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Darius
Darius II / Sagaia
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Darius Force
Darius Gaiden
G Darius

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Darius Burst

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Super Nova / Darius Force - SNES (1993)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