Darkstalkers (known as Vampire in Japan) was Capcom’s other original fighting game series. Its popularity never came anywhere near Street Fighter‘s, but its colorful characters, innovate gameplay elements, and quirky sense of humor earned it a cult following. It influenced a number of other fighting games, including Guilty Gear and Capcom’s own Marvel Vs. series. But for such a groundbreaking title, Darkstalkers gets surprisingly little recognition, especially in the US.
The game’s conception must have gone something like this: some time around 1993, the folks at Capcom were putting the finishing touches on Street Fighter II version 4.0 and were about to get started on version 5.0, when something occurred to them. They weren’t the only people making fighting games anymore. SNK was flooding arcades with Street Fighter clones of their own, and some of them – like Samurai Shodown – were actually pretty damn good. If they wanted to stay top dog, Capcom needed to start making some actual new games instead of just releasing tweak after tweak to Street Fighter II. After a long night of intense brainstorming, Capcom decided to make a brand new fighting game with B-movie monsters as its combatants. Thus, Darkstalkers was born.
Romanian noble and vampire; Demitri is the Vampire series’ namesake and de facto protagonist. He throws the first tournament to settle for now and ever which badass truly rules the night. He originally hails from the demon world, Makai, but was banished about a century ago after challenging and losing to the top dog Belial Aensland. His time on Earth has been spent recovering and preparing for his revenge. Demitri chucks fireballs like Ryu only wishes he could and is followed by a harem of worshippers.
Bat-girl Morrigan is far and away the most well-known and popular member of the Darkstalkers cast. As Demitri’s counterpart throughout the series, she is sort of like the Ken to his Ryu – only with much more sexual tension mixed with blood hatred. Though she is Belial’s daughter, she’d much prefer to go out and have a good time than assume any kind of responsibility. At the end of Vampire Savior, she discovers her lost sister-self Lilith and merges with her to increase her powers. This new ability never comes up in another Darkstalkers game (since Savior was the last), but is realized in Morrigan’s Marvel Vs. Capcom appearance.
Gallon / J. Talbain
A lycanthrope who also happens to be a nunchuck-swinging karate master. What’s not to like? The reluctant werewolf travels the world trying to find a cure for his condition while striving to keep at bay the beast inside him. His evil side appears as a boss in Vampire Savior, but is really just a palette swap with a shadow trail that uses Talbain’s moves from the first game. For whatever reason, Tailban is significantly more popular with American audiences than Japanese.
5,000 years after his death, Egypt’s greatest Pharaoh is resurrected and decides it’s time to make a comeback in a big way. The most ancient of Darkstalkers, Anakaris is still a little stiff from all those years spent in his tomb. He is tremendously slow and somewhat awkward, but he boasts one of the wildest and most unpredictable sets of moves in a fighting game. Anakaris can (among other things) slide off the edge of the screen and reappear of the other side, eat incoming projectiles and spit them back out, separate his lower and upper halves to fight separately, and place curses on his opponents which render them defenseless and adorable.
The bouncy, half naked Felicia was no doubt a factor in many guys’ decision to stop at the Darkstalkers cabinet. Depending on which game you’re playing or who you’re asking, Felicia is a human genetic freak/metamorph who has aspirations of stardom/lives quietly as a nun. Who knows, really. All you need to know about Felicia is that she’s extremely agile and emits piercing shrieks during battle.
Victor von Gerdenheim
Victor and his markedly cuter and human-looking sister Emily were the final and greatest creations of their maker, the mad scientist Schloss von Gerdenheim. After his “father’s” death, Victor apparently had nothing else to do, so he wandered out of the castle to audition for the oversized muscleman role in a 2D fighter called Darkstalkers. His story is reinvented a little in Vampire Savior: when beloved Emily suddenly stops functioning, Victor embarks into Jedah’s realm to find a way to restore her. Victor is the powerhouse of Darkstalkers: slow mover, hard hitter.
