If you’re a fan of the old side scrolling shooter, or shoot-em-up as we oldies used to call them, then you may well already be familiar with Darius, one of the granddaddies of the genre.
This new extensive collection gathers together a group of games that have been inspired by the Darius arcade cabinets, also featured in their own collection reviewed elsewhere on this site. It follows the first Darius II port all the way to the impressive Darius Force and even the two lesser known PC Engine ports of the game.
You’d be forgiven in the UK for not having seen the Darius Arcade cabinet, which is odd because it was pretty hard to miss due to its huge three screen setup, but it came at a cost and didn’t really get any floor space in most UK arcades. The first real sign of the game series appeared on 8-bit home computer ports and then a version of the original game and its sequel were given the console treatment via SNES, Mastersystem, Megadrive (Genesis) and PC Engine, but with the Sega version renamed Sagaia for its western release and this is where the new Taito collection comes in.
The Switch’s Console compilation, half of what released as a single pack in Japan alongside the original Arcade release, provides access to those console games with some pretty solid ports from M2 and peppered with a little history. It begins with Sagaia/Darius II on the Megadrive, the Japanese port and the US/European port are both here. The Mastersystem port is next and is a huge step down but still very playable. It’s certainly fascinating to see how the conversion to an 8-bit console was even possible and what the developers had to cut to get there.
At the same time, Darius Twin released on SNES, a sort-of-port of the first Darius but reworked from the ground up to work on a single screen. Again, the Western and Japanese versions are both available here with tweaks to sound making the Western version the definitive port. Darius Force (Super Nova in the West) completes the SNES line-up and is an original game based on the series that mixes things up a bit with many of the enemies and designs reworked.
The last two games are, conversely, the earliest to release but on PC Engine, so not as widely available. Darius Plus is actually pretty impressive considering the hardware and also very playable. Darius Alpha is pretty special and a bit of a treat considering it was only available as part of a competition and only 800 copies were ever made. It’s yet another example of what the PC Engine could be coaxed into running given the talented development team.
I would have liked to see more of an attempt at providing the history behind the games in this package, though. The only thing available within the compilation that even comes close to fulfilling this is a small text box to the right of each game. There’s plenty of scope for a section of box art, histories for each game and even articles on the Darius games produced at the time. That said, all of these games are worth playing if you have any interest in the genre and they all come with comprehensive controller settings and screen options and many have different versions or modes as well. The games have been very carefully ported to Switch, there is no mistaking that this is a labour of love from M2 here.
So despite the lack of extra content, this is still crammed with history and the games are just as fun to play today as when they first arrived.