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I’m a huge fan of awesomely bad fighting game stories. It’s amazing how convoluted and unintentionally hilarious they manage to be when it invariably just amounts to dudes punching each other. Even better than the in-game stories are the stories that come out of most fighting game tie-ins. Who can forget the so-bad-it’s-kinda-good Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat live action movies?
I know I can’t, and that’s also why I can’t believe I never knew about the short lived Darkstalkers cartoon.
Darkstalkers is a Capcom fighting game featuring supernatural fighters, the most famous being the succubus Morrigan. Decidedly more quirky than Street Fighter, when released for the PlayStation in 1996, Darkstalkers stood out from run of the mill fighters on the strength its occult themed characters and Capcom's signature polish.
Despite becoming a fan favorite, Darkstalkers hasn't seen a release since Darkstalker's Chronicles for the PSP in 2005. But Darkstalkers isn't dead. Characters from the franchise have appeared in various Capcom verses titles for years, including the recent hit Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Unbeknownst to me, Darkstalkers also spawned a 13 episode cartoon that aired on USA network in the mid 90s.
I came across it browsing the DVD rack of my local anime store, Sean's Anime and Comics, when the Darkstalkers cover art made me do a double take. “Is that Morrigan?” The normally sensual succubus looked, if not terrible, really boring.
By that point I was practically giddy, I knew I had stumbled upon a treasure trove of bad story telling. The fact that the DVD was priced at $3.99 helped as well.
When I set my purchases down on the checkout counter, the aforementioned Sean eyed the DVD warily. “Uh, you know what this is right?” When I explained that I wanted the DVD in order to make fun of it for a website he laughed. Apparently the copy I purchased was the second he had sold, the first going to another writer looking for a laugh.
So exactly how bad is it?
If I had any doubts as to the quality of Darkstalkers, the trailers at the beginning of the disc were my first clue. A trailer for the well known, and also painfully bad, American Street Fighter cartoon was playing, except instead of playing the Street Fighter audio, Mega Man audio played instead. Next came a Mega Man cartoon commercial with Street Fighter audio playing.
The plot is thin to say the least. Pyron, a space alien, arrives at Earth and discovers that humans populate the whole earth. Enraged that humans are thriving he concocts a plan to subjugate humans under his rule. This is Pyron:
Pyron's plan is to unite the "old races," a.k.a. Darkstalkers, under his rule and then use their combined strength to dominate humans once and for all. Immediately Pyron's ship's computer asks why they can't just kill all the humans and be done with it. Pyron unconvincingly explains that he must maintain the natural order and that means keeping humans around.
The first phase of his plan involves using his teleportation ray to bring the other Darkstalkers aboard his ship. He quickly manages to bring vampire Demitri and succubus Morrigan over to his side. Immediately Morrigan asks why they can't just kill all the humans and be done with it. Increasingly irritated, Pyron explains that they need humans, although why they need humans isn't abundantly clear.
Now that he's on the team, Demitri takes over teleportation ray duties. Unfortunately Demitri kinda sucks at using a teleportation ray, so much so that at one point the Big Feet (Big Foots? Big Footi?) tribe manage to thwart him by throwing snow balls at it. Here just see for your selves:
After being defeated by the Big Feet's brilliant "plan," Demitri tries to capture the heroine of Darkstalkers, Felicia the cat girl.
Lacking the Big Feet's ingenuity, Felicia decides to run to the home of a wizard she once knew 300 years ago. This leads to Felicia hiding in the bedroom of Darkstalkers hero, Harry.
(Harry is not from the games, the only explanation for his presence must be to make a show about supernatural beings more relatable to kids.)
Besides having awful hair, Harry apparently hasn't gone through puberty yet because upon finding a scantily clad cat girl in his room he immediately orders her to leave. She explains that she's being chased by Demitri and Harry finally believes her when Demitri tries to use the teleportation ray on them.
After Demitri fails to capture all of the Darkstalkers, Morrigan once again questions the wisdom of a plan that involves sparing your enemies. This time it's Demitri who has the answer to her concerns saying "Noooooooo, we must stick to plan." (By this point Pyron must realize that there are holes in his evil plot. I assume he doesn't change it up because he's afraid he'll lose face in front of is new minions.)
The episode ends with Felicia and Harry teaming up while Pyron has the evil Darkstalkers swear to serve him.
So the plot is bad. But even more offensive than that is the shoddy animation. Check this out:
The arrow is pointing to a scribble that spent the entire second episode wiggling back and forth on various parts of the screen. It looked like a hair stuck to a camera lens. I spent the entire episode staring at it and not really paying attention to the actual show.
Also look at what they managed to do to Morrigan. She normally looks like this:
Here she is in Darkstalkers the cartoon:
I also have to question the wisdom of a Darkstalkers cartoon at all. In many ways a Street Fighter cartoon makes sense the same way that something like G.I. Joe makes sense. Army dudes punching each other appeals to little boys. A succubus and cat girl duking it out, however, seems like a much tougher sell to boys under the age of 12.
Don't take my word for it though! Wander over to YouTube and you'll find that the show has been posted in its entirety.
If you just want a little taste, here's the cartoons opening (be warned: the song will be stuck in your head for hours):
Originally posted on Digitalhippos.com.