RETRO REBOOT | Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge (Sega Saturn)

Every now and then, there's that game or platform capable of blowing one's mind for someone born during my period; the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog, the launch of Super Nintendo, seeing Mortal Kombat Fatalities for the first time, it can be a plethora of things. Capcom fighting games were always an eye-opener with their ability to impress me, and the first Darkstalkers caught my attention in 96, I talked it more thoroughly in my review of that. The follow-up, Night Warriors, further exceeded that with its improved gameplay and even more expressive visuals.

Night Warriors was the fourth game I bought with my own allowance for the Sega Saturn. It was developed and released for arcades in 1995, later to be ported to Sega's fifth generation console, bypassing the PlayStation, probably due to hardware limitations. Powered by Capcom's CP System II engine, Night Warriors is one of 2D fighting games that embodied the evocative and detailed visual art style of the brand's notable IPs. 

So, the weird thing about the core plot of Night Warriors, while it's a "sequel", the endings for the returning roster remains largely the same as the first game. Only the two new characters, the Dark Hunters Donovan Baine and Chinese vampire Hsien-Ko, have unique endings and seem to be the driving force behind this game's plot. The boss characters Huitzil and Pyron join the playable roster, bringing the total count of fighters to 14. Sizable for a 1996 fighter, but also rich with depth, as each character boasts very unique fighting styles and properties.

The leaps in improvement from the first game comes in the way it plays. Chain combos were made more flexible and dynamic, giving the action a much more fleeting feel. Also different from the first game, and something further Capcom fighters would expand, is the increased Super Gauge, which was implemented in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Whereas in the first Darkstalkers only one bar could be stocked to unleash powerful Special, there's now three levels, so you can flex how you'd want to utilize the ES and EX attacks. Special attacks are absolute butter to pull off, it's one of the first games I recall the art of buffering (starting an input for a command in the middle frame of a previously launched attack) being very accessible.

Graphics and sound, what can I say? The artwork of the Darkstalkers series is as captivating as it gets, and Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge packs not only smooth animation at a full 60 frames per second with zero slowdown (the Saturn port is practically a flawless adaptation), but each character sports over double the MBs (128mbs for the first, and 256mbs for the second). This means 500 patterns per character. While sprites are absolutely gorgeous and still hold up as far as artistic display in fighting games, there's no doubt that it's an incredibly pain-staking process. For comparison, the modern fighting game Skullgirls, developed by a studio without Capcom's resources, is completely hand drawn, with over 1,400 frames per character.     

The music is crisp and clear, the OST bouncing between chilling orchestral themes and post-modern electric guitar compositions. Sound effects? Some of the more evocative of the era, and total magic, if you happened to have Dolby surround. Night Warriors has some incredibly clean sword clashes and energy flashes. 

Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge is one of my favorite fighting games. Many aspects of it hold up, both in gameplay and art style. While the new characters Hsien-Ko and Donovan are mostly the central figures that carry the plot, their inclusion as adversaries for some of the Dark fleshes out the lore and the purpose some of the characters fight for considerably. 

A lot of Capcom games certainly have that feel that can only be described as "it's so Capcom", the Darkstalkers games stand out considerably. With its solid controls, memorable characters that blends homages to legendary horror icons and urban legends, Night Warriors brings the monster mash that's still fun to this day.

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