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Darkstalkers Chronicle: The
Reviewed June 2005 by Tony Peak
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 5
Release Date: March, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Darkstalkers has a long and often times confusing history
in the US, due in part to the US and Japanese versions often
taking different names. The series first hit the US in early
'96 as Nightwarriors: DarkStalkers Revenge for the Sega Saturn,
followed shortly by Darkstalkers for the Sony Playstation.
Even though the Sega Saturn version never saw a very wide distribution
due to the hardware, and the Playstation edition had a lot
of missing animation and bad loading times, Darkstalkers still
became a cult hit in the US. It was eventually followed by
Darkstalkers 3 back in '98.
Darkstalkers was always somewhat overshadowed by the Street
Fighter lineup and despite a growing fanbase, never quite saw
the same popularity. Its strengths were in its CPS-2 animation,
memorable character designs, and of course it's strong fighting
system. The biggest adaptation of Darkstalkers in the US is
probably the Marvel vs Capcom series, which features many of
the cast favorites including Felicia, Morrigan, Bulleta, and
Fast forward to present day, and seemingly out of nowhere
we're presented with Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
for the Sony PSP. The history lesson above is partially because
Chaos Tower is somewhat of a compilation of all the past Darkstalker
series, and partially because it is also an improved port of
a rare Japan only release for the Sega Dreamcast back in 2000.
That's a lot of history to catch up on in one game, if you're
new to the series.
Chaos Tower incorporates nearly all of the previous games
styles into one single game. At the beginning of aracde mode,
you select if you would like to play in Darkstalkers, Nightwarriors,
or Darkstalkers 3 mode. The differences are minor, but still
important. Darkstalkers for example has a single special bar
and round based combat, while Darkstalkers 3 has multiple special
bar levels and combat quickly continues after a knock-out without
Even when selecting your character, you'll again choose from
the games list to determine your character's move sets. While
Darkstalkers 3 is usually a good choice, a few characters have
noticeably good moves in the older games. For example, I personally
prefer Felicia's Nightwarrior moves, as they offer a greater
range of combat choices and the special attack strikes easier.
Other than these choices, arcade mode works pretty much as
expected, unlocking endings from the original games and giving
a generic, shared ending for Chaos Tower.
A new addition, which I believe was not in the original Dreamcast
version, is the tower mode. In this mode, you'll choose three
fighters with whom to climb a 100 level tower, fighting new
challengers each step of the way. Some stages will even have
special conditions, like no punches, and completing requirements
will send you down different paths of the tower. Unfortunately
you won't get a life restore between rounds, but I believe
the life of the unused characters very slowly refills little
by little. I say I believe because I seemed to notice it, but
it's so slow it's not very useful. This tends to make the tower
challenge artificially hard, and for me limited the appeal
somewhat over a standard Survival mode, which is not included.
Graphics is one of the areas where this version of Darkstalkers
really shines. To begin with, the Playstation versions of Darkstalkers
had loading and animation problems, which hampered the true
fluidity of the game somewhat. The Saturn and Dreamcast versions
were better, but the Saturn version is rare and the Dreamcast
version is far harder to come by still. Chaos Tower, however,
is quite likely the highest quality NA release of Darkstalkers
seen to date.
You're given the option of between having the full screen
display, or scaling down to the normal view at any time. Personally,
I always stick with the full display. The game looks excellent
set to the PSP's screen ratio with a minimal of stretching.
All of the moves, specials, and misc. animations are as smooth
and detailed as you'd expect. The PSP's rich and vibrant screen
displays the action wonderfully and seems perfectly suited
to this genre.
Thankfully, Capcom followed tradition and while they translated
the between round text into English, all of the original Japanese
voices are intact. While this may leave a few players a bit
confused with the lack of subtitles, it's generally accepted
that this is a good thing in fighters and adds to the style
and feel. All of the sound effects are generally above average,
but the music is sadly quite forgettable. Thankfully, there's
nothing overly annoying like the menu music that often plagues
Capcom fighters. (Marvel vs Capcom 2, anyone?)
