’re getting into.” Even today, its component games still do a great job of providing legitimately exciting and satisfying matches. Will either of the titles in this pack gain tournament prominence? That’s ultimately up to the community, but the potential is certainly there. If you’re interested in a pair of fighters with excellent match pacing and a fantastic roster, give this a try!
Download Size: For those who need to closely monitor their hard drive usage, the Xbox 360 version is roughly 370 megabytes while the PS3 version is around 340 megabytes.