When I was a kid, my after school care went roller skating every Wednesday.
Hidden inside the High Point, NC Rol-a-Rink was a Marvel vs. Capcom machine. Always enticed by its booming voiceover and noises of violence, I marveled at the flashy animations, bright text and elaborate move lists. But alas, payment for everything was handled by the after school care, and Mama Dantzler spared no extra quarters for her hyperactive, overstimulated son.
One Wednesday, she accidentally slipped a ten dollar bill into my pocket. I turned it all into quarters and my boys gathered around to watch me play Marvel vs. Capcom. I chose the coolest looking characters, Strider and Mega Man, cracked my knuckles and prepared to rock. For whatever reason, I choked and got my ass handed to me after one quarter. I stuffed the rest of the change in my pockets.
Over the years I would warm up to fighting games, but I could never quite master them. Like college basketball or Homestuck, the entire culture behind them – tournaments, obsessions over different arcade sticks and banned characters – remained impenetrable to me. When I was asked to review Darkstalkers Resurrection, I was reminded of my Rol-a-Rink bildungsroman and sighed.
However, with age comes wisdom, and while Darkstalkers Resurrection reminded me of that experience, it was still a fun game to play. It’s not accessible, despite the best efforts of the developers. It’s not easy, and it’s far from anything new. It will also probably fail to bring newcomers into the fighting game fold. But for the hardcore and anyone who grew up with fighting games, it’s a good time.
DR is actually two games: Darkstalkers 3 and Night Warriors. While there are fine differences between the games that the hardcore will appreciate – sort of like the CD vs. vinyl war – the titles aren’t much different. In fact, they’re quite similar to Capcom’s million other 2D fighters. However, the mechanics of the genre hold up well: attack fast, block faster and beat the crap out of your opponent. And in that regard, Darkstalkers Resurrection is timeless. Typical of Capcom fighters, the action moves fast & fluid and characters respond easily to your commands.
This release doesn’t add much to the gameplay, which is probably a good thing. Rather, Darkstalkers Resurrection re-releases the classic games with new features. Remastered graphics, achievements, a tutorial mode and online play – the most important one – round out the package.
I was skeptical of the game’s online play, having never played a fighter online before. However, the GGPO netcode that Darkstalkers Resurrection uses is flawless. I experienced no lag in any match I played in, and the action stayed silky smooth with little input delay. GGPO allows you to adjust the delay settings, but I never needed to mess with them. Online matchmaking is remarkably quick and painless. The experience is rather like playing in the arcade, where strangers come and go and you spend hours perfecting your skills against them.
Graphics have also been upgraded to support 720p output, and look gorgeous despite their age. Iron Galaxy made the wise decision to leave most of them alone. This does result in pixel
ation and some awkward looking colors, but the game feels like the original arcade game, which is great. The character designs are totally imaginative – always one of my favorite parts about fighting games – and the different fighting styles mean that each one feels different to play. This imagination extends to the backgrounds, part of a demon-ravaged world, appropriately surreal and detailed.
The game also offers tutorials for new players, but unfortunately these feel half-finished. This was a huge issue for me in particular, as I feel it will be for just about any new player. The tutorials guide you through virtually every aspect of a character, pointing out their offensive and defensive strategies. Unfortunately, they’re confusing and cumbersome. Each walks you through a series of moves with sometimes minimal explanation of what they do. The input combos for each attack also don’t stay on the screen, so to view them you have to pause and access the move list every single time. Deciphering the attack combos can also be difficult, as they’re described as if you’re using an arcade stick rather than a PS3 controller. Great for the hardcore who actually own a stick…but for guys like me, it’s just frustrating.
And therein lies the one real problem with Darkstalkers Resurrection. It’s a fine game, and a fine remake…for fans. Its new features are well-implemented and helpful…for fans. But for the casual fighting game player, it can often feel like trying to climb a wall of spikes. This difficulty is not a bad thing, but the high level of entry is. I’m reminded of the Soul Calibur series, games that were easy to learn and hard to master. Darkstalkers feels hard to learn and hard to master, and while I’m sure I could get good at the game with hours and hours of practice, I question if the investment is worth it. A lot of games these days are indeed too easy, but a hard game doesn’t have to be hard to learn.
If you spent the 90s playing fighting games and logged hundreds of hours in your local arcade, then Darkstalkers Resurrection will be a fine addition to your gaming library. Fighting game veterans will salivate over the new features and old-school flavor. But if you’re like me – the quarterless kid at the Rol-a-Rink – you can probably find a more accessible fighter elsewhere.
Jon lives in North Carolina. Gifted with a Game Boy while in utero, his childhood was full of games. He started writing when he was 11 and now devotes the majority of his time to either activity, usually accompanied by beer and food. You can read his tweets, mostly about said beer and food, at @TYBasedJon.