Ladies and Gentlemen, the debut of the Darkstalkers series. (A.K.A The Vampire Hunter/Saviour series in Japan.)
1994 was quite the year for Video Games was it not? The original Tekken game was released, Final Fantasy III (technically Final Fantasy 6) was released in the states and more. Yes the Video Game Industry had quite the busy year back then. However It was also the debut year of the most "Sleeper Hits" of 2-D fighting game history namely THE DARKSTALKERS!
It was supposedly said to have been a formerly popular series, but I'm sure at least one of you is curious on how can it be when many have yet to have really hard of it. Darkstalkers is a 2-D fighting game series made by Capcom of Street Fighter fame. However instead of Martial arts, Militiristic Agendas and the like the Darkstalkers seires was more a mix of slickly-styled horror and macabre dark humor. It takes various old horror legends and places them in with various new twists. The Darkstalkers series has had oddles of style, but its not incredibly different gameplay-wise. But they never truly felt like pathetic rehashes of Capcom's much more famous success story in the genre.It was a fairly well known capcom arcade game much like those such as Saturday Night Slam Masters and the like. One year later it got a home console release but sadly only a rather limited one.The good news is that in 1995 it had a release on the Sony Playstation in the US. The bad news is that it was only released on the Sony Playstation and went totally under the radar.
The original Darkstalkers game was released in US during 1995 as a Sony Playstation exclusive, now normally the idea of giving a VG series on the Sony Playstaion would sound kike a good idea. However keep in mind that this game was released in 1995, which means that it would go competely under the radar but thats more due to the PS One itself. Don't me wrong I like the PS One and I'm well aware of how popular it got in the late 90'. However the thing is back in the mid-90's the Playstation was actually not all that popular at all. Then again it never truly reached popularity until Final Fantasy VII was released in the US in latter 1997. WHY did Capcom make it a exclusive to Playstation is odd because they seriously should've given this a release on the SNES and/or Sega Genesis as well. Granted the Sega Genesis might've been not powered enough to give the original DS game a good port but the SNES most likely will. Because lets face it back then the SNES and Sega Genesis are the consoles to give a game series a good introduction back then. But if you think that release plan was bad wait till you get a load of this...The 2nd Darkstalkers game which was sadly a Sega Saturn exclusive
The Nintendo 64 may've got Nintendo out of being the #1 champion in the Video Game Industry, but the failure of the Sega Saturn hit Sega a lot harder. Capcom making the 1st Darkstalkers game be a Sony Playstation may've been a bad idea at the time but making this one a Sega Saturn exclusive was even worse. I mean even back then it was painfully obvious that the Sega Saturn was just not faring too well. Granted it was more due to Sega's grossly overzealous oversaturation of products such as the Sega Genesis, Sega CD and the like. While giving it a SNES port might've been a good idea. (Which is possible after all Street Fighter Alpha 2 had a pretty good port on the SNES. In which a few of the Darkstalkers characters had a small cameo in one of the stages.) Heck making a Sony Playstation release would've been better than this as well. While the 1st series needed a better-released introduction, Capcom game series' don't usually truly take off in popularity with gamers until their eariler sequels. (Such as Street Fighter, Mega Man and the Marvel Vs. series' for example. Granted its not ALWAYS like that but still.) At least a Sony Playstation release might've developed what little audience the first game got a bit more. However oddly enough Capcom actually more focused on how the Japanese versions of the games were selling better in the US. (They even gave one of the DS games a "English Mode" in its Japanese release.) But even though Imports of Sega Saturn games were selling better in the US that still didn't make the Sega Saturn all that profitable at all really. Its like Capcom was pratically going out of their way to make sure that the releases of the Darkstalkers games were as small as possible. But to be fair it could've been worse, they could've made it a Atari Jaguar exclusive. *shudders* Oh yes and you might've noticed that little note in the back that says "WITNESS THE DARKSTALKERS EVERY WEEK ON THE SYNDICATED CARTOON SERIES!" huh? Well folks that shall be the next part of this article...The infamous US Darkstalkers series here ladies and gentlemen re-released by ADV.
