For shoot em up fans, Darius is one of the legendary names in the genre. First released in arcades in 1987, Darius took the unique approach of using three screens side by side to create a game environment far different from the standard 4:3 cabinet screens at the time. Darius 2 was then released in 1989 and the much more advanced Darius Gaiden was then released in 1994. Throughout that time, several Darius titles were released on home consoles as well including the Mega Drive (Genesis), PC-Engine (TurboGrafx-16), SNES, Amiga, and even more as the years went on.
To celebrate the Darius titles and its history, Taito tapped Japanese developer M2 to faithfully port the games in two separate collections for the PS4 and Switch. The Arcade Collection retails for $44.99 and includes 4 games (7 versions) while the Console Collection retails for $59.99 and includes 6 games (9 versions). In this review, I’ll be speaking on the Arcade collection as played on the PS4.
To begin with I’ll say this; these seem to be faithful ports. Given the game’s original release in 1987, that’s a double edged sword. For those wanting to experience a faithful recreation of the Darius arcade experience, this collection provides that outlet with several notable bonuses (which I’ll touch on shortly). However games have evolved greatly since 1987 as well, and I can’t see many, outside of the true shmup die-hards, enjoying these titles for more than a quick stint.
Maybe one of the most interesting aspects of the titles included in the Arcade collection are the different aspect ratios. The original Darius and its variations in “New Version” and “Extra Version” were played on three screens in the arcade as I noted above and thus, it feels almost like a corridor shooter when compared to other titles in the genre. Darius 2 and SAGAIA (Version 1 and 2) meanwhile were dual-screen shooters and thus feel decidedly different in the way you approach movement. And lastly, Darius Gaiden was released much later in 1994 and used a single screen like nearly all other arcade titles to make it more accessible.
The highlight of this collection in my opinion is definitely Darius Gaiden. The 1990s were a fantastic decade for shmups so while upgrades and enemy designs are notably Darius, the gameplay itself evolved greatly into a more polished and familiar experience. Combined with the classic Darius design of choosing multiple paths through the game, it’s the one I enjoyed the most by far.
I also want to quickly call out SAGAIA Version 2. According to the information provided in the collection, this variation was possibly never released at all and it’s honestly a trip to play. The difficulty is scaled up and having played through it beginning to end, I have no idea how it would ever be beaten without unlimited continues. At times, if feels as though you are playing a more modern bullet hell game while being handicapped in both movement and damage. It nothing else, it’s fun to play for a laugh.
There are some nice extras in the package for fans. All the titles are playable in co-op first and foremost which is always fun in shmups. High scores are saved like in the arcade as you would expect, and you can even save your full runs through each game as well. Each title also gives you a brief history of the game’s release in the arcade and what the variations changed when compared to the original titles. And as you can see in the Darius screenshot above, M2 has integrated some of the original arcade overlays as well which is a nice touch for fans.
Overall, the Darius Arcade Collection is a nice throwback. With shmups being few and far between nowadays, and Darius being one of the classics in the genre, it’s nice to see them being appreciated and treated with care. While it won’t appeal to a large part of the gaming community, if you’re reading this you’re likely a fellow shmup player. If you appreciate the classics, and don’t mind an overall slower pace when compared to more modern shoot-em ups, this collection is worth your time.
Final Rating : 7