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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vampire Chronicle: For Matching Service Review

Original Release
Japan: ???

Game Details
1-2 Players
VMU enabled
Standard Controller, Arcade Stick

As many fighting fans on the DC platform are well aware, many of Capcom’s Dreamcast import selection that bears the “Matching Service” moniker simply indicated a game with the distinct feature to play online against other Dreamcast players via a dedicated online server. Just about all of these Matching Service releases were released exclusively through Sega’s infamous “Dreamcast/Sega Direct” online store, making their initial run a rather limited endeavor (This particular game rumored to have had a production of only a meager 5000 units worldwide). Vampire Chronicle (released only in the US for the PSP as Darkstalkers Chronicle: Chaos Tower), was the first in a many attempt by Capcom to release games of this proposition (reproduced later over the years with the likes of Hyper Street Fighter 2, and Hyper Street Fighter Alpha) The concept of these 3 particular fighting games is simple, collect all of their subsequent updates into one cohesive game that gives players the ability to select various versions of a character. For example Hyper SF2 collects all of the SF2 series (World Warrior, Champ Edition, Turbo, Super, Super Turbo), So if your favorite version of Ryu (which hypothetically would be Turbo version) and you wanted to go up against a friend who’s favorite version of Guile (from World Warrior version), this game allows you have that match, thus creating countless match combinations that were never before possible. This is what Vampire Chronicle encompasses. It collects all 5 releases (we only got 3 of those 5 releases here in the US mind you) in the Vampire/Darkstalkers series (Vampire, Vampire Hunter, Vampire Savior, Hunter 2 and Savior 2). The format is a bit more elaborate in Chronicle than the example used for Hyper SF2. The game first gives you the option to select from the 3 main match formats used throughout the series (Vampire/Hunter/Savior). These selections will determine Life Gauge type as well as ES Gauge system type. After making that decision, you are then allowed to pick your character and finally the selection of game version of that particular character (Vampire, Hunter, Savior, Savior 2) which will determine your characters special move list, magic series combos as well as additional system mechanics. This all may sound a bit daunting at first but it becomes clear especially for anyone who has followed the series.

Who cares really...

The entire Vampire/Darkstalkers series was conceived from the CPS2 arcade hardware. For its time the game was a true showcase for the arcade hardware that gave it life. The games visuals were so unique and well received that Capcom adopted a similar style to use in the Street Fighter Alpha series and even the Marvel Vs. series. The game sports vivid and lush colors, beautiful sprite design and some impressively fluid animations that still hold up quite nicely even by today standards (Lei Lei’s advancing, retreating, and idle animations are what made me love with the character when first saw her in Night Warriors on the Sega Saturn). Capcom really took their first major step forward in the sprite art department with this series and created a fighter with such flair that it could visually compete with their rival SNK, who at the time was tearing it up with their awesome sprite animation and character designs in their stable fighting game franchises. It appears that the RDC release of this game IS fully compatible with the sublime VGA accessory (much like the actual GD Rom release) for total enjoyment of this wonderful release.

Audio wise the game has some very memorable and quite catchy tunes. Sound effects and dialogue are also very crisp and as a bonus, match type selection not only determines health and ES gauge type, but also will determine the games soundtrack which is a wonderful perk (I personally always loved the soundtrack for Vampire Hunter over the rest!).

While Vampire Chronicle is (at moment of this review) the final entry in the franchise, it unfortunately has not caught on with the fighting game community. If it ever did at some point, many have eventually gone back to Vampire Savior. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that while the concept of meshing multiple fighting updates of a particular installment into one actual game might sound good on paper, the end result is a recipe that makes for one very unbalanced game for competitive play. It is true for games of this nature, Hyper SF2 had a VERY short competitive time in the sun before everyone eventually went back to ST and Hyper Alpha was just played for shits and giggles, not to be taken seriously. For what Vampire Chronicle lacks in overall polish, it makes up for in sheer fun among die hard Darkstalkers fans.   


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