Review: Darkstalkers Resurrection (Sony PS3)

Darkstalkers Resurrection
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: 2-D Fighting
Release Date: 03/12/2013

I’m always amazed how hard it seems to be to port classic 2D fighting games to modern consoles. So many just seem to flop. Remember how god awful the Mortal Kombat Arcade Collection ended up being? Similar complaints have popped up for Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 (PS2, PS3, Xbox and 360 versions), several old King of Fighters games and so on. In fact the only system I can think of where the term “arcade perfect” was regularly used to describe fighting game ports was the Sega Saturn. Street Fighter Vs. X-Men Marvel Vs. Capcom 1, Street Fighter Alpha and so on. For all the crap that system took, it still might be the best system pound for pound in terms of 2D fighters and shoot ’em ups. My personal favorite for that system was Night Warriors. I played the hell out of that game repeatedly and it was so close to arcade perfect, it was how I dominated the Darkstalkers arcade scene in the mid to late 90s. Being that Darkstalkers is my absolute favorite fighting game series, I was understandably nervous about how Darkstalkers Resurrection would perform. Would it suffer the same fate as other 2D fighting game compilations on PSN and XBLA, or would Resurrection be up there with the Saturn version of Night Warriors and the Dreamcast’s Vampire Chronicle For Matching Service as one of the best fighting game ports ever made?

Well, the truth is that Darkstalkers Resurrection is somewhere in between. It’s a hell of a lot better than every fighting game remake that I’ve come across since Street Fighter Alpha Collection for the PS2, it’s not quite as good as the older versions for the venerable Sega consoles. Part of that is that the Dual Shock controllers just aren’t made for old school fighting games, and they aren’t as accurate as the six button Sega Saturn controllers or the Dreamcast arcade stick, because honestly, they were designed specifically for fighting games – especially Capcom ones. As such, the controls aren’t as responsive, and it’s much harder to do both simple moves and complex combos. I should know, as I had my Saturn and Dreamcast on playing their Darkstalkers games while also playing this latest release. Another part is that there are some small but noticeable changes with a few characters. Huitzil, for example, is three times as fast in Night Warriors as he is in the Sega Saturn or arcade version of the game. Another issue that plagues Darkstalkers Resurrection is that the Challenges/Training part of the game simply doesn’t recognize when you complete the combos accurately. I literally wrote the book on playing Donovan Bane back in the 90s for (now Gamespot) and I could pull off pretty much everything on there blindfolded. However, I could do the requested combo thirty or forty times in a row only to have the game not recognize that I had completed it. Them, it simply would. So either the detection for the combos is massively bugged, or it is simply looking for such specific parameters that it doesn’t accurately judge the input. Now, aside from the Training/Challenges bit (where you earn most of your trophies), the average gamer is not so well versed inDarkstalkers play that they will notice any of the quirks Darkstalkers Resurrection has. Hell, even people like myself who do notice won’t care that much, because we’re just happy to have the series on a modern system. Now, that said, I still will probably be going to the Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast for my Darkstalkers fix, because the games are more accurate and closer to an arcade feel, but I’m still happy with Darkstalkers Resurrection for the most part and can recommend it to anyone who is remotely curious about experiencing the games. After all, it’s fifteen bucks for two awesome fighting games.

