Darkstalkers and the Twelve Principles of Animation

darkstalkers capcom characters intro
I originally posted this a few years ago on the Madman’s Cafe, one of the best online communities for thoughtful discussion of video games since the 90s.  The post got alot of positive responses, so I’ve finally backed it up here on my own blog with a few edits.  To all the members of the Cafe, thanks for your encouragement!

All animated sprite rips in this article are from www.fightersgeneration.com, a very cool database of fighting game info.  Please note that the sprites do not always have accurate timing.  The best way to experience the visual splendor of Darkstalkers is to track down an actual copy of the game and play it!

Darkstalkers (aka Vampire) is one of my favorite videogame series.  It combines great characters with deep gameplay and amazing animation.  When it burst onto the arcade scene in 1994 I was absolutely astounded by the graphics.  It was one of the first video games to combine feature film quality animation with responsive controls and it really set the bar for all the great fighting games that followed after it.

Darkstalkers was Capcom’s followup to their monstrously successful and innovative series,  Street Fighter 2. There is a tremendous jump in animation quality between the two games.  This is because during the mid 90s, Capcom’s animators started to take a much more educated approach to their craft through studious application of the 12 principles of animation. They are the 10 commandments of animation (well, 12 commandments–but you get the idea) set forth by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who were great pioneers of animation at Disney from their early years through the 80s.  These 12 principles form the foundation for animation in the American tradition (ie Disney, Warner Bros, Pixar etc), but they’re also found in great animation the world over.

The following is a primer on the 12 principles of animation, as they are applied in Darkstalkers and its various sequals.

1.) Squash and Stretch:  Squash and stretch refers to the animators ability to distort the distribution of mass in an object as it moves through space. It generally recalls the very bouncy, rubbery movments of Disney esque animation, but it’s actually much more comprehensive than that. Squash and stretch occurs all around us in real life. Just pull in and extend your arm and observe how your muscles bunch up then stretch out. Or look at a cat. They curl up into compact little balls then spring into super lithe living torpedos.

Darkstalkers has alot of squash in stretch in obvious and in subtle places.

Look at how Akaris’s tomb grows at the point of impact, then shrinks back. And also how his feet are very thin when they land on the ground until the rest of his mass catches up with them. It gives the attack a real pop:

Here you can see Lord Raptor’s limbs really stretch out, especially his back leg:
darkstalkers vampire zabel attack animated gif sprite

Q Bee is perhaps the best example of effective squashing and stretching in Darkstalkers. She’s relatively restrained compared to the rest of the cast, but her animations have some of the craziest distortions. If you go frame by frame you might be suprized by just how much they squash and stretch her out, yet it feels perfectly natural in motion.
Q-Bee squash and stretch frames animation

She was introduced years later in the third iteration of Darkstalkers, when the animators had matured even further in their abilities. Q-bee’s animation is almost on par with Street Fighter III (my all time favorite game).


2.) Anticipation: this is the build up before the release of the action. Since this telegraphs movement, you can’t have too much of this in a video game as inputs should be fairly instantaneous. Still Capcom managed to implement this well. Most of the resting animations for the characters already set up the characters for some sort of counter movement. If you look at John Talbain in his crouching position he’s super low to the ground, but any of his animations coming out of that are really dynamic and “pop” out with a counter movement. Basically every resting stance in the game is a sort of anticipation pose:
john talbain gallon crouching fierce attack animated sprite

A more direct example of anticipation can be seen here:
darkstalkers vampire sasquatch punch animation animated sprite gif

He’s got a very nice windup before the actual punch. Anticipation helps to prepare the audience for the coming action and also gives the sense that the character is thinking about what they’re doing.

3.) Staging: Basically how an action is framed in a shot with consideration to things like placement, camera angle, zoom and lighting.  As a 2-d fighter, Darkstalkers only takes place in a fixed side view, but the stages are optimized for this setup. They’re interesting and they frame the action well, without distracting from it.

