Tag Archives: midnight bliss

FGC #390 Darkstalkers 3

Here they come!First, there was Street Fighter 2, and it was good. And then there were a bunch of imitators, and they were… middling. But, somewhere in there, while we were sorting through a solid fifty versions of Street Fighter 2 and trying to remember which fighting game had that weird dude with the clown mask (no, not that clown mask, the other one), there was Darkstalkers, the Capcom fighting game “alternative” to Street Fighter 2.

And why the heck wasn’t Darkstalkers accepted as the better game?

Right from the get go, Darkstalkers had every opportunity to be better. Street Fighter 2 was an amazing and revolutionary game that defined an entire genre… but the problem with starting a genre is that you’re still, ya know, figuring that genre out. Combos? A complete accident of programming. Balance? Important, but it’s pretty clear there’s a difference between Buzzcut, who can shut down everything, and the sumo dude that can’t waddle past a fireball. How about just plain design? You cannot tell me that OG Street Fighter 2 didn’t have a limited number of special moves for certain characters for any reason other than “this will actually let us say it’s done”. Sure, Blanka is complete with “that one move from E. Honda” and “is electric”, let’s move on to “guy that climbs background”. In short, Street Fighter 2 was amazing for its time, but it needed a pile of new versions to better refine the initial concept.

Cry about itAnd one thing that never changed about Street Fighter 2 was its boring characters. Don’t get me wrong, Street Fighter 2 has an amazing, eclectic troupe that has proven over the years to be possibly the most versatile cast of characters in gaming (hey, you think Zelda is going to entice Jean Claude?), but, back during their introductory years, they were a little less interesting. Blanka was one of a kind (assuming you never played Pro Wrestling on the NES), but the rest may as well have been Karate Guy, Soldier, Girl, and (my favorite) Red Karate Guy. They all had unique moves, motivations, and blood types, but, at a glance, they were nary more than international stereotypes. Dhalsim, with his necklace of skulls and curry-based fire breath, is a typical Indian, right? Seems legit.

So by the time we were first introduced to “the new challengers”, nobody was all that surprised when we got Bruce Lee Clone #3,271 and Dee Jay the D.J. But over on the other side of the arcade, we had Darkstalkers. Now there was a cast you could take home to mother (assuming mother is some manner of murderous slime monster).

Darkstalkers has got your Ken and Ryu… but they’re vampires. Or, okay, one is a vampire and one is a succubus, but let’s not split hairs, they’re both throwing bats back and forth. Then there’s the heavy metal zombie (who once accidentally summoned demons during a concert), the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein(‘s monster, nerds). And a yeti! Darkstalkers went the extra mile and actually found Big Foot! How can you not love such a game?

And while Darkstalkers 1 may have been little more than a reskinned Street Fighter 2, Darkstalkers 2 and Darkstalkers 3 really got their unique balls a-rollin’. When Street Fighter was still trying to work out the true meaning of the Super meter, Darkstalkers was tossing mega shadow moves all over the place. Like some fireball variety? Well, you’re not going to find beams over on those fighting streets. In fact, if you like the Versus series at all, give or take a game or two, you have Darkstalkers to thank much more than Street Fighter 2. Did you play Street Fighter 3? It introduced an electric Stretch Armstrong albino dude, and somehow still made the gameplay boring. That kind of thing is literally impossible when a murderous Red Riding Hood is spraying a giant bee with an uzi.

So this brings us back to the original question: If Darkstalkers was Street Fighter 2, but more refined and featuring more interesting characters, why has it always played second fiddle to its “ancestral” game? Everyone understood not seeing a new Darkstalkers during the dark ages when the best we could hope for was a fresh Guilty Gear, but we’re now living in a world with multiple Street Fighter 4s and 5s. And a couple of new Versus games. Get it together, Capcom!

In an attempt to find the answer, I played both Darkstalkers 3 and Street Fighter 2 (well, SSF2T Udon edition) back to back. And I think I found answer! It comes down to these dorks…

Get 'em

The cast of Street Fighter 2 is, compared to just one of the living sun monsters in Darkstalkers, boring. But take a look at 15 seconds of two fighters from that “boring” cast. Dhalsim versus Zangief may seem mundane to us nowadays, but try to imagine being a “newb”. Try to envision a world where you have never seen these two characters, and then try to imagine your impression after seeing that tiniest of clips. Taken on its own, you can immediately recognize the “styles” of both of these fighters. Dhalsim can launch fireballs and stretched fists… so he’s all about the range. Zangief, meanwhile, can barely reach Dhalsim before he’s dizzied, but his moves are powerful. Did you see how much health Dhalsim lost from one piledriver? That hairy guy is the real monster! Now imagine watching another match, maybe now with Ryu and Chun-Li. You can immediately see the difference in their styles. Same for Guile and E. Honda. By the time you get to Blanka, sure, you might be shocked by his high voltage prowess, but you’ve also got a full understanding of how his speed compares to that of the blonde in the red gi.

