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MIA - Darkstalkers

Because the world needs more HD Morrigan.

It’s my favorite day of the work week and you know what that means.  That’s right true believers it’s time for another exciting installment of Missing in Action!

For all of those neophytes to this regular PixlBit feature, let me explain how MIA works.  MIA is a bi-weekly column where we pick out a game or franchise of old, dust it off and present it for a possible current generation entry.

To qualify for the MIA treatment the game or franchise cannot have appeared on any of the current generation consoles, nor can a new title be currently in development, though unconfirmed rumors, speculation and hearsay are certainly permissible.  Also the title or franchise must be well served by a current generation entry.  Custer’s Revenge is not likely to show up here anytime soon.

This week I present for your consideration, Darkstalkers!

Developed by Capcom as a 2D fighter, the original Darkstalkers, known as Vampire in Asia,  borrowed heavily from the Street Fighter II series, though it did offer some original game mechanics such as air blocking, crouch walking and chain combos.  While there was nothing particularly revolutionary about the gameplay, what truly set Darkstalkers apart from the competition was the fantastic cast of characters that were the veritable legends of horror – Dracula, Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein.

A second title was quickly ushered out the door in 1995 called Night Warriors – Darkstalkers’ Revenge (Vampire Hunter – Darkstalkers’ Revenge in Japan).

It added some further variation to the gameplay: the special gauge, which unleashed multiple “Super Moves” via multiple gauge bars.  There were two types of “Super Moves”: ES Specials and EX Specials.  The ES Specials were less damaging and only required a portion of the special gauge to be expended, while the EX Specials would deplete it entirely.

Capcom soon released another sequel: Vampire Savior – The Lord of Vampire in Japan in 1997.  The title was changed to a simpler Darkstalkers 3 when it was released in North America on the Sony PlayStation a year later (there were also some small updates that were introduced for this release).

If you ask me, this was the best game in the series, particularly because it did away with the round-based system and replaced it with the “Damage Gauge System.”  This reduced combat to a single round, but provided each player with two health bars.  Once both life bars are depleted the match is over and a winner declared.  It also allowed players to regenerate small amounts of health if they could avoid taking further damage immediately after.

And then that was that.  Aside from a few random compilations and re-releases (the latest one on the PSN) the series went dark.  This needs to change.

With the dawn of a new renaissance for fighting games now upon us, there is no reason that Darkstalkers could not be resurrected.  To say that it wouldn’t sell is to show ignorance of what has become much more than a cult classic. 

Being that this game was closely modeled after Street Fighter to begin with, there is no reason that we shouldn’t look at Street Fighter IV as a model for how Darkstalkers could be brought back.  3D character renders and backgrounds on a 2D plane has served up fighting game bliss which has been aped by the  newly returned Mortal Kombat as well.  Street Fighter IV proved that fighting games that were traditionally sprite-based can look just as beautiful and smooth in glorious 3D.  This would keep the series true to its aesthetic roots, while providing a fresh look to some familiar characters.

I think it’s in the best interest that the game keep the life gauge system from the third game, as it helped it to stand out from the crowd.  If this isn't a popular choice, then at least make it an option.  Also, we would need to add some game modes that have become standard since the last release, such as tag or team mode, challenge modes and online modes.

I mentioned that Mortal Kombat took some cues from Street Fighter IV as far as graphical presentation, but Mortal Kombat itself offers a unique experience that should certainly be looked at.  I’m talking about the robust single player story mode.

Mortal Kombat proved that a single player story could be quite fulfilling in its own right, so long as it was given the proper attention.  With the fantastic cast of characters offered in Darkstalkers, I think that Capcom could do an even better job with a story mode that would add a ton of depth to an already stellar game series.

So there you have it.  It really amazes me that I am able to do an MIA article on this series considering how loved it still is to this day.  And we really could use a lot more of this…

So what do you guys think?  Is it worth bringing this series back from the dead?  How could it be made better than it already is?  Add to the discussion and be heard by sounding off in the comments section below!



Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/13/2011 at 11:48 PM

I'm not a big fan of Darkstalkers, but I think the character designs are some of Capcom's best. I love Dimitri and Talbain, and would love to see them rendered in the Street Fighter IV engine.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 04:51 PM

Jesse your article made me have a dream last night that Team Ninja got hired by Capcom to do a new Darkstalkers.

Morrigan looked... um... bouncy.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 05:07 PM

@Angelo I'm not even sure how that would work, but I'd be on board for it.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/19/2011 at 11:13 AM

It wouldn't. A game like this needs to be expertly cell shaded in my opinion. Animations should be there, but should be reasonable, not excessive like Team Ninja tends to do. Honestly Tales studios seems to have excellent cell shading skills, but I doubt they could design a competent fighter. Now if you could get them, or a dev with similar skills to do the characters and animations, and Capcom to do the actual fighting engine, you'd have one hell of a game I think.

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