Look at how the killer plants in the background frame the action, rather than clash with it.
dark stalkers vampire savior background

Darkstalkers has some GREAT stages. It was the first Capcom game to have backgrounds that felt like they belonged in a feature film.
darkstalkers vampire savior egypt background
Aside from being technically sound with good rendering, color choices, and prespective, the stages were full of character and mood. Fetus of God will always be a personal favorite of mine (so disturbing!).

Darkstalkers Vampire Savior Jedah Stage fetus of god

my big brother HATED playing on this stage!


4.) Straight Ahead or Pose to Pose: This has more to do with the process of animation itself. When animating, you can either draw out the key poses first then go back and fill in the inbetweens, or you can plow through the animation one frame after another in order. Complex character animations are generally done pose to pose, while more peripheral animations such as cloth are done straightahead (though generally after the main animation has been worked out pose to pose). Most of the animations in the game were probably worked out pose to pose. But some such as Pyron’s flames were very likely done with straight ahead animation:
darkstalkers vampire pyron attack animated sprite animationdarkstalkers vampire pyron walk animated sprite animation

5.) Followthrough and overlapping action:  This mostly pertains to things that trail the main action like clothing, hair, bouncing breasts etc, think of it as the aftermath of the main action. The Vampire games are good about this. DarkStalkers is one of the first games I can recall that has any followthrough animation at all. For instance, check out Dimitri’s cape:
darkstalkers vampire dimitri sprite rip win pose animation animated gifdarkstalkers vampire dimitri sprite rip default neutral stance animation animated gif


Or Hsein-Ko’s baggy robes and ribbon:
Darkstalkers Hsien-ko Lei Lei sprite rip walk forward animated gif

Felecia’s hair has tons of volume and body. It bounces along as it trails her movements (this animation is also a great example of squash and stretch):
darkstalkers vampire felicia sprite rip attack animated gif animation


6.) Slow In Slow Out: This refers to changing the spacing and timing of actions so they’re not totally uniform and flat (when animation is very even it is sometimes refered to as the “King Kong effect” referring to the old stop motion films where everything moved at a steady speed). Darkstalkers is a real vanguard when it comes to slow in and slow out for game animation. I’m sure alot of you guys can recall the first time you saw Darkstalkers and thought “wow that’s beautiful, so smooth!”  It’s not just because it had more frames of animation than most other games to date, but because they put those frames in the right places. Every action has a varied tempo.

For instance, look at Lillith’s walk cycle. It’s such a nice little skip, with a great lilt to it:
darkstalkers vampire sprite rip lillith skipping walk forward animated gif animation

The frame padding in Vampire is very expertly done to give weight to the moves. Fierce attacks tend to have alot of frame padding, giving them a very meaty feeling. They looked and FELT stronger than weak attacks. The principle of slow in slow out is very obviously exhibited with the slower characters, like Victor with his giant club like limbs.
Darkstalkers Vampire sprite rip Victor Fierce Kick animated gif animation
He was the first character in Darkstalkers I ever picked because I enjoyed watching his ponderous movements, which got more and more extreme as the games went on.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention, another thing the Darkstalkers games do well is the characters tend to lead their actions with their shoulders and hips:
Darkstalkers Vampire Felicia sprite rip fierce punch animated gif animation

This is supremely important for imparting impact. It’s a basic principle of martial arts that your power comes from your core.  Alot of animation still does not utilize this principle. Many 3d games have animations where the characters lead with their extremeties rather than their body, leading to a feeling of a marionette on strings.

7.) Arcs: Just about every living thing moves in arcs. Human locomotion comes from the rotation of our joints. In animation, we use arcs to map out the paths of movements.  Here’s an example of arcs being used for a walk cycle:

Richard Williams The Animators Survival Kit walk cycle arcs map

A page from The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams. This is one of the very best books on the fundamentals of animation.

Arcs are essential for keeping your animation smooth and on track so that nothing slips out of place.

