Given the poor representation of Capcom's Vampire series in the US (known here as Darkstalkers), its fans would no doubt appreciate the release of a compilation intended for play on a platform capable of pushing the required sprites. As it happens, Capcom has released such a product, albeit only in Japan, much to the chagrin of any American fan who isn't import savvy. Titled Vampire Chronicles, the game combines features from every installment of DarkStalkers (including Vampire Hunter 2 and Dark Savior 2, neither of which saw a stateside release) into one rich package, featuring a plethora of fighting modes, a horde of playable characters, and all the requisite modes. What's more, Japanese players can go head-to-head online via Capcom's Matching Service network.
What makes this product stand out as a plausible import is its sheer level of completeness. North American gamers have not been treated to an arcade-perfect version of DarkStalkers, and importing Vampire Chronicles is the best way to make up for it. The PlayStation ports of DarkStalkers and DarkStalkers 3 compromised many of the game's lush animations and featured grueling load times. Only those lucky enough to have imported the Saturn version of Vampire Savior were treated to a competent translation, due mostly the console's 4MB RAM cartridge, which was required to play the game.
Aside from the troubles involved with the actual procurement of the game (which is only available through mail order, even in Japan), importers will find Vampire Chronicles an easy, painless import to play, as most of the pertinent lists and options are in English. And indulging in the stylish, arcade-perfect graphics native to the compilation is a pleasure indeed. Those who've played any game in the Darkstalkers series will feel right at home with Vampire Chronicles. Essentially, the game is built around Street Fighter mechanics, with the appropriate button layout and supercombo systems. The game allows you to choose which combo system you want to use (Vampire mode, Hunter mode, and Savior mode, after the series' titles), which affect how the power gauge, supercombos, and life bar behave. Furthermore, you can tune your character's fighting style by selecting one of four modes: Vampire type, Hunter type, Savior type, and Savior 2 type. Corresponding to the appropriate games in the series, the various types affect your character's individual attacks and supermoves/combos. Interestingly enough, characters that weren't present in earlier games in the series are allowed to choose fighting styles from those games.
Visually, Vampire Chronicles is perfect, and the only limitations present are those that the game inherited from the CPS II technology on which it was born. The series' character designs have widely been regarded as Capcom's most lively and thoughtful. Brought to life by countless, lovingly crafted elements present in their animations, the characters in motion are as terrific, at times, as they are amusing. For a bona fide fan of the series, Vampire Chronicles is a prudent import in terms of its value as a catalogue of visual art alone.
Sadly, Vampire Chronicles is fetching upward of US$100 at the few secondary outlets that offer it. Needless to say, only the most loyal fans are going to pick this one up.