It’s no secret that Japan gets treated to some exclusives and early treats, just as much as North America does. Whether it be a new release that comes out first in one territory, or a game that never gets ported to other regions, we all get things before the other in some form. During the Sega Dreamcast days, Japan was treated to a couple of exclusive Capcom fighting game releases, that never did makes its way westward. Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service was one of those titles never to see a North American home console port, and it’s a mighty big shame, as it’s the most complete Darkstalkers/Vampire Savior title to have ever been released.
For those that are familiar with Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and its Hyper Street Fighter 2: Anniversary Edition, will will become accustomed to VC’s mashing of the different game versions of each character and each game engine. You first pick what version of the game you want to play through, and then pick what type of version of your character you want to choose. There are big differences between Vampire and Savior modes, such as the ability to stock supers, how to trigger supers, and even how the match is played. You can only stock one super at a time with Vampire mode, and trigger them with the next special move motion you put in, and when a round ends, you both lose your stocked super and reset back to full health. On Savior mode, you can stock more than one super, and trigger them with two punch/kick button presses on any special move you perform, stocked supers do not disappear when you win a round, and winning a round does not reset your health. Savior mode makes each fight against each opponent faster and more frantic, as there’s little or no down time between rounds.
After you choose your mode, you select what character you want, and then select what game you want his or her move-set from. Meaning, you can select Demitri and pick Vampire Type, representing how he played in the first DS/VS game, against Anakris playing in a Savior type style, reflecting the third Japanese games move-sets. It’s an interesting mix of potential battles against the CPU or human player, as some of the move-sets differ quite a bit between the other. Demitri loses fireball traps on Savior type, since he can only throw one at a time. So if you had one particular character you owned everyone with, you’ll be able to play as that version. What’s interesting is you can also pick any character type for even those that didn’t appear in that particular game. So BB Hood/Bulleta or Jedah can choose Vampire type, when they never appeared in that game.
VC is as arcade perfect as a game can get that never had this particular version released in arcades. Just about every animation, background, sound and move appears in VC. Some of the backgrounds lack color, like the final battle with Jedah, but the detail, and the sheer spook factor of a giant baby zombie with its brain showing, more tha makes up for that. Each character is pixel perfect from their arcade counterparts, with just about every animation and win pose in tact. The cast of characters themselves are quite unique in terms of looks. You have a lot of the major classic monster movie characters represented, like the mummy (Anakaris), wolf-man (Jon Talbain), Dracula (Demitri) and so on. It’s a unique set of characters, who play just about the same way I’d want to play a fighting game featuring these characters. Though Demitri throwing fireballs is an oddity all its own.
The audio throughout the series has never been its strongest suit, but it gets the job done nevertheless. Voice overs are clean, crisp and fit perfectly with each personality it is attached to. Other sound bytes are adequate as well, with some over the top sounds matching the over the top antics going on at any given time. The musical tracks are mostly forgettable. Most of the time I don’t even notice any playing. It’s not bad, but it lacks any sort of hook to give it that memorable punch that titles like Street Fighter Alpha had.
There’s not much to be dissatisfied with when it comes to Vampire Chronicle. The major thing against it is the low production number (5000) and the game never seeing the light of day on a home console in North America. It came out on the PlayStation Portable, but it’s so hard to play it on that d pad, and deserved a proper home console port. There’s not a whole lot to do with the game in general, other than single player, two player battles with a friend (really fun experience if you both have some knowledge of the fighting engine). If you do have someone to play often, or a number of people, with all the variables involved, it’s quite a good time, and one that you can change up quite a bit.
There’s a reason why the Sega Dreamcast was called the ultimate 2D fighting game machine – when you have Capcom popping out quality hit after quality hit, with next to no load times and no compromises, you more than deserve that accolade. While the Darkstalkers/Vampire Savior series was never as hot as the dozens of Street Fighter series they had going on at once, it still holds quite a bit of quality in its character design, fighting engine and sheer amounts of oddities. It’s a difficult game to track down a legit copy of, but for the 2D fighting genre fan, it’s definitely one of the best ones you could add to your collection.