While Darkstalkers is a title fans like myself will surely
appreciate and newcomers can enjoy, one has to wonder why now?
Five years after this title's first release and over 11 years
since it started in '94, a few problems plague this title as
they have the other compilations such as Marvel vs Capcom 2.
That is, many of these sprites are simply showing their age.
Thankfully on a new system, with a wide screen, and strictly
in the Darkstalkers universe, Chaos Tower manages to look much
newer than it actually is, and less dated when not compared
against characters of unrelated franchises.
The PSP's controls, while fine for the task, obviously just
don't feel as good as an arcade cabinet or a good arcade controller.
If you hate playing 2D fighters on a regular Playstation controller,
the PSP probably won't change your mind, especially when you've
got the screen in the middle. Personally, I had little problems
with the controls, but I do have a big gripe that you can't
simply pull up a move list in game. This seems pretty important,
when the new 'easy mode' controls change how the controls are
set up, and with so many different games built into one. It's
a pretty hard to get around oversight, short of memory from
past games and trial and error.
Finally, the loading times are just not satisfying. It's not
so bad that you'll be shaking your fist at the screen like
the PS1 versions, but it's more frequent than it should be.
Between every challenger in arcade mode, and every floor on
Tower mode (which moves quickly), you'll be greeted with another
short loading message. Even when a fight demo loops in the
background, the game noticeably takes a few seconds to load.
More of the game should have been streamed into memory at one
time, so that I could play through the entire arcade set and
whole sections of the tower uninterrupted.
If you're a fan of Darkstalkers and you're a fan of 2D fighters,
rest assured this is a very solid showing of the series. This
is quite easily the best pure Darkstalkers release in the US
to date, and I certainly can't think of any other portable
fighter that compares. Newcomers to the series have an excellent
opportunity to catch up on past happenings and enjoy it for
themselves. Even though it's not a spectacular showing short
of being true to the original, if you think you'd like this
game, you probably will.
Playing Hints and Tips
- You're going to need a move list, and right now
the only place to get one is on Capcom's Japanese website. Replace
the final number in this url with 01-18, and 19 for a hidden character:
- If the normal moves give you a hard time, try the easy control
mode. It fits the PSP's control system somewhat better, but you'll
be a bit more limited in your attack options.
- Try all of the characters, each Darkstalker's character has a
very different style from the others. Find the ones that best suit
your own style.
- There are 3 hidden chars. For Marionett, in arcade mode highlight
the ? in character selection and press START seven times, then press
any punch or kick. For Shadow highlight the ? and press START five
times, then any punch or kick.
- For Oboro Bishamon, in any mode highlight Bishamon, Hold Start
and press any P or K.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Darkstalkers looks absolutely excellent
on the PSP screen, vibrant, fluid, and detailed as one would
hope. But honestly, if you’re a long time fan of the
series you’ve almost seen it before. Almost, because
Darkstalkers plain looks great widescreen. The backgrounds
are detailed and exciting, the alternate color schemes are
fun, and the unlockable illustrations are nifty.
The music isn’t highly memorable,
but it does fit the themes of the levels very well. Most importantly,
it’s not annoying. All of the voice acting is crisp and
clear, and all of the favorite lines are there. I’m very
pleased the Japanese dialog was left intact.
Capcom’s 2D lineup has always
been easy to jump into and play, and Darkstalkers really is
no exception. I have my gripes with the tower mode, but overall
Darkstalkers is as fun as ever. Each of the 18+ characters
controls uniquely enough that once you’ve mastered one,
you can switch for a whole new experience. Tower mode will
force you to master three different characters, so there’s
a lot of fun to be had.
The fun of Darkstalkers will keep you
playing for a good long while, but like a pure arcade fighter,
there’s really not much to keep you coming back. The
Tower mode is artificially hard and rather slower than it should
be due to loading. There’s no survival mode, and the
only secrets to unlock are endings and illustrations. Compared
to the nearly endless cast, replay and unlocking in modern
2D fighters like Marvel vs Capcom 2, Darkstalkers is a bit