Nerd, from the Brontoforumus, asked me to write about why Darkstalkers is or is not the best game ever. Well, all I’ll say to that directly is that Vampire Savior is a perfectly playable, good game with a high execution requirement. It’s also the game where Daigo Umehara made a name for himself, after he switched from Pyron to Bishamon. The top tier is a bit too strong and the bottom tier is a bit too weak, but thats indicitive of all games of that era. If you wanna play a Darkstalkers game, Vampire Savior is as good as it gets.
But thats not a very interesting post. Theres not much to say about how fun Darkstalkers is to play — it succeeds at what it tries to do for the most part and is playable. But what IS interesting is how massively influential the series was. While Street Fighter laid the foundation for fighters to follow, Darkstalkers went TOTALLY BATSHIT CRAZY and tried to buck every trope they established. They introduced crazy new systems and piled them on top of each other. The series was highly experiemental and most modern games take more then a handful of systems from the series.
Obviously lets begin with the original Darkstalkers. Darkstalkers was released just before Street Fighter Super Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha. What systems did this game have?
Chain Combos: Making normals cancel into other normals — the feature seen in the majority fighters these days. MVC2, Guilty Gear, Blaz Blue, TvC, Melty Blood… All these games and more owe this system to Darkstalkers. Called Hunter Chains (or maybe they weren’t called that until the next game?) they allowed you to, in a precise way, chain a number of normal moves together, going from lightest to strongest attack. This is actually more liberal then a lot of systems that exist today. The system was also put into the first Street fighter alpha, but was dropped. Guy and a few other characters retained their chains, but generally speaking, their role was vastly reduced. These chains only grew more liberal as the series progressed.
Enhanced Air Mobilty: … Air dashing and double jumping? Yeeeeah. All the way back in 94. Darkstalkers was the first game to bring fighting into the air. These systems aren’t universal like in Guilty Gear, but there were characters who possessed these abilities even back then.
Air Blocking: Another staple these days. Also featured in the Alpha series. Air blocking was necessary to allow the crazy air mobility to work. At this point you have every air system that modern, high mobility games use… back in 94.
Dashing… at all!: Oh wait you couldn’t even dash at all in any game before Darkstalkers. Where you can dash on the ground… AND the air.
Guard Cancels: Oh you know., Alpha Counters. Attacking out of blockstun, another hallmark of the Alpha Series existed first in Darkstalkers. Pretty much every god damned game ever uses Guard Cancels these days.
Flight Modes: Like Sentinel in MVC2 and other games. In fact, the other crazy thing with this is it uses the super meter. This game also had the first utility supers, wow!
It also featured even more ideas that were used in other games. I-no’s airdash in Guilty Gear is based off of Morrigan’s airdash. Faust can walk while crouching like Felicia. The game also featured a unique superbar immediately after super Bars were concieved. The bar would drain while filled and while active would cause special moves to have more effects, like additional damage or better properties. You could also use a super before it totally drained. This wasn’t a popular system, but it was indicitive of the creativity that went into Darkstarker’s design. There were other quirky decisions too. Fireballs would clash in different ways based on distance traveled and the strength used, based on the amount of ‘momentum’ they had left. So you could overpower a projectile by countering it with another one at close range. You also had weird ideas like Bishamon, who had a dragon punch that could ONLY be done as a 1 frame reversal.
Vampirer Hunter/Nightwarriors was Darkstalkers sequal that spawned even MORE new systems.
Stockable Meter: Now you can hold maaany levels of super. 99 levels I beleive, more then you could ever possibly use.
EX Attacks: These were actually called ES attacks (while EX attacks were basically Supers), but they were bigger, badder special moves that used the same meter as your super. Tons of games use this. SF3 and SF4, Guilty Gear with it’s Force Breaks and, in ways, FRCs, Melty Blood., etc etc.
Pursuit: Not to popular, but saw a lot of use in the Samsho games. Involves diving after grounded opponents for a free hit. You lose a chance to mix them up, but you get extra damage.
Tech Roll: Very common in a lot of games (SFA, SF3, SF4, and BB at the least), it allows the defender a safer way to get up by rolling after a knockdwn.
The game also featured a number of other weird systems, like auto-block mode, that lets you block for free when not attacking up to 10 times in exchange for not having the ability to control your chain combos.
Vampire Savior, the ‘best’ of the DarkStalkers games brought even more systems into the fold. None of these are quite as overt, but they are influential. You know Eddie from Guilty Gear? That whole concept comes from the Helper Dark Forces in Darkstalkers. The game also features variations on Alpha style custom combos (having your shadow be on the opposite side of the opponent to negate pushback for example). Super and Hyper armor moves are created — moves that can absorb one or many hits before being interrupted. It also added push-block, a feature that would appear in MVC2, GG, BB and TVC. The game even made some goofy changes. Life bars drain the opponent direction. A match is really one big round. Not necessarily good changes, but it shows how ‘out of the box’ DS was trying to be when compared to Street Fighter.
After Vampire Savior, Vampire Savior 2 and Vampire Hunter 2 came out. Both these games were like Savior, but with slightly different casts due to memory limitations. These gimmick releases were sort of ignored to my understanding. Still, Darkstalkers had a profound influence on later fighting games. I’m probably missing even more examples of new moves and character archetypes. Darkstalkers is easily the second most influential fighting game ever made, regardless of the playability of any individual title. These systems are EVERYWHERE and DS spit them out in mass. There was definitely a crazed genius involved in the creation of these games and while I don’t play them, I appreciate them fro their massive contribution to the genre.
Hope that’s good enough, Nerd.