Title: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Side-Scrolling Shooter
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Official Site: https://darius.jp/cozmic/
Release Date: Out Now
If you pop on over to the Nintendo eShop or Sony’s PlayStation store right now you’ll be able to find the Darius Cozmic Collection. You will also notice that there are two versions for sale, one entitled Arcade, and the other Console. You will probably be able to guess what the differences are.
The trouble is, both of the Darius games are quite expensive, meaning you want to be sure of what you are getting before you make any sort of purchase.
For those of you that are unaware, the Darius franchise is a series of side-scrolling shoot-em-up games that first released in arcades way back in 1987. Since then there have been numerous games available both in the arcades and on home consoles. If you hadn’t guessed the differences between the 2 versions, you have now.
What we are bringing to you today is our take on the Arcade side of the Darius Cozmic Collection. A title that brings together the first 3 arcade titles in one package giving us 7 games to play in total, including various versions of each that are on offer.
I will split this review down and go through some of the pros and cons of each title before giving you my verdict at the end. Before that though, the games available on the Arcade collection are as follows:
- Darius (Original Version)
- Darius (New Version)
- Darius (Extra Version)
- Darius II (Dual Screen Version SAGAIA (ver.1)
- SAGAIA (ver.2)
- Darius Gaiden
There’s plenty on offer and for a price of $44.99, there needs to be, not cheap but certainly better than the Console collections price of $59.99.
Despite not seeing the same popularity in the West as they did in Japan, TAITO’s Darius games have always been fun and with them being ported by the experts over at M2 I at least knew from the get-go that these ports would have love and respect poured into them.
Darius: Wide-Angled Fun
Beginning at the obvious choice of the start, I immediately booted up the first Darius when beginning my playtime for this review. As I mentioned, Darius first came to the arcades in 1987 and was a little different from conventional cabinets as it was spread out over a whopping three screens.
What that meant in the arcade was a huge area to look at, and with so much happening I can only imagine the joys it brought to the arcades when it released in the ’80s. I would have been 3 so I didn’t get the chance to play it at the time.
For the port, the 3 arcade screens are seamlessly stretched across the TV in a letterbox window, which can make things difficult to see, especially if you are sat at a distance like I was. I did enjoy seeing various pieces of information in the borders presented in Japanese exactly how it would have been in the arcade, it was a nice touch.
As mentioned, there are 3 different versions of the original Darius on offer. The new version brings rebalanced boss fights with higher health for the enemies, but better power-ups as a trade-off, whilst the extraversion has greatly altered enemy health and positioning.
Whatever version you decide to play you’ll be getting the same basic game, just with changes that help freshen things up. Rather like a new game+.
The game plays exactly as you would expect. Players control their ship as it scrolls sideways, all the while shooting enemies, dodging bullets, and trying not to smash into any of the scenery. Colored enemies will drop a power-up when they are defeated and depending on the color this will either increase the efficiency of the shots, bombs, or shield, each being vital to make it through.
Honestly, this game is hard no matter what difficulty you play on. The number of times I died here to start with made me question myself quite a bit and the checkpoints will force players to replay a chunk of the level instead of just tanking their way through.
The reward for making it through the level is an aquatic-themed boss. Something that carries over across the series. The bosses are challenging, yet satisfying when vanquished and once they are down the choice is thrust upon the player regarding which level path to take next, much like it is in Outrun.
With repetitive music that adds a rustic charm there is a lot to like with Darius even if you haven’t played it before, but on to the next one.
Darius II was more of the same. A fun side-scrolling game that was set across multiple screens in the arcade (usually 2 this time) all set to a fishy theme. The SAGAIA version is what was presented to westerners as it had shorter stages. Ver.2 was barely available on the market, which makes it’s inclusion here all the nicer, it also feels the easiest of the games with some bosses removed and shorter levels. It was still pleasingly challenging, but the drop in difficulty felt drastic.
Unlike the first game, the screen here is a bit bigger on the TV and things look a bit fancier in general. The ship feels absolutely massive this time around, however, everything feels a bit faster and smoother.
Unfortunately, I have spent the least time with these three games so far and that’s due to the obnoxious level of vibration in the controllers. I can’t even begin to explain how violently they vibrate, it ridiculous and it’s constant. There’s also no way to turn this off in-game, which is bizarre.
The games are still fun, I just found it hard to play with the vibration and I don’t particularly want to mess around with the actual controller setting before and after I play this game every time.
In the Gaiden of Eden Baby
The final game on the collection is Darius Gaiden, the first game to have a single screen cabinet and it’s presented in glorious 4:3 format here.
The first thing I noticed was how much the graphics had changed and looked like the jump from the SNES to PS1 era, which basically is what happened at the time. Gaiden is still a side-scrolling shoot-em-up, it just feels a bit fancier and the over the top vibration is gone. Rejoice.
The ship moves much faster and bombs are replaced with a special move that clears the screen of any enemies, or bullets. This is a good thing as Gaiden feels much more like a bullet hell than any of the other games, on the flip side of that, it’s also the easiest of the lot.
Dying here isn’t really punished as your ship will simply just pop back at the same place with replenished special moves. This means that absolutely anyone can get through and see the end. Again, the branching levels are back, so once you’ve seen the ending it’s time to go back and do it again with a different route, adding to the replayability.
A quick mention has to go to the music as it’s insane. It’s also very different as you make your way through with jazz numbers and operatic vocals present and accounted for. Madness and I love it.
Shot In The Dark
The overall package here is pretty great as the only issue I really had was the vibration, a feature that will hopefully be fixed in a patch. The difficulty may put some off, while others will relish in it. I wouldn’t call it unfair at all, it’s more about practice. Thankfully, there is a training mode that allows any section of a game to be launched for just this reason.
Each of the games on offer allows players to save anywhere, something that was never afforded to players in the arcades, and this does make them easier to get through. There are various difficult modes too as well as options for changing fire speed, the number of lives available, and things like that.
Outside of the games, there aren’t any extra bonuses. You can play in 2 player mode without having to feed in endless quarters and there is a global rankings system. There aren’t any galleries or nice little touches you may expect to find in a collection though and that is a real shame and something that should be expected, given the price.
What you get out of the Darius Collection will vary depending on your love for history and shoot-em-ups in general. I loved it, even with the small issues that are present. I can easily recommend it to anyone.
Verdict: The Arcade collection is a great look back at some fantastic shooters. It’s light on extra content, but that shouldn’t put anyone off as this really is a great package. With the ability to have endless credits and to save anywhere, the chance to see these gems to the end has never been higher.