Darkstalkers Are Not Dead! (Some Restrictions Apply)
October 25, 2019
Street Fighter may be Capcom's brawler bread and butter, but the company has other properties in its fighting game library. Consider Darkstalkers, the game that sets unique character versions of classic horror movie monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies against one another for our entertainment. After making a minor splash in the arcades in the 1990s, the series has more or less been moribund outside of a compilation re-release for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 and a daring promise from Capcom that "Darkstalkers are not dead!" except that, no, they totally are as the company has yet to follow up on a long-teased resurrection of the franchise. If you're late to the monster party, Gavin Jasper at Den of Geek gives you the lowdown on the franchise and its anime and wester cartoon adaptations, while Hardcore Gaming 101 takes you step by step through each game in the series. There are more Darkstalkers titles than you may think, but still not as many as they deserve.
At first, Capcom wanted to make a game based on the Universal Monsters, but the licensing fell through, so they just used more anime-style archetypes. Dracula became Demitri Maximoff, the Frankenstein Monster became Victor von Gerdenheim, the Creature from the Black Lagoon became Rikuo, and so on. Considering the play these characters would get as part of Capcom’s menagerie, it was definitely for the better.
Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors hit the arcades in 1994 and it kicked so much ass. On the surface, it was a Street Fighter clone, but it was different enough to stand on its own. It introduced air-blocking and EX attacks. The animation made Street Fighter II look stiff in comparison and everything was beaming with personality. Each character was distinct and popped with their mannerisms and unique animations.
Part of it came from the freakshow novelty of the early fighting games. Each game seemed to have a weirdo that stuck out and made you want to play them because of how different they appeared. Street Fighter had Blanka. Mortal Kombat had Baraka. Samurai Shodown had Gen-An. But Darkstalkers? Hell, almost the entire cast is made up of those kinds of characters. The most normal guys are a vampire and a succubus. And the succubus has literal batwings growing out of her back and head.
I fear that Darkstalkers true time to shine again was about ten years ago. If the series returned today, it would follow in the modern Capcom fighting game mold of extensive paid expansions as seen in Street Fighter V and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. No, a new Darkstalkers should have been the creative follow-up to Street Fighter IV. With so many fighting games pushing to be premier events unto themselves that are either supported for years with additional paid characters to fill out the basic roster or do not sell enough to meet expectations and are dropped by the publisher almost immediately, I don't know where a modern Darkstalkers could fit into today's gaming environment. That's a shame because the characters have so much personality and potential for storytelling.