There are two types of people in this world: those who think darkness and horror are the coolest things ever, and those who think people like me are twisted in the head. The good news is either of these factions is wrong! Darkstalkers is a series of eclectic fighting games by CAPCOM in which vampires, succubi and cat girls try to rip each other to shreds. the series is known as "Vampire" in Japan, and Darkstalkers 3 as Vampire Savior. Many fans have taken to saying Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior, so I'll simply refer to this game as Vampire Savior for the rest of the review.
As mentioned, Vampire Savior is a fighting game, and though highly stylized it is quite similar to Street Fighter or Samurai Shodown, though it still feels very distinct from those two in its mechanics. I like to think of the Darkstalkers series Street Fighters goth obsessed cousin. The game has an 8 button layout and as with most CAPCOM fighters, you're going to have to clock some serious practice time to get good.
Vampire Savior changing the health system normally used in this series as well as most fighting games. As you like are aware, in most fighting games there there is a best of 3 rule, and the health bars reset each round. In Vampire Savior, your health bar does not reset, and damage carries over into the next round. the goal is still to best your opponent twice, however. I rather like this mechanic, and while I wouldn't want every fighting game to use this, it is still very fair in my opinion, and makes the game even more different from other 2D CAPCOM fighters.
The game is a great example of how beautiful 2D fighters can be. All of the sprites animate excellently, and the backgrounds have a decent amount of background animation. The stages themselves aren't interactive anything like they were in the 2nd game, however. While these interactions were purely aesthetic, they were still really cool. The artwork for the game is superb, and the character designs are all interesting.
Vampire Savior has a well balanced roster, and introduces a few new characters, such as Jedah, the reaper, and Queen Bee, who is of the newly introduced "soul bee" race. Depending on which console you are playing on, you may have a few extra characters. In the original arcade release was lacking the new characters from the 2nd game, so the SEGA Saturn version added them. The game was later ported to the Playstation with these characters intact. The home versions, however, lack some animations and also censor some of the blood effects. If you want to play at home and also have an arcade perfect experience, you can download Darkstalkers Resurrection from Xblox Live or Playstation Network, which contains both this game and Night Warriors, the second installment. As these downloadable versions are based on the arcade release, all of the animations, including blood, are there but you'll have to do without the home console exclusive characters.
The music is very catchy, but it unfortunately doesn't sound very good. I'm sure it sounded fine back in 1997, but it just sounds kind of washed out now. Voice overs are all in Japanese, which isn't really an issue, but they also share this grainy low quality sound. Put simply, the sound just hasn't aged nearly as well as the rest of the game.
Darkstalkers 3: Vampire Savior is a very fun and unique fighting game. Where else can you control an Australian zombie rock star that killed himself along with all of his fans in concert? While the music and sounds have aged pathetically, the gameplay is as tight as ever, though it will demand a portion of your soul to master. I'd love to comment on the story if I fully udnerstood it, but I really don't get it other than Jedah is trying to somehow recreate the world. It's disappointing that you have to compromise between a full character roster of complete animations, but no matter how you choose to play, you're in for a howling good time.....howling...because there's a werewolf...I'll stop.