All the motions in Darkstalkers were certainly planned out with arcs. Some are quite obvious:

darkstalkers night warriors donavan special move sprite rip animation gif animation

But really, everything in the game has good motion paths. This is a really essential principle, especially for traditional hand drawn animation. You have to plan movements on arcs, otherwise they won’t line up frame to frame.

By the time they got to animating Vampire Savior, they were pulling off some really complex animation:
darkstalkers vampire savior animated gif q-bee kick sprite rip animation
There are so many arcs going on in that motion, and alot of them are overlapping, turning in on themselves. While her legs are performing a very broad circular action, there’s so much subtly going on in her torso, especially her shoulders. Look at how they loop towards the viewer in a figure 8. Then look at her head turning in perspective, with the antennae trailing behind forming another circle. This circular motion is also echoed in her Bee-hind (ha!). There’s also a ton of great squashing and stretching going on with the spikes really popping out of her knees and more subtle stuff with her legs and stinger. There’s also some great motion blurs on the wings, and great overlapping action with her legs snapping into full extension only after a full rotation of the shoulders, into the torso, into her hips into her knees. There’s so much weight as she throws her entire body into the cartwheel then catches herself and settles back onto the ground for a split second before resuming hovering. Everything about this animation is great and exhibits mastery of every principle of animation. This animation has it all!

8.) Secondary Action. Not to be confused with followthrough, this is more like minor actions supporting a main action. John Talbain’s tail animations are a way excellent example of secondary action:
darkstalkers vampire john talbain gallon sprite rip animation default pose animated gif
His tail is never the main action. During his neutral stance, the main action is his growling. That’s what is being emphasized, but the tail gives an added sense of energy and even friskiness. If you took away his tail animation, all his movements would still work, but they wouldn’t have the same sense of character.

9.) Timing: This refers to the speed of an animation. Timing helps to establish physical properties such as weight, velocity and force. Timing is also important to acting. A character who is depressed might move very slowly with a lot of inertia.  A character that’s scared might make fast, jumpy motions.  Timing can be very abstract.  A humorous animation could be said to have good comedic timing.

Darkstalkers has very good timing, especially with regards to the interactive nature of its animation.  Every button press in the game conjures up an instantaneous performance from the character.  It’s impressive how you can feel the precise power of each attack. Light attacks tend to come out very quickly.  Heavier attacks come out slower, with more weight behind them.
darkstalkers sasquatch animated gif sprite rip animation low punchdarkstalkers sasquatch animated gif sprite rip animation medium punchdarkstalkers sasquatch animated gif sprite rip animation fierce punch
This is appropriate for both aesthetics and balanced gameplay.

Darkstalkers also uses timing to establish the varied personalities of its characters.  Some characters move like beasts driven by instinct:
darkstalkers sasquatch animated sprite rip gif happy dance animationdarkstalkers Victor animated sprite rip gif low punch animationdarkstalkers lord raptor zabel animated sprite rip gif rib attack animation
Some like trained martial artists:
darkstalkers john talbain animated sprite rip gif medium punch animationdarkstalkers lillith animated sprite rip gif fierce kick animation
Jedah has the presence of a seasoned magician conjuring a spell and taking time to observe the outcome.
darkstalkers jedah animated gif sprite rip animation medium punchdarkstalkers Jedah animated sprite rip gif Fierce punch animationdarkstalkers jedah animated sprite rip self decapitation animation
The Darkstalkers games use varied timing to help convey a character’s physical properties as well as their personality.

10.) Exaggeration: This generally means pushing the animation further than real life. This is sorta a guiding value behind every principle of animation. It seems obvious to state but, the Darkstalkers games are full of really good exaggeration. This is no easy task. Most next gen games have rather undynamic animation (often as a result of motion capture). It’s also easy to go overboard with the exaggeration. This is a matter of personal preference. I’m not a fan of animation where everything is exaggerated to the most extreme degree.  When everything is pushed at all times, nothing is emphasized. It can come off as overacting. Darkstalkers is very good about exaggerating certain motions for greater impact, while leaving other motions more mundane.
Darkstalkers Felicia sprite rip animated gif low punch animationDarkstalkers Felicia sprite rip animated gif fall animation
It’s very tastefully balanced.