Street Fighter 2 might have a boring cast, but it’s a cast that immediately defines its own terms. It’s a cast that, in literally seconds, helps the player to understand the exact difference between fighters.

Darkstalkers? Not so much.

OwieSasquatch might be our prerequisite strongman, and I’m pretty sure Felicia slots into the “quick girl” trail that Chun-Li so effectively blazed, but, once you get to the rest of the cast, it gets tremendously more blurry. What’s the difference between Lord Raptor and Rikuo? Their moves look totally different, but what’s the practical application? Which is stronger? Faster? Bishamon looks like a slow and steady fighter, but so Anakaris. Are you supposed to be using that mummy floatiness? Or is that more the domain of one of the other flying fighters? And when you start adding the new fighters, it’s almost impossible to even discern their purposes. B.B. Hood is loaded with guns, but she isn’t really a ranged fighter? Are Jedah’s blood moves just for show? Is there even supposed to be a difference between Morrigan and Lilith?

Of course, if you’re a Darkstalkers fan, you know the answers to all of these questions. Or maybe you don’t! Maybe you just like using the funny werewolf man to hit people with nunchucks. That’s okay, too! But what’s important is that, fan or not, it’s not nearly as easy for someone to “pick up and understand” Darkstalkers like Street Fighter 2. Look out!Yes, Darkstalkers is more exhilarating and flashy, but that flashiness blurs the lines between the fighters, and, when everyone is exciting, no one is. Street Fighter looks like a fighting tournament, Darkstalkers looks like… crazy nonsense.

First impressions count. People like to know what’s happening, and, when they don’t, they get frustrated. Street Fighter has always worn its archetypes on its sleeve, while Darkstalkers kept things a little more complicated. And complicated doesn’t mean quarters.

I love you, Darkstalkers, but you’re too weird for your own good.

FGC #390 Darkstalkers 3

  • System: Arcade, Playstation, and Sega Saturn. I also played Darkstalkers Resurrection on the PS3 for part of this review, as it’s about as close to OG DS3 Arcade as is available on the same system I’m playing a PSX game anyway.
  • Number of players: Up to two vampires may battle at one time.
  • Other Problems: A lot of people claim that the “real” reason we haven’t seen a modern Darkstalkers is that the constant “morphing” and general craziness of the franchise can’t translate properly from sprites to modern, 3D modeling. But this is complete nonsense, as, come on, you’ve seen that gif of Gohan’s arm, right? We can do this thing!
  • Version Differences: The original arcade Darkstalkers 3 did not include the bosses of DS2, nor Donovan, the Night Warrior, for some reason. This effectively nuked every new character introduced in DS2, give or take a Chinese vampire lady. The home version, however, brought the whole gang back, and included an “edit colors” mode, making it the superior version. So of course future rereleases seem to be based on the arcade version…
  • Favorite Character: In a game full of cartoony, but creepy, characters, I prefer Marionette, because everything about her is goddamn unnerving.
  • Midnight Bliss: I am not going to talk about Dimitri’s Midnight Bliss again

    Get... her?

    So let’s talk about Viktor’s amazing booty instead.

    Get 'cha some

    I like that. And I cannot lie.

  • Did you know? Lilith was originally intended to be Morrigan’s angel half-sister. Somewhere along the line, however, she was demoted to merely being some errant chunk of Morrigan’s soul, and, thus, another succubus. The official word has always been that an angel wouldn’t “fit” in the Darkstalkers universe, but I’m pretty sure the real answer is that nobody wanted to animate a bunch of feathers all over the arena.
  • Would I play again: Oh my yes. This is one of the few fighting games that I routinely replay… Mainly because it hasn’t seen a modern update in any way, shape, or form. Come on, Capcom, poop out a decent sequel. You owe me!

What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Star Fox 64 3D for the 3DS! Come in, Corneria! We’re actually finally going to play a Star Fox game! Please look forward to it!

So unnerving

FGC #116 SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos

Who's that guy?It’s always fascinating to consider what takes priority in developing any given game.

Think about it: save rare, generally Kickstarter related situations, it is highly unusual for the general public to have any sort of insight into the creation of a video game. Yes, there are things like developer interviews that may give us the tiniest crack of light through the impenetrable wall of secrecy, but… well, I hate to say it, but developers are liars. Yes, that’s harsh, but the sentiment is the same: a developer is usually interviewed around the time of a game’s release (when the PR machine is in full swing, and no one wants to get in the way of that bad boy) or at the event of some anniversary years later (when memory has been damaged by experience and fear of fan reversal). It takes a very brave person to admit that something wound up sucking, and would have been better, but, well, we just didn’t have time/budget/managerial support to do that… and here we are. Conversely, if there was some amazing feature that would have made a great game even greater, it’s usually forgotten beneath the pile of praise heaped upon the masterful final product. And then it gets rolled into the sequel, anyway. Point is, it’s nigh impossible to say what “may have been” with games that are hits or misses. Sure, we can go review exactly what pieces are left over on the cutting room floor, but we’ll never know what a “complete” Xenogears could look like.

