Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower – PSP – Review

My PSP is still smoking, I just
got done giving another run at the Chaos Tower and failed a mere 21% into the
melee. Fingers blistering, eyes watering from failure to blink and forearms
cramping. Yes, the game moves at one speed… all-out. Featuring quite
possibly the oddest collection of mutants, monsters and occult characters,
Darkstalkers PSP proves that there is still life in what was once thought a
dead game genre, the 2D fighter.

Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos
Tower is basically an updated version of the Dreamcast title with a few extras
thrown in for good measure. Being a 2D fighter, the cast is an eclectic and
quite frankly, creative crew of occult-types that, for the most part, are very
well designed and thought out. The title offers 18 different characters to
choose from each with an assortment of special moves ranging from easy to
downright impossible. The game doesn’t feature any sort of special move
tutorial so be prepared to flip through the manual in order to get a better
hold on some of the more complicated attacks. Not that it matters totally, the
game practically begs to be button mashed, and you can do so effectively for
the beginning stretches of the game’s tenure, but be prepared to get really
good with at least three or four characters if you plan on trying to make
it up the Chaos Tower.

So just what is the Chaos Tower?
Well, it’s one of the several modes you can play in this tidy little game. The
object is to select three characters (none the same) and start fighting up the
floors of the tower. On each floor there is a different character from the
game waiting to fight you. Now, in the earlier parts of the game these
opponents are simply not very tough and the game gives you a bit of
information that is pertinent to this particular floor. For instance, say you
are on the 12th floor, before fighting a little screen pops up and tells you
who you are fighting, what level of fighting skill they possess and any rules
that this floor may have (no punching, no blocking etc.). You then choose from
one of your three fighters and have at it. Sometimes you must strategize your
enemy, knowing that your opponent is slow, you may elect to go with a quicker
fighter; other times you may be so awesome with a character, it doesn’t matter
who’s next, you’ll whup ’em anyway. Cleverly, the game allows the two unused
fighters to slowly regain health, as you don’t start from a full health meter
at the beginning of each fight. And of course sometimes a level will give an
extra bonus, like if you can defeat your opponent in under ten seconds, you
can skip the next floor and go on to the floor after it.  Eventually, there is
multiple paths to be taken which can be challenging to figure out how to
access those multiple paths. All in all, it’s a nifty tournament to play.   

Of course you can also choose
merely to play out the decidedly Street Fighter-esque single-player mode,
where you pick a character and try to run the gamut of his or her own story.
Not that there is much of a background story on these characters. And then of
course you can also choose to do battle against a friend if they have a copy
of the game and are sitting within playing distance of the wireless Ad Hoc
connection (PSP to PSP). Lastly, those of you that have run out and purchased
a wireless router can also hop online and play against other Darkstalkers in
what is a decent and rather trouble-free gaming experience. Honestly, I did
have a couple of hiccups, but still managed to have fun in the process. 

The game is sort of a half-empty,
half-full glass of water in terms of controls. The PSP does not allow you to
play the game using the gaming nub, rather than the D-pad solely in terms of
movement, which brings me to the game’s first real setback.  As I said
above, some of the specialty moves are downright impossible, since the game is
essentially a faithful translation of the several Darkstalkers arcade games,
the D-pad just doesn’t cut it when the moves were designed for a gaming stick.
So I found myself literally in pain as my poor thumb was doing overtime while
trying to perform some of the multi-button, multi-move attacks that each
character is blessed/cursed with.

Capcom has written the book on
colorful characters and this game continues in that vein. Colors are vibrant
and exciting, the game’s cartoon-like appearance isn’t accepted, it’s
appreciated. The strong, smooth movements of the character is as enjoyable to
look at as it is to control. Backgrounds often have little clues or characters
in them and the fighting areas are varied and original for a game that’s been
around for ten years. I guess you could say that the whole game is cel shaded
but that wouldn’t be quite right either. Given the temperature of the game,
I’d say the developers enjoyed working when they made this title. And the same
could be said of the audio. The game boasted more sound than I expected and
the in-fight noises came across crisp and clear.

It should also be discussed that
the game has more options than I think I could possible talk about. You can
choose to play using the moves from the three Darkstalker’s titles or
combination of them. You can have auto block on, ramp up your character’s
speed or choose to turn off the on-screen damage gauge. Plus plenty more for
you combat needs.

So with that, let’s break it

Review Scoring Details for Darkstalkers
Chronicle: The Chaos Tower

Gameplay: 7.5
It can be murder on your fingers
trying to pull off some of those crazy attacks and the easiness of just button
mashing left me feeling a little unsatisfied, but in the end there is
something to be said about really working at getting those combo’s down and
figuring out what wacky attack does the most (ego) damage to my friends. 

Graphics: 8.5
Really bright, clean colors. No
slow down when the action gets heavy and the beauty of this game on a system
that knows how to make it all look so good. Should say that there is some long
load times though, in-between matches.

Sound: 7.9
Use the headphones!  Not using the headphones will make you miss out
on some really nice sounding effects and music. The sound of a chainsaw
chewing through rock is as cool as you think. Lots of bangs and booms in this
one, just the way I like it.

Difficulty: Medium
It’s the kind of game that you can play as little or as much as you
want. Put it down for two weeks and pick it up without missing a beat.  The
game has a lot of options which can effect the difficulty and that tower can
really be a tough one, but don’t be surprised if you beat some of the
single-character games on your first try either. 

Concept: 7.0
Nothing new in terms of genre defining, simply a good 2D-fighting
game with plenty of hidden things to find and unlock. I would have liked to
have seen more in-between bouts in terms of the character’s talking, but hey,
it’s a game that’s got as much depth as my child’s kiddie pool, not that I was
expecting an emotional gaming experience.

Multiplayer: 8.7
The game’s finest feature. This is
why they made the PSP; pick up fighting games are rare in online play and this
title is out to prove that there is a market for it. Relative ease makes me a
happy online player and trust me when I say I’m happy.

Overall 8.2
Not that I was always a big fan of
fighting games, but I am really enjoying playing this title. The little movies
you can watch about the characters, the Illustrations you unlock as you fight
your way up the tower, the werewolf that latches on to you and starts spilling
blood like it was cheap beer. Yup, this title has it’s share of little
problems, but the fun factor really weighs in and you would be hard pressed to
find a better fighting game on any other hand-held system.