11.) Solid Drawing: This basically means good volumetric drawing. Capcom’s artists absolutely excel at drawing.
Darkstalkers Capcom Hsien-Ko Lei Lei illustration Bengus CRMK
All their characters are solidly constructed, with a great sense of volume, depth, weight, and character.
Darkstalkers Hsien-Ko Lei Lei model sheet Bengus CRMK
This is hard enough to do with any form of drawing, even harder to do consistently in animation and harder still to convey in tiny sprites (sprite work takes a mountain of patience).
Darkstalkers Capcom Hsien-Ko Lei Lei animated sprite rip walk backwards animationDarkstalkers Capcom Hsien-Ko Lei Lei animated sprite rip crouching animationDarkstalkers Capcom Hsien-Ko Lei Lei animated sprite rip win animation
This is pretty much self explanatory when you look at any Capcom fighter. They are all drawn extremmmmmmely well.


12.) Appeal: This is the most abstract and subjective concept out of all the principles. Basically appeal means that there is something interesting in the animation that captures your attention. I personally love love love all the Darkstalkers characters. From their iconic designs to their animations and the way their personalities are conveyed through their animations, i love these characters dearly. To me they are every bit as interesting as classic Warner Bros or Disney characters. Capcom really truly excels at making appealing characters. Think about how little story they put directly into their games, and yet think about the empire of lore that has been extrapolated from them. People love these characters. There hasn’t been a new Darkstalkers game in over a decade, but Capcom continues to put out Darkstalkers merchandise, people continue to create fan art and comics and even cosplay as the characters.

Once upon a time Capcom was able to make videogame characters that people could instantly identify with. No need for complex overwrought back stories and cinematics, you just saw the character and instantly understood who they were.

These games were like great rock albums, and the characters were all the different tracks that you didn’t mind listening to over and over because you could always find something new to appreciate. The games and the characters that populated them were inspired. The graphics weren’t just technologically impressive, they were INTERESTING.

Heck, I met most of my best friends in college through a common love of Capcom fighters (this proved to be a far better barometer of compatibility than musical tastes or ethnicity or other means of identification). A big part of it was we enjoyed the gameplay so much, but an even bigger part was the art and the great characters.

John Talbain is a kung fu fighting werewolf. His movements are an amazing blend of wild animal fury tempered with human discipline.
Darkstalkers Capcom John Talbain animated sprite rip fierce punch animationDarkstalkers Capcom John Talbain animated sprite rip crouching kick animationDarkstalkers Capcom John Talbain animated sprite rip gif win animation


Dimitri instantly reads as cocky, arrogant and vicious. His posture is very proud. He fights in a muthaflippin’ skin tight tuxedo with riding pants and cape, what a jerk! But he makes it look awesome!
Darkstalkers Vampire Savior Capcom Dimitri illustration by Bengus CRMK

Lei Lei is an adorable Chinese hopping ghost!

Darkstalkers Vampire Savior Capcom Lei Lei Hsien Ko illustration by Bengus CRMK

Donovan is stern and stoic, but hides deep emotions. He’s a great tragic hero.
Darkstalkers Capcom Donovan character illustration by Bengus CRMK

Phobos is a robot shaped like ancient Japanese Jomon pottery! He’s so mysterious and ancient feeling.
Darkstalkers Capcom Phobos character illustration by Bengus CRMKancient Japanese Jomon statue clay figure pottery
He captures the feeling of early civilization art, which is just barely representational. It works so well with his character.

And Pyron, he’s not just another generic horned demon, he’s an allmighty alien made out of plasma that’s based off of biblical descriptions of god and angels appearing as pillars of fire and flaming wheels.
Darkstalkers Capcom Pyron animated gif sprite rip intro animationDarkstalkers Capcom Pyron animated gif sprite rip burning wheel attack animationDarkstalkers Capcom Pyron animated gif sprite rip pillar of fire win animation
These passages have even been interpreted by some as descriptions of contact with UFOs, hence Pyron is an alien. Isn’t that awesome? He’s not just demonic, he’s glorious.

