So many Darkstalkers, so little time
Decades have passed since Capcom were the kings of the fighting game genre but since the disappointing release of Street Fighter V they have severely fallen behind. Alas there is a saving grace in the Capcom Fighting Collection. A compilation of some of Capcom’s weirder classic fighting games that will bring the arcade and Playstation 1 memories flooding back.
This collection comes with Hyper Street Fighter II Anniversary Edition, Super Gem Fighters MiniMix, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, the previously unreleased Red Earth, Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness, Darkstalkers:Night Warriors, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge, Vampire Savior: The Lord Vampire plus it’s two variations: Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2. This is an impressive list that’s packed with unreleased content, version variations, and otherwise hidden gems within the Capcom catalog. Let’s go through the list shall we?
Hyper Street Fighter II Anniversary Edition is the classic linchpin of any Capcom collection. The prized fighter is back, complete with its full roster and adjustable speed options. The impressive part is that this in of itself lets you play the different versions of classic rosters from the original Street Fighter II all the way to Turbo. This premise is all the more fascinating when compared to taking it to online matches where you could end up fighting varying versions of characters from different editions. It’s a neat wrinkle to the online multiplayer but Street Fighter II in all its forms has been released elsewhere already (specifically in its own collection) so it’s a game we’re all too familiar with.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo remains an underrated, underdog, competitive puzzle game that is as much Street Fighter as it is Tetris. You have gems that are dropped from above and your job is to move them into position to create bigger gems and shapes. Eventually you will get a colored orb that will destroy all like colors when placed next to those colors. This means that grouping like colors and organizing your board is key. SInce this is a competitive game, when you destroy gems on your board, they will be dropped into the competitors board but with timers that make it so they cannot be destroyed until the timer runs out. This can block players from completing bigger chains or disrupt the organization of their board. You lose when your board is filled with gems. What makes this so charming is that in the middle of the screen are chibi (big head cutesy anime) versions of your chosen Capcom fighter that will perform moves as you destroy gems to attack one another. It’s a neat presentation that is so satisfying when a player loses and you see Ryu perform a super move to defeat your rival.
Gem Fighters is a rarity here as it has not seen a re-release since Playstation 2 in a Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. This takes the exact chibi roster from Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and puts them into a full fledged fighting game (it’s a real snake eating its own tail scenario.) Here you perform moves via combination presses and d-pad rotations like a normal fighting game but the abilities performed are done so in a cute and slapstick fashion. Characters will switch in and out of silly costumes and perform incredibly ridiculous activities that bring the laughs. Akuma will don a Speedo and perform a high dive as a super, or Chun-Li can become a crossing guard and hit the opposing player with an entire race of bikers. It’s absurd in the best ways. Super abilities are performed by charging up your player meter with gems you find throughout the battle plane but otherwise it’s a pretty standard 2D fighter though it’s charm does a lot to carry this title to be something special.
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness is a 3 button fighter with 2 attacks and a projectile. There’s also a dash for mobility. Each character and mech has their own style and flavor that works well in the 2D combat-sphere plus an added wrinkle of knocking off pieces of armor makes for engaging gameplay. Though, it does get a little tricky trying to gauge each character's hit box due to size and art design of the characters but wasn’t too much of an issue overall. Otherwise this is another worthy addition to the collection.
Red Earth is an arcade fighter not seen in the states before. While it may look like a Street Fighter III clone at face value (it uses the same engine) it’s actually doing something wholly unique. Red Earth only has four playable characters with two modes: Quest mode and Versus Mode. Quest mode takes the character through up to 8 boss battles for experience to level up. During the boss battles, chests will appear giving the player health, experience or orbs to perform super moves. Between boss battles, you can level up your character's stats and unlock new moves. Another stand out of Red Earth is that it has fatalities as well, which play into the game’s many endings. Also playing into that is how many continues you used, and story choices. In Versus mode, you still only get the four players but still this was something really unique outside of what Capcom was doing at the time.
Last of the pack here are the entirety of the Darkstalkers series including Vampire Savior (the third in the series) which has two follow ups Vampire Savior 2 (a roster update to Vampire Savior) and Vampire Hunter 2 (also a japanese roster update.) Darkstalkers has always been a slower, more calculated fighter that leans heavier on technical defensive play. The characters are all based on fantastical monsters that are beautifully designed to give that classic Capcom flair. Everything from guitar playing british zombies, badass uzi toting red riding hood, and even pharaoh mummies. That’s generally the strong appeal of the Darkstalkers series as well as Capcom’s games overall. The beauty of every detail of their design has always been a highlight.
While the complete Darkstalkers series is an interesting inclusion, having two roster updates to Darkstalkers Revenge: Vampire Savior feels like extra padding that could have easily been filled by other exemplar titles in their catalogs such as Street Fighter III, Final Fight, or Mega Man: The Power Battle. It just feels like the two Darkstalkers variations don’t necessarily bring enough new to the table to warrant entries over others. That being said, every game in this collection runs smoothly and plays exactly how you remember it. This is the best way to play these games.
The Capcom Fighting Collection also comes with artwork, unfinished sketches, the full collection of music plus bonus remixes, and art for the Switch is also available. There’s a training mode for each game as well, to really hone your skills. It’s robust enough to have you set up CPU actions and give you scenarios to practice in. Another welcome addition is the ability to start up each game from the collection menu instead of starting up the game, waiting for it to load and picking a mode within the original game. This allows for quick transition from game to game and mode to mode. Going from Darkstalkers 2 story mode to a Street Fighter 2 versus match within seconds feels seamless. You can also create save states at any time and load back in, even within matches. This feels a bit like cheating but can definitely help on some of those tougher boss encounters.
The big key new feature in the Capcom Fighting Collection is the online modes. Now you can create online lobbies with friends, or friend opponents in both casual and ranked modes. Sadly, by having so many games in a single collection, it splits the online scene making it difficult to find a match for a specific game. You can select multiple games to play online against others but if you select only a single game, it’s going to make for some really long queue times. I waited roughly 40 minutes for a puzzle fighter match and even then, it was a lag filled mess. It's very unfortunate for long time fans who’ve been dying to take their skills in these classics to competitive circuits but it’s sadly what we have today. I would advise to keep this local or at the very least, set up a lobby with friends and hope the net code remains stable.
The Capcom Fighting Collection brings out some of the best and brightest from 90’s Capcom hay day. Back when they were the kings of the arcades, taking quarter after quarter from the youth. It’s a happier time best memorialized through a lot of the games in this collection. The sprite work and sound design is still as on point as we always remembered. Outside of waxing nostalgic, we also get a previously unreleased in America entry with Red Earth, plus a rarer find in Gem Fighter for those wanting to dig deeper into the Capcom catalog. The sheer amount of Darkstalkers does bloat the collection to a degree and the poor online puts a damper but otherwise it’s a good amount of games that show why Capcom were kings in the first place and hope they can return to the throne again one day.