Whether fans of the modern beat-‘em-up genre acknowledge it or not, they have a lot to thank the Darkstalkers franchise for. While Street Fighter maintained its status as Capcom’s cash cow, it was Darkstalkers that allowed the company to experiment, to address alternatives and gauge the audience’s reaction. It was arguably the welcome reception that Darkstalkers received that eventually led to the likes of BlazBlue and Arcana Heart finding their way to European markets – helping to build publisher confidence – and the likes of Skull Girls may never have existed without Darkstalkers’ unique brand of offbeat fighting mechanics. Surely then, this high-definition (HD) ‘resurrection’ is long overdue.
From the off, Darkstalkers Resurrection is an odd package. Bundling together Night Warriors (originally known as Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge) and Darkstalkers 3 – yet keeping the two entirely separate experiences aside from a shared player experience system – the former has clearly aged badly while the latter remains a welcoming fighting template encased in colour template that clashes far too often to be considered a peer to more modern 2D beat-‘em-up titles. While Darkstalkers Resurrection was always intended to be a HD makeover of the two titles, it would be easy to argue that simply porting the PlayStation Portable’s Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower to current-generation digital platforms may have been a more favourable option.
Night Warriors, the second title to be made available in the Darkstalkers videogame series, feels archaic from start to finish. Clunky controls and a lack of breakaway movesets result in a videogame that’s less playable than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s version of Street Fighter II; a shameful conclusion to draw considering it launched more than half-a-decade later. Darkstalkers 3 however, features all of the modcons that you would expected from a 2D beat-‘em-up; turbo mode, auto assistance, guard breaks, tech hits, EX cancels and more. Darkstalkers 3 is essentially the template upon which the modern technical fighting experiences were built upon and so stands-up to such pressure in all but the visual quality. It’s a shame then that it’s hidden away on the Back button and not offered as the first taste of Darkstalkers that Darkstalkers Resurrection adopters will be faced with.
Both titles offer Arcade, Training and Challenge/Tutorial modes, the latter of which teach players how to perform combos in an extremely haphazard manner. Darkstalkers Resurrection does feature multiplayer gameplay of course, both local and online. Via Xbox LIVE Darkstalkers Resurrection offers a remarkable contingent of gameplay modes: Ranked, Player, Tournament, party play, replays (personally saved after each match) and a Quick Match option that connects you to the first match available. In a surprise move for a beat-‘em-up videogame, the online play is nearly as rewarding as playing against someone sat on the couch next to you.
Sadly, Darkstalkers Resurrection is not the definitive version of the Darkstalkers that fans had been hoping for. Night Warriors is unquestionably outdated and, while still enjoyable, Darkstalkers 3 simply doesn’t provide enough reason to return regularly beyond the overly demanding Achievements. Darkstalkers Resurrection is a product for existing fans and unlikely to appeal to anyone else, but as a release designed to measure such an audience, acting as a test bed for potential future titles, it’s at least achieving its main goal.