These two interviews chronicle the development of Vampire Savior (aka Darkstalkers 3), the third and most enduring entry in Capcom’s influential monster-themed fighting game series. While it introduced many well-received game systems and the popular new characters Jedah, Lilith, B.B.Hood and Q-Bee, Vampire Savior remains the last substantial Darkstalkers game.

Darkstalkers interview (1994)
Darkstalkers’ Revenge article (’95)
Vampire articles @ itsfantastic.moe

Vampire Savior – 1997 Developer Interview

originally featured in Gamest magazine

Noritaka Funamizu – General Producer

—It’s been 2 years since Darkstalker’s Revenge. What made you want to make Vampire Savior now?

Funamizu: Well, we’d been planning to make a sequel since we finished Revenge. But there was a feeling we had of wanting to re-evaluate, from zero, the very concept of what it means to be a “monster.” We have a guy on our team who we call the “one many army”, who does planning work, and he handed us the initial game plans for Vampire Savior. From there we officially formed a team and got down to work. But the setting and story came first, in those plans.

—This is a simple question, but why did you chose the title “Vampire Savior”?

Funamizu: It’s taken directly from the story. We were calling it “Vampire 3” in the beginning, but for this series we really want to have unique titles for each game. As for the meaning, I’ll leave that for players to discover.

—A big change with Vampire Savior is the removal of rounds. What prompted this?

Funamizu: The structure of the rounds is one element of fighting games that’s hard to change, but for this game, we didn’t want the flow of the fights interrupted. The Damage Gauge System was originally part of a different game’s system. We tried inserting it here and it turned out to be really interesting, so we kept it.

—Tell us about the Dark Force system.

Funamizu: Originally, it was even more extreme. We wanted to make it so that, while you were in Dark Force, you could just completely pummel your opponent. (laughs) But there were lots of problems with that idea, so eventually it morphed into its present form. The most important thing for us, in any event, was making it feel unique to each character.

Pressing the same-strength punch+kick buttons with a bar of meter stocked activates the Dark Force mode, which temporarily imbues characters with new properties and enhancements; seen here are some corner loops that utilize Felicia’s minion assist, one of the traits available to her with Dark Force activated.

—Why are most of the new characters female, by the way?

Funamizu: Originally, we were going to have an adult version of Anita, and Donovan who had become a vampire. As the development went on though, it felt like we weren’t going to be able to do those ideas justice, so we made a big shift last September and re-worked some of the characters’ stories and lore.

Jedah has been at the center of the story from the beginning, so he had to be in there. Likewise with Lillith, whose story is closely intertwined with Morrigan. As for B.B. Hood and Q-Bee, well…

The truth is, since the first Darkstalkers, we’d wanted to have some kind of insect-related character. Oddly enough it was something Akiman said that kicked everything off: “hey, if we’re talking insects… why not a bee woman?” He did a bunch of concept art which we all thought was really cool. But her moves and abilities, that’s a whole other story… those were very difficult.

—And what about BB Hood?

Funamizu: Initially there was some kind of miscommunication about her, because the first drawing Akiman handed back to us was puzzling. (laughs) I sent him a note asking “who’s this supposed to be?”, but at the time Akiman was so busy with other games that he never replied. Eventually the person who was in charge of her animation patterns again queried Akiman, at which point he realized the mistake and re-drew her. The picture he sent back was great: it perfectly captured that duality of cute and psychotic that everyone knows and loves about her. After seeing that we all got carried away with making different moves and abilities for her.

We did receive some criticism though. “Capcom’s finally gone and done it…” (laughs) The second series to have a “Sakura” incident, I guess. 1

There were other rejected characters too. A nurikabe yokai, an ittan-momen yokai… (laughs) The team kept saying how easy the nurikabe character would be to make.

—You said the same thing last time. (laughs)

Funamizu: Yeah, that character always comes up whenever we’re making a Vampire game.

—Do you see the series continuing to have more “humanoid” characters?

Funamizu: If there’s good designs, I’m open to doing something different. There’s the whole disgust and revulsion factor though. Going back to the first game, we were often told it wasn’t going to sell because of all the non-human characters. I still hear those words in the back of my head.

—A kind of trauma? But on the other hand, I think precisely because it’s a Darkstalkers game, you can do outlandish and inventive stuff, like a character riding on a horse or something. I always thought you could do some interesting stuff with Phobos and the advanced ancient civilization he came from, but it looks like all the gun stuff got foisted onto BB Hood. Anyway, do you see yourself making any more of those weird characters?

