Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service Review

Vampire ChronicleVampire Chronicle for Matching Service (Available exclusively on SEGA Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: August 10th, 2000

Parent Talk: The ESRB didn’t rate Vampire Chronicle as the game was released exclusively in Japan. It also doesn’t feature a CERO rating, because the rating board only went into effect sometime in 2002-2003. If you’ve ever played any of the original Street Fighter II games, you know what to expect in terms of animated violence, suggestive themes, and some animated blood. While this game is technically aimed at an older demograph it really isn’t very damaging at all. It was heavily featured in the arcade scene back in the mid-90s, and most people who played it where ten and above. It’s Street Fighter II meets the classic monsters of Hollywood. You can expect to play as a character that look like Frankenstein’s monster, a vampire, and even little red riding hood.

Plays Like: The original game in the series, Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors (Vampire in Japan), was a Street Fighter II clone, except with lush visuals and really unique character models and arenas. The gameplay was virtually identical to that of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Its sequel, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge (Vampire Hunter in Japan) mixed things up a bit by introducing Enhanced Special (ES) moves and Extra Special moves (EX), which were all based your use of the Special meter. While the special meter was featured in the first game, the sequel changed how it was used. For Darkstalkers 3 (Vampire Savior in Japan) the core gameplay from Night Warriors remained intact, but new characters were added and the way rounds were handled was changed. Sadly Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2 never made it outside Japan, although both games only tweaked some of the moves from Vampire Savior, and adjusted the roster.

Review Basis: I played this game quite a bit back in the day. For this review I simply played enough to refresh my memory, and had a blast doing so.

The Darkstalkers series has never been too popular on this side of the world. For whatever reason Capcom’s other fighting franchise has always been king. Over in Japan though the Vampire series, as it’s known there, became quite popular towards the end of the Street Fighter II craze. The first game in the series hit right after Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Vampire featured some of the most incredible character designs of the time. While still running on the CPS II arcade board, the game looked noticeably better than Street Fighter II. It would go on to spawn four official sequels in Japanese arcades, and while only three of the five games would ever make their way to North America, this Dreamcast compilation title sadly missed the boat. At one point it was the most sought after Dreamcast import, fetching upwards of $150 on eBay and other sites because of how rare it was. Only 5,000 discs were ever pressed, and the only way to purchase the game was directly through SEGA. So how has it held up, and is it worth trying to hunt down today? The short answer is it’s held up supremely well and hell yes it’s worth hunting down.

Vampire Chronicle5The Great:

One of the best compilation titles ever released. Vampire Chronicle isn’t your typical compilation title though. You don’t just select the game you want to play and away you go, no some real thought was put into this game. Instead what you do is select which Game Mode you want to use. Your options are Vampire, Vampire Hunter, and Vampire Savior.

For those that known nothing of the series, Vampire features a special meter which you can fill up to perform unique or enhanced special attacks. The meter constantly drains itself forcing you to keep on the offensive. Once filled you only have a short period of time to perform your special attack. There were two basic types of attacks, a unique special move, and a slightly enhanced version of your regular special moves.

Vampire Hunter changes things up by allowing you to stock the special meter. That means you decide when you want to use your special moves. It also introduced what were called ES (Enhanced Special) moves, which you do by performing your character’s regular special moves, but using two punch or kick buttons instead of the one. This would eat up some of the special meter though. The other big addition was the EX or Extra Special moves, which would require a unique button input to pull off and were extremely animated and fun to watch.

Vampire Savior followed Vampire Hunter’s system except made some modifications to the way rounds were handled. Instead of having a winning pose, and a round change when one character’s health was depleted, the game essentially continues to play out through one giant round. It’s an interesting mechanic because the winning player retains their health from the previous “round.”

After you’ve selected your play style it’s off to the character selection screen where you can choose one of 18 possible characters. From there you have the option to select your speed between normal and turbo. After that another choice opens up, which is to decide which character type you wish to play as from Vampire, Hunter, Savior, and Savior 2. Long story short, each of these types limits your character’s available combos and special moves to whatever they were in the respective game you select. In other words if you select Vampire, your character is only going to have access to the moves they had in that game.

Add all of this together, plus much, much more which I haven’t discussed and you have yourself a fantastic compilation game that is just as fun today as it was when it hit the Dreamcast in 2000. The fact that so many options are available is what really sets this game apart. It might sound complicated, but once you actually play it for yourself you can easily figure out which systems work for you.

Vampire Chronicle1The Good:

+ All 18 characters are available regardless of which mode you select. That means you can experience a character that was introduced much later on as if they were actually in the first game. It makes for a truly unique experience.

+ All the various modes allow players to experience the game as they wish. New players might want to play with very few mechanics to worry about, so they can easily start with the Vampire mode and work their way up. More advanced fighting game fans will clearly want to keep it locked to the Savior mode.

+ For its age the game looks fantastic via a VGA-cable. Sure it doesn’t look quite as smooth as some of the NAOMI-based Dreamcast games, but for a CPS II game it has never looked as lush and fluid on a console before. Every single frame of animation is present, and the character designs and stages look utterly fantastic. If you’re going to experience one Darkstalkers game on a retro platform, this is the one to get.

+ The audio is equally impressive featuring every soundtrack from each of the arcade games. What’s not to love about that?

Vampire Chronicle3The So-So:

+/- Old-school modes may throw some modern gamers for a loop. Featuring only an arcade and practice mode, where the moves aren’t even displayed, might be a little underwhelming for many. The thing is that’s how videogames were made back then. The versus mode is built into the arcade mode, and the online portion of the game has long been taken offline. If you have a group of buddies over though, this is truly all you need.

Vampire Chronicle2The Lowdown:

If you don’t feel like hunting down the Dreamcast version, there is a port called Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower for the PSP, although the load times were exceptionally bad compared to the non-existent ones on the Dreamcast version. For the asking price of about $40 to $80 I feel it’s well worth it. This is the very best Darkstalkers game ever made, and it’s one of the very best compilation titles of all time. The fact you can mix and match different gameplay styles, move-sets, and characters between all three core games is awesome.

Final Score: 9/10

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