Super Nova / Darius Force - SNES (1993)

American Cover

Super Nova

Super Nova

The second SNES (cryptically renamed "Super Nova" for the American release) at least tries to mix things up a little bit. The biggest difference is in the weaponry department (finally.) You now get three ships to choose from, each with different weapons, and you can switch between bombs and lasers with the hit of the R button. There is a total of 15 stages, with three different paths to reach the final zones.

There are some somewhat bizarre changes to formula, aside from the absence of a two-player mode. If you try to fire both of your weapons at the same time, they'll each only attack at partial power - so you usually have to choose between one or the other for the best efficiency. This is also the only Darius game outside of the original arcade game that sends you pack to a checkpoint when you die - minus all of your weapons, naturally. There are a few good concepts here and there, like the level that rotates and sends you through different paths, but overall, the minor alterations don't do much to enhance the game.

MP3s

Colored Star

Super Nova

Super Nova

Darius Gaiden - Arcade / Saturn / PSOne / Playstation 2 / Xbox / PC (1996)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

Darius Gaiden

After four bloody mediocre games, it's about time Taito got its act together and actually made a respectable Darius game. Darius Gaiden - first released in the arcades then later ported to the Playstation and Saturn - doesn't really look all that great, but does have some impressive effects. But where it really counts is the gameplay - there are still tons of levels, but they're all much shorter. And even on the lowest difficulty level, this game is HARD. The designers finally found the intensity that was lacking in all of the previous games. No place better is this demonstrated with than the first boss, a gigantic yellow fish who obliterates a building in the background, swims into the battlefield, and begins inundating you with its metallic scales.

Darius Gaiden also introduced another particularly cool play mechanic. If you shoot a midboss in a certain spot enough times, you can capture them and have them fight alongside you for a limited amount of time. They explode when you the boss, but it's a great concept. The weapon system hails back to the original Darius, although orbs are much more plentiful, eliminating the major problem of the first game. The music is also quite unique, comprised mainly of strange new age techno and a creepy female voice warbling in the background. I wouldn't say it's great, but it's eerily unsettling, and does add greatly to the overall feel of the game. So in other words, this is good stuff.

The Saturn port of the game came out in America courtesy of Acclaim, making it possibly the only decent thing they've done for the video game industry, ever. The Playstation version has a CGI rendered intro, but in typical fashion, just isn't very good (and also quite short.) These home versions are very hard, being that they only have you two credits to beat the game with, but that can be alleviated with some cheat codes. It was also ported to the PC, and you might be able to find it in the bargain bins. It also appears on the Taito Memories Joukan compilation for the PS2 (in Japan), and the Taito Legends 2 compilation for the PS2 and Xbox (in USA and Europe.) These ports unfortunately feature some rather annoying slowdown that isn't present in the other versions.

MP3s

FAKE
Illusory Person ~ VISIONNERZ

Darius Gaiden

Darius Gaiden

Darius Gaiden

Darius Gaiden

Darius Gaiden has the third best explosion ever (the unbeatable first two are Defender and Defender 2, naturally.) Fire off a bomb, and bad guys will be sucked into the black hole, before it emits a gigantic bolt of lightning, frying everything on the screen. Even more impressive are the shockwaves unleashed when you kill a boss. Most of the boss encounters are fought against a trippy psychedelic background, which just adds to overall unique freakiness.
Darius Gaiden

G Darius - Arcade / PSOne / Playstation 2 (1999)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

European Cover

The finale of series finally hit 3D, although retaining the same 2D gameplay. And this is G Darius, originally released for the arcade and ported to the Playstation (It's unclear what the "G" stands for, but every level in the game begins with a "G".) And the effect is a whole world of awesome. The game itself retains the faster pace of Darius Gaiden, all while bursting at its creative seams. You fly under the sea, amidst underwater monorails, hovering along next to dinosaurs, astro-palm trees, prehistoric spiders and all sorts of craziness. For the first time since the inception of the series, the Darius world feels alive. And the boss battles - ever fight a shark that can rip through dimensions? How about fighting different sections of a fish mothership a la R-Type in epic battles that last at least five minutes? For a game previously known for its inherent dullness suddenly contain more imagination than almost every other shooter out there - that's an amazing achievement in itself.

It's not only the graphics that get the overhaul. Building on the concept of taking over minibosses from Gaiden, G Darius lets you use capture balls to take over practically every enemy in the game. Naturally, some are more useful that others, but it's an incredibly cool way to add to your firepower. But that's not the only enhancement - when you're finished with them, you can either set off an explosive to destroy everything on the screen, or attack with a super powerful laser called the Alpha Beam. This isn't just your regular, wimpy beam of light - no, this is a massive pulse of energy that obliterates everything in its path for a good ten seconds, if not longer.

