I like me some Darkstalkers, enough to type this sentence wrongly (and even that adverb at the end was incorrect, so you know I’m serious).
I’m not sure what appealed to my younger sensibilities. After all, I’d call myself a person prone to jump scares, monsters, demons, etc., of any media and of any type. I can barely watch a horror movie, not so much for the gore and moreso the anticipation of WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN? Actually, I’m worse than that; I remember distinctly being scared of Lavos from Chrono Trigger. I imagine if you were seven years old, you might find yourself scared of an approaching Armageddon coming in the year 1999. Hey, every child deserves a chance to fear something, right? Why not the end of the world? Maybe eschatology became a rare thing in my household? I don’t know. Suffice to say: most anything scares me, even now.
Darkstalkers takes well-worn monster tropes and made a rather spectacular fighting games out of them. You’ve got vampire, werewolves, succubi (well known in Medieval circles, I suspect), mummies, cat people, Frankenstein’s monster, Chinese ghosts, Japanese demons, zombies, mermen, sasquatches, space robots, extraterrestrial demigods from different universe, a demon hunter, a bee/human hybrid, and a evil bounty-hunting Little Red Riding Hood. So yes, this is EXACTLY what should appeal to a Christian kid, right? I guess I’m just weird, but I loved Darkstalkers and all of its lovable, odd, and quirky reinterpretations of B-movie monster lore and foreign cultural folklore. You can’t say you’d get that in any other medium, I suspect.
Even so, Darkstalkers was and still remains a beautiful game, showing the skill, depth, and unbelievable imagination that Capcom’s arcade division showed in the mid-1990s. To show you screenshots just doesn’t do it justice, honestly:
The first game, of course, seems quite slow, but it showed some genuine innovation for the time in animation terms. Darkstalkers introduced air fireballs (seriously, before Akuma!), dashes, block cancelling, reversals, and hosts of other innovations most fighting game players take for granted. They went all out on this one, and it shows. Although the first game does a lot, Capcom tweaks formulas the best. So it was with Mega Man 1 to 2, and Street Fighter II to Championship Edition, so it is with Darkstalkers to Night Warriors. It’s no coincidence that Night Warriors is one of the two games in the newest Darkstalkers re-release, as it is a fantastic refinement of the original (down to the backgrounds and lifebars, in fact). NW not only speeds up the basic game mechanics, but also created the basic light-to-hard chaining system used in Marvel vs. Capcom, as well as every anime-based fighter ever created (Guilty Gear, Blazblue, etc).
Unfortunately, Darkstalkers found itself cursed with an unbelievably BAD PS1 port that also arrived nearly two years (!) after the original arcade release. Night Warriors got a port to the Saturn, which wasn’t the most popular of US consoles even in its heyday. Talk about behind the times! Ultimately, that bad start and the continual decrease of the arcade scene in America led to Darkstalkers failing in a bad way in the States. You must also understand the kind of competition for fighting games in that time period. Street Fighter II created a genre and the arcades exploded with new fighting franchises, especially from Capcom, SNK, and Midway. People liked using fatalities and chopping people up – hence, Samurai Shodown and Mortal Kombat became harsh competition to Darkstalkers and even Street Fighter Alpha. For the United States, Darkstalkers got lost in the shuffle (and The Last Blade too, but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
Because of this, we missed the best game in the series for the most part – Vampire Savior. Called Darkstalkers 3 here (which, to be honest, isn’t a very cool title at all), VS took the series to smoother play, denser mindgames, and an exhaustive competitive game. Add to that VS’s most notable attribute – speed – and you have a masterpiece of the 2D world. Seriously. It’s almost a shame if you did not play Vampire Savior at all; it’s similar to Street Fighter, yet somehow completely different. If you thought King of Fighters was the rushdown version of SF, then Vampire Savior takes that rushdown one step further by having combo chains in the air and impeccable speed – fast enough for excitement, yet not too fast that both players lose control of the match. It’s tense, exciting, and requires some rather deft execution. It doesn’t even maintain a traditional round system, giving the player two lifebars instead (akin to Killer Instinct, though I’m not sure if that was the first game to use this system).
It’s awesome, and you should love it. I remember playing my old PS1 port of VS (which came out in 1999…seriously guy, why so LONG?) and enjoying it IMMENSELY. Just the characters, the speed, the movement, the music, the graphics and everything about it yell “quality”. I even have the Saturn version (without a Saturn to play it on…) and the old GameFan guide – even if I’m terrible at it, I’m a dedicated sort. That Saturn port from Japan motivated many to buy a Japanese Saturn, or at the least buy a 4MB cart needed to play it (which would let you play imports – ah, the good old days without DRM and region locking). I remember seeing it in EGM, filled with utter envy that people got to play it. Emulation just isn’t the same, really; it always feels like a cheap copy.
