Earlier this year Venturebeat posted an article claiming that a source had advised them of Capcom going to work on Darkstalkers 4, to which Capcom gave a no comment. One sentence in particular had the sirens blaring, the warnings lights going off and me making this face: "The unannounced fighter would use a modified version of the SF X Tekken engine, which itself is modified off of the Street Fighter IV engine."
After Darkstalkers 3, every star that streaked across the sky has had at least one or two wishes made upon it involving Capcom reviving the 13-year old franchise. Since the advent of Street Fighter IV, the desires were cranked up ever more in intensity and it's no wonder. With its unique roster and art, memorable soundtrack and being among the first games to introduce EX moves and OTGs, the Darkstalkers series can be considered the bedrock from which current games have drawn inspiration from. Thus, a next-gen iteration definitely raises plenty of curiosity. But 13 years is still a long time and although the scene is dotted with a few communities that continue swear by it, it's hard to say whether or not the majority can even recall what made it respectful. Which brings to question, just why exactly do we want Darkstalkers 4?
I ask this because for the last three years, Capcom's performance in crafting fighters lately has been met with mixed reception and even controversy. To date, there are three Capcom fighters in the current generation era, only one of which I bother putting time into (it's MAHVEL baybee!). Let's be real, if I were to ask how many of you are really having fun with the new Capcom fighters, the hand count would be far less compared to the same question being asked 10 years ago. Rather than calling these games out with a slew of demeaning adjectives, I'll say this much, things have been very boring and with two out of three of these Capcom fighters invoking such apathy, it's definitely a concern.
To touch upon this, a common denominator that all three carry is being heavily churned in efforts to accustom beginners. SFIV was initially entertaining, but even after the "upgrades" nothing changed the fact that it's a slow paced game with monotonous mechanics. MvC3 dumbed down the six button layout and introduced X-Factor, Ultimate added the ability to pop off the latter airborne and made more game toning tweaks (with certain slipping under the radar and wreaking havoc). SFxT incorporates chain combos and an easy to follow air juggle system. And let's not forget about the gems, proven to have been a dumb idea all along. So much so, that the decision was made to ban their use at Evo after their tendency to draw out matches and entice Time Out victories were realized. Despite Capcom acting on sympathy, there are still a number of individuals who complain that these games ostracize them for their skill level.
I will agree that being mindful to beginners is a novel gesture, but one thing that was overlooked is that the more you try to make things accessible for the masses, the more you risk making things trite. With the exception of MAHVEL, SFIV has already begun hitting the wall of unexcitement while SFxT, not even three months after its release, has Capcom already frowning at sales figures. Meanwhile, gamers have already let their copies collect dust. As one non-fighter friend said "It doesn't hold much replay value to me beyond a weekend rental." Competitive and sponsored players will still go at it - when money is involved, of course you want to keep up with the times.
Given Capcom's newfound insecurities of not wanting to make their games "difficult", this does have me worried as to how they would treat Darkstalkers. The series itself was by no means an esoteric game, in fact it was reasonably accessible. The chain combos were just easy to follow as any Capcom Versus title, commands for specials and supers were not as demanding as those of SNK or old skool Street Fighters, and though the game was fast paced, it was enough for a beginner to pick up on while experts worked character specifics and movement for mastery of momentum. In other words, there's just that much room for Capcom to bomb it.
It's easy to predict how the established groundwork would be made more "accessible". The speed would definitely have to be dropped. The controls would possibly be simplified. Darkstalker's classic feature of round winner continuing the next with whatever health leftover would be removed in exchange for the standard per new round replenish. If Dark Force makes a return I'm definitely not looking forward to possibly encountering this again. But more importantly, in the passing mention of building upon the SFIV/SFxT engine, I can already see yet another SFIV clone being made and confusion as to what sets one game apart from the other in terms of mechanics.
Lastly, I'm not entirely enthused to see how the art would be fleshed out. While the new MAHVEL is the only one to stand out in its own decorum, SFIV and SFxT's use of lumpy 3D character models has already dulled on itself. True that it's still considered a step up in progress compared to past fighters. True also that Capcom has had a notorious history of recycling character sprites. But living in the now demands continuous change and evolution and it's high time that Capcom devised a new way of bringing their characters to life.
Given the amount of years lapsed, there's no doubt that we'll be dealing with a game completely different from its predecessors. Wanting the game to come out ASAP "just 'cause" would mean another slapped together piece reeking of ensuing boredom and that's something a series like Darkstalkers doesn't deserve. Be that as it may, the fact still remains that consumer confidence in Capcom's choice in direction has greatly waned over the past few years among a number of gamers. This at least puts Capcom on the thin line that borders the danger zone and to have Darkstalkers make a return under the current development theory may prove lethal as there are still a number of fans who aren't ready to be let go. This is not to say that I'm against Darkstalkers 4, indeed it would be a fresh new face in the fighting pool and we could all use one, but I would much prefer a title that, if not adhering to its past features, would offer consistency and variety much in the same vein as the titles of the past that made the annals of history's greats. In the meantime, Capcom refusing to comment on the subject may be a good thing as I would like to think that after everything transpired, they would wear their thinking caps for longer periods. I'm looking at you, Ono.