Centuries ago, the samurai Bishamon made the mistake of donning Hannya, a cursed suit of sentient armor. Hannya’s deranged will turned Bishamon from an honorable warrior into a ravenous killing machine who slashes every living thing he encounters to pieces with Kien, an equally cursed sword with a thirst for blood. In Vampire Savior, even though Bishamon has managed to separate himself from Hannya, the armor fashions itself a phantom body and resumes its rampage within Majigen.
Zabel Zarock / Lord Raptor
A psychotic rock n’ roll zombie who kills by turning his victims into a ball and slam-dunking them? As with Talbain, there’s very little not to like about Lord Raptor. He was such a murderous badass in life that he attracted the notice of the demon Ozomu, who reanimated Raptor’s corpse and recruited him as a servant. However, the treacherous Raptor only intends to serve Ozomu until a good opportunity to usurp him arises. The little critter he hangs around with, Le Malta, is actually a spy Ozomu dispatched to keep an eye on him.
Aulbath / Rikuo
Apparently the last member of his aquatic race, Rikuo desperately searches the world in hopes of finding a mate so he can repropagate his species. Utilizing a slew of aquatic-themed attacks, Rikuo is not only an irritating opponent, but also the least interesting of the Darkstalkers. His only redeeming trait is his taunt animation.
Hailing from the frozen north, Sasquatch is one combatant who’s always ready to yeti. The fact alone that somebody at Capcom decided it would be a good idea to toss a bigfoot into a fighting game is a gigantic credit to the Darkstalkers series. Most of Sasquatch’s attacks are ice-based, and he summons exploding penguins for his Dark Force attack in Vampire Savior. Like Rikuo, his backstory isn’t much to write home about, but his hilarity and fuzziness make up for it.
Phobos / Huitzil
Huitzil is one among thousands of robotic drones created by the advanced Mayan civilization. It was recently reactivated to assess the condition of the North and South American continents and determine whether a massive purge of non-aboriginals is in order. But because of some mix-up or other, it got roped into being a sub-boss in a fighting tournament full of demons and monsters. In his Hunter 2/Savior 2 appearances, he is compelled by a programming glitch to protect a little boy named Cecil who got sucked into Majigen for some reason. But since almost everything is potentially threatening to Cecil, Huitzil essentially just goes on a killing spree and takes Cecil along for the ride.
Boss of the first two Darkstalkers games and self-proclaimed Lord of the Living Flame, the all-powerful Pyron is a malignant entity from the distant planet Hellstorm. Omnipotence eventually led to boredom, so Pyron traverses the cosmos looking for sporting opponents and interesting new worlds to add to his “collection”. Seeing a potential challenge in the Darkstalkers, Pyron assumes a humanoid shape to conform to the laws of terrestrial combat. He is a particularly nasty boss in his first appearance, but he gets increasingly toned down with each consecutive game.
The half-human, half-vampire demon hunter Donovan is the focus of the series’ second installment, which explains the Japanese title Vampire Hunter. Constantly struggling to repress his dark nature, Donovan is a man at war with himself. He travels the earth as wandering Buddhist monk, slaying demons with his living sword Dhylec to atone for his own cursed existence. Despite the cool backstory and a lot of flashy attacks (including a Monty Python Giant Foot Stomp), most Darkstalkers fans seem more interested in his companion Anita than Donovan himself.
Lei-Lei / Hsien-Ko
Lei-Lei and her twin sister Lin-Lin were the daughters of a powerful wizardess in eighteenth-century China. When their mother’s soul was condemned to endless and eternal darkness, they sacrificed themselves to save her. Lei-Lei was transformed into a Kuang-si (an undead creature of Chinese myth), and Lin-Lin became – er, a piece of paper. Together they fight evil to better their mother’s standing in the afterlife. Lei-Lei’s unusual appearance, innovative fighting style (utilizing the cache of weapons concealed in her sleeves), and overall cuteness have made her a fan favorite.
