I've decided to start talking about fighting games again, so here's the links to the previous two of these I've done:
Round 1 - SNK Boss Syndrome
Round 2 - Time Killers
So being the fighting game fanatic that I am, I recently bought a Dreamcast (since mine is no longer with us RIP) and in the same vintage game store, found a Japanese Sega Saturn. If you aren’t aware, a ton of Capcom and SNK heavy hitters exist in Japan only format for the Saturn. Sure, some of them got US releases on the Playstation (and even US Saturn), but you wouldn’t want to touch those versions.
See, the Playstation versions suffered from multiple issues. Cut frames of animation plagued all of them. The Vs games didn’t have true tag team play because the PS1 couldn’t handle 4 characters in memory. Also, the load times were atrocious.
Now on the Saturn side of things, to help with the animation, Sega released RAM cartridges that plug into the cartridge slot of the Saturn. The most frequently seen one is the 4MB variety, as seen below.
There are two other RAM carts as well. One is specific to King of Fighters 95 as the 1MB RAM cart actually has the sprites and animation on it. The other is a standard 1MB RAM cart (below) that is used for almost all other SNK fighters. And that is where this gets tricky. For example, King of Fighters 97 will accept the 4MB RAM, but it seems to be the only SNK fighter that does. Likewise, Marvel Super Heroes will accept the 1MB cart, but oddly has some slowdown when using the 4MB cart.
Now the reason I went with the Japanese Saturn was my desire to play the import fighters. Sure I could get a ST-Key cart(region code bypassing) but that would then require me to swap the ST-Key and the RAM cart on the fly, and I’d rather not.
So in the same shop I nabbed the Saturn in, I grabbed X-Men vs Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes, Street Fighter Zero and Zero 2, and the true object of this long winded article, Vampire Savior.
Vampire Savior is the third game in the Darkstalkers series. The series as a whole never seems to have gotten much love. The path in the series is Darkstalkers, Nightwarriors(aka Vampire Hunter) and Vampire Savior. There are also some arcade specific games as well such as Vampire Hunter 2 (which just added in the missing original cast members) and Vampire Savior 2 (which added 3 more characters for a total of 18). The screenshot below is from the arcade Vampire Savior so it's short the added 3.
The Saturn version is essentially Vampire Savior 2 with the full cast of 18 plus a few other hidden secrets. The gameplay of the series was always slightly different than the other Capcom fighters. For example, Street Fighter 3’s EX special moves (the ability to enhance a normal special by using some super meter) was first seen in the Darkstalkers series.
The characters in the series are based in fairy tale, legends, and horror. Demitri for example is a vampire and Talbain is a wolfman. Victor is essentially Frankenstein, and even Sasquatch joins the fight. The cast is varied and all different, though I must admit BB Hood is probably the best character ever. Imagine Little Red Riding Hood whose family was murdered and so she becomes a monster hunter, equipped with missles, machine guns, and mines.
Vampire Savior eschews the standard round format for a more Killer Instinct style of rounds. Each player has two life bars. When a player is knocked down, the other player’s life meter remains the same. You win by essentially knocking the other player out twice before it’s done to you. Along with this was health regeneration (as seen in the Vs series of games). When you take damage, a reddish area remains that if you avoid taking damage can be healed over time.
Vampire Savior also allowed your super bar to store up to 5 bars. Along with this were some new abilities. The aforementioned ES moves (as called in this series) here use one full meter to use. EX supers are the super moves, with some supers taking 2 or 3 bars to activate. Finally quite a few supers in the game are of the Raging Demon variety (jab jab forward short fierce) which makes the game not so noob friendly. Even now I usually have to resort to FAQs to remember how to make Dimitri turn the opponent into a female (video below!)
Another feature in the game is pursuit attacks. When you knock the enemy down, you can input a command to jump on your opponent before they get up. The player on the ground has options such as sliding/rolling to the left or right to try to avoid this. Normally pursuit attacks are seen in 3D fighters (originally started in Virtua Fighter) but seeing this in a 2D fighter meant that you weren’t even safe on the ground.
Finally the Dark Force feature was included. By pressing a punch and kick of the same strength, the combatants are taken to the activating player’s “dimension”. The player then got some sort of advantage that lasts for a specific period of time. Some of these enhancements were flight, copies of the character that could attack from behind, an extra ally in battle (a bat, a cat) or in the case of Victor (the series’ Zangief) every punch became a grab.
The game has the player go through 7 stages. Each player has a sub boss fight before facing their specific boss (though over half the cast face the default boss, Jedah who is also playable).
So what has become of the series whose last arcade release was seen 12 years ago? Well with the exception of the well known and well drawn Morrigan, the rest of the cast has been left in the dust. Sure there were cameos of them in the backgrounds of Capcom VS games over the last decade, and Felicia is also playable in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but none other than Morrigan have actually been playable (though Dimitri is playable in SNK vs Capcom Chaos from SNK).
Unfortunately, the Darkstalkers series never really achieved high levels of popularity in the US, and with the cast forgotten, my hopes of ever seeing part 4 will never happen. Funny enough Darkstalker did get an anime though and tons of cosplayers for specific characters. Oh and the millions of pictures of Morrigan and Lillith…..together…if you know what I mean.