With Darkstalkers Resurrection, you’re getting two games: Night Warriors, AKA Vampire Hunter, and Darkstalkers 3, AKA Vampire Savior. With the latter you are getting the arcade lineup rather than the Saturn or Dreamcast versions, which is a bit of a disappointment, as both featured extra characters not found in the arcade cabinet. Much like Marvel Vs. Capcom Origins, you’ll use the select button to switch between which game you are playing. Darkstalkers 3 offers the easier Training Mode, while Night Warriors offers the harder Challenges. Besides this, you have the ability to search for and watch matches between other players. This isn’t very useful, and is really only of interest to active members of the FGC, so it’s bit douchey to tie at least one Trophy/Achievement into watching over a dozen matches. You also have the vault, where you can unlock concept art and character endings by spending the VP (Victory Points) you earn during matches. This, too, is something I’m not too keen on. I mean, I like that you can unlock concept art this way, but character endings? I’d prefer to unlock those by beating the game with the character. This way just doesn’t sit right with me. Really, this is all you get for $14.99: two not quite up to snuff high def ports that were done better on consoles one or two generations ago and a few piddling extras. At least you’re only paying $14.99 for it, which is a lot better than if you wanted to play the more arcade perfect versions. After all, you’ll need a Saturn for Night Warriors and an ST Key, or a Japanese Saturn and a 5 MB RAM pack for Darkstalkers 3 and a DC-X for Vampire Chronicle, must less the time and cost of tracking down these out of print games, two of which are imports. Sure, Darkstalkers Resurrection might not be up to snuff for the diehard purist of the series, but for the cost, this collection is worth picking up.

Graphically the games have never looked better. The games are showing their age compared to a lot of modern fighters, but man, the character models are cleaned up (especially Pyron!) and the character portraits and end game scenes are better than the previous renditions. I’m quite happy with the graphics, and the visual improvements have me excited for a true next-gen Darkstalkers release, even if I will worry about the mechanics. The over the shoulder angle for play is pretty weird and sometimes hard to view the action from, so stick to the regular viewpoint.

Aurally the game sounds fantastic. Night Warriors has one of the best fighting game soundtracks outside of some King of Fighters titles, and it’s been cleaned up to sound better than ever. Darkstalkers 3 also sounds quite nice, and I could just sit there and listen to the tracks from the game. Odd that they weren’t unlockables in the vault though. Another reason to poo-poo it. The voice acting from the original games is also intact, although there isn’t a lot of it, and it’s not very good when compared to modern fighters, but I have to admit I still laugh my ass off at D3 Demitri and his “Come Here Baby!” line.

Gameplay-wise is where things get interesting. As mentioned, the controls and move detection are noticeably worse than the Arcade, Saturn and Dreamcast versions of these games. It’s not truly terrible by any means, and you can definitely get through the game with your frustration level being matched by your experience with the game. Still, it’s half the game and half the dual shock, so make sure you have a quality fighting stick if you want to lessen the many issues that plague this collection. Again, unless you are crazy intimate with the series, you probably won’t notice and might chalk up the stiffness to the fact these are older fighting games, but trust me when I say the port is fun, but by no means as good as ones that are a decade or older, which is kind of sad when you think about it.

Night Warriors was pretty revolutionary for its time, with the way EX and ES moves came about, along with things like flying characters and some of the fighting game aspects we now take for granted. Darkstalkers was always the experimental fighting game series for Capcom, where they tried all sorts of crazy crap. You pretty much know the drill. You pick a character and fight through six random stages and characters, followed by the sub boss and final boss. Darkstalkers 3, on the other hand, is still pretty out there, even for today. It follows the Street Fighter Alpha motif of the boss changing based on who you chose to play. Demitri or Lilith earns you Morrigan as the final character, for example. Meanwhile, everyone gets Jedah as the second to last character. As well, after a round is finished, only the loser’s life bar replenishes. The winner is stuck with the amount of life he or she had at the end of the round. This means Round 2 (and Round 3 if you get one) always gives a handicap to whoever lost the previous round. Of course, a gulf of skill negates that life differential, but it’s still something to think about. Darkstalkers 3 also contains noticeably different move sets for all returning characters, and it has static stages, but random opponents, which isn’t something you tend to think about until you experience it in this game. Overall I think Darkstalkers 3 is the weaker of the two games in the collection, as I’m not a big fan of the lifebar thing or the fact we lost Donovan, Huitzil, and Pyron in exchange for lamer characters like Q-Bee, Lilith, Jedah and B.B. Hood. I really wish they’d have done either Vampire Savior or Vampire Hunter 2. Hell, even the arranged version or console versions of D3 were better than the straight arcade version, so I’m not sure why they went this route. I know it sounds really negative, but it’s more just pondering. My guess is D3 was chosen because VS2 and VH2 never made it outside of Japan.

