Before we begin properly talking about Darkstalkers Resurrection, let me be honest and say that I never really had much experience with the Darkstalkers games during their heyday in the '90s. I've always been more of a Street Fighter guy, but I think a lot of that had to do with the arcades in Windward Oahu never having any Darkstalkers cabinets. I voraciously followed coverage of the titles, bought strategy guides and artbooks, but rarely touched the home ports because, well... the PS1 just couldn't handle the games.
So when Capcom announced Darkstalkers Resurrection, I realized that I would be starting on the ground floor of this franchise, learning it from scratch despite just how many fighting game franchises I've played and reviewed and lived off of over the years. It was something to really look forward to, and a great way to finally try out this series I'd heard so much about, but never spent any real time with.
Darkstalkers Resurrection is an online-capable, HD-upgraded two-pack featuring Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge (Vampire Hunter in Japan) and Darkstalkers 3 (Vampire Savior in Japan). Following the mold set by Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition and Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, DSR has solid GGPO-enabled netcode, a long list of in-game challenges, the ability to upload and view replays via YouTube, and a huge gallery of concept and design art from the included titles.
That extra unlockable content honestly does go a long way--I mean, how many people do you know who are still playing the almost insultingly bare-bones JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver.? Challenges can range from very basic (do a certain number of throws, or 3+hit combos) to quirkier and more objective-based (hit enemies with shock or burn attacks, or cause them to bleed with cutting attacks). For those of you expecting duplicates of a typical Capcom fighter, I should warn you that Darkstalkers Resurrection offers two rather different experiences.
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge plays more like a standard Capcom fighter, but in terms of technique and style it's somewhere between the measured pace of Street Fighter and the absolute insanity of the Vs. games. The games don't have "super" moves like a lot of other fighters, instead letting you spend your meter on ES moves, basically upgraded versions of your specials or high-powered attacks that expend a meter. So yeah, basically they're supers, but the lack of "charge-up" animations and the consistent pace of each match means that you'll have to pay attention. Most of today's fighting games give you a big, dramatic zoom-in before supers are activated, but now you'll have to keep your guard up, as powerful attacks can come out at any time with little warning.
Darkstalkers 3 handles much the same, but with a key difference that I have yet to see revisited in other Capcom fighters: you don't regenerate health between rounds. If your opponent gets a perfect or takes very little damage in the first round, you're in a really bad position--it's a real slippery slope, but it does force you to stay on the offense and keep the action going. As you take damage, your health only partially depletes, leaving "white damage" that can be regenerated. Go for a few seconds without taking damage, and you'll heal back up almost to full, once again encouraging faster play.
Both games have the same mindset--every character is a little cheap, but they all have different tools that allow them to fight pretty fairly. You'll have to weather a steady barrage of projectiles or long-ranged attacks in addition to tight combos reminiscent of Street Fighter IV's one-frame links, but unlike SFIV, you don't get any on-screen visual cues to help with your execution. Unlike a lot of recent Capcom games, the execution requirements are tighter in Darkstalkers Resurrection, so you'll need to either be really precise on a gamepad, or just put down the money for a stick. Each individual title also has its own unique roster, with Donovan, Huitzil, and Pyron staying with Night Warriors and Jedah, Lilith, Q-Bee and B.B. Hood exclusive to Darkstalkers 3.
The game has not been rebalanced, so learning each title's somewhat wonky tiers is important. The in-game tutorials (located on the Darkstalkers 3 side of the game) give a pretty thorough explanation of each character's strengths, weaknesses, and playstyle, and even give solid tips for using lower-tier characters like B.B. Hood or Lilith. Along with the tutorials, you'll also be able to work on more advanced challenges (located on the Night Warriors side of the game) that teach character-specific skills like Demitri's dash cancelling to cheaper tricks like Bishamon's hilarious-if-it's-not-happening-to-you fireball glitch.
Playing single-player, it's also worth noting how ruthless the AI is. Even on the lowest difficulty, it spikes pretty suddenly around your fourth or fifth match, and will make you work for every win. It's not so much "cheap AI" as it is a game that requires effort and experience to win, but its sudden difficulty spikes can take players by surprise. I have actual wins against actual people online, but the single-player AI uses characters you don't often see in ways you wouldn't really expect.
As you might have noticed on the screenshots above, there are several visual options to clean up the graphics and display the game including a really cool "CRT monitor" look, complete with scanlines... but in my opinion, they aren't that dated. Yeah, Night Warriors came out in 1995 and '97's Darkstalkers 3 uses only somewhat-upgraded animation, but the pixel art looks really nice, with the game's HD filters smoothing everything out to the point that it looks like the painted side of animation cels. It's not bad at all, just not something I enjoy aesthetically.
It's fair to say that the game is not designed at all for newer players, even with its tutorials expecting more than a basic knowledge of fighting games. The tight execution windows may frustrate players who are more comfortable on a pad, and the game's goofy (im)balance means you're not going to see a big variety of fighters online. All said, these are fairly minor gripes for an excellent two-game compilation. The Darkstalkers are back, and it's great to have them back--if you're looking for two solid fighting games that show why Capcom really are the masters of this genre, then pick up Darkstalkers Resurrection and check out two of their almost-forgotten classics.
+ Even after almost twenty years, it's still a beautifully-animated fighter with standout character designs
+ Gameplay is fast, fierce, and surprisingly technical, landing somewhere between Street Fighter and the Vs. games
+ Unlike other Capcom downloadables, there's a lot of bang for your buck, with plenty of unlockables and extra content
+/- Technical gameplay requires spot-on execution--hardcore fighters will eat it up, but newer players will face some tough hurdles
+/- Tutorial Mode and Challenge Mode help players learn the ins and outs of each game, but why is each one exclusive to a single title? Why are there no Challenges for Darkstalkers 3 and no Tutorials for Night Warriors?
+/- Arcade-perfect and arcade-better in every way... crazy imbalances and all