Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors

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Darkstalkers_boxAlso Known As: Vampire: The Night Warriors in Japan
Console
: Arcade
Released: 1994
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Ports: PS1, PS2 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection, released only in Japan)
Price: $11.18 (used) $455.00 (new) pricecharting.com
Digital Release? Yes – PSOne release for PS3/PSP/Vita ($5.99)

It seemed that all classic fighters started life with iterative trilogies. Seriously, it happened with Street Fighter II (original, champion, turbo), Mortal Kombat (1-3), Art of Fighting (1-3), ClayFighter…okay, scrap that last one. Darkstalkers, known as Vampire in Japan, was no exception. The first Capcom fighting game that wasn’t from the Street Fighter series, these games were less about building a new series and more about being a testing ground for new mechanics. That doesn’t make the games any less awesome, nor does it discredit the silky smooth gameplay and beautiful animation that was significantly improved over the Street Fighter graphics that had begun to look dated in 1994. While it may be a true timepiece that you either grew up in the mid 90s playing or missed completely, Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors is a great starting point when learning the more hardcore mechanics of today’s fighters.

darkstalkers_1

Since it was an arcade game, there’s not much of a plot to Darkstalkers and I don’t even remember there being a plot screen. Protagonist of the series Demitri Maximoff, a vampire, holds a tournament to determine who is worthy to rule the demon realm. Final boss Pyron, an ancient alien life form, enters the tournament in hopes to win and consume the Earth. There’s a lot of back story, plot, and relationships amidst the characters and fleshed out in Japanese manga, art books, comics, and even referenced in an anime (which did have a US release), but none of that matters to the game per se. Darkstalkers is really about playing a cast of interesting characters – Felicia is a human/cat hybrid, Sasquatch is exactly what he sounds like, and skeleton British rocker Lord Raptor who dawns a chainsaw leg are just a few of the cast of 10 playable fighters.

darkstalkers_2While they don’t seem like anything special, the fluid movements and animations are the result of the new Capcom CP2 arcade hardware that released a year earlier in Super Street Fighter II. Special techniques including air blocking and crouch walking premiered in this title as well as the heavier chain combos that also crept into later Capcom fighters. Additionally the “super combo” meter from SSF II moved over as a “special” meter and allowed for larger combos or charged super moves, another Capcom fighter staple moving forward. The integration of such fighting styles, in addition to the traditional attack/defense/special move setup already established by the Street Fighter II series, drastically changed the pace and technique. When put together with the gothic aesthetic Darkstalkers, whether you made the connection to Street Fighter II developer Capcom or not, was quite the popular breath of fresh air that Street Fighter II fans had been hoping for.

Home Ports

darkstalkers_ps1_boxDarkstalkers: The Night Warriors came home to the original Playstation in 1996, a full two years after its release to arcades. Initially the game was to hit consoles on the Sega 32X in 1995, but the death of that system resulted in a scratching of the project and either Sega or Capcom (or both) opted to bring sequel Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge to the Saturn instead of the original. Oddly enough, both the sequel on Saturn and this original on Playstation came out within weeks of each othe, the Saturn port garnering most of the praise. It’s not that the Playstation port was bad, but Sony’s new console was much better at 3D renders than seemingly outdated 2D sprites, resulting in load times and framerate drops in combat. Conversely the Saturn was originally designed for 2D sprites only, a daughter board being added late in development to allow (poor) 3D renders, so it handled gameplay with near arcade perfection. Unlike future ports, this port was identical in content to the arcade save for a new localized opening theme, Trouble Man by Eikichi Yazawa, due to its use in the US version of the anime.

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors also released on PS2 in Japan only as part of the Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection and featured an arcade perfect port of the game, complete with no load times. Personally I have played this and I must say I’m impressed with the work Capcom was able to do with this and the Street Fighter Collection (which we did get here in the US) to grant flawless arcade ports without pausing to load a match.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

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