Is it a little unreasonable to say that Capcom loves to dangle a carrot in front of Darkstalkers fans? A trailer promising 'Darkstalkers Are Not Dead' showed up in 2012 featuring a full 3D Lord Raptor, though the subsequent PS3 Darkstalkers Resurrection compilation didn’t live up to that promise at all. Outside of the odd comic or Street Fighter V costume pack, it’s been pretty slim pickings. Wait for it – until now.
Capcom Fighting Collection, under a rather inauspicious name, collects for the first time the entire Darkstalkers series in one package. But it’s not called Darkstalkers Collection, so you know there’s more. Indeed, besides the adventures of Morrigan and co, Fighting Collection packs some real gems – pun intended, as Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix joins the party alongside the brilliant Hyper Street Fighter II, the mecha mash-up Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which isn’t a fighting game at all, but easily has the intensity of one in versus mode. Finally, and possibly most excitingly, Fighting Collection includes the first ever home console release of Red Earth, a game with a rather legendary reputation almost certainly borne of the fact that you couldn’t get it.
In a review of this packed compilation, then, it seems best to begin by focusing on the freshest title – again, that’d be Red Earth, the long-awaited CPS3 stormer that takes something of an odd approach to Capcom’s usual masterful pugilism. The single player 'Quest Mode' sees you picking one of the four (!) playable characters and making your way through an army of enormous boss characters, collecting coins and treasure. A password system lets you save character progress. It’s extremely unusual, but thoroughly interesting and a lot of fun.
Cyberbots, meanwhile, is a game we found difficult to love. There’s no denying it’s extremely manga-cool, with its various pilots and mech styles on offer, but fights are visually difficult to parse thanks to an art style that seems a little at odds with the fast-paced action on offer. No doubt enthusiasts adore it, but it just didn’t click with us.
Much more enjoyable is Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix, a super-deformed take on characters from the Street Fighter II, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth roster. If you’re a Capcom nerd, this game is basically manna from heaven, with references and fanservice all over the place as your characters change costume with every hit as they land a combo. It’s a little more knockabout and feels less tactical, but Pocket Fighter could be ten times worse to play and still be an absolute joy, such is its commitment to being fun and funny.
Puzzle Fighter isn’t a real fighter, of course, but two-player battles in this Columns-esque falling block game are an absolute war, with successful chains and large stacks of gems resulting in dud blocks falling onto your opponent’s board, a joyous back-and-forth which quite literally never, ever gets old.
There’s also Hyper Street Fighter II, a bountiful take on the mano-a-mano classic that features every revision of every character, so you can take World Warrior Guile up against Super Turbo Sagat, if you so wish. It’s effectively the ultimate take on the game, the final word on SF2, and it’s a very welcome inclusion on this compilation.
Then, of course, there’s Darkstalkers. Fighting game fans know the differences between the games, but to the layperson they’re going to seem very similar. Not to worry. Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge, Vampire Savior, Vampire Hunter 2, and Vampire Savior 2 present their varied rosters, balance changes, nerfs and buffs, warts and all. The art and general vibe are awesome, and the characters present are extremely, erm, memorable. Look at Felicia, the cat girl, for goodness’ sake. Iconic, alongside Morrigan, Demitri, Anakaris. It’s no wonder that fans consistently demanded the return of these characters. And the gameplay is great too – fun, fast, and familiar enough that a casual fighter fan can pick it up and enjoy themselves.
Casual fans, though, aren’t really the point when it comes to fighting games. You commit or you don’t get good. Single player content is irrelevant – fighting games are one-on-one fights against human opponents, local or online. And that online play needs to be robust.
What’s really important in a collection like this is whether it delivers on it promises. And, to an impressive extent, it does. Rollback netcode is present for every game on the compilation, and we played several rounds with a friend, testing out each game. Not a single perceptible frame of lag showed up. It was a great, responsive experience playing online, and that’s what matters here more than huge paragraphs describing the ins-and-outs of each title. Much of this game’s audience already know they like the titles on offer, so to review it as a collection we will have to take a different tack.
The included art gallery is superb, with dozens and dozens of supremely high-resolution imagery taken from each game’s promo material as well as a behind-the-scenes look at character design sheets, early sketches, and much, much more. It’s exceptionally cool and we must thank Digital Eclipse for making this level of effort the norm, though it doesn’t reach the heights of their interactive museums; for example, the extras in the Disney Classic Games Collection, which remain a benchmark for retro compilations. Here you’ve got images and music, and what you see is what you get. It’s all fine, it’s fun, but it’s pretty bare-bones in terms of providing any context for the imagery you’re seeing.
Taking a look at Capcom Fighting Collection, it’s very clear that it does exactly what it set out to do – you’ve got superb versions of ten arcade classics here, several of which are significantly difficult to play elsewhere. The online play works beautifully, with efficient menus letting you switch games in the lobby. And that online is really all that matters in the end. Can you play Hyper Street Fighter II online with no lag? Yes. Then it’s more or less perfect, isn’t it?