How on earth do you follow-up a game like Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo? From early 1991 to early 1994, Capcom released five iterations of the most important fighting game in arcade history. But instead of taking another ride on the cash cow rodeo, for the later half of 1994 Capcom decided to release two fighting games that were entirely devoid of Ryu and his street fighting buddies. One of these was X-Men: Children of the Atom, a game that laid the foundation for the Marvel vs. Capcom series, while the other was an entirely new proposition called Darkstalkers.
If arcade goers thought the likes of Blanka and Dhalsim with their electric attacks and stretchy limbs were a bit unusual, then Darkstalkers took things to a whole new level. The game looked like a horror-themed anime starring everything from a mummified Egyptian pharaoh and a Brazilian merman to a zombie rock-star and a wannabe Frankenstein. It proved popular enough to spawn two arcade sequels and numerous console ports, but was somewhat overshadowed in the west by the Street Fighter Alpha series. That said, Darkstalkers has remained something of a cult favourite thanks to its unique style and technical innovations.
Following on from Capcom's recent download revivals, Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike Online Edition and Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, Darkstalkers Resurrection gives Night Warriors (the second game) and Darkstalkers 3 the same makeover treatment. This means Resurrection isn't a complete compilation, as it's missing both the original Darkstalkers and the two alternate versions of Darkstalkers 3. But unless you're a hardcore Stalkers fan who won't accept anything less than the complete set, these two games represent the pinnacle of the series - with all the extras you've come to expect from developer Iron Galaxy Studios.
In addition to filters that can be turned on or off to smooth out the pixels or render them in their unadulterated form, you can stretch the view to hide the widescreen borders or switch to an over-the-shoulder perspective that harks back to the halcyon days of lining up fifty pence pieces on an arcade monitor. The result is that both games look fantastic in motion despite being well over a decade old. Capcom Producer Tomoaki Ayano has even stated that Resurrection runs as close to the original arcade versions as is technically possible thanks to the aid of high-speed cameras.
It's this extreme level of dedication that turns Resurrection into more than just a means to play a classic fighting game on modern day consoles. It's a celebration of the vibrant characters and gameplay mechanics that Capcom is still using today. This second point is particularly relevant, as Darkstalkers is responsible for pioneering a number of fighting game mechanics. These include airborne blocking, alpha counter-style reversals and a system that lets you enhance one of your character's special moves by spending your super. But out of all the new tech that Darkstalkers brought to the table, the chain combo system is what truly set this monster bash apart.
When you adjust the tempo to turbo - the only way that Darkstalkers should be played - each round thunders past
Anyone who's accustomed to Street Fighter X Tekken or the latest BlazBlue will know that multi-hit combos often start with a light tap before rapidly working their way towards the heavier buttons. Night Warriors turned this flashy method of attack into the cornerstone of the Darkstalkers series, and by the third game you could even burn your super on a new Dark Force mechanic. This gave your character a temporary boost that ranged from Morrigan's mirror-image and Q-Bee's flight mode to B. B. Hood's missile launcher and Bishamon's super armour.
Playing Darkstalkers 3 today is akin to playing Third Strike - not because these games are mechanically similar, but because Capcom tends to go the full distance with the second sequel. On the normal speed setting the game can feel a tad sluggish, but when you adjust the tempo to turbo - the only way that Darkstalkers should be played - each round thunders past as you frantically force your opponent to guess wrong with low attacks and dashing overheads that lead straight into savagely pleasing combos. It's one of the fastest fighting games that Capcom has ever made.
To help first-time hunters and saviours ease into the Darkstalkers way of thinking, Iron Galaxy has crafted a tutorial mode that teaches the fundamental strategies of each character through five lessons each. These aren't combo trials in the strictest sense but you'll learn how to use Jedah's spinning scythes to set up his unblockable air grab and the art of angling Talbain's ES Beast Cannon so it hits five times in midair. Then, once you've ploughed through Arcade mode without continuing and feel semi-confident in your execution, you can discover the holes in your strategy by hitting the ranked, player and tournament matches.
Resurrection is very similar to Marvel vs. Capcom Origins when it comes to online functionality. The game uses the returning GGPO netcode to keep lag interference to a minimum and you can filter matches by region, skill and ping threshold. You can create eight-player lobbies where you can ban as many as five characters (Sasquatch perhaps?), and if you don't like fiddling with capture cards, you can upload your saved replays directly to YouTube. In terms of creating a stable online environment where you can adjust the GGPO delay and see your opponent's ping rating before a match begins, Resurrection is hard to fault.
The one thing that irks us ever so slightly is Capcom's non-committal stance that a possible Darkstalkers 4 (which may or may not already be in development) could be determined by the success of Resurrection. It's a classic business ploy to drum up sales, of course, but this game is more than capable of standing on its own merit. If you're a recent arcade stick convert who missed out on the Halloween antics the first time around, or just a seasoned fighter fan who appreciates it when each frame and pixel is handled with the utmost care, then Resurrection is no less than the definitive Darkstalkers experience.
Now Capcom just needs to task Iron Galaxy with Capcom vs. SNK 2...