Darkstalkers and the Enigma of Trouble Man

There’s a special procedure to follow whenever I mention Darkstalkers. First I have to explain that the series started out as Capcom’s second fighting-game venture after the success of Street Fighter, which Darkstalkers briefly eclipsed in popularity among Japanese fans. In America, though, the monster-filled Darkstalkers never really caught on to that extent, and Capcom shut down the whole thing after three major games.

Then I have to explain that this is a terrible waste, because the Darkstalkers games are excellent. Marvelously animated and highly amusing, they shed the few realistic traces of Street Fighter and build a cartoon world where chainsaw-legged zombie rockers moon over Chinese ghost-girls, mummified kings turn werewolves into wiener dogs, and a bee-woman dies after she stings an opponent, only for her clone to burst anew from her foe’s honeycombed flesh.



Anyway, the PlayStation port of the original Darkstalkers isn’t very important. It was scheduled to ship near the system’s launch and show that Sony’s new console could handle a heavily animated 2-D Capcom fighter. Yet the game was delayed until March of 1996, a month after the generally better sequel, Night Warriors, came out for the Sega Saturn. By that point no one cared that Darkstalkers was on the PlayStation or that it had an inexplicable and strangely catchy theme song.



Instead of the arcade game’s introduction, the Japanese PlayStation port of Darkstalkers (known over there as Vampire) has grainy footage playing along to “Trouble Man,” in which somewhat notable J-rock singer Eikichi Yazawa declares that he’s gonna be trouble, ‘cause, baby, he’s a trouble man. He proves this by accepting a challenge for a rumble. Toniiiiight. This would be nothing out of the ordinary for Japanese pop carelessly in search of English lyrics, but these lines were actually written by Andrew Gold, who’s had a storied musical career that stretches from hit ‘70s singles to the theme music for Mad About You.

Capcom removed this intro for the North American release, but “Trouble Man” clung to Darkstalkers. The song pops up in the brief credits for the American syndicated Darkstalkers cartoon, which is horrible enough to shame even its Street Fighter cousin. A longer version of “Trouble Man” also blares over the closing for the four-part Night Warriors anime series, which is just plain boring after a slightly promising first act. Someone clearly paid for “Trouble Man,” and dammit, they were going to get their money’s worth.



It was never clear why Capcom wanted Darkstalkers to have a completely unrelated theme song full of guitar hooks and nonsense, and no other Capcom fighters had anthems until Street Fighter IV’s “Indestructible.” Perhaps someone at the company just liked Andrew Gold.

When Capcom rolled around Darkstalkers 3 (known as Vampire Savior in Japan and among American kids who owned Saturns), “Trouble Man” was nowhere to be found, and the series went under not long after that. Would it have survived if Capcom had given it another theme song? And if Capcom greenlights another Darkstalkers, will it have another rousing opening number about trouble, men, and various combinations of the two? We’d better find out.

4 comments:

Dave said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K5IEqmrUio

So disappointed this isn't about Trouble Man. Wears six hundred-dollar suits, drives a ten thousand-dollar car. And he carries two guns: one to stop trouble, and one to make trouble. He was born in the ghetto, and raised in the streets. He's been a man since he was a kid, and trouble is this man's name.

Anonymous said...

Darkstalkers done just like Super Street Fighter 4 would be simply amazing.

Jonny said...

The trouble Man intro was still on the disc for the western versions of playstation darkstalkers, and you can watch it if you have a cheat cartridge that allows for tha sort of thing. i feel that this fact only raises further questions

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