Julien Neaves, Editor
Plot: As monsters battle each other and hateful humans a powerful alien threat descends placing everyone at risk.
Context: My journey into retro video game anime adaptations (what a mouthful) continues with four-part OVA Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge (Vampire Hunter: The Animated Series in Japan). The 1997 anime adapts the first two games of Capcom Darkstalkers one-on-one fighting franchise which sees various monsters duking it out.
Similar to the Fatal Fury games, I did not play much Darkstalkers in the arcade, but as a lover of classic movie monsters I was intrigued by the concept and character designs. And for that reason, I was also excited to watch the OVA. With a mild spoiler alert let’s bite into my retro review!
Review: Let me start with the positives first. The animation from Madhouse Studios (the folks behind iconic anime like Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Death Note) is gorgeous and the characters are well translated from video game screen to tv screen. Werecat Felicia looks super sexy, succubus Morrigan is dark and also super sexy, haunted dhampir Donovan looks sufficiently buff and villainous vamp Demitri Maximoff looks sufficiently vampiric. The action sequences are bloody, frenetic and gloriously over the top (a battle scene involving Felicia and werewolf John Talbain and a throwdown between Morrigan and Demitri were two of my highlights). And the tone is extremely dark and mature, unlike the much maligned and neutered 1995 American Darkstalkers animated series.
Now on to the negatives. While the above-named characters do have some type of arcs over the four episodes, we have Talbain just popping up and disappearing while mummy Anakaris, merman Rikuo, sasquatch Sasquatch and Frankenstein monster Victor only show up briefly in a flashback. But the OVA’s biggest flaw is biting off more than it could chew. It feels like they tried to cram a season worth of story into just four episodes, and it is dizzying. We jump rapidly from Demitri and Morrigan’s power struggle to Chinese hopping vampire Lei-Lei (Hsien-Ko) and her twin sister, Mei-Ling trying to save the soul of their mother to Felicia dealing with warlike and prejudiced humans to Donovan grueling quest to purge his vampiric blood. Before anything gets wrapped up, we have ancient Huitzil robots blowing everything up and alien big bad Pyron descending to fulfill his desire to consume the Earth. The story could have benefitted from some streamlining.
Bloated narrative aside, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge is still a fun watch and one worth checking for both fans of the games and 90s era anime.
Editor Jules’ Score: 6.5 out of 10
Are you a fan of the Darkstalkers’ anime? Sound off in the comments. And you can check more retro video game anime adaptations (still a mouthful!) below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an award-winning author. I say things like “13 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.