So we’re left with whatever is released as the final product. This, really, isn’t a bad thing, because, frankly, for so many games, “seeing how the sausage is made” might cause a “there is no Santa” level loss of innocence. Hell, the “revelation” that the clouds of Super Mario Bros. are just recolored bushes seemed to break a number of brains. I can’t imagine what would happen if, say, Nintendo revealed that Samus Aran’s gender was determined by the fact that they couldn’t organically reveal the star of Excite Bike was Excite Michelle. There’s a lot of little things that go into creating a creative work, and, like Rowling revealing that a “beloved”, snapely character in her novels was based on a slimy teacher she had back in her school days, sometimes you’re happier just assuming everything is the result of boundless creative energy and deliberate design.

But sometimes you really have to wonder what was going on.

I think?SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos was the last of the Capcom vs. SNK fighting games. For those of you unfamiliar with the companies, there had long been a sort of rivalry between Capcom and SNK. Two companies that produce fighting games, and two companies very anxious to steal the quarters right out of your pocket. For a time, Capcom accused SNK and its Art of Fighting series of outright plagiarism, and, frankly, who could blame them? 2-D fighters featuring a guy named Ryu hurling fireballs seemed to originate with Capcom, but SNK palmed that shoryuken and made a 2-D fighter featuring a guy named Kyo hurling fireballs. While you could argue this dispute never came to anything (aside from Dan Hibiki), by 2000 or so, Capcom and SNK decided to bury the hatchet and work together on a few crossover games. Capcom had just lost its Marvel license (and would not see it again for years), so its Vs. series needed a new competitor. Capcom vs. SNK was born, and, finally, Ken could show Terry Bogard who’s boss.

So, with the two companies finally working together, we saw a couple of games produced by the two separate developers. Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight and Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium were both products of Capcom, and they seemed to play like typical high-quality Capcom games. They were both good, but the sequel was a marked improvement over the original. Here’s a tip, kiddies: never buy the first version of a Capcom fighting game. SNK gave us SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, a great fighting game… for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It was a fun lil’ experience, but since it was released on a system that could barely support color, it was hard to feel like this was a real competitor for the big boys. Though it did have BB Hood and Sakura, so who am I to complain? Seemingly a long after the Capcom offerings (but I guess it was only two years), SNK released SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. It was, finally, a game that truly felt like the SNK answer to the Capcom Vs. games.

It also wasn’t very good.

BLASTI’m not a fighting game historian, and I’m probably inevitably mixing up my facts here, but I feel like there were a few different “epochs” for 2-D fighting games. There was the initial batch (with Street Fighter 2 leading the charge), the violence wars (thanks, Mortal Kombat), the whacky times (the X-Men, Alpha, Vs. days), the serious times (Guilty Gear, Street Fighter 3), and then we circled back to accessible for the average bloke (Street Fighter 4, MvC3). “The serious time” probably deserves the most explanation, as that was an age when game designers noticed that only the “hard core” crowd had stuck around when 3-D took off, so all sorts of crazy techniques and concepts were baked into the games of the period by design (as opposed to before, when even “combos” were a happy accident). The Capcom vs. SNK games (to be clear, the Capcom side) seemed to be firmly entrenched in that mindset, with ratios and styles and more complicated “systems” than you could shake a hundred hand slap at. But SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos? Not so much. Chaos (let’s just call it that from now on) seemed… dumb.

Chaos is, basically, a very simple fighting game. It’s not necessarily bad… per se… it just feels like a 1995 game in 2003’s clothing. The sprites are gorgeous… but the backgrounds are flat. The fighting is fun… but your options are limited. The roster is expansive… and half of it is locked behind weird codes. Speaking of the roster, it’s unbalanced to a ridiculous degree, with the most egregious examples able to shut down an opponent with maybe three moves (Leopold Goenitz is a beast). This is a “playable” fighting game, which puts it leagues ahead of the likes of Primal Rage, but it still feels very lacking. There’s an outline of something good here, but someone forgot to do all the shading.

Which only draws attention to where SNK decided to focus its time.

