“ Manufacturer: Capcom / Manufacturer: Capcom / Genre: Fighting „
Darkstalkers was one of Capcom's first offshoots of the now galactic in proportions Streetfighter series, and while it never gained the popularity of the mother series, nor licensed spin-offs Marvel Superheroes or X-Men, it did gain, and holds to this day, a decent enough following to warrant 2 sequels and 2 compilation games, as well as several of the characters (usually Morrigan) making it into Capcom's Vs. and Pocket Fighter games.
Naturally the game started it's life in the arcades, but made it's way onto home consoles in the form of the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. As anyone with any experience of 2D Fighting games in the 32-Bit era will testify, the Saturn is the preferred home conversion for reasons of loading times and controller suitability, but more on that later. These days the game is quite difficult to come by, though most of Capcom's earlier PSX games are.
The game is basically built around a modified Streetfighter engine, with the characters all being based around classic movie monsters. The engine uses a strange version of the super meter, where the bar builds up as normal, when your character lands or blocks an attack, but instead of this accessing a new super move, you have a limited time, the time the bar takes to empty itself, to perform one of your regular special moves, but this move will be upgraded. To put it in Streetfighter terms, performing what would normally be Ryu's Hadoken (fireball) would result in a Shinkuu Hadoken (Super Fireball).
The game does have a lot of good things going for it in the way of its gameplay. Starting at the basic core, which is a Streetfighter engine, so there you have the game with at least a 3 star rating because there can be no doubting the quality of the basic playstyle of SF. The characters, barring Demitri and Morrigan, who are essentially Ryu/Ken Shotokan style fighters with different kick moves, are all pretty original as far as moves go. While some moves resemble ones from SF, such as Victor's spinning lariat or Talbain's rising kick, the cast don't share exact movelists with their SF counterparts, or any other characters in Capcom fighters. The game also introduces air-projectiles to the land of Capcom 2D fighters, and an innovative way of having two projectiles meet. You know how in games like Streetfighter, when two people throw projectiles at the same time and the two meet they cancel each other out and disappear? not in Darkstalkers. When the two projectiles meet, the one that was thrown last, or has travelled the least distance, plows through the other one, and into the opponent. While this feature was never taken into any of Capcom's other fighting games, I personally quite like it.
On the downside, The game does have some pretty noticeable loading times to hinder it. They aren't bad on the level of PlayStation Streetfighter Alpha 2, but you definitely notice them. Aside from that the only problem is the control issue. While the buttons respond fine, the PlayStation D-Pad, as always, ruins any hope for the game on the normal pad. The PS D-Pad is my eternal nemesis, but it isn't solely down to it that the game requires another controller. A Capcom fighter really needs 6 face buttons, something the PlayStation pad just doesn't have. Coupled with the disgusting D-Pad, you really do want to invest in some variety of arcade stick or alternative controller if you want to get the most out of this game.
One fault that isn't really the game's fault, is that it is hard to find people to play against, seeing as people aren't familiar with the characters and move sets. I can talk most people into playing a Streetfighter game, because most of the characters have the same move commands in all the games, and everyone has played at least one SF title. But that isn't the case with DS, and people really don't want to play 2D fighters anymore, especially if they don't know the characters.
The game's story is very simple. Every so often, all the creatures of the night battle it out to see who truly deserves to rule the darkness as the Lord of the Darkstalkers.
The characters in the game are all classic monsters redesigned by Capcom's artists, and for good or bad, they all have a very unique appearance that doesn't seem to have been ripped off any previous incarnations of the legends, at least that I am aware of. We have the vampire Demitri, the Succubus Morrigan, the Werewolf John Talbain, the Frankenstein's monster Victor, the zombie Lord Raptor, the Mummy Anakaris, the catgirl Felicia, the ghost Samurai Bishamon, the Gillman Rikuo and the, uh Sasquatch, Sasquatch. Also in there are 2 unplayable bosses, the robot Huitzil and Satan-esque alien Pyron.
The cast are at the same time fantastic and flawed. Some of Capcom's monsters, like Anakaris, Demitri and Morrigian, are inspired, but others like Felicia, Huitzil and Sasquatch are a bit bland and disappointing. I've always been somewhat torn about Rikuo, who looks cool, but a bit too human for my liking though. I do enjoy the 80s 'Heavy Metal' take on the zombie for Raptor though.
Graphically, the game is pretty good, with some really well animated 2D sprites, backgrounds and special moves. Some of the characters look awesome, especially Pyron, who constantly has energy flowing up from him. As I say, even the special moves look great, with Demitri's basic fireball causing a really cool flame effect when it connects with an opponent. The backgrounds are also pretty cool, with a favourite being Victor's, where the ghost of his creator flies around the room. The only stage I wasn't really happy with was Felicia's, and that isn't due to it being poorly done, I just don't feel the neon lights of Vegas fit in with the whole atmosphere of the game.
The sonic aspects of the game are fairly mixed. The voices are your usual Capcom fighter Japanese people saying sometimes English phrases in an 'Engrish' manner (put it like this, the fights start with the announcer saying "Leady", but apart from that, the only one that stands out for comedy is Morrigan's Soul Fist, which sounds like "Sol Feace", which was a game for the Mega CD). The music in the game is pretty poor by Capcom's standards, but it isn't bad, and does have a few stand out tunes, such as the pre and post fight faux-organ sounding tune that instantly made me think of the music in Konami's Castlevania games (always a good thing).
On the whole, I think 4 stars is about fair for Darkstalkers. Its an above average in terms of enjoyment game, but it has enough faults, granted one is down to the lack of popularity and another down to Sony's controller design, to stop it from recieving a full mark.
I would recommend it to anyone who likes 2D fighters though, especially Streetfighter ones, which this game resembles the most. A liking for horror and monster pictures would also be advisable, given that part of the joy of the game was duking it out with famous creatures we all love from the movies. But sadly, like I say, I wouldn't touch the game unless you have a third party pad more suited to fighters or an arcade stick you are comfortable with, the game just wasn't designed for the PlayStation controller. Granted anyone who puts in the effort to track down a somewhat obscure 2D fighter like this probably has this equipment already.
Choose from 10 horror-themed characters, including a Bigfoot, a vampire, and a werewolf. Every character has unique combinations and super moves, but be warned, as the arenas can have positive and negative effects on the fighters