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Night Warriors

One of the greatest mysteries in recent arcade history is why Night Warriors never came out here. I mean, Darkstalkers was pretty popular, and Night Warriors was a more than worthy upgrade... Capcom even made up a new name, new logo, new cabinet... but it never even made it out of location test. Luckily, none of this has has stopped Capcom from releasing it for the U.S. Saturn, and we can all finally play one of Capcom's best fighters to date.

Night Warriors adds two new characters to the Darkstalkers world, allows you to play the two bosses, tosses in a bunch of new supers and play mechanics twists, and has new music and a few new backgrounds. All in all, it's a much more balanced and polished game than the original. But if you haven't even played Darkstalkers (a game that didn't get nearly the distribution it deserved), you have no idea what you're missing... The Vampire/Darkstalkers/Vampire Hunter/NIght Warriors series is a lot more than just a Street Fighter rehash.

The animation is incredible, quite possibly the best animation on a home fighting game yet... Its only possible competition would be Neo-CD Samurai Shodown III, but the Neo has 54 megs of RAM. Bearing that in mind, the quality that Capcom managed to squeeze into the Saturn's 32 is even more impressive. And the level of detail is sensational... This is the type of game you want to be constantly pausing as you play, 'cause you never know what Capcom's hidden in each of the hundreds of animation frames that whiz by too fast to be distinguished. If you're paying attention, you can see all sort of cool things, like the way Lord Raptor falls in love with Hsien-ko when their match begins, or the hidden face in the slash marks of his sword-like arm.

The play is vintage Capcom. Most of the concepts are ones we're all familiar with by now, but the supers are done particularly well, and there are a few new twists, like guard reversals and the ability to hit enemies while they're down. As always, the standard Saturn pad is a joy to use, and the game's control will quickly become second nature.

In the translation department, Night Warriors is amazing. As I said before, the animation is just stunning. While it's not technically perfect (there are frames missing here and there), it's a lot better than I expected it to be, especially after the heavy cuts that were made in X-Men. You can't imagine how relieved I was the first time I saw Pyron's standing animation... every little frame perfect.

But while Capcom managed to do an excellent job of squeezing the coin-op onto the CD (and with surprisingly little loading time), they certainly didn't aim to do too much more than that. Night Warriors has no arranged soundtrack, something I'd expect in a CD conversion these days, and the many cool options found in Alpha are nowhere to be found (of course, the usual turbo speed select, difficulty modes, and vs. mode are present). This is the arcade, and not too much more.

But hey, when you have a nearly perfect conversion of an excellent (and nearly impossible to find) Capcom coin-op on your Saturn, you're probably not going to quibble over the soundtrack. Night Warriors is an amazing translation, and a big improvement over X-Men. If you have even a slight interest in fighting games, this is a Saturn exclusive you must own.