In 1994 in a world where "Street Fighter II" had already set the standard for fighting games, Darkstalkers ("Vampire" in Japan) burst forth with a whole new look and cast of characters. This new look allowed the Darkstalkers to perform their superhuman moves with fluid grace, gaining the franchise a whole new fan base. The franchise also pioneered many systems like chain combos and air guarding. The chain combos introduced in Darkstalkers became standard practice in all future releases of the series.
By 1995 "Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge" ("Vampire Hunter" in Japan) this chain combo system became more fleshed out and was now commonly refereed to as "Chain Combos". This flew in the face of the unwritten fighting game law that chain combos were meant to cancel out of normal moves and lead straight into special moves.
The new and improved chain combos in "Night Warriors Revenge" lead to the possibility of using regular moves to chain together an amazing array of hits. The system also found it's way to the "Capcom Versus" series. The system worked by using light punch to start the chain, working to medium punch and then finishing with heavy punch all in quick and timed succession. The same process could be started going from light-medium-heavy kick.
In "Night Warriors Revenge" each character was granted their own follow up attack by pressing up and punch while an opponent was on the ground. Using a chain combo to knock down an opponent and then using a follow up attack would not only add up your combo hits rapidly, but had the added effect of looking so damn cool.
The idea of ES and EX moves also made their way into the Darkstalkers series. ES moves worked as modifiers to the standard special moves. Once the player had filled up a special bar they could perform an ES move. Instead of pressing the punch or kick button to execute the special move, they would press two punch or kick buttons instead (Like Street Fighter IV). This would result in an ES version of that special move. ES moves often changed the entire dynamic and animation of the move, allowing the player to have access to an array of different moves for different situations. It is also important to note that "follow up attacks" were also eligible to be used in ES form.
In " Night Warriors Revenge" the special gauges could be banked for later use, meaning once one filled up, it was stored away while another started to fill. The EX attacks (which in the first Darkstalkers were refereed to as SP moves) can be thought of as proper supers/ultras in Street Fighter IV terms. The EX attack would use one entire special bar like an ES move would, but would require a totally different input to execute.
In 1997 Darkstalkers 3 ("Vampire Savoir" In Japan) brought about major changes to the health bar system and is considered by many the best game in the series. It introduces the idea of the "Impact Damage Gauge", which meant that successful hits now did two types of damage. The red damage would be permanent, while the white damage would regenerate over time (Think of the damage you get when you block something with a focus attack in Street Fighter IV.)
The "Down System" was also a new inclusion in "Darkstalkers 3" which meant that if Player 1 (for example) had drained the health bar of Player 2, instead of the game cutting to black and round two occurring, Player 2 would get back up and round two would commence immediately (With the damage done to Player 1 in the first round still intact.)
The implementation of the "Impact Damage Gauge" and the "Down System" lead to a dramatic effect on match outcomes, making it more difficult for a runaway 2-0 victory.
From here the release of Darkstalkers games gets a little confusing. In 1997 "Vampire Hunter 2: Darkstalkers Revenge" was released alongside "Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampires" (Both Japanese releases in arcades only).
"Vampire Hunter 2" was nearly identical to " Darkstalkers 3"(with a few minor changes), except it removed the new characters from " Darkstalkers 3" and brought back a few older characters that were not included in " Darkstalkers 3". Huitzil, Pyron and Donovan got their chance to try out the new Impact Damage System and Down System.
Now in "Vampire Savior 2" which was released alongside "Vampire Hunter 2", the major difference was again in characters. Here the new characters introduced in " Darkstalkers 3" kept their place and so did Huitzil, Pyron and Donovan. It was Jon Talbain, Rikuo and Sasquatch that had to sit this one out to make room for the others.
One may be confused about the release of these two games and wonder why they even exist. It is said that Capcom did this because the arcade memory chips at the time could not handle all the characters from the Darkstalkers series in one game. Many arcades in Japan had both machines on display so these two titles evenly shared overall popularity.
Also worth noting is that all home console versions of "Vampire Savior", Darkstalkers 3 included every character as playable.
Their have been three compilation games that bring all the Darkstalker games together, the first being "
Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service
" released in Japan only, for the
in 2000. This game is a fan's dream, not only combining all of the previous Darkstalkers games on one disc, but actually making the systems from each interchangeable. This means that you could have a fight under the rules of
, but if for some reason you liked the way a character fought in the first
, you can chose that fighting style for them. This game also realizes the dream that Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2 wanted, having all the characters selectable in one game.
" Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower" released for the PSP in 2004, is a ported version of " Vampire Chronicle" for the Dreamcast, also allowing you to wirelessly connect with other PSP's to have a fight.
"Vampire Darkstalkers Collection" only saw a Japanese release for the PS2 in 2005. This collection contains all versions of Darkstalkers on one disc, but does not let you interchange them like " Vampire Chronicle" for the Dreamcast did. This version even offered an arranged version of "Vampire Hunter 2" and "Vampire Savior 2" that allowed the use of all characters from the series, including Dee.