Capcom, you may not know me, but I’ve been a longtime fan of the Darkstalkers franchise. Long enough that I played the original Darkstalkers game in arcades, all of its sequels, and while I skipped the horrible Graz Entertainment Darkstalkers animated TV series, I watched and owned the Viz Media Darkstalkers anime, and later found a way to download the “Trouble Man” theme song by Eikichi Yazawa (which is, as far as I know, otherwise unavailable). As a fan of werewolves, Jon Talbain was the template for how I learned to draw theme while doodling in class; B.B. Hood is still to this day my favorite sociopathic child ever; and I loved Morrigan before loving Morrigan became a trend. I am, as far as I’m concerned, a true Darkstalkers fan.
So last week, when Capcom’s fighting game manager Matt Dahlgren spoke to Siliconera on the Darkstalkers franchise and shot down any chance of the series return anytime soon, I nearly gave up on life. If you missed it, Dahlgren said:
“Darkstalkers Resurrection did not perform as well as we would have liked to perform. You never know what the future may hold, but Street Fighter is definitely not dead.”
And when pressed about a possible Darkstalkers game running with a modified Street Fighter engine, he only added :
“There is nothing Darkstalkers on the immediate horizon for sure.”
This wasn’t the first time, either.
Fans were promised, from the get go, that their support would prove to Capcom that Darkstalkers deserved some tender, loving care, and with fan support it could be “resurrected.” We were given “Darkstalkers are not Dead” teasers nearly two years ago, and was even asked by Yoshinori Ono, producer of the Street Fighter IV series, to raise our money in the air to really drive in how much we wanted the franchise back. And when Darkstalkers Resurrection came out, fans showed support: it was one of the top ten best selling games for the PlayStation Store in the U.S. in March, and had made several other digital bestseller lists.
But even this wasn’t good enough. When asked by a fan why the series wasn’t getting pushed forward despite its sales, Capcom’s Senior Vice-President Christian Svensson went on the Capcom Unity forums and replied:
“Sadly, it’s not as high on that list as it really needs to be to be successful. We’re working on promotions and the like to improve the situation. We’ve not given up. But I’m disappointed in the opening sales response relative to any other fighting title we’ve put out on the same platforms given the frequency and urgency of requests we’ve had here over the last several years and the quality of the execution. It is the most fully featured and probably best project of this type we’ve done.”
But let’s look at the facts: Darkstalkers Resurrection is a game based on twenty year old games that frankly don’t stack up against other, more current titles.
Although DualShockers’ very own Kenneth Richardson gave it an eight out of ten, his review pointed out several key reasons why this project was a poor way to gauge interest from non-Darkstalkers fans:
On graphics, he said:
“Visually, Darkstalkers Resurrection definitely shows its age. Of the two titles included, Darkstalkers 3 is the newer and generally better looking component. The sprites and stages have apparently been updated, but I wasn’t immediately able to tell. For all intents and purposes, these games still look almost exactly the same way they did when they first released well over a decade ago.”
On the story, he added:
“Darkstalkers Resurrection doesn’t offer as much in the way of a story mode or campaign as most new fighters. You won’t get more than a single special fight with dialogue at the end of each character’s arcade mode, as well as the brief arcade mode endings. This isn’t a game changer to anyone who has already played these games or is picking them up solely for competitive online play, but it’s another area where the game really demonstrates how old it is.”
On gameplay, he said:
“The game-play is largely technical and is on the whole less beginner-friendly than what is featured in many newer fighting games. The inputs are also a tad bit stricter. My Z-motion or “shoryuken” attacks didn’t come out nearly as easily as they do in BlazBlue. This may trouble newer genre fans who enjoy the simplicity of games like Persona 4: Arena.”
And he concluded by saying:
“Technically speaking, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Darkstalkers Resurrection. It features two arcade classics with added online functionality, slightly enhanced visuals and new features. My only personal problem with the game is that it feels so dated and somewhat lazy on Capcom’s part. The youngest game here came out in 1997 and the very slight visual update doesn’t even try to conceal the game’s age. For the same $15 you can get the much better looking Skullgirls – which also offers more in the way of a story campaign – or the much more popular Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition.”