In the 90's there were three animated shows based on Capcom's Video Games. Namely Mega Man, Street Fighter and of course Darkstalkers. While the former two had their fair share of supporters and detractors the latter was just simply a flat-out flop. The US Mega Man and Street Fighter series' are from flawless but they do have a remotely decent basis with their source material which the Darkstalkers series has sadly utterly failed to do so. Loosely based on the games (namely the 2nd one) and poor production values plagued this series so. What was pretty much deemed to be the only redeeming factors were its VA cast and the ending song "Trouble Man". Unfortunately needless to say this show was considered a colossal waste of a good cast and a ending song. It was pretty much in limbo when USA no longer went with animation, however ADV got the license to show all three of those shows. Why? Especially since their mostly known as an Anime Dub company? Simple, other anime dub companies have got the rights to dub those anime such as Viz and Manga Entertainment. The quality of the idea of bringing back the US Street Fighter and Mega Man shows have been debated on but you can only imagine how much people wanted to absolutely love ADV for bringing this back huh? Though speaking of Anime dubs and the like I'll get to a bit mroe uplifting subject right here at...Yes folks the rather well done anime based on this series. Awfully short but still well done.
This late 90's Anime treat was welcomed and adored by various sorts of fans. Its critical consensus is not seemingly perfect but it went far better than the aforementioned trainwreck in the above paragraph. This too alike the US series was based on the 2nd Darkstalkers game (hence the title) and had the same ending song and most of the same English cast. So basically its kinda like the US series only made a LOT better. It was also given a great english dub by Viz behind famous english dubs such as Ranma 1/2 and the Fatal Fury movies. It had great performances from fan-favorites such as Scott McNeil as Lord Raptor and Paul Dobson as Demitri Maximov. (Though I kinda wished that they used Saffron Henderson as Morrigan like how it was done in the US series. But Kathleen "Dot Matrix" Barr did pretty well.) The first episode has often considered to be the best namely by giving a good portion of the cast good exposure. One aspect that irked some people however was on how Donovan Baine, Pyron & Hsien-Ko were given a lot more attention in the later episodes. (Though the rest of the cast wasn't COMPLTELY ignored.) Unfortunately the series was only 4 episodes. Granted each episode was about 45 minutes instead of 30 but still its indirectly about as long as FLCL for godsakes. Sadly they seemingly never thought of expanding this anime more and made to be a cash-in for the 2nd game in the series its not even funny. The Manga (Japanese Comic Book) for this was also released in the US and was pretty decent. But still both the show and the Manga should've been expanded more. I admire on how the show itself tries to use its overly limited time of episode amount well enough. But still this show SHOULD've at least cover all three of the games well enough. And if it wasn't made as such as cash-in for the 2nd game only it would've done so. But still lets get back into the game series itself shall we?Here it is folks, the last game of the series on the PS One. And one of the best games in the series as well IMO.
This late 90's game was pretty much its last hoorah for this series in that decade and until recently the last one ever. For those whom think I'm giving Capcom too much grief I'll give them credit here. The release plan for this title was actually pretty well down. It was a PS One exclusive but it was when the PS One was Number One in sales at the time. So unlike the first game, this one being a PS One exclusive was actually not a bad idea. It was released alongside those such as Street Fighter Alpha III and Pocket Fighter and the like so its genre had a good financial basis in the PS One back then. However there was this just this teeny tiny little problem at hand here. It may've got a good release plan but its prodecessors sure didn't and generally sequels work better in profits when their prodecessors were treated well in the first place. Granted Capcom broke that rule on how the Street Fighter series didn't get its famous recognition until the 2nd game. (But its success has a good amount of luck in it since Strret Fighter II as we all know jumpstarted the Arcade Industry's popularity back to life for a few years.) There was a Sega Dreamcast game that was Japan-only but it was simply a slightly updated version of this game. The gameplay for the third game is genuinely solid but there is a bit more to the quality than that. For starters the storyline of the game is genuinely solid and was surprisingly un-screwed up. Capcom may've been knwon for great gameplay in 2-D fighters but their also known for screwing around with their stories an awful lot namely on Street Fighter. The storyline for Darkstalkers was surprisingly not plot-hole ridden and this game is a good piece of proof of it. And they also took a little additional time to flesh out some of the more quirkier aspects of the characters such as Morrigan's bisexuality. Yes Succubi are suppose to only have sex with men to steal their souls. But alike fighting, Morrigan doesn't care about the gender of the person she is having sex with as long as its fun. Her cutesy little sister Lillith is also Morrigan's frequent sex partner. (And she occasionally tries to get Felicia involved that way but has yet to succeed.) There is also Lord Raptor occasionally trying to get into Hsien-Ko's robes if you know what I mean. ;) There are several other quirks but not all of them are perverse. However anyways this is what became of this series' future for the most partStrange thing is that I haven't fully captured ALL of the games that the DS characters made appearances in afterwards.