Balance is an odd thing with this collection. Neither game offers any customization of time, difficulty, rounds or the like, so you’re stuck with the default format. That said, both games seem to have a sliding difficulty scale. If you lose a match, the AI seems to get massively dumber when you choose to continue. That said, it could just be me subconsciously adjusting to the not quite right controls on this version. Still, the only challenge I really had came from when the game wouldn’t recognize moves or combos that I went for, only to leave me wide open for an attack from the computer. At the same time, I perfected Pyron twice in a row the first time I faced him (Donovan) and I pretty much murdered every character when playing someone I basically had memorized. Talbain equals many a perfect, while Ankharis or Q-Bee… not so much. Darkstalkers Resurrection is noticeably easier than my Saturn or Dreamcast games, but I guess that’s “balanced” out by the lesser move detection, thus forcing more experienced fans of these games to slow things down.

Replaywise, Darkstalkers collection actually offers less replay value than most 90s fighting game releases. The vault actually screws things up, because you don’t automatically get a permanent ending unlock when you beat the game with a character. Instead, you have to replay it over and over or spend VP on an ending, be it one you’ve earned or not. At some point a person is going to hit their skill level in terms of the things you have to do to earn VP. I’d much rather have seen regular ending unlocks, so people of all skill levels can keep those for their viewing pleasure. Pretty much all you have to replay the game for is online play, or to just get better and earn VP to unlock more stuff. The endings are the only thing worth spending VP on, as the Vault is pretty lackluster, so that’s a disappointment there.

I do realize I’ve been somewhat critical of this collection, but that’s mainly because I adore the Darkstalkers franchise, and I know Capcom could have done a much better job with this, gameplay and extras wise. I do like what is here, and I’m happy with the collection in terms of getting two DS games for $15, but I’m also a little bit disappointed that I can sit down with the Saturn and Dreamcast DS games and say that they play better, even if they don’t look or sound as good, especially when the gameplay is what counts. Both games were pretty outside the box when they first came out, and even today, Darkstalkers 3 still really stands out, for good and bad reasons. Both games are definitely playable, I can’t make that plain enough, but it is still weird to me that that my Saturn and Dreamcast versions of the game are closer to arcade perfect than the games on my PS3.

At the end of the day, the good definitely outweighs the bad with Darkstalkers Resurrection. Getting an HD remake of either of these games is well worth $14.99 considering the lengths you have to go to get a good version of one of these games in English (note: The PSX version of DS3, available on PSN, is NOT a good version). The PSP version of Vampire Chronicle, Chaos Tower, is probably your best bet, but I’m not really a fan of fighting games on PSP, no matter how good that remake is. I definitely would wish the controls were tighter in Darkstalkers Resurrection, and I’m not a fan of how the Vault works at all, but what’s here is still a solid affair and better than every other Capcom HD remake I can think of that has been released digitally this console generation. Yes, I’ve played better renditions of these games, but the series has never looked nor sounded better, and Darkstalkers Resurrection has done its job in making me want a Darkstalkers 4 even more. If you’ve never played a Darkstalkers title, then be prepared to encounter some of the most memorable fighting game characters, and their outrageous movesets. After playing this, you’ll have to agree it’s a damn shame that only the female characters still get appearances in crossover games these days (Remember when Demitiri and Anakharis did?). Cross your fingers we eventually get a Darkstalkers 4, because I would kill to see Talbain, Rikuo, Donovan and others get another day in the sun. Or moon, I guess, depending on if we’re talking lycanthropes and vampires.

Short Attention Span Summary
While Darkstalkers Resurrection isn’t as good as the Saturn, Dreamcast or PSP versions ports of these arcade classics, the fact you’re getting two solid fighting games for fifteen dollars is more than enough reason to pick this up. While the controls aren’t as tight as in the aforementioned versions (or the original arcade games), Darkstalkers Resurrection is still quite playable, and the series has never looked nor sounded better. As a long time fan of the genre, I’m happy with what is here, although diehard purists wanting a more arcade perfect feel may oddly need to go looking for one of Sega’s venerable old systems, if they don’t have one already.



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