Darius Gaiden (Arcade) Review

By Gabriel Jones 26.02.2017

Review for Darius Gaiden on Arcade

Humanity, whose existence is threatened by total annihilation on a regular basis, is attempting to immigrate back to Darius. War between the Silver Hawk Squadron and Belsar had rendered much of their home planet inhabitable. Now, with the establishment of the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service), perhaps Darius can be saved. However, the presence of an unknown force known only as the Destroyers caused the plan to go awry. In response to this new threat, the Silver Hawks deployed. All but two of them were wiped out. With the hopes and dreams of tomorrow resting on their shoulders, these survivors have quite the struggle ahead of them.

With Darius Gaiden the series takes a turn for the surreal. Granted, shooting down alien aircraft that resembles aquatic wildlife has always been a trifle odd, but this entry really takes everything to another level. Utilising the power of Taito's F3 arcade board, every aspect of this game exhibits an almost dreamlike atmosphere. Some zones take place in a haze, as if the Silver Hawk pilots can no longer figure out whether they're awake or dreaming. The enemy designs have become more fantastical, and the increased visual fidelity gives everyone a better glimpse at the twisted machinery that gives these abominations life.

What change in direction is complete without a suitable soundtrack? With this entry, Hisayoshi Ogura has delivered something truly astonishing. The song "VISIONNERZ" immediately establishes the tone. No longer are the battles with those that threaten mankind upbeat and hopeful. Even if the Silver Hawk pilots manage to defeat this threat, there will always be another. Is this the real fate of mankind? Is there nothing but unending wars with forces beyond comprehension left for them? These questions quickly give way to introspection. Somewhere within ourselves lies the truth, but it's a little hard to suss that out, when we're under attack by hundreds of enemy ships and their thousands of bullets.

Screenshot for Darius Gaiden on Arcade

VISIONNERZ is the perfect introduction into this realm of madness. It's something not of this world, even though it pulls elements from known genres such as electronic, new wave, and even a hint of opera. It's an almost indescribable fusion that bores its way into the depths of anyone who hears it. The player can't help but feel a sense that there is much more to this game, than just another tale of a lone pilot trying to defeat a great evil. Other songs such as "Burst Out" and "Singing in the Brain" give off an eastern flair. Consider for a second the Shinto religion; perhaps the oceanic adversaries represent kami. The Silver Hawk isn't facing a battleship, it's challenging a god.

Having one of the best game soundtracks of the 90s is a pretty good reason why Darius Gaiden is regarded as a classic, but it's not the only one. With this entry, Taito has struck a fantastic balance when it comes to challenge. The Silver Hawk is powerful, but not absurdly so, and its power-ups aren't completely lost by a single death. The pilot still has a chance to recover. Furthermore, a cache of black hole bombs clear the screen of any minor threats, while doing a fair bit of damage to bosses and the like. If the player wants to add to their high score, they should refrain from losing any lives or using bombs, because excess stock is worth a lot of bonus points. The difficulty is more flexible, and gives players the option of pursuing higher risks for greater rewards.

Screenshot for Darius Gaiden on Arcade

The level designs have been further improved. Not only are there more obstacles to overcome, but they're also placed in an intelligent manner. If a swarm of enemies fills the screen with bullets, there's often a wall to take cover behind. A couple zones require pilots to leave certain enemies alive, so that they can burrow through walls, leaving a path for their ship. There's a subtle warning about what's going to happen, so there's far less a chance they'll accidentally destroy the little buggers, trapping them in a fatal situation. Zone M is essentially a massive boss battle, which is a wonderful change of pace. No matter the arc, there's always something interesting to look forward to.

In almost every zone, the Silver Hawk will encounter a captain, which is essentially a mid-boss. While they're not too troublesome to deal with, it's to the pilot's benefit to aim for the orb placed somewhere on the ship's body. If the orb is shaken free, collecting it will cause the captain to fight alongside the player-ship for a short time. Having a temporary extra hand is always nice, but most of the captain's value comes from bonus points awarded at the end of the game. "Capture orbs" become a much more prominent element in Taito's follow-up G. Darius.

The giant battleships that mark the end of each zone are the most varied and challenging the series has seen yet. Their attacks are not only dangerous but also show a ton of personality. Many of the bosses have unique weapons or skills, even the clones differentiate in a manner beyond firing more or less bullets. It's imperative to get accustomed to the Silver Hawk's speed. It's fast enough to avoid plenty of firepower, but a little foreknowledge is required to handle more complex weapons, such as homing lasers.

Screenshot for Darius Gaiden on Arcade

Another aspect that keeps the game varied and interesting is Taito's implementation of a "rank" system. Numerous 2D shooters have rank, which causes the difficulty to rise depending on actions made by the player. For this game, rank is determined mostly by two factors, the power level of the player's arsenal, and how much destruction they've wrought on bosses. A fully powered Silver Hawk is certainly a force to be reckoned with, but the enemy will respond in kind with faster and denser bullet patterns. Bosses tend to have numerous body parts that can be destroyed for extra points. It might be worthwhile to attempt a slightly tougher boss, just because it has fewer parts, which helps keep the rest of the game from becoming more intense.

Another neat aspect of this game is that there's an extra version. It re-arranges all of the zones, so that they're fought in a different order. More notably, if somebody starts this version on the player 2 side, they must play through all 28 zones. This is basically the ultimate challenge for veterans. Not only do they have to face all of the bosses, but the rank will spiral out of control less than halfway through, resulting in bullet patterns that are practically impossible to dodge. On the bright side, since every zone is played, it's possible to collect several hidden 1ups.

Screenshot for Darius Gaiden on Arcade

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Simply put, Darius Gaiden is one of the best entries in the series. Not only is it an amazing experience, thanks to its incredible graphics and sound, it's also consistently entertaining. The bosses are among the best the genre has to offer. They're imposing, impeccably designed, and have dozens of methods for crushing loathsome Silver Hawks into tiny pieces. The level designs aren't ground-breaking, but they're still varied and thoroughly solid. This entry is where the routing system really comes into its own. Every playthrough feels fresh. All in all, this is a superb STG deserving of anyone's time.

Developer

Taito

Publisher

Taito

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

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