Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Trouble with Darius

This post stems from a bigger conversation I've been having with my friend on Facebook (lets call him David) about the Darius shooter series

                                                            A good Darius game yesterday

My problem with the series really stems from playing certain bad titles over the years and only relatively recently playing some of the more accomplished games. I think Darius 2 has been an especially guilty party in my perception of the series - the ok 3 screen arcade cab (which I was lucky enough to play in the wild) really didn't transfer to home systems very well and both the Megadrive and Saturn ports try valiantly to accomplish that strange screen ratio on a home system. A guess the Saturn port is the definitive version and whilst certainly being the most accomplished version it is far from being great. Similarly the Megadrive version really struggles for me to stand up generally as a decent shooter and can be a frustrating beast at the best of times. Now onto the really offensive Darius game for me Sagaia on the Master System, now fair play to the developers it was always going to be a tall order to covert the arcade game to Sega's 8-bit system and graphically they nearly do it - the game is technically impressive. Unfortunately the game shares the same fate as Xenon 2 on the system, flickery as hell and a spaceship that handles like it's crawling through a sea of treacle. Many deaths occur because of dodgy collision detection and uncertainty as to where enemies and bullets are, for me an entirely frustrating proposition.

Other games that clouded my view were Darius Twin which I found completely boring and Darius Advance. Darius Advance is a Japanese exclusive promises so much, the cover artwork is some of the nicest I've seen on a Japanese release but ultimately falls flat on its face due to lack of variation in the levels and what feels like an underpowered weapons system. There are definite balance issues with the game which is a real shame because those boss battles are still damn good fun.

So then as a conclusion to the story Geoff hates Darius.... well that's not strictly true either.

Thanks to David and other Darius maniacs who have a wider view of the series and have urged me to give certain titles a try, I've started to see what they mean. I guess my journey to Darius redemption began with a video one of my YouTube buddies put up showing a compilation video of the crazy boss battles in Darius Gaiden, not only did the enemy designs look original and beautiful the game looked really playable. On the back of this video I scored a copy and was very happy with what I played, I always admired the uniqueness of the weird enemy and level designs in the games but finally I had a title that I actually wanted to play!

The accomplished G-Darius followed next which reminded me a little of R-Type Delta, not in content but graphically the 2.5 modelling has a similar feel.

And now finally onto what I feel is the pinnacle of the series, Darius Burst, words can't describe how impressive this title is. To me it feels like a shooter you can speak of in the same company as Border Down, Ikaruga, and Gradius 5. It has all the classic components of greatness; being well balanced, full of interesting set-pieces, a pounding soundtrack, a feeling of pace, epic boss battles, and most of all is fun to play. I feel I'm almost doing the game a disservice by not going into an in-depth review about why it's so good (honestly pay the daft money it's starting to command and get it).

I thought I'd like to chart my history with the series and explain why I'm left with mixed emotions about the games. Currently I now have an active interest in picking some of the other titles after spending years dismissing the series, I can honestly say that good or bad no other shoot-em-up series solicits such a conflict in my mind.

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