There’s this odd tendency to turn fighting game franchises into films, anime and even western cartoons. Usually with less than stellar results. What is it about fighting games specifically that results in all of these adaptations? Is it that most fighting games have little enough in terms of story and characterisation that studios figure they’ll be easy to adapt without fan backlash? If that’s the case you’d think they’d have learned their lesson long ago. Even before this was made. In any case, it’s time to take a look at Madhouse’s Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and see where it falls on the adaptation spectrum.
Our story opens with Demitri planning an invasion of the demon realm. He’s stopped by Morrigan who challenges him to a match because she’s bored. Yes, really. Their fight is interrupted when a legion of Phobos robots appear. They spread across the planet seeking to exterminate all life forms. Meanwhile, Donovan, a half-vampire vampire hunter (How very original,) is on a journey of self-discovery when he encounters young Anita, a girl with a mysterious power who decides to follow him. While this is going on Felicia is going on tour, Lei-Lei and Lin-Lin are on a journey to save their mother’s soul and… Yeah this OVA has a ton of sub-plots. I know that there are a lot of characters, but maybe it would’ve been a good idea to just stay focused on a small group. Especially when you’ve only got four episodes to work with. Most of the important plot elements revolve around Donovan, Anita, Lei-Lei and Lin-Lin anyway. Felicia’s subplot in particular ends up being entirely pointless. Morrigan and Denitri ultimately contribute nothing either. They’re pretty much only included because the fans love them. Now, I do understand wanting to make your fans happy, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the story. Honestly though, the story wouldn’t be good even without the tangled mess of sub-plots, just less cluttered. It would still be largely derivative with too many flashbacks. The story mainly serves to take the characters from one fight to the next. That being said, a lot of the moments are kind of enjoyable just based on how over the top and cheesy they are. The ending in particular.
As much as I enjoy the Darkstalkers games, most of the characters aren’t very well used in this. Part of the problem is that the focus is on Donovan, quite possibly the dullest, most generic character in the franchise. There’s also Anita, who has little personality in this and ends up serving as a maguffin rather than a fleshed out character. The only major characters in this I kind of like are Lei-Lei and Lin-Lin. They do get some really good moments and they have a lot more personality than Donovan or Anita. Morrigan, Demitri, Felicia, Zabel Zarock and Gallon could have been interesting but they’re barely in the OVA and their appearances don’t really contribute much. Speaking of under-used characters, Anakaris, Rikuo, Sasquatch and Victor all appear in this for a few seconds before being unceremoniously killed off. That doesn’t seem like a very good idea when trying to appeal to your fans or were they deemed unpopular enough that no one would care?
The art is rather varied. They incorporate a lot of the fight mechanics from the games into the actual battles, which usually leads to some strong, fluid action sequences, but there are some moves that just don’t lend themselves well to animation and end up looking stilted and awkward. Particularly Morrigan’s drill kick attack. Madhouse also does an excellent job drawing the characters as they are in the games. That being said, a lot of the designs were just poorly done to begin with. So, while I’m not going to fault the OVA for it, I am going to take a moment to rant about the designs in Darkstalkers. For example, why is Felicia largely a normal looking woman with minor cat elements and no clothes but just strips of fur to cover her “naughty bits” while Gallon is more of a humanoid wolf with proper pants? We’ve also got Donovan who just looks incredibly silly. We also have Zabel Zarock who brings some of the worst part of 90s comic design to mind He just needs a bunch of random pouches and shoulder pads to make the look complete. We also have Demitri’s hair that is overly-gelled to make him look as much like a conehead as possible. Yeah, as much as I like the games the character designs leave much to be desired. That rant aside, the art in this is pretty solid. The only real issue, aside from the occasional stilted fighting move, are the facial expressions. Anita’s nose disappears in a lot of shots, Morrigan’s eyes get crossed a few times and her hair turns purple once, I think they’re doing shading effects at the time but it just looks odd.
One thing that’s a bit odd is that the vocal cast from the games don’t reprise their roles in the OVA. Still, the cast they did get does a good job. Miyamura Yuko does well as Lei-Lei. She may also be familiar to fighting game fans as Chun-li in the Alpha/Zero games and Seung Mina in Soul Edge. That’s a strange coincidence. Three major characters from three big fighting game franchises. Okamata Maya and Yukana are both really good as well. The music in this is just great.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s no yuri here.
So, how is Darkstalkers’ Revenge? Well, it’s a goofy little OVA with some unintentionally funny moments, a story that’s complete pants and well done fight scenes. It’s certainly not good, but I wouldn’t call it bad either. It’s kind of stupid, but harmless. My final rating is going to be a 5/10. If you’re a Darkstalkers fan you’ll probably enjoy it well enough if only for the fight scenes. Otherwise I could really only suggest it if you just want some mindless action or if you have some friends over and want a good series to watch MST3k style.