Darkstalkers Resurrection – Xbox 360
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Iron Galaxy Studios
Release Date: Mar 13, 2013
Genre: Fighting
Reviewed by Mahamari Tsukitaka

Review Score: 4 of 5

Ah, Darkstalkers. I have to admit I’m of that certain demographic that waxes nostalgic at the mention of the series. Of the slew of fighting games that came out during the 90s, Capcom’s Darkstalkers series stands out as one of the most memorable. I’ve always thought of Darkstalkers (or Vampire, as it’s known in Japan) as Street Fighter’s mutant sister: it’s got similar mechanics, beautiful hand-drawn art, and unforgettable character designs—but, in contrast, its monstrous lineup is way zanier and the moves and animations even more elastic and outrageous.

Darkstalkers Resurrection is an aptly named Xbox360 (and PS3) port of the last two games in the series: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge (1995) and Darkstalkers 3 (1997). The overall presentation of these two beat-‘em-up classics is polished and attractive, with clear and easy-to-navigate menus, gorgeous HD character illustrations, and crisply delivered, upbeat electronica pulsing in the background.

On entering the games themselves, though, purely from a cosmetic angle, I was just a wee bit disappointed to find that DR isn’t a true HD-remastered version of the originals like Street Fighter II Turbo HD. The pixel jags have been smoothed over a bit in resizing the images to HD resolution but otherwise look just as they did in the 90s. They certainly don’t look bad, especially if you’re comfortable with graphics from older games, but it’s a bit jarring to jump from the sleek HD menus to the rougher graphics of the 32-bit PlayStation era. I don’t mean this as a complaint, but it’s just too bad Iron Galaxy and Capcom didn’t take up that torch this time. I think any Darkstalkers fan would agree that the original sprites and backgrounds would have been absolutely stunning redrawn in high definition, and DR was a great opportunity for that.

Gameplay-wise, the two games play just as well as I remember. The animations and response times are very fast, and the simple control scheme—involving just the direction stick, three kicks, and three punches—wasn’t too hard to pick back up. The minimalist beauty of Darkstalkers is that even though each character has a relatively short move list compared to many modern brawlers, and even though most of the basic techniques are easy to learn and consistently pull off, combining and timing the proper commands together can still take time and effort to master.

What especially makes this a great port is the surprisingly thoughtful little details. You can conveniently switch relatively quickly between the two games with a quick tap of the back button, and the game allows a lot of fine-tuning in online play delay and visual modes. It’s also easy to save impressive replays and share them on YouTube, if you’re so inclined. Additionally, seemingly countless achievements that earn experience to level up your player profile, scads of unlockable art, and other extras seem well designed to keep a player interested.

My favorite new feature is the series of challenges, individually designed for each character, that can help a player practice and learn various move combinations that separate a decent player from an advanced one. I enjoyed working on these a lot, though I admittedly still had trouble pulling off more complex maneuvers, possibly because of my mediocre skill and possibly because I only use the standard Xbox controller rather than a specialized fight stick, which I hear is helpful. In any case, it’s a great addition to the two games.

As of the time of this writing, and maybe because of the hours I keep, I had a hard time finding any random-match online opponents to play with. From what I’ve seen of it, though, online play feels natural and smooth, and the game allows up to eight players to hang out in a lobby together. I can see this feature working really well if the online community picks up later on, though, or if you can get some friends to play it with you.

Overall, Darkstalkers Resurrection is a solid and well thought-out port of two 90s games that are still very enjoyable to play almost 20 years later, even more so with the new bonus features. Granted, my gaming history might make me a bit biased, but I think the Darkstalkers games, while following a simpler formula than the flashier modern fighters, still hold up well by today’s standards. For a fairly reasonable 1,200 Microsoft Points ($15 USD), if you missed these iconic games when they were originally released, I’d highly recommend checking them out. Maybe with enough interest, they’ll release a full graphical HD remaster someday.