There's something unashamedly primitive about the fighting game genre. Pretty much every other kind of video game has been deconstructed, reevaluated, rebooted and rehashed in multiple ways. But the fighting game keeps it's kung fu slippers firmly entrenched in the original definition of a video game as a electronic toy, a digital distraction via exaggerated one-on-one violence, using the same escapism ,with action figures, you would use as a child, having Mr T kicking the plastic shit out of Darth Vader on your living room carpet. That's why you're unlikely to ever see an arty beat 'em up... Christ, how I hate that label. I promise, during this review I will use anything other than "beat 'em up" as a term. Lets see how many we can come up with?
Poor Darkstalkers is like the overlooked middle child in Capcom's pantheon of whack-collectors(1) as the first Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors brought in the bold, anime-esque graphic style, that would soon be assimilated into Capcom's then favourite son, Street Fighter (with SF Alpha/Zero) right up until Capcom ditched 2D pixels for polygons with SF4. The only times Darkstalkers is mentioned is when one of the cast gets used in a crossover title, like Marvel vs. Capcom, or that dark point in one's personal history when I convinced my mother to dress up as Morrigan, in a desperate stab at popularity on 4-Chan. But thanks to Capcom relearning the law of diminishing returns- due to 3 successive releases of SF4 and the broken rip off that was Street Fighter X Tekken- don't expect a 3D follow up any time soon. However, you can rediscover this overlooked punch-up sim(2) thanks to Iron Galaxy, who have given the same kind of digital spit and polish they gave to cult slap-exchanger(3) SF3: Third Strike, with Darkstalkers Resurrection.
To the uninitiated, the Darkstalkers series is a 2D nut-kicker(4) where the entire roster are monsters from fiction and legend. Letting you choose from a selection of various monsters, like a mummy, werewolf, vampire or punk rocker zombie. Using a over-the-top art style, that continued on in the Marvel Vs. Capcom games, which still holds up over a decade on and is still part of Darkstalkers' charm. Iron Galaxy have taken due care upscaling the sprites, ensuring your character's attacks are a vibrant body horror, contorting limbs into blood gauging weapons and invoking supernatural powers for special and super moves.
While the subtitle "Resurrection" may suggest it's a HD remake of the original Darkstalkers game. Iron Galaxy, knowing the ruck shop(5) fans well enough to have skipped the fun but flawed first game and instead gone for it's two sequels, "Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge" and Darkstalkers 3/Vampire Saviour. The reason being that Iron Galaxy had trouble deciding which sequel fans of the series would want more, so they converted both to satisfy fans of both games. Say what you want about Capcom's reliance on outsourcing the updates to their back catalogue, but Iron Galaxy know the hardcore fisticuffer(6) audience well, understanding that's exactly who is going to play a re-released Darkstalkers game, hence why both the second and third game were sold as one downloadable title. So as not to split the fanbase.
Darkstalkers 2 and 3 play somewhat differently. "Revenge" has the traditional Capcom blow-swapper (7) of a, best two-out-of three rounds system, where you beat down your opponent's energy until they're knocked out on their monstrous arse. Then repeat a second time to advance to the next fight. In Darkstalkers 3, you fight in one continuous round, with two energy bars being used throughout. If you've played Killer Instinct or any of the Marvel versus games, then you'll know exactly how this variation makes Darkstalkers 3 stand out from part 2. This leads to fights in Darkstalkers 3 being somewhat more hectic as you strive to gain the advantage of knocking off your opponent's first energy bar while trying to keep as much of your own. Being a old stick in the mud and having a long term dislike of Killer Instinct, I prefer the classic separate round system. But it's a shrewd move of Iron Galaxy to include both, so fans of either style are catered for.
Iron Galaxy certainly knew who was going to download DR, the hardcore head-knocker(8) player. Even the tutorials get straight into teaching you each character's strike and special move combinations, working up to effective move exploits that expert twatting-givers(9) love to use online over and over again. But don't feel daunted, if you're even remotely familiar with any Street Fighter game, then you'll pick this up quickly. That's one great advantage to having a (for lack of a better term) gaming heritage. If you've ever played a Street Fighter game before, you'll probably discover most, if not all, special movies just by go through the d-pad motions you would normally perform smacking E. Honda in the nuts. And even if you're not, the single player experience isn't daunting and the cast in either game are varied enough that you'll find a character that you'll enjoy playing with in either DR title, even with just punches and kicks. And there's player assists for the truly hopeless on both games.
As is the case in any bollock-stomper(10) the real appeal is in the multiplayer. So long as you have a friend, and I do mean friend, online or sat next to you on the sofa, you'll be able to enjoy freakish combat to your hearts content. However, if you're reduced finding matches online then technically you're gonna have a couple of issues. Not with the servers (run on the tried and tested GGPO server) no, so long as you have a decent internet connection and so does your opponent, then you won't experience any match-ruining lag. But if you're not the kind of person who spends hours pouring over frame data, tweaking the dip switches on your arcade stick and being a general sex pest, then you're in the minority of players online. You see, by the time of writing (some time after release) the DR servers will be mostly populated by the kind of joyless, knuckle-dragging scum bags, that comprise the "fighting game community" who are only a neck tattoo away from resembling a building site. And this review being for the Xbox version, then there's the obvious handicap of the inadequate d-pad on the Xbox controller. So if you really have your heart set on being matched up against the same sex offender in training, that pounds you into a corner ad-infinitum, then at least invest in one of those fightpads and, of course, don't put your headset on or read any messages.
|Go make me a sandwich, because my mum took a restraining order out on me|
If there's anything negative, it's that I wished there was a all-in versus option, where you had the option to pick a character from either Darkstalkers game in the round style of your choice. So you could play in the classic, best two out of three rounds, Night Warriors style, playing as Jedah. Because I'm old and set in my ways -going way back to stealing money from my mother's purse to play Street Fighter 2 on the arcade- and I slightly resent having to play the Vampire Saviour style to play as Jedah, who is an awesome cross of Go Nagai's Devilman and Resident Evil's Albert Wesker and is by far the coolest boss from any Capcom fist-lover(11) by far. Say what you want about M.Bison's nifty hat and Sagat's cool scar, but that pales in comparison to a dapper, smirking reaper who's stage is set in front of a giant devil-foetus and his basic attacks involve thrusting his talons through the bursting flesh in his arms.
|fighting inside the womb of a giant demon, next tuesday|
Apart from that minor niggle, there's not a thing I can find wrong with DR. It's a faithful update of two lost gems of the arse-buster(12) genre with tight concise controls and the only DLC is to add character specific art on a virtual arcade cabinet, so you won't have to spend another penny on anything game-related. Which makes a nice change for a Capcom title. The price tag of 1200 microsoft points may seem hefty for what most see as a retro game, even for two. But if you're looking for a knuckle-digger(13) that has perhaps the most varied roster of fighters, is bags of fun and isn't totally designed to scare newbies away then give Darkstalkers Resurrection a chance. Enjoy the monster-bashing fun with your friends, but if you find yourself with the sudden urge to bully someone for their gender, race or sexuality, then take a little break and make your own fucking sandwich.