By Pat R with extra stuff by Kurt Kalata

Darkstalkers (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 and heavily influenced 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 States.

I don't claim to know exactly how it came about, but I think the game's conception went something like this: some time around 1993, the folks at Capcom were putting the finishing touches on Street Fighter II v. 4.0 (now with more Cammy!) and 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 (which I'd like to imagine involved sake bombs and Misfits records), Capcom decided to make a brand new fighting game with B-movie monsters as its combatants. Thus, Darkstalkers was born.

So! Let's get right to the heart of this thing:

Characters

Demitri Maximoff
Vampire

Romanian noble and vampire Shoto; Demitri is the Vampire series' namesake and de facto hero. 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 Belial Aensland, Makai's top dog. His time on Earth has been spent recovering and preparing for his revenge against Aensland. Demitri chucks fireballs like Ryu only wishes he could and boasts a harem of slave girls and worshippers that puts SNK's Mr. Big to shame. He is worth playing in Vampire Savior and SVC Chaos for his Midnight Bliss move alone.

Morrigan Aensland
Succubus

If nothing else, Darkstalkers taught a generation what a succubus is. Bat-girl Morrigan is far and away the most well-known and popular member of the Darkstalkers cast. As Demitri's Shoto counterpart throughout the series, she is sort of like the Ken to his Ryu -- only with much more sexual tension mixed with blood hatred (so to speak). Though she is Belial's daughter, she'd much prefer to go out and have a good time than assume any kind of responsibility -- much like her real-life succubus counterpart, Paris Hilton. 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
Werewolf

A lycanthrope who also happens to be a nunchuck-swinging karate master. What's not to like? The reluctant werewolf J. Talbain (Gallon in Japan) travels the world, kicking ass and trying to find a cure for his condition while strive to keep at bay the beast inside him. His evil side appears as a boss/secret character 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.

Anakaris
Mummy

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 a tomb. He is tremendously slow and somewhat awkward, but he boasts one of the wildest and most unpredictable sets of moves you'll see 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.

Felicia
Catwoman

The bouncy, half-nude Felicia was definitely a factor in many people's decisions to stop at the Darkstalkers cabinet as they perused the arcade in the early 90's. 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, emits piercing shrieks during battle, and has starred alongside Talbain in more hentai/slash fanfiction than you can probably wrap your mind around.

Victor von Gerdenheim
Frankenstein's Monster

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 2-D fighter called Darkstalkers. His story is rethought 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 the Darkstalkers series, so you can probably guess the drill: slow mover, hard hitter.

Bishamon
Cursed Samurai

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. In this fan's opinion, Bishamon is the biggest pain in the ass to fight against in any given Darkstalkers game.

Zabel Zarock / Lord Raptor
Zombie

A psychotic rock n' roll zombie who kills you by turning you into a ball and slam-dunking you? As with Talbain, there's very little not to like about Lord Raptor (Zabel in Japan). He was such a murderous badass in life that he attracted the notice of Ozomu, one of Makai's top dogs, 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. Raptor has the major hots for Lei-Lei, who (understandably) wants nothing to do with him. (Le Malta, on the other hand, has a thing for B.B. Hood's dog.)

Aulbath / Rikuo
Merman

Apparently the last member of his disgusting aquatic race, Rikuo (Aulbath in Japan) desperately searches the world in hopes of finding a hideous mate so he can repropagate his loathsome species. Yes, I am biased. Utilizing a slew of aquatic-themed attacks, Rikuo is not only an irritating (not to mention slimy and gross) opponent, but also probably the least interesting of the Darkstalkers. The only thing redeeming him at all is the animation on the right:

Sasquatch
Bigfoot

Hailing from the frozen north, Sasquatch is one combatant who's always ready to yeti. That damn panda from Tekken has nothing on this guy. 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. Anyway, most of Sasquatch's attacks are ice-based, and he summons exploding penguins for his Dark Force attack in Vampire Savior (dood!). Like Rikuo, his backstory isn't much to write home about, but his hilarity and fuzziness make up for it.

Phobos / Huitzil
Robot

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 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. Huitzil is the only Darkstalker sporting a beam projectile as a regular special move, which means I hate dealing with him.

Pyron
Alien

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" -- and guess which planet he's just landed on? Seeing a potential challenge in the Darkstalkers, Pyron assumes a humanoid shape to conform to the laws of terrestrial combat and gets ready to throw down. He makes a nasty endboss, I'll give him that much. His first appearance is on par with M. Bison and Rugal, but he gets increasingly toned down with each consecutive game.

Donovan Baine
Dhampir

The half-human, half-vampire demon hunter Donovan is the focus of the series' second installment, which is why the Japanese "Vampire Hunter" title makes so much more sense than "NightWarriors." Anyway. 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
Kuang-si

Lei-Lei (I refuse to call her Hsien-Ko) 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 earn brownie points for their mother 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 -- and all the blue cleavage probably doesn't hurt either.

Anita
Esper

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.

Bulleta / Baby Bonnie Hood
Human

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 before her, 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!")

Q-Bee
Soul Bee

So the series already has a cat girl and a bat girl -- why not toss in a bee girl for good measure? Q-Bee is queen of the Soul Bees, a species of Makai insect which considers 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. (I think she's probably my best character in Savior.) Oh, and [insert Blind Melon joke here].

Lilith Aensland
Succubus

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. She's another fan favorite, and I am not prepared to even guess how many people she's made closet lolicons out of.

Jedah Doma
Dark Messiah

The vampire savior himself. Jedah is the new boss and main villain of the third Darkstalkers installment, and every inch a badass. He creates Majigen, the dark world in which Vampire Savior takes place, in a convoluted scheme to save Makai by pretty much killing everyone in Makai. It's hard to find a place to begin describing how cool Jedah is. He's the bloody Antichrist, for Pete's sake -- and bloody is a good word for Jedah, since 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. Half his damn moves are unblockable, after all. But yeah, Jedah kicks ass.

Oboro Bishamon
Samurai

An alternate version of Bishamon who appears in Hunter 2 and Savior 2. His moves are slightly different, and he doesn't have those two ghostly whips floating around his shoulders anymore either. In terms of 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 can be extremely difficult.

Shadow
???

Kinda sort of a secret character in Vampire Savior, but is more of an alternate gameplay mode than anything else. Highlight the "?" box on the character select screen, press start five times, then hit any attack button. 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. It's kind of cool, I guess.

Marionette
Er...Marionette

An alternate version of Shadow appearing in Hunter 2/Savior 2 which can be accessed by choosing the "?" box and pressing start seven times before hitting an attack button. 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 I still think an actual SECRET CHARACTER would have been a better idea.

Dee
Dhampir

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 we see him 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 (but now all the effects are blood-red), and his voice consists of recycled and garbled Donovan sounds. Dee isn't a new character -- he's a damn MUGEN hack. I realize that when it comes to Capcom and 2-D fighters today (especially Darkstalkers) you pretty much have to take what you can get, but I really think they could have tried harder here.

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Darkstalkers

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Hunter

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior 2

Vampire Savior

Vampire Savior

On to Page 2

Back to the index