Now, take the above critiques and add to it the fact that there were a ton of bugs that needed to be fixed (like the game freezing, chat not working, and more), and that fans of the series have been essentially buying the same games over and over again – the same, exact, old games, repeatedly – without something new to follow it, and it’s no surprise that a HD remake wouldn’t make as big an impact as hoped.
Take a look at Darkstalkers release history, in North America:
Darkstalkers 3 was available in North America on arcades in 1997, on the Playstation in 1998, and on the PlayStation Network in 2012.
Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower, which included Darkstalkers, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Darkstalkers 3, was released in 2005.
If you had access to Japanese imports, you also had Vampire Hunter 2: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampire, updates to the Japanese version of Darkstalkers 3, on arcades and the PS2, and Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection, which included every title before, for the PS2 in 2005.
Since Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower, there has been no new Darkstalkers titles for nearly a decade. And when we finally get some kind of new project, one that was hinted at for a year, one that was given a CG teaser back in 2012 that almost seemed to guarantee a new take on the series, it only turned out to be yet another HD remake, Darkstalkers Resurrection. Now, don’t get me wrong: I was initially excited about Darkstalkers Resurrection, figuring any new Darkstalkers game is a good thing. But, when we finally got it, it just another damn “collection” game which really didn’t add anything essential.
It’s for all of these reasons that, as a fan of Darkstalkers, I just cannot let Capcom wash their hands of this disaster and claim innocence at their part in the failure to properly “resurrect” Darkstalkers. As Kenneth also said in his review, their efforts have felt rather lazy, or perhaps just playing it way, way too safe. The Darkstalkers cast is to varied, too fantastic, too unique to give up without actually trying. As much as I love Udon’s art and comics, I’d rather see my favorite characters in the medium they began in: video games.
In fact, to be fair, I never realized how expensive it was to develop characters and make a well-tuned fighting game until we started covering the Skullgirls Indiegogocampaign. During the campaign, Skullgirls creator Lab Zero Games asked fans for help in developing more DLC characters, and said that the cost of a single character could be anywhere around $150,00 and up. So believe me when I say it’s incredibly clear to me why Capcom is being hesitant, careful, and cautious with taking on new projects. But as Kenneth said when wrapping up his review, “The Darkstalkers series never seemed to get quite the praise and attention it deserved,” and Capcom’s reserved manner is not only detrimental to whiny Darkstalkers fans like myself, but detrimental to all of its franchises longevity.
Capcom’s Svensson announced a while back that Capcom would be ceasing its HD projects (for a while), because they’re just not as profitable as they thought. And while it’s been fun to see every game in Capcom’s stable make it to modern day platforms – I certainly had fun playing the Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara titles a while back – no one can deny that plenty of these games are decades old titles that gamers can play in some capacity through emulators, through other collections, or on the original consoles themselves, and with similar content.
Just look at the The Chaos Tower: while Resurrection brought online multiplayer and trophies, it only provided two games: the Chaos Tower provided the whole Darkstalkers trilogy, plus a challenge tower survivor mode. Besides a few minor differences, we got basically the same value in a new console game that we got almost ten years ago with a PSP game. And, to really twist the knife on Capcom’s “remake frenzy,” The Chaos Tower wasn’t even a new project, but a port of a Japanese-only Dreamcast game called Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service, which came out in 2000.
So Capcom, until you embrace the future, until you take a chance – which is pretty much the only driving factor in expanding and evolving the video game industry as it stands – your franchises are going to suffer. You’ve been using the “re-release/new edition” trick for a long time now, but fans are getting tired of this sales gimmick. Even the upcoming Street Fighter IV update has me saying “who cares,” since I know three minutes after its release, there will be a Street Fighter IV: Championship Arcade Gold Edition Turbo announced right on the heels of it.
I love Capcom. I love Capcom’s games. I love their characters. I love their series. Capcom’s franchises are some of the best the industry has even known. But its approach to doing anything new – or really not – has made my love for for even Jon Talbain, B.B. Hood, and especially Morrigan begin to wane. Drastically.
So I will leave off with a few quotes that seem appropriate for this message, and can only hope that Capcom will really trust their fans, and, more importantly, trust their own product. You’ll only keep and earn new fans when you really put your heart into it. So, American author and journalist Gail Sheehy, take it away:
Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.
If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living.
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.