I could go on and on about every single character, but I think i’ve said enough. I hope this post has been enjoyable to read.  I’d love to hear your thoughts. Who are some of your favorite characters?  What do you like about them?  Do any particular animations stand out?  Don’t hesitate to post in the comments section!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, check out these other posts!

art-eater, wolf, smoke, wolfsmoke, studio, studios, batman, bat, man, of, Shanghai, Cat Woman, bane, Chinese Animation

Wolfsmoke Studio! The dynamic duo behind Batman of Shanghai and Kungfu Food Girls.

art-eater, asura's wrath, Buddhist God of War, Buddhism art, violence

Illustration by my good buddy Weigy; http://blog.weigy.com/

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About Richmond

I am a professional game artist who wants everyone to love art as much as I do!
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74 Responses to Darkstalkers and the Twelve Principles of Animation

  1. Very good blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a
    paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!

  2. Jack Motoko says:

    As a fan of animation and Darkstalkers I was all teary eyed reading this. ^_^ I remember when I saw the arcade version I was always stopping to watch this game even if I didn’t have a quarter to play it.

  3. Pingback: Ryu: A Study on Design and Inspiration « L E V E L – U P

  4. interesting site :D I’m glad I stumbled onto it through yahoo. oing to definitely need to add this one to the morning routine…

  5. Pingback: The Combat Corner – Pushing Buttons | Card Kingdom

  6. Pingback: A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 2 – Weapons – The Bishop’s Staff and Hungry Ghosts | Art-Eater

  7. Slurpentine says:

    Loved this blog Post; I found myself agreeing with much of what you wrote precisely because I believe we’re on the same wavelength with Darkstalkers (Awesome cast of characters full of personality and engaging designs) and you’ve really articulated on a lot of my opinions.

    Great stuff!

  8. vince chui says:

    Man I really enjoyed this. I’m not a animator, but I always enjoyed the animation for this game. I think it had a huge wow factor for me when it came out. The animation sings!!!!! and the designs were beautiful. Love the analysis!!!!

    • Richmond says:

      Thanks Vince! You don’t have to be an animator to appreciate Dark Stalkers. I remember the first time I saw the game was back when I was in middle school. My friend’s older sister (who was not a self professed geek/nerd/girlgamer of any kind) told us “hey you gotta see this new game they have at the movie theater arcade! It’s full of monsters!” I think anyone with a pair of eyes and a heart can appreciate it.

    • Richmond says:

      Oh hey, i just went to your website http://www.kidchuckle.com/ . You’re a very good artist dude!

  9. Pingback: A Buddhist’s Guide to Asura’s Wrath Part 1 | Art-Eater

  10. D-Animator says:

    Hey, this a really great post,and inspiring all the same! I’m in school for animation in Canada, and really have a soft spot for traditional animation. I grew up with this game as well,and seeing it analyzed with the fundamentals was great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Richmond says:

      Yeah, traditional animation is one of my great loves in life. What kind of animation are you studying at school? Do you have any work online? If so please share it!
      I’ve always admired all the auteur animation coming out of Cananda and how much the nation supports it. I just went to a screening of selected shorts from Annecy last weekend and so many of them were co produced by The National Film Board of Canada.

  11. Pingback: Ryu: A Study on Design and Inspiration | Arttronik's Blog

  12. WOW teacher,this help me so much,im trying to sudy animation here in mexico,but its kinda hard,i would love to study at the university with you *3*

    • Richmond says:

      Hehe thanks! One of the coolest things about this blog is that it’s getting me in touch with so many other people across the world who love animation. Mexico seems to really appreciate traditional animation. I remember hearing a few months ago that Don Gato y su Pandilla (Top Cat) recently became the highest grossing home grown film in Mexico. That’s so cool! Have you seen that movie?