Q-Bee is queen of the Soul Bees, a species of Makai insects who consider anything that isn’t another Soul Bee a potential meal. (Creepy trivia: the eyes on their faces are decoys; they really see out of the set of eyes on their foreheads.) Q-Bee and her hive have agreed to help Jedah gather souls, provided they can snack freely as they work. She boasts an unusual set of moves and seems to be a combination of a few different 2-D fighting character archetypes, but has the potential to be quite deadly.
Bulleta / Baby Bonnie Hood
Hands down the best idea for a fighting game character in the history of ever. Though born a human being, B.B. Hood possesses the twisted soul of a Darkstalker. Her innocent demeanor is undermined by her inhuman greed and viciousness. Like Lei-Lei and Donovan, B.B. Hood is a demon hunter, but she’s in the business solely for personal gain. Instead of attacking with paranormal abilities, B.B. Hood just whips out an uzi and goes to town. Her basket also conceals flamethrowers, knives, missiles, bombs, and lord knows what else. Not surprisingly, she has a special pre-fight intro with Talbain. (“What a big mouth you have!”)
Orphaned when her parents were killed by demons and shunned by the world because of her psychic powers, Anita has almost completely shut off her emotions. When Donovan first came across her, he slashed off her doll’s head as she clutched it in her arms. She reacted angrily, as Donovan had hoped, proving that she wasn’t completely dead to the world. Since then she has accompanied Donovan in his travels, using her powers to track down demons for him to slay. Later on, Jedah suggests that Anita is destined to become the savior of the human world, making her the greatest threat to him and his ambitions. There were originally plans to include a grown-up Anita in Vampire Savior, but the idea was scrapped. She remains unplayable throughout the whole series, but does make a cameo as a secret character in the Saturn port of Marvel Super Heroes.
When Morrigan was born, her father Belial feared that one day his growing daughter might lose control of her overabundant power and destroy herself. His solution was to steal a portion of it and seal it away in an extradimensional pocket to await the time when she’d be able to handle it. Over the centuries this piece of Morrigan’s essence stirred in the darkness, eventually developing sentience and its own personality. It caught the attention of Jedah, who spoke to it through the dimensional barrier, promising freedom and a physical body in exchange for service. It didn’t take long to reach an agreement, and thus was Lilith born. Many of her attacks look similar to Morrigan’s, but Lilith is a completely different beast altogether.
The vampire savior himself. Jedah is the new boss and main villain of the third Darkstalkers installment. He creates Majigen, the dark world in which Vampire Savior takes place, in a convoluted scheme to save the Makai by pretty much killing everyone in it. Most of his attacks involve him tearing his own body apart and bleeding all over the place before regenerating completely. His personality is completely stoic and collected, save for the occasional bouts of maniacal shrieking laughter. His fighting style is somewhat hard to pick up, but deadly once mastered, as half of his attacks are unblockable.
An alternate version of Bishamon who appears in Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2. His moves are slightly different, and he doesn’t have those two ghostly whips floating around his shoulders anymore. In the story, Oboro Bishamon dons the cursed armor once more (since Hannya acts on its own in Vampire Savior) in order to conquer it once and for all. It is possible to fight against Oboro Bishamon in arcade mode, but getting him to appear is difficult.
Sort of a secret character in Vampire Savior, but it is more of an alternate gameplay mode than anything else. A random character will be selected, with Shadow looming behind him. When you win a round, Shadow leaves your current character and possesses your fallen opponent, whom you then play as in the next match.
An alternate version of Shadow appearing in Hunter 2 and Savior 2. Selecting Marionette simply forces you to play mirror matches against all of your opponents. She looks pretty neat and is accompanied by a couple of eerie tunes, but still not an actual secret character.
Dee is the secret “new” character included in Darkstalkers Collection, and is supposed to be what Donovan becomes several years after his Vampire Hunter ending. Anita is no longer with him, and he has finally surrendered to his dark side. In his ending he is getting ready to fight a teenage Anita, who would have been a far more interesting new character. Dee’s sprite is a recolored Demitri with Donovan’s head and sword. His basic moves are mostly the same as Demitri’s, his special moves are almost exactly the same as Donovan’s, and his voice consists of recycled and garbled Donovan sounds.