As a renowned shoot-’em-up series, Darius features enthralling tunes, large-scale bosses, intense difficulty, and slick ship design. As the companion title to Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade, Darius Cozmic Collection Console encapsulates these features in ‘90s console games. While Darius and Darius II’s arcade releases were known for their ultra-wide playfields, these console games constrain the Darius experience to a narrower 4:3 display. Some games reconfigure the arcade releases’ patterns while others are original console-exclusive efforts. While they diverge from their arcade counterparts’ frenetic pacing and awe-inspiring presentation, these games are fascinating from a historical and a technical perspective and hold up in their own right.
Darius is a horizontal shoot-’em-up series in which players pilot the Silver Hawk ship to combat the hostile Belsar fleet. These enemies include large-scale bosses that frequently draw inspiration from underwater creatures. As they traverse planetary terrain, mechanical areas, and dangerous regions of outer space, players can boost their Silver Hawk’s frontal firepower, vertical bombs, and shielding capabilities. One of the series’ most distinct features is being able to select between branching paths at the end of each stage, which boosts replayability and allows players to experience different boss fights. For further details on the series’ mechanics and backstory, please revisit our review of Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade!
Darius Cozmic Collection Console spans an eclectic mix of 8-bit and 16-bit releases. Players can experience nine releases that include the first two arcade games’ console ports on the Master System, Genesis, and the PC-Engine. It also includes Western and Japanese versions of Darius Twin and Darius Force, which are two original Super Nintendo titles. Darius’ ports are Darius Plus and Alpha while Darius II’s ports include Japanese and Western Genesis versions and a Master System version. Despite being on technically inferior hardware, these ports still encapsulate the original games’ distinct audiovisual style and high-speed enemies. Including two regional versions for both Darius Twin and Force is more for curiosity’s sake. The Western Darius Twin has improved audio and the Japanese Darius Force lacks its Western counterpart’s minor censorship, so the other respective regional version feels extraneous.
Darius Twin and Darius Force are competently constructed entries that stand apart from their arcade counterparts. Both games have wholly unique stages that include branching stage paths albeit with fewer paths. Darius Twin features some catchy high-tempo tunes, and its two-player simultaneous action runs well. While its enemy patterns are generally more sparse and repetitive compared to arcade Darius games’, they still provide some fair opposition. Its lack of continues also creates a punishing experience especially if players stick with default lives, but the game’s options and secret code can mitigate the difficulty to some degree. Darius Twin is nonetheless still worth experiencing especially as it contains entertaining sequences involving diagonal scrolling stages and large-scale bosses.
Darius Force further deviates from the series’ norm with several experimental features. A distinct feature is that players can select from one of three ships. These ships emulate the attack patterns from Darius and Darius II, which bolsters replayability a bit. On a sheer visual level, Darius Force demonstrates impressive warping and scrolling effects that practically sometimes create surreal dreamscapes. Darius Force also experiments with mechanical bosses that sometimes deviate from the series’ traditional oceanic motif. While the game does feature continues, it still provides some challenge as it brings players back to a checkpoint upon defeat. As the earlier Darius Twin respawns players on the spot, the checkpoint system feels slightly strange. Having only one player action also feels a little strange, but Darius Force ultimately provides some decent thrills even if it feels rather experimental in nature.
The real star of the show is Darius Alpha, which originally received an extremely limited print run. Darius Alpha is a boss-rush version of Darius Plus, the PC Engine port of the first Darius. As the bosses are one of Darius’ most notable features, experiencing a back-to-back gauntlet feels thrilling. The progression also feels fulfilling as defeating bosses grants power-up boosts. Furthermore, the collection showers an incredible amount of attention onto this game as it features four modes: the original game, Score Attack, Time Attack, and a 4 Minute Time Trial. The latter three feature replay and ranking functionality, and the Time Attack mode also features infinite lives, which is an excellent fitting touch.
One of the collection’s underwhelming aspects is its inconsistent bonus feature implementation. Only a handful of modes have replay and ranking functionality: Darius II’s Special mode, Darius Force’s Boss Rush mode, and the aforementioned three Darius Alpha modes. Having some degree of replay functionality for the two Super Nintendo games would have been helpful. In comparison to Cozmic Collection Arcade’s plethora of user interface extras, Cozmic Collection Console generally feels more sparse as it lacks supplementary elements and provides simple border art. Only Darius Alpha features additional elements in the form of a boss progression chart. One amusing touch is how the leaderboard score font represents its respective game’s.
Darius Cozmic Collection Console is full of curiosities, but its content caters towards hardcore shoot-’em-up players or diehard Darius fans. Relative to its arcade counterpart, Cozmic Collection Console’s truly original content consists of the two Super Nintendo games. That said, being able to experience Darius Alpha is quite fantastic as many players have had no opportunity to play it until now. While this collection’s features are a bit basic, the games themselves run well and provide a unique look into the series’ history.
Darius Cozmic Collection Console provides a unique look into the series' ports and unique entries on 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. These games follow the series' stylized legacy while providing competent entertaining takes on the shoot-'em-up genre despite being
Accurately emulates a wide variety of Darius releases
Including the rare Darius Alpha via multiple modes
Barebones user interface additions
Inconsistent implementation of rankings and replays