Chaos is a sprite-based game, so, unlike the polygonal 2-D fighters of today, every last movement must be carefully animated. And, as someone who has always loved the art of sprites, I really appreciate the care that has been put into animating everyone from Shiki to Zero (“Neo” Zero). But there’s also another place in the game that involved a lot of pixel perfect effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Midnight Bliss:

Not so blissful

This is a move that can only be performed by Dimitri, the lone Darkstalkers character in the roster. Dimitri shouts, “Come on, baby”, approaches his opponent with a bouquet, and then… Well, two choices here: one, if he’s facing a female opponent, he will morph her clothing into something more… alluring, or two, if the opponent is male, he will be transformed into a woman. Then Dimitri lifts the opponent into the air, sucks her blood (causing her sprite to shrivel like a raisin), and then tosses the victim aside.

It’s a rape metaphor. Hell, it’s barely a metaphor.

And, in this case, it’s a rape metaphor that must have required a lot of work. The entire roster has a “midnight bliss” sprite swap. The men’s sprites are much modified for their gender-swap, and the artists went the extra mile and gave every woman a new outfit for their impending assault. What’s more, it’s clear a lot of thought went into this feature, as some characters’ “swaps” are very deliberate references, like the appearance of The Queen of Fighters or Dhalsim basically transforming into his wife. And while a few are played for laughs (Hugo and Mars People both look like “Ms. Pac-Man” “bow” style counterparts), the majority of the morphs are straight up designed with the male gaze and particular fetishes in mind. The witch Tessa turning into a magical girl in a short skirt or the already practically naked Mai donning a kimono seems a might too specific to be anything but a clear appeal to specific male interests. Oh, and Dan even turns into a “frumpy” looking girl, because let’s define what an undesirable lass looks like while we’re at it. A lot of effort and thought went into this move. This rape move.

But maybe I’m thinking too hard about it. This move has always been a part of Dimitri’s moveset. And he’s a vampire! Vampires are eternally tied to sexual imagery (even when they’re sparkly virginity vampires). This is all in good fun, it’s not like…


Oh. Oh, okay, yeah, that’s terrible.

Look, I’m not saying this move should be wiped from the face of the Earth (it absolutely should), but my point here is that, in a game that is severely lacking compared to its Capcomian cousins, the developers decided to take the time to devote resources to a rape metaphor played for laughs. Dimitri always has this move? There’s no reason Dimitri had to be in this game at all. Still want someone from Darkstalkers? There’s literally every other character in that roster. Still want someone from Darkstalkers that will cause a “fun” sprite modification effect? Anakaris’s curse ability would scratch that itch. There’s absolutely no reason Dimitri and his Midnight Bliss had to be included, and soak up resources that could have been devoted elsewhere, but here we are.

So, yes, over anything else, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos had to include a rape-monster. Why? We’ll never know for sure. We know that Chaos was a fairly lame fighting game that could have devoted time to its multiple lacking areas, and didn’t. But we did get a fully-realized rape-monster. Way to go, SNK.

FGC #116 SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos

  • System: Only on Xbox! That’s also weird in and of itself, but I believe there was a Japanese PS2 release. Also, I suppose Arcade/Neo Geo counts, too.
  • Number of players: Two seems like a good number for a fighting game.
  • FIGHT! (fart)Favorite Character (this game): I always have a soft spot for the giant bruisers, so I think Earthquake of Samurai Shodown gets my vote here. Runner-up is Tessa, because any Red Earth representation is a good thing. Or just puzzle fighter.
  • Crossover: I want to say this is the only game in history to feature a character primarily known for the Gameboy Advance (Zero of the Mega Man Zero series… whom I consider to be an entirely different character from Mega Man X Zero) appearing also on the Xbox. Not Playstation 2, not Gamecube, just Xbox.
  • I want everybody: For reasons I can’t even fathom, nearly half the roster can only be accessed by holding down the R button over specific character portraits on the fighter select screen. You don’t need to do anything to make that “code” work, you just have to know to do it. This seems like an excellent way for an experienced player to access a “powerful” boss character, while the new player is trounced so soundly, they can’t even find a good counter pick. Little brothers across the nation are infuriated.
  • THE ENDHeaven or Hell? Assuming you don’t suck, the final boss of the game will either be the goddess Athena or demon Firebrand. If you lose, you’ll be transformed into either a divine animal (to fit in Heaven) or a demon (for Hell). Some of the demon transformations are pretty rad, and some of the animal transformations are cute, but Mai is transformed into a cow. Get it? It’s horrible.
  • I want everybody Part 2: And to unlock Firebrand and Athena for regular play, you must complete 36 battles in Survival Mode. Yes, it takes forever, and, yes, you can fail on fight 35, and it all amounts to nothing. Heaven is so far away.
  • Did you know? SNK can’t properly translate a fighting game to save their lives. Zero is really concerned about Shell.
  • Would I play again: As a curiosity, only. Like, look, this happened. Capcom vs. SNK 2 is where I can really see Balrog pummel Iori.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Felix the Cat for the NES! Are you ready to feel the magic? Please look forward to it!

Look out