Funamizu: Maybe we should something Pyramid-related. Actually, Anakaris originally was going to have a move that involved a pyramid but it was going to be too huge, so we abandoned the idea.

—Like dropping a pyramid on you or something?

Funamizu: Yeah, he would have built a pyramid over you block by block, but it was huge, and it took a bunch of time, so it was dropped.

—I’ve noticed there’s no alien characters this time around. Everyone’s local…

Funamizu: Local? (laughs)

—Do you plan to expand the story beyond Vampire Savior?

Funamizu: There’s a possibility. I may have said this before, but I really wanted to include Phobos. Removing him opened up a ton of memory for other uses, though. All I can say is I’m sorry.

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One of a multitude design sketches for B.B.Hood, drawn by Akiman and shared on pixiv; one would presume these were the revised designs mentioned in the interview. The in-game pixel art and animation was handled by Eri “Eripyon” Nakamura and Takenori “Kimo Kimo” Kimoto.

Vampire Savior – 1998 Developer Interviews

originally featured in Sega Saturn Magazine

Noritaka Funamizu – General Producer
Seiji Okada – Programmer
Yasunori Harada – Programmer
Takayuki Iwai – Composer
Takeshi Kitamura – Sound Effects

—Tell us about each of the new characters: their fighting style, and any advice or pointers you have for players.

Okada: For BB Hood, I recommend using Beautiful Memory, the one with the image of her grandma. (laughs) If you can do this move I think you’ll basically be fine with her. For Q-Bee, learn to use her honey shot well. You can also chain her ES moves into her EX special. She’s hard to pull off chain combos with, though. You have to alternate between standing and crouching stances, and if you ignore that and just fight normally you may feel like she doesn’t do much damage. As for Lilith, her Gloomy Puppet Show is funny.

Funamizu: Originally, Gloomy Puppet Show didn’t have the button input reaction sequence. But one of our stances with Capcom fighting games, is that we try to minimize downtime where the player isn’t doing anything, so we added that bit in.

Okada: Jedah, he’s… for maniacs. (laughs) If you can land his EX moves, he feels really good. But it’s hard to close matches with him. And his chain combo timing is also difficult—you honestly have to be a true Jedah master to pull them off.

Funamizu: Demitri’s new EX move, Midnight Bliss, doesn’t seem to be that popular unfortunately.

Okada: I know, despite how hard we worked on it. (painful laugh) Demitri’s fighting style is basically unchanged from before.

Funamizu: There’s some subtle changes, but yeah.

Okada: We changed Jon Talbain’s animation patterns quite a bit. We were working on him up to the very end.

Funamizu: Graphically, I would say he’s the most improved. His normal attacks are a lot more usable now too.

Okada: Victor’s about the same as the last game, but visually we spruced him up a bit. His forward dash is now a normal attack, but it’s hard to use.

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From the Vampire Savior Secret File, a look at the design sketches for the character transformations caused by Demitri’s Midnight Bliss move, ranked in order of popularity among the devs (click to expand); this move did gain a certain level of appreciation among the wider fan base, particularly upon Demitri’s inclusion in crossover titles like SNK vs. Capcom, with specific “Midnight Bliss” variant character figurines sold in the mid-’00s. (The dev rankings: Bishamon [13 votes], Anakaris [7 votes], Sasquatch [6 votes], Victor [4 votes], Morrigan / Lilith / Jedah / Lord Raptor / Hsien-ko+Mei-ling / Q-Bee [3 votes each], Felicia [2 votes], Rikuo / Demitri / B.B.Hood / Talbain [1 vote each].)

Funamizu: Bishamon has been majorly nerfed. He was very good at locking down opponents, but as soon as we removed some of that ability he became much weaker. Anakaris is extremely strong in the right hands. He’s totally unusable for unskilled players though. We only made some tiny, practically insignificant changes to him… like making Kaibito take the same damage as Anakaris now. (laughs)

Okada: In Darkstalkers’ Revenge his coffin would land on you and crush you before lifting off, but now it kind of bounces more lightly. (laughs)

Funamizu: Felicia has become more horrib… no, no, I didn’t say that. (laughs) She can wall cling now, and jump on her opponent’s head.

Okada: We added a lot more moves for Morrigan. Players who like inputting the special moves will be be very pleased. (laughs) For Hsien-Ko, it was pretty minor changes. She has some more interesting attacks though. With Lord Raptor, I think his Dark Force moves are the only new addition?

