Review: Darkstalkers Resurrection
Capcom has continued to make its library as available as possible to the masses, especially when it comes to arcade re-releases from decades passed. This generation marks the first where old school arcade titles can be re-released at low prices, individually, with visual filters, online play, and perform exactly as they did in the arcade. Granted, it’s still a pain to figure out how to find each of these titles – a perfect example being Capcom Arcade Cabinet, which provides several of Capcom’s classic coin-ops that would seem to include Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers – but let’s face it, some games are much more marketable than others. The newest of this tradition is Darkstalkers Resurrection, an HD re-release of sorts, that covers the second and third titles in a series that never quite made a faithful translation to American households.
As for the games themselves, they are not covered in this review so see our Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Darkstalkers 3 coverage respectively, and then continue on. I am aware that a nearly arcade perfect port of Night Warriors did release in the US on the Sega Saturn and Darkstalkers 3 was decent in its US version on the Playstation (and PSOne digital store currently), but I hardly think these platforms, especially if you want both titles, are the best and easiest way to play these games. Furthermore they are not without specific tech-based flaws – mostly visual on the Saturn and gameplay on the Playstation – and Darkstalkers 3 was so updated and altered in the home port that it’s barely the original arcade game. Putting all that aside, with the recent resurgence of the fighter genre, many hardcore fans have fight sticks or specific fighter game pads on their newest consoles that a 360/PS3 version can support. Capcom has also decided to keep this title digital only in the US, which also accounts for the low price point that is much more affordable than the 4,000 yen ($45) disc version in Japan. Now that this game’s presence is thoroughly justified, I must commend Capcom for treating a classic re-release with so much care because Darkstalkers Resurrection is the definitive way to play these games at home.
Within each game you have the option to customize your control scheme, which is pre-set to the setup that almost all contemporary fighters use, but it was nice to see you can swap things around. Then it’s time to enter the gameplay options, namely the visual options, where you can get as old school or modern as you like. I was able to turn on smoothing and high textures to make the game look more like a modern cell shaded look and beautifully updated the graphics to something more pleasing to modern day eyes. Those that are hardcore retro enthusiasts can also bring it back to original or even super sharp settings, assuring that every line, sprite, and graphic are isolated like a cartoon drawing. Of course you can adjust the screen to everything from the classic 4:3 arcade cabinet view at the cost of screen real estate, or you can stretch it out to a wide view that fills your large HDTV at the sacrifice of having short, chubby fighters. Couple this with smoothing options, the ability to add scanlines, and just about every other visual filter you’ve come to appreciate in MAME and you can see Darkstalkers in whatever form you feel is best. Capcom also added some interesting perspectives like viewing the game as if you’re looking over the shoulder of another player at an angle; unnecessary but interesting. The emulation is spot on, a crucial feature when dealing with a game as time intensive as a fighter, and you will swear you’re playing the arcade as the game responds with pinpoint accuracy and on par with the smoothest framerates on the market. Even online play benefits from Iron Galaxy’s hit-or-miss track record in this generation with identical fights both online and offline, assuming you both have a solid connection and ping rate. Audio isn’t much of a factor these days unless you’re attempting to mimic complex sound chips that the typical Capcom CP2 title did not have, so the game sounds just as faithful as it looks.
Darkstalkers Resurrection doesn’t just bring these two arcade classics to you without throwing in some bonuses. Like many other arcade fighter re-releases, this title has received the Street Fighter IV treatment with an in-depth tutorial mode that explains the basics, advanced mechanics, and key points to obliterating your foes online. Additionally there are options to spectate online games, a staple at this point, but also a useful mode to upload your in-game replay onto YouTube for fast bragging rights to your best matches, no capture card required. Most significant of these new features is an in-game challenge system that constantly has you performing little in-game tricks to gain XP for unlocking extra content in the game’s vault. These tricks are as simple as “play one match” or “shoot five projectiles” and as long term as winning 50 total rounds. These different challenges have an addictive carrot-on-a-stick methodology to them as they pop up randomly on the sides of the screen – I wasn’t able to find a full list, they just show up in a consistent stream every few seconds – that I was distracted from the overall goal of winning the round or beating the game in the interest of getting my next 5 XP. I’m quite a ways from completing every challenge an unlocking everything, but extras I’ve found so far include concept art, development information, and even videos. It’s just another way to keep you coming back to play this game when you’ve got brief downtime and has an instant satisfaction that the longer termed achievements/trophies don’t provide.
Darkstalkers was a series of games that provided a cartoon gothic aesthetic to the Street Fighter II formula but also functioned as a test platform for unique twists on the genre. If you weren’t an arcade fighting fan in the mid-to-late 90s, it’s quite possible these titles passed you by without so much as an afterthought. Now that they are back hopefully a whole new generation can play and appreciate the genuine appeal of this franchise. While Capcom made the decision not to include the original or the “remixed” versions of the third title (those are covered in our reviews, linked above), these are the two entries in the series that have fans divided as much as the debate over which title is better, Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3. If you are a fan of modern day fighters, especially from Capcom, you need to pick up this amazing collection that documents an experimental period that made way for many of the staples in modern day fighters.
Darkstalkers Resurrection is available on XBLA and PSN for $15/1200 MS points. A review copy was provided to the site and we completed both games multiple times, including online matches, for a total play time of approximately 8 hours.