  13. Aaron Clement says:

    Good article, man… your descriptions are quite accurate… I’m an animator by profession… It’s good to be reminded of this stuff from time to time… Your article was entertaining to read… let me know if you post any more… keep up the good work.

  14. ASD says:

    Hi there, I had read this entry of yours when it was mentioned on the Madman’s Cafe, and it is an excellent write-up but, and I don’t mean this to be rude, you seem to have not mentioned X-Men CotA and Marvel Super Heroes.

    X-Men CotA was released on December 1994, the same year as the first Darkstalkers game and has many of the principals you wrote. Had I known any better I’d say the animation in X-Men tops Darkstalkers.

    Likewise with MSH, which was released in 1995, same year as Darkstalkers’ Revenge.

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  17. Gabriel says:

    Wow! Just reading this article made me realize and appreciate how much detail and effort not only went into making this article, but also every Darkstalkers videogame. I truly wish Capcom would make Darkstalkers 4! The character/theme possibilities would be even greater; especially with the game systems of today. Super Street Fighter 4 and now Marvel vs Capcom 3 — both have over 30 playable characters — are perfect examples of that.

  18. Pingback: Marvel vs Capcom 3 - Page 3 - Sherdog Mixed Martial Arts Forums

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  20. Chewyli says:

    Hi Richmond, I’ve written another article on street fighter design. I’d like to get your feedback on the subject matter if you have time.
    If you’re okay with that, send me a private message by twitter or whatever

  21. Pingback: CHRISZAMANILLO.COM :: This Week in Videogame Blogging:January 9th :: http://www.chriszamanillo.com

  22. Chewyli says:

    Hi Richmond,
    You motivated me to make pixelart, it’s my first one so don’t get your hopes up: http://www.8bitengine.net/?p=486
    I’ll add big daddy next time ^^

  23. Pingback: 动画制作12原则的实际应用 -

  24. WEIGY says:

    Brother,

    it is good to see your insight get exposed to the world/internet like this and your love for art get reciprocated so strongly, for a medium (gorgeous 2d sprites) I thought most have given up on loving or asking out of modern standards.

  25. Chewyli says:

    Really? where have you seen the disney art from? (I hope they properly linked me).
    I’m a pixel lover too yeah, I haven’t tried myself yet, but it might be fun to make some pixel remakes of iconic characters not from that era. I love to analyze and distill what the essence of a character is. Do you have facebook or anything? It would be easier to communicate.

  26. Chewyli says:

    Awesome article, I’ve always wondered myself why Capcom sprite animation is so much better than any of their competitors. For example the KOF XIII looks awesome as HD sprite art, but the animation is just so static. That’s probably because they used 3D Puppet frames for the base of the sprite art. Ironically enough, SF4 which actually used 3D has more lifelike and glory day spritelike animation than the 2D KOF XIII.

    I’ve also been analyzing the character designs of Capcom fighters (not from an animation standpoint, but more visual design). I’ve got a few blog articles on my site. It’s just a suggestion, but I’d love to chat with you about this subject. would you be up for that?

    • Richmond says:

      Thanks man! I would love to discuss this in greater detail with you. I was going through your site last night, you’re a very good artist! I think I’ve seen some of your Disney related pieces before. I really dig your mission statement about sprites being exemplary examples of great design. I couldn’t agree more. The best sprites are elegant, instantly readable and appealing. They’re iconic!

      What are some of your favorite sprite based games?
      Have you tried your hand at dot art? I bet you’d be awesome at it.