Funamizu: We had created about half the graphics for a “Hyper Lord Raptor”… it’s a real shame we didn’t get a chance to use them! 2

Okada: In Rikuo’s Dark Force ability Ocean Rage, the wave riding part gave us a lot of trouble.

Funamizu: I remember seeing that and thinking, uh, what’s the point of this. (laughs)

Okada: It can be cool if you combine it with his other moves.

Funamizu: Some people think Rikuo is the strongest character, actually. For Sasquatch, it’s all about his banana taunt. (laughs) You can slip on it too though, and it sure sucks to die that way. (laughs)

As a team, the thing we argued about to the very end were the hitboxes. There’s a style of hitbox we call the “Darkstalkers Hitbox.” There are characters who conform to that style of hitbox, and those who don’t, and unfortunately we lost the balance between them. The problem was related to the character’s hitbox and the distance of attacks. Plus, if we made the basic attacks too strong, it would discourage players from executing chain combos—they’d just chip away at each other. When we tried to improve on the hitbox issue we inadvertently made it so counter hits became easier to do, which again led to less chain combos.

What else? Let’s see, the bugs were a challenge. Okada gave himself the nickname “Super Programmer” (laughs), and he was always saying how “this time, it’s definitely fixed”… but then it would be totally wrong! You’ve lost all credibility! He’d be about to rest after some final upload and a bug would always pop up, it’s like he was jinxed sometimes.

Okada: There were… problems.

—I know it’s soon, but will there be a sequel to Vampire Savior?

Funamizu: I’d like to return to the original concept for Darkstalkers if we make another game. Well, to be honest, I don’t want to make another one. (laughs) The reason is that we’d have to keep adding characters, right? If you have more than 15 characters the game becomes a nightmare to balance. And there will end up being characters that we, as developers, don’t even want to make. “What the hell, no one even plays this guy anymore.” (laughs)

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From left to right: Noritaka Funamizu, Seiji Okada, Yasunori Harada,
Takayuki Iwai (keyboard), Takeshi Kitamura(mask).

—Can you tell us more about Okada’s role in the development?

Funamizu: He’s the second generation of programmers to work on Gouki. And also one of my elite “Dirty Beret” team. (Note: Funamizu’s elite team who are given impossible work and hardly any vacation).

Okada: I’ve been working on Gouki for three years now. (laughs) For Vampire Savior, I worked on Oboro Bishamon and Jedah.

Funamizu: The reason for hidden characters like Oboro Bishamon, is that the person who made the hidden characters in Zero 2 also worked on Vampire Savior, and he did the same thing here. We didn’t want to make too many CPU characters, but at the same time, too few would also be bad. If we’re going to do it then, I said, let’s make hidden characters who add some nice accent to the story.

—Who is Oboro Bishamon?

Funamizu: It was an idea that popped into the head of Bishamon’s designer, to make a sort of Gouki-like character.

—Why “Oboro”?

Funamizu: I don’t know. (laughs)

Harada: To unlock Oboro Bishamon, our original plan was that you would have to do Bishamon’s ES Pounce attack (togakubi sarashi) and cut his head off, which you would then collect, and if you did that you’d unlock him. It was supposed to be connected to the ending in Darkstalker’s Revenge, where we see him separated from his cursed armor; we added it because we felt it was necessary to his story.

—Is Bishamon that beloved of a character?

Funamizu: Maybe he is, but in this game’s case, it’s usually because there’s a designer at Capcom who really loves that character. Excepting Demitri, though, he didn’t really have any in-house devotees.

—Why did you add the Shadow character?

Harada: We had two separate ideas—a possession ability, and allowing the same two characters to fight each other—that ended up getting combined.

Funamizu: I think the idea came from Anakaris’ designer. He always brings me these crazy, impossible ideas. I usually put them aside for the time being, but a lot of them do end up getting used later. I think the Shadow character was one of those ideas.

—How about Dark Jon Talbain?

Funamizu: Basically the same logic as Bishamon. He has an internal struggle similar to Donovan, and we wanted to bring that narrative arc to a close.

Harada: Yeah. We thought it would be boring if he was just the exact same character, though, so we changed his Dragon Cannon animation a bit.

Funamizu: I thought Dragon Cannon looked really lame in Darkstalker’s Revenge. I had them re-make it for Vampire Savior, but the new one looks even lamer. (bitter laugh) The person who made it didn’t agree at first, but he came around, and eventually we just decided to use them both.

