The Darkstalkers series has always held a warm place in my heart. Ultimately, this should be a game 2D fighting enthusiasts rush out and buy, but the inevitable control issues are bound to make you think otherwise. While there’s very little to dispute in terms of visual brilliance and integrity, I only wish that quarter-circle motions (the staple for most of the featured cast) weren’t so damn hard to pull out.
Let’s face it, fighting games are all about consistency. They play an integral role during competitive matches and are contingent for a player's execution. Unfortunately, the D-Pad makes it particularly difficult for even the most seasoned players like myself to perform on command, meaning casual types will almost certainly have greater difficulty. For this reason alone, The Chaos Tower let me down as I had such high hopes that the translation would be a perfect port of its Dreamcast counterpart. Of course, this is Capcom we’re talking about – I should be used to such imperfections.
My other beef lies with the loading times, something which is bound to kill your momentum as you “patiently” await the next match to get underway. And it doesn’t help matters either that the screen is devoid of any type of artistic flavor. Hope you like the color red, because that’s all you’ll ever see. C’mon, give me something worthwhile to stare at while I wait!
I am also puzzled by the absence of a shortcut mode option, a staple featured in previous Capcom 2D fighting games which drastically reduced loading times. Well, I guess that gives me time to run to the fridge and make a sandwich. But hey, don’t get the impression that I am at hater. For what it’s worth – I like the game…I am just being realistic.
In its defense, the game does offer a few welcome additions, including the incredibly rewarding Chaos Tower Mode. Here, you’ll engage a unique tournament of sorts fighting against the entire cast, which in turn will unlock various prizes like artwork and ending movies as you advance. Each match offers a distinct challenge which progressively gets harder and may include certain handicaps like the loss of your respective punch/kick attacks. Further, unlike traditional survival modes, your energy doesn’t get replenished after successfully winning a match, so you’ll need to be wise about your character match-ups. While it’s still unknown to me just how many floors there are in total (I’ve only reached level 14 so far), diligent players will certainly find this feature addicting as they sit back and spend hours unlocking all the hidden content.
Chaos Tower also features a Network mode, allowing you to face off against another player wirelessly. Although both multiplayer modes are suppported, I've yet to succesfully get the Infrastructure Mode to work ala Twisted Metal: Head On -- which leaves Ad-Hoc as your only option. Unless you’re planning to call over a few friends or take a trip to a local Starbucks, chances are, this feature won’t be exploited too often.
In the end, unless you’re totally starved for some portable fighting action, you’re better off digging out your Dreamcast and playing Vampire Chronicles in lieu of its inherent control flukes. At the very least, we’ve been given a taste of the potential future for what lies ahead. Here’s hoping the next 2D fighting release will be free of imperfections and end up being the ultimate portable release that everyone will consider a keeper.