Tag Archives: jon talbain

The Night Warriors

There was a time when I regularly wrote about comic book adaptations of video games over at the Geek Force Network.  While that time has come and gone, you can still enjoy the numerous articles I penned about such media crossovers at the archives.  Here is one such post from those halcyon days, just in time for the spooky October season.


It’s that time of year once more; when the barrier between the natural and supernatural is at its weakest and little ghouls haunt the streets in search of sugary treats.  For this week’s video game comic column, it only makes sense to venture into the darker side of the printed page.  There is a rather massive subgenre of horror comics, and its tentacles stretch far into the video game world.  So let’s dive into a realm where monsters do battle in rounds of two, until only the strongest survives.

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It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003.  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field.

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For the Darkstalkers comic, Udon had plenty of interesting characters and settings from which to source fresh story material.  This is especially true, since most fighting games have very few details outside of “some people got together to fight in an arbitrary battle tournament held by a mysterious benefactor.”  For example, this story comes straight from the Darkstalkers instruction manual:

“When the sun sets and humanity retreats to the imagined safety of their beds, a mysterious entity appears in the sky to assemble the wicked and the evil. The unimaginable secret power of the dark is unleashed! Ten supernatural beings of destruction have materialized to wage their eternal war for the domination of the night. The Vampire, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Bigfoot. . . their very names conjure fear. But who or what has summoned them? These creatures of myth and legend, the Darkstalkers, have gathered for what is destined to be the greatest battle ever. And the fate of all humanity rests on who wins the epic struggle. The Darkstalkers are coming. . .tonight!”

From this rather bare bones plot, Udon crafted a solid story about the various machinations of the Darkstalkers who hide in the dark corners of the Earth.  In this six issue series, the conflicts between certain characters take center stage, while the sideline characters are left as mere window dressing.  So while Dimitri and Morrigan prepare for an eventual battle of the ages, Rikuo and Lord Raptor only show up briefly in side stories and single panel shots.  Every issue features plenty of great fighting scenes, complete with signature moves and plenty of nods to the fans of the video games.  There is also loads of background on many of the major characters, including several side stories that flesh out their motivations even further.

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As with most of the comics from Udon Entertainment, the artwork really shines.  The horror themes of the video games allowed the artists to include plenty of heavy contrast and shadows, which really lend to the atmosphere of the comics.  The characters remain in the anime-inspired style of the fighting games, but with more vibrant colors and further detail for better expressions.  In spite of the show-stealing appeal of the characters, the backgrounds have not been overlooked.  There is plenty of detail in the settings of each scene, with some panels exclusively dedicated to moody environmental shots.

Besides the solid story work and gorgeous art, my favorite part of Darkstalkers comes at the end of each issue.  A single page is always dedicated to a gag comic called Darkstalkers Mini.  The fun work of Corey Lewis (pseudonym, Rey), these quick strips feature super-deformed versions of the fighters in silly situations, most of which end with goofy punch-lines.  Unfortunately, when Udon collected the comics into a trade paperback, all of these side stories got the boot.  On the plus side, that has made the individual issues of the comic unique to the trade version, so be sure to track these gems down!

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At the end of the first issue of Darkstalkers (right before the Mini comic), there is a writers’ commentary aptly titled, “From the Darkside.”  On this page, some of the staff from Udon spill their guts about the joy they felt in creating the Darkstalkers comic books.  There is talk of the great chance to write a darker story than the usual Street Fighter comics, along with their mutual love of horror films and fighting games.  At the very end, the colorist, Gary Yeung, says that the goal at Udon was to “make a faithful interpretation of Darkstalkers from a game/animation into a book.”  Through action-packed stories and striking artwork, all wrapped up in a spooky atmosphere, it seems like Udon met their goal quite nicely.

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Werewolves

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Earlier this month (and several times throughout the year), Laura lamented to me about the lack of video games where she can play as a werewolf.  I had hoped that the release of the Dawnguard expansion for Skyrim would provide her with countless hours of bounding through moonlit nights and howling at the moon.  Instead, my better half decided to become a Vampire Lord and terrorize the citizens of Tamriel with her insatiable bloodlust.  And so, with the spooky atmosphere of Halloween guiding my gnarled talons, I have decided to compile a list of video games where my beloved can indulge her lycanthropic fantasies.

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Let’s begin our wolfen journey with an old favorite of mine: Altered Beast.  In this classic Sega title, our hero, a fallen Roman soldier, is risen from his grave by Zeus and ordered to rescue the deity’s daughter from certain peril.  To equip the undead hero for battle, Zeus grants him the ability to collect spirit orbs and transform into man-beast hybrids.  The first and last of these transformations turns the centurion into a majestic werewolf, who can throw fireballs and perform a flaming jump kick right through his enemies.  Totally awesome.

