You wouldn't think decade-old graphics could look this good, let alone that a decade-old fighting game could hold up this well. Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower is an amalgam of Capcom's other 2D fighting game series, the one that's clearly derivative of Street Fighter but features a much more imaginative and in many ways more likable cast of characters. It's essentially a pixel-perfect port of the arcade Darkstalkers games, and it adds Wi-Fi multiplayer support and some bonus extras into the mix, to good effect. Those who'll most appreciate this game will long for a six-button joystick configuration as they wrestle with the PSP's serviceable but somewhat substandard control scheme (substandard for six-button fighting games, anyway), though they'll relish having the Darkstalkers series and its great cast of characters available on the go. Put it like this: Darkstalkers Chronicle is probably the best portable fighting game ever made. After all, it's the first portable fighting game that meets and even exceeds the quality of its arcade ancestors.
Capcom's lesser-known but most imaginative fighting game series makes for an excellent PSP launch title.
Since the original Darkstalkers game was basically a wild offshoot of Street Fighter II, the game follows the same blueprint that most every fighting game since Street Fighter II has followed. You choose from one of a variety of different characters and take on opponents one at a time, attempting to beat them into submission using a variety of standing, crouching, and jumping attacks, as well as different special moves. Since the characters come in all shapes and sizes, expect to see plenty of completely crazy moves. The six-button layout means each character has a large variety of punches and kicks (or the equivalent), and, together with Darkstalkers' chain combo system and the characters' generally high degree of mobility, gameplay becomes a real test of tactics, wits, and reflexes. Alternatively, it can be pretty fun to mindlessly mash away on the buttons, watching whatever happens as a result. This is frankly the easiest option, as the PSP's button layout and D pad can make it difficult to pull off some of the fairly complex, multibutton commands necessary to execute some of the more sophisticated moves and combos. Still, with practice, you should be able to regain those rusty, old arcade skills.
Darkstalkers Chronicle is based on an old Dreamcast title, which in turn combined the original Darkstalkers game as well as its sequels--games that added new characters, updated the characters' storylines, and tweaked the rules of play. So it includes the entire series' cast of nearly 20 characters, ranging from original favorites--like the vampire Demitri, the succubus Morrigan, and the kung fu werewolf Jon Talbain--to relatively newer contenders--like Chinese ghost Hsien-Ko, the unassuming Baby Bonnie Hood (think Little Red Riding Hood gone postal), and the arrogant demon Jedah. This is a classic fighting game cast that hits all the bases of monster movie pop culture, while at the same time featuring a distinct, unmistakably anime-inspired sense of style. The characters are both beautifully animated and practically bursting with personality with their every move. Multiple win poses, unique and perfectly suited voices, memorable musical themes, and plenty of clever, surprising-looking attacks make the Darkstalkers cast a highlight within the fighting game genre, as well as within the ranks of developer Capcom's pantheon of video game characters. Seeing the Darkstalkers gang in all its full-colored, fully animated glory on the PSP's bright, beautiful screen is going to make this game worthwhile to any longtime fighting game fan.
Though the one-on-one fighting mechanics are at the heart of all the modes in Darkstalkers Chronicle, the game boasts an impressive amount of variety in terms of character selection and modes of play. Probably the most significant of these options is the choice between original arcade-style controls and an "easy" control scheme better suited to beginners or those otherwise unable to work around the PSP's inability to perfectly mimic an arcade cabinet setup. The normal controls require you to input moves using the same quarter-circle and multibutton patterns that work in the arcades. The easy controls simplify things down to taps on the D pad, along with simultaneous button presses. Since the gameplay moves quickly, even if you don't pick one of the "turbo" speed settings, the "easy" control scheme turns out to be a welcomed inclusion. So even if you're well acquainted with this style of gaming, you might just gravitate toward the simplified controls.