1997 definitely wasn’t a good year for the popularity of 2D fighters in the US – unfortunately, it didn’t appeal to us boorish Americans. So it was that Darkstalkers, regardless of how wonderful and good it was, fell into obscurity with the rise of the 3D fighting game, only played by the hardest of the hardcore until the present day. The same thing happened to Street Fighter III: Third Strike, although that one, at the least, stayed in the limelight; how many people even KNOW about the Darkstalkers series?
Everyone has that common experience where everything changes forever – we lose something precious, or it suddenly ends without warning. At first glance, everything’s bad – nothing will ever be the same. I don’t get to play Darkstalkers, but the disciples thought Jesus was dead and buried. For good. They had every right to worry; even though Jesus told them repeatedly that He would rise again, they did not have ears to hear, nor the understanding necessary to comprehend what was to come. They wanted a king; he was the King of Kings, and He wasn’t going to rule like any ordinary king. Disciples of such a revolutionary would, inevitably, be hunted and put to death. The Roman Empire would not let those claims stand, and didn’t – neither did the religious ruling establishment. You can imagine the situation was much more bleak than me lamenting the loss of a new Darkstalkers game. In the video game world, we can all just move onto the next big thing, but rarely do you see good franchises with low sales numbers rise from the dead. Less likely are you to see a person die and then come back from the dead; that hasn’t happened in 1980 years, by my count.
Yet Jesus died. Was it all for naught? They buried him and that was that. Then He came back from the dead. What were they to think of such an event?
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Seriously, they were in hiding, and had every right to think that way – from any human perspective, they weren’t likely to get a happy ending to the story. Yet it wasn’t even a happy ending – it was the completely, totally unexpected twist at the end from their contemporary perspective. What else could they do but rejoice!? Do you think you’d something retain special knowledge? Kierkegaard said something to that affect: whether a contemporary or an observer from the future, you’re no more likely to tell whether or Jesus would rise from the dead. In both cases, you’re not working with science or reason or questions of history; the believer works by Faith. As Kierkegaard says under one of his many pseudonyms in Philosophical Fragments:
The testimony of the contemporary provides an occasion for the successor, just as the immediate contemporaneity provides an occasion for the contemporary. And if the testimony is what it ought to be, namely the testimony of a believer, it will give occasion for precisely the same ambiguity of the aroused attention as the witness himself has experienced, occasioned by the immediate contemporaneity. If the testimony is not of this nature, then it is either by an historian, and does not deal essentially with the object of Faith, as when a contemporary historian who was not a believer recounts one or another fact; or it is by a philosopher, and does not deal with the object of Faith. The believer on the other hand communicates his testimony in such form as to forbid immediate acceptance; for the words: I believe — in spite of the Reason and my own powers of invention, present a very serious counter-consideration. There is no disciple at second hand. The first and the last are essentially on the same plane, only that a later generation finds its occasion in the testimony of a contemporary generation, while the contemporary generation finds this occasion in its own immediate contemporaneity, and in so far owes nothing to any other generation. But this immediate contemporaneity is merely an occasion, which can scarcely be expressed more emphatically than in the proposition that the disciple, if he understood himself, must wish that the immediate contemporaneity should cease, by the God’s leaving the earth.
The encounter with Christ, witnessing the Resurrection, happens to the person, the believer. It isn’t localized in a magic time-based temporality (although we affirm that it is, in fact, an event that happened in history), but every believer encounters it anew. Every believer also doubts it, or puts their whole trust in it. I suppose that’s why John also includes the story about Thomas. He was not there; He needed to experience the Resurrection Himself. He could not rely on the account of secondary witnesses:
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having beenshut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Once you meet Him, the impossible becomes possible. You can believe…or you can also choose NOT to believe. You do not need to see Him to meet Him – and that makes verse 29 so awesome. So it is that I put my hope in the Resurrection, just as all Christians do. That we see tiny resurrections every day proves to the strength of that claim – my glass continues to be half full.
So please love Darkstalkers, for this week is your lucky week to purchase Darkstalkers Resurrection! On either Xbox Live or PSN, the game currently retails as a downloadable release for 15 USD, and that’s a steal for two of the best fighting games ever created. With online play. And a tutorial mode that literally teaches you how to play the game. And crisp, HD resolutions for all this beautiful animation that aged as well as anything Disney created during their animation peak. I mean seriously, are you going to let Darkstalkers die, or are you going to buy it?