  27. Pingback: Darkstalkers animation | 8bitengine

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  29. onReload says:

    Glad to hear you’re a fan of 3s, and after reading the article, I can tell that not everyone is pulled in by “weird” characters, but also great spritework. I’ve never been able to get into DarkStalkers – my favorite 2D Capcom games (along with SF2, of course) are JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and SF3 (Mainly Third Strike, as it has almost every animation in the series and some additions/improvements) is more transparent – I never thought of it as a game with great animation until I started slowing it down for other reasons. It has smeared frames of animation much like Alpha 3, but it slips them in there without being so obvious – A3 was definitely trying to imitate a comic book style. There’s one really bizarre frame in Makoto’s Fukiage (the upward punch) from 3S that’s only there for one or two frames, but it might be the one that ties the whole attack animation together. One big flaw, to me, is how much Elena sticks out from the rest of the cast, though I do like her artwork as well.

  30. Ranshi says:

    Very nice read. I also find it hard to play in the Fetus of God stage, I don’t think I could stand it if Darkstalkers made the jump to 3d models. @_@

  31. cam says:

    while i am not new to Darkstalkers, i never got around to playing any of the games sadly.

    I do know about the characters and i have watched the animations of the sprites and i really like the look of the game.

    i just wish Capcom would make DarkStalkers downloadable on PSN or Xbox

    • Richmond says:

      @Cam
      I was gonna suggest you get the Dark Stalkers collection for ps2, but then I don’t think it was released in the US :C
      One way or another you should check the games out though. They’re beautiful and tons of fun. The high level play in that series is incredible. It’s one of the most aggressive fighting games out there.

      BTW I’m going through your blog right now. Nice reviews! I’m glad to see Magic Pengel get some love (even if it’s tough love)! It’s so nice to hear from a longtime gamer that isn’t jaded and is still enthused about this wonderful medium of videogames.

  32. Devin Rinear says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve always felt that 2D video games were more refined artistically than most newer 3D ones. Most of the time these days, developers tend to shoot for more realism, which can make things SERIOUSLY bland. They just sort of ignore the concept of artistry and go straight for the science of design.

    That’s why I can appreciate games that break this mold, like Mario Galaxy and Devil May Cry, for example. These are games that have some truly nice art in them, and the animation on both is pretty excellent. Whereas Galaxy is completely cartoon style (and captures it well), Devil May Cry actually strives for realism while at the same time tattooing dark, morbid artistry across the reality created. Mario has an indefatigable charm and exuberance to it, while DMC oozes style and character, creating enduring characters like Dante and Virgil (gigantic fanbase ahoy).

    And while neither may be the greatest examples of excellent story, the work and imagination put into them -and many other games- shows. So, while things were pretty golden back in the days of 2D, 3D can be just as beautiful and artistic, as proven most prominently by Pixar. But just like back then, the fat cats will always churn out the derivative and tired, while true artists give birth to the inspired.

    I didn’t mean to rhyme, honest.

    • Richmond says:

      @Devin
      I can feel the heat from your passionate remarks! I would definitely agree that Mario and Devil May Cry are a cut above most other 3d games, especially in terms of animation. Mario’s just got the best, most responsive controls ever, coupled with really dynamic, personality filled movements. And Devil May Cry is the gold standard for realtime action animation. Sometimes I like to boot up DMC4 and just look at the models. They’re really beautiful! I’m really glad Capcom has been putting model viewers in most of their recent games.

  33. Ashley says:

    12 principles are so important! I just graduated with a Degree in 3D Animation this year ^_^

  34. Isack says:

    Thanks a lot for the article it was really enjoyable. I ve always admired Darkstalkers animation and of course the characters wich are easily my favorite from any fighting game series. This article helps giving fans of the series a more deeper insight in how the characters were planned.

    Also, I love all the characters from the game, but Rikuo (Aulbath) is definitely my favorite.

    • Richmond says:

      @Isack, Romun, Vince and everyone

      Thanks so much for the kind words. They’re really encouraging! I will definitely be following up with more Dark Stalkers and Capcom related articles. I originally wanted to go through every character one by one, but I wasn’t sure if there’d be much interest. Your enthusiastic responses have wiped away my hesitation. Check back for more articles this weekend. For updates please follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

  35. Romun says:

    Great article! Too bad you didn’t comment about every character! ;)
    I’d like to read some insight about SF3 sprites too. Keep it up!

