Shoot-’em-ups are a classic gaming genre, and the Darius series is one of its most notable progenitors. Darius has been memorable for numerous reasons: multi-monitor set-ups, captivating tunes from ZUNTATA, oddball ocean-themed mechanical bosses, branching stage design, and slick ship design. These reasons have captivated audiences since the late ‘80s. Each Darius installment is also quite challenging, even for shoot-’em-up and series veterans. Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade re-visits the first three arcade iterations in the series: Darius, Darius II, and Darius Gaiden. The Collection also features a lot of different variations, some of which are pretty uncommon and hard to access. While these games have received numerous console versions, many of these are quite different from the arcade material. With slick HUD information and accurate emulation thanks to renowned port masters M2, Darius Cozmic Collection provides a unique opportunity to check out Darius’ history.
Darius’ plot is fairly straightforward. Players pilot the distinct Silver Hawk ship in order to combat the invading Belsar fleet. These Belsar forces consistently threaten the residents of the planet Darius. Players pilot characters like Proco and Tiat as well as their descendants in order to fight back. Players will also traverse a variety of watery planet surfaces, caves, mechanical surfaces, and outer space areas during their journey. Darius’ distinct feature is being able to select different paths at the end of each zone, so players require multiple playthroughs to experience everything.
The Silver Hawk’s mechanics are pretty consistent across each of the games. Players can fly in eight directions and fire forward “missiles” and downward “bombs.” Red power-ups empower missiles, green power-ups boost bombs, and blue ones grant a shield. After collecting enough items, the Silver Hawk’s firepower will “evolve,” such as missiles becoming lasers. The caveat is that being defeated results in losing progress towards the next “weapon tier,” so dying especially stings. However, players can keep their tier once they reach it. Darius Gaiden empowers players quicker by granting more firepower per power-up, and it adds a screen-clearing mechanic akin to shoot-em-up conventions. Furthermore, players can shoot specific nodes on mid-bosses to bring them onto their side. Darius’ stand-out features include gigantic bosses that draw inspiration from oceanic creatures. The multi-monitor displays in Darius 1 and 2 lead to a distinct ultra-wide playfield as well. As a result, there is plenty of room to move around, and players can often see a lot of terrain and enemy obstacles on-screen.
One of the collection’s most notable features is its inclusion of multiple versions of Darius and Darius II. The game does a fantastic job of telling you the differences between these versions. Darius New and Extra provide further tweaks on the original’s balancing. Extra is the most “playable” as it lets players continue mid-run, which is nice considering that these runs can be pretty challenging and long. Darius II is also interesting due to the inclusion of the western counterparts Sagaia and Sagaia version 2. Sagaia actually has shorter stages, fewer branching paths, and shuffled stage visuals, which is incredibly fascinating. Darius II has players fly from the sun to the rest of the Solar System, but Sagaia eliminates these labels altogether. Sagaia version 2 shuffles levels’ visuals even further. These different versions ultimately still provide a similar experience, but it’s great for history buffs to be able to experience this content. The shorter stages may be more appealing for some players, though sometimes they might be a bit too short compared to the original Darius II’s.
Another one of the collection’s notable features is the user interface. It has a crazy amount of added information as it actually shows boss HP, which is really convenient since some of these bosses soak a lot of damage. The UI also showcases boss names and even the source of real-life animal inspiration, which is super granular. Furthermore, the interface shows song titles, remaining armor hits, boss timers before enemy spawns increase, original instruction art, pilot names, and more. Players can also turn some of this information off as well.
Another handy inclusion is a training mode that lets you choose whichever zone you want with any settings, which is also a way for players to play around with later zones and different power-up combinations too. The game also has comprehensive replay and ranking functionality. Players have five replay save spots per version, and they can download replays from the leaderboards too. They can also slow down, fast forward, and even rewind these replays, which is quite handy.
Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade is a compelling collection, but it is still ultimately three games with multiple variations. Consequently, this collection is primarily for hardcore shoot-’em-up players or those who love Darius. A Gallery mode also would have been welcome as Zuntata’s tunes are legendary. Darius and Darius II have some high tempo beats. Captain Neo is still a rather poignant intro song, and Gaiden continues to mystify with experimental dense tunes like FAKE. Of course, the plus side of the collection is that the user interface is incredible, and you really get to dive into the history of these games. Anyone curious about the history of the shoot-’em-up genre will certainly find something to like here.
Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade Review
Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade Review
Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade revisits the series' first three games with extensive user interface extras. Being able to play so many different versions of these games is interesting, but the collection is still ultimately geared towards hardcore shoot-'em-up fans or fans of the Darius series.
Extensive user interface
Includes rare versions of the first three Darius games