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Back in the days of the NES, most games did not require elaborate stories, or a plot that actually makes sense.  Werewolf: The Last Warrior is a prime example of this sort of title.  On the second intergalactic colony of Earth (aptly named “Red Earth”), the player takes control of a man named Ken, who utilizes his ability to become a werewolf (named Warwolf) to defeat the nefarious Dr. Faryan and his band of supermutants.  Even more strange than the plot of this game is the fact that in some screenshots, the hero has normal arms, while in others, he has massive blades for appendages.

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Most titles that feature a lycanthropy mechanic provide power-ups to induce transformation or just start the player in wolfen form.  Wolf Child introduced an interesting twist to the traditional methods: the main character would only transform into a wolfman when the player had boosted his health to a certain point.  For more on this interesting title, be sure to check out the game designer’s blog for details.

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Growing up, my family did not own a Sega Genesis, so I missed out on great games like Shining Force.  According to my friends (who all adore this series), one of the best warriors in the game is a werewolf named Zylo.  I guess Laura and I will have to play Shining Force, one of these days…

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When Laura and I started this blog, one of the games I wanted to share with her was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  I figured that Alucard’s ability to turn into a wolf would be one of the main selling points of this title.  After realizing that his wolfen form is very weak until much later in the game, Laura was rather unimpressed by this shapeshifter.  But she did love his little scabbard and belt.

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Darkstalkers was the first series that Laura and I mutually geeked out about.  Each of us have fond memories playing this horror-inspired fighting game.  I would regularly play as the lovable ghost girl Hsien-Ko, while Laura would take on the role of the werewolf martial artist, Jon Talbain.  One thing I always wondered: why does a werewolf need to battle with nunchuks?

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Killer Instinct is a cartridge that still makes the rounds in my family’s Super Nintendo.  My brother and I had many an epic battle between the lycanthrope Sabrewulf and the animated skeleton Spinal.  But, as it goes with fighting games, the balance of power shifted, and now Cory is the master of the Ultratech tournament.

werewolfroar In a fighting game about soldiers who can transform into animals, you can pretty much count on a werewolf character being included in the roster.  Bloody Roar featured Yugo Ogami as the resident werewolf protagonist, who is trying to uncover the circumstances behind his father’s mysterious death.

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Despite my absolute devotion and love for Guilty Gear, I could never seem to get into its spiritual successor, Blazblue.  You would think that the inclusion of a very detailed training system, along with a playable werewolf character (Valkenhayn R. Hellsing) would guarantee that Laura and I would pick up this game, but somehow, we still have not purchased it.

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When Castlevania 64 was first previewed, it featured four playable characters, but in order to release at a “reasonable” date, two of the characters (along with several levels) were cut from the game.  Later, Konami would release Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, which cast the once-cut werewolf Cornell as the main character and included many of the features that were previously removed.  I guess even game developers need a do-over sometimes.

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On the once peaceful shores of Lake Jansenia, the bodies of young maidens have been found slashed and torn to pieces by wild dogs.  As the player investigates the area, the governor Sirius challenges the hero to a battle at his mansion at night.  Sure enough, the governor is the werewolf behind all the attacks, and any of the player’s soldiers who are bitten by the madman receive the curse of lycanthropy.  And that is how you make werewolf troops in the SNES classic Ogre Battle!

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So let me get this straight: in A Link to the Past, the Hylian hero turns into a defenseless pink bunny when he passes into the Dark World.  But in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link transforms into an awesome wolf when he is pulled into the Twilight Realm.  Hmm, I suppose bounding through the game world as a wolfen hero is much cooler than hopping along as a fluffy bunny.

werewolfsonicNot all heroes become stronger when they become werewolves.  Just look at Sonic the Hedgehog.  In Sonic Unleashed, Sega’s speedy blue mascot transforms into the werehog, which slows him down and makes his arms all stretchy.  Similarly, Sonic Unleashed transformed a once great game series into a pile of crap.

Well, that about covers it.  I have included nearly every game that features a werewolf protagonist.  What’s that?  You say I am missing a massive title from this list?  Well, I certainly would not leave a game off of the list just because I am worried that if Laura started playing it, she would never stop…

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Alright, you figured it out.  Not only does World of Warcraft: Cataclysm provide the player an opportunity to take control of a Worgen warrior, but you can also dress up your werewolf character in a fancy top hat.  So please, don’t let Laura know, or we will never get anything done around here.

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