And herein lies one of the coolest parts of the game. As it turns out, each of the major bosses in the game has the same laser you do. If you can manage to make it through a fight without losing your capture enemy, and the boss takes out its big guns, you can charge up your own laser and duel with it. All this consists of is mashing buttons wildly as you play tug of war with energy bolts, but presuming your fingers are up to the task, you can utterly destroy pretty much anything with this tactic.

The heroes of the game are Sameluck Raida (the guy) and Lutia Feen (the girl), keeping up the goofy naming tradition set by Proco Jr. and Tiat Young. The music also continues a similar tradition of being flat-out weird, if not abrasive, although the main theme (used in the opening and final battle) is quite good. However, it seems to fade in and out constantly as the game loads data from the CD, so large parts of the game are actually played in silence. There's only a total of 14 stages (with 5 levels you play through) but practically every stage has two paths, so it still maintains the high replay value of the other games.

The power-up system is the same as in the original Darius, although orbs are much more plentiful, so it's much more balanced. Still, the later bosses in the game are cluttering the screen with so many bullets (even in "Super Easy" mode) that sometimes it seems that the only way to win is to hope you stored enough continues from the earlier stages. Still, it's unquestionably the apex of the series, and one of the better shooters of the 32-bit generation. The PSOne port is an excellent port, although there's a bit of nasty slowdown, and the limited credits can be a bummer if you're touchy about that sort of thing. It also appears on the Taito Memories Gekan compilation for the PS2 (in Japan), and the Taito Legends 2 compilation (in USA and Europe, but only the Playstation 2 version.) Unlike the rendition of Darius Gaiden in this set, this one actually runs better than the PSOne port.

MP3s

From 7 - Ending
Adam - Intro/Last Boss

G Darius

G Darius

G Darius

G Darius

G Darius

G Darius

The endings in G-Darius are all 3D rendered movies, and are quite a bit better than previous games. The best? The two ships are destroyed, as the pilots drift in some bizarre void. As they float toward each other, they begin to disintegrate...and as their lips touch, there is absolutely nothing left of them. It's the creepiest as all out fuck thing in ANY video game, and is actually weirder than the ending where they change into a bird.

G Darius


Darius Plus

Despite the inherent iffiniess the earlier Darius games, the bosses were at least kinda unique. The best Engrish names:

Mudy Crystal - Super Nova
Hyper Greatthing - Darius Twin
Tripod Sardine - G Darius
Eight Feet Umbrella - G Darius
Eternal Triangle - G Darius
Accordian Hazard - G Darius


G Darius

Related Games:

Metal Black - Arcade (1991)

Title Screen

Metal Black

Metal Black

Metal Black was rumored to be Darius 3, although in the end, they changed it to a completely new game. The weaponry system is completely different - you pick up little orbs to power up your main guns, and you can release a super laser blast, draining all of your weaponry power. No shields or missiles are to be found. Despite the fundamental gameplay differences, the Darius influence is pretty obvious. The bosses, while not exactly aquatic, beat some resemblance. Some familiar faces do show up, such as the crab from Darius 2 that shows up beneath an aircraft carrier, and you'll come across an occasionally robotic fish. Certain elements introduced here show up in later Darius games - the crazy backgrounds and explosions in the boss battles were later used in Darius Gaiden, and the laser dueling system was also implemented in G Darius. Although initially released in the arcade, it also got a Saturn port, and will be coming to the Playstation 2 on Taito's arcade compilation.

Metal Black

The first two Darius games are notable for their multi-screen format, the second two Darius games are notable for being mostly unnotable, and the final two are just pretty darn good games. It seems that while the series went fairly unnoticed in America, it had enough of a following to generate enough sequels. So if the concept amuses you, tracking down both Darius Gaiden and (especially) G Darius is imperative.

Bonus! Tokyopop's manga Mahoromatic has an amusing Darius reference. Apparently the author, Bunjuro Nakayama, was a big Darius fan - according to the translator of the English version, it was featured just like that in the original version as well. Thanks to Jeremiah Bourque for pointing this out. Another thanks for JJD Funk for the heads-up on the Sagaia GB game, and the Shmups board for recommending Metal Black.

Links:

Huge Darius Battleships Prime site on Darius bosses. Easily the best Darius site out there.
Destroy All Monsters Plenty of Darius reviews here.
SHMUPS 3.0 New SHMUPS page has a small retrospective on the series.
Arcane Lore Zach Keene's webpage, has a thorough G Darius FAQ.

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