—You also added the ability to select your own win pose. Can you tell us about that?

Funamizu: Well, it’s the third game, and we’ve created so many win poses now, we wanted players to be able to choose between them. The nice thing about win poses, for the designers, is that they can do whatever they want. Morrigan’s are especially great.

Often times the designers wanted to do other cool stuff, like having Kaibito gather up Anakaris’ coins, or having little secrets like where the number of people in Anakaris’ ending would be decided by your score, but I told them creating all this code for one specific character like that wasn’t really reasonable. So they came back and asked me to let them create some of these ideas as win poses. Normally I would think, “hey, if you have the free time for this, there’s other things we could be doing…”, but I realized for Darkstalkers, at least, this kind of thing is important too. It did create some problems though. I don’t mind if they add more taunts and win poses, but some of them got carried away and tried to add them in as secret special moves, and that was when I had to say “STOP!”

Harada: I remember seeing Anakaris’ big taunt and wondering how that was going to work…

Funamizu: It was originally a guard cancel animation. If you guard cancelled, he opened up his body and all those retainers filed out. But they just kept coming! I was like, “are you serious? how long does this go on!?” And he just stared back blankly, “Huh? Is there a problem?” and I said well, whatever. Really though, it wasn’t ok. So it ended up becoming his taunt instead.

Anakaris’ secret “mummy parade”, as well as other secret taunts that can only be performed by another Anakaris player during a mummy parade.

Harada: Victor has a huge number of taunts too.

Funamizu: His designer is a woman, and she seems to have a thing for butts. Suddenly Victor had a lot more moves that used his butt.

Harada: The long-range butt attack, the short-range butt attack…

—What can you tell us about Felicia?

Funamizu: We wanted to increase the number of cat-like moves she has, whether it made sense or not as a special move. Her “cat-ness” was a little lacking in the last game.

—What was up with Rikuo’s crab punch…? (Direct Scissors)

Funamizu: The crab punch, that was Michiaki Nakanowatari’s doing. He was a programmer on the first Darkstalkers, and was responsible for Rikuo. No one realized it was in there for the longest time, until a bug checker finally found it. Nakanowatari said it was fixed so I just left it at that. But then the game shipped and I discovered it was still there, and it was like… wtf? I suspect he may have left it in there intentionally. (laughs)

The truth is, I don’t really like “hidden” things like that. I especially don’t want them added to Street Fighter III. If we have to have them, let it be something like Gouki’s first appearance. But if people go crazy adding them I think it makes the game less fun and shows a lack of gratitude, even, to the players.

—What was your concept for the music of Vampire Savior?

Iwai: In the first two games, I wrote the music to match each character’s personality. For Vampire Savior, however, I placed more emphasis on their stages. I think the songs turned out a bit darker this time.

—How about the sound effects?

Kitamura: There were a few things I focused on. First, how many sound effects and voice samples there should be in the span of a single match. In terms of the aesthetic, I wanted it to feel like a western-style haunted house. I also tried to get very dramatic vocal performances.

—The characters definitely speak a lot this time.

Funamizu: Yeah, when they walk, when they crouch, they’re always talking.

Iwai: To go into the songs a little more… I created a unique musical motif for each stage theme. In the tropical rainforest stage, for example, I used a lot of textured, “fx-style” sounds, and in the mountain witch stage, I tried to add sutra-like sounds. I wanted the music to set the mood for each stage. Demitri and Morrigan were the only two where I did a remix of the old themes, but I think they’re interesting.

Funamizu: I know the sound can be hard to hear in the noisy game centers, but is there anything you’d like people to listen for?

Iwai: Try and let the Character Select music loop at least once. And the staff roll music is probably the song that most captures my image of Vampire Savior.

—Why did you add so many sound effects, given the amount of memory they eat up?

Funamizu: The hardware has evolved. For Vampire Savior we went from having 32 mb to 64 mb available for sound effects.

—What’s the day-to-day life of a sound developer like?

Iwai: I drink pretty hard on Friday nights, and spend the weekend just eating and sleeping. The fighting with my wife3 never stops. (laughs) In terms of work, I write about 1 song each day. I create about 200 songs each year, but only 2/3 of those actually get used.

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From the Darkstalker Complete Works art book, a look at the adult Anita design mentioned earlier in the article (source, click to expand); portraits for adult Anita still remain within the ROM, and this design was later seen in the ending art for Dee, the “vampiric Donovan” concept who was added as a bonus character to the PS2 Darkstalkers Collection.