  36. Jed says:

    I hate to say but in the eyes of the dev team Donovan was boring and supposed to die in Savior. Being replaced by an older Anita. I looked in the arcade version and Anita’s name and life bar portrait graphics was there along with Phobos(Huitzil). There was nothing on Dee, Donovan, or Pyron.

    http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz127/jedpossum/names.jpg
    http://i820.photobucket.com/albums/zz127/jedpossum/newcharacter.jpg

    So that ending you get at the credits with Dee on the Collection was Anita at Donovan’s grave.

    Just thought this was an interesting tid bit of info you would like to know.

  37. Danny says:

    Great article, but I can’t believe you didn’t use some of B.B. Hood’s animations. Her idle pose contrasted with the uzi animation or the mine falling out of her dress really tells a complete story.

  38. Vince says:

    Stellar observations. Darkstalkers is one of the richest original fighting games I’ve ever had the privilege to play made by Capcom. Appreciating detail like this is what makes me love the fighting game industry because it’s so much more than merely hitting one another. There’s definitely an art for hit and effects and tensions during the game and fighting game makers definitely need to pay more attention to this sort of thing with 2D fighters like Guilty Gear or BlazBlue now. Vampire will always have the strongest impression on me because it had the smoothest animation I had ever seen as a kid growing up with Playstation.

  39. Cheng says:

    Very interesting read! Thanks for spending the time to put this together. I really enjoy it!

    I’ve never played the darkstalkers series before, but I can see some of the moves from this game are inherited by 3rd strike. I am a big fan of 3rd strike (both gameplay and animation). I was hoping you could use 3rd strike as an example in this article :)

    • Richmond says:

      @Cheng
      @Romun
      @onReload

      Thanks for the kind words! I will definitely be writing about SFIII in the future. Third Strike is my all time favorite game. It’s so great to hear from other people that love it too!

  40. Pingback: Darkstalkers Artwork Retrospective « 地獄 ~ Darkstalkers Data Base ~ 地獄

  41. michael says:

    wow im really amazed at how all the basic animation methods were used
    for this game although i never played it i always liked the seires of darkstalkers,i wish i could do sprites like that kind of animation but sadly im still learning how to make sprites and i barly had the time to animate them or how to animate pixel art sadly even more,but i wish i could do all this to make my original chars of my series karagu to make them very amazing chars for mugen and other flash and video games

  42. Pingback: Capcom Design Discussion: Gill | Arttronik's Blog

  43. Richmond says:

    @Andy
    That’s an awesome observation. One of the best things about the classic Capcom games is how much personality every character had. Most games have very one note casts in comparison.

    @Arttronik
    It would be incredible if Capcom put out another 2-d fighter!

    @Baldulf
    Glad you enjoyed the article. It’s too bad Capcom isn’t actually developing their own fighting games anymore. Dimps are a very capable developer, but it would be incredible if Capcom put their own in house A-team on a new fighting game.

    @ouz
    I’m definitely going to do some sorta analysis of the sprite work in KOFXII and XIII sometime in the future. Those games are beautiful. They’re like SNK’s Third Strike! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  46. ouz says:

    I hope capcom does one more Darkstalkers in 2d.
    Btw can you do something similar with KOF XIII. I know you need sprites for that its too early but I hope to see something like that.

  47. Baldulf says:

    A very interesting article, worthy of a second read after being published on the MM boards.

    If only Ono had all this in mind before handing the Darkstalkers saga to Dimps or any other lame developer…

  48. Arttronik says:

    I’ve always loved this post- ever since I read it on Madman’s Cafe. Current gen Capcom should read this and give us another 2D fighter! Grreat post!

  49. Andy says:

    I always liked the contrast between Talbain/Gallon and Bishamon

    One is a beast refined by martial arts
    the other is a martial artist possessed by a bestial power

  50. Richmond says:

    @Gargamuza
    Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Were there any particular points that stood out to you?

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