These games shown above are a good majority of the games that the DS characters appeared in. However this was pretty much at the time when Capcom went Crossover crazy with their fighters. Not even Street Fighter was perfectly safe from this. However one thing that initially annoyed a good amount of people was that the DS character whom appeared the most was Morrigan. It was easy to see why since as the old phrase goes "Sex Sells". (Though ironically enough despite that she is actually the least-endowed compared to Felicia, Hsien-Ko and Q-Bee.) However some of the others eventually got more of a chance to appear such as Felicia, Demitri Maximov and B.B Hood. Things seemed to be well for a lack of a better term getting Dark for this series. Will this series have a saviour to give it the fame that it so richly deserves? Well this was a nice start...Ladies and gentlemen, Udon's renowned Comic Book series.
The late great Dreamwave comics did try something as well but they were never able to truly get out of the ground due to how Dreamwave went down. This however alike their also well-renowned Strret Fighter comic book series did rather well with readers. Its highly stylish and wonderfully detailed artwork caught on with Comic Book readers and the like. I'ts storyline did pretty darn well too with buyers. Granted it might not drive Capcom to do well too much since its Comic books are a much different market than what Capcom usually goes for. However fortunately we actually got a little something out of them this time believe it or not namely here.Yes folks the most current games in the series are just well stylized re-releases of the previous games in the series. Suprised? Chances are you probably shouldn't be.
In Japan the Darkstalkers series gets a good resurgance in popularity and unlike the USA it was for a bit more due to various other means such as old console games and the arcade classics and the like as well. (Keep in mind that the Arcade Industry is still alive & well in Japan and Retro-gaming is many times stronger over there.) One of their first attempts to revive Darkstalkers in the US was this PSP-exclusive/PSP launch title by the name of Darkstalkers: Chronicle of the Chaos Tower. once again Capcom made the same mistake of giving a Darkstalkers game be a exclusive for a new Sony system. Sure the Playstation itself took off a lot better long after the first game got released here. The PSP however became one of the various handhelds that were defeated by the might of Nintendo's handhelds. I mean c'mon Capcom couldn't you guys add in a GBA release like you did for Street Fighter Alpha 3? Or even better give it a release on the Nintendo DS as well? And for those whom wonder about what happened to that certain PS2 game pictured nearby the aforementioned PSP one sadly it was Japan only. But still couldn't this get a release on the Nintendo Gamecube and/or X-Box like how Capcom Vs. SNK II was? This game is to Darkstalkers like what Street Fighter II Anniversay Collection was to the Street Fighter series for the most part. And yet while the Street Fighter II Anniversay Collection sold pretty well in the US, this game has yet to reach our shores. Anyone else seeing whats wrong with this picture?
Overall Darkstalkers is a game series that Capcom has done a wonderful job in making it but a horrendous job in marketing it. However there is still some hope for this series in the US, somewhat faint hope but hope nevertheless. Udon Comics is still going strong and there is the Nintendo Revolution to consider here. Granted Darkstalkers has yet to have been in a Nintendo console of the past. But it has been well said that the downloads will expand much further into games from other consoles such as the Sega, Neo-Geo consoles and even Arcade games. Granted nothing is official on that account but the chances of Capcom being able to give us the DS series as downloadable games and the like on the Revolution is genuinely existant. (Though kinda ironic when you think about it.) Will the Dark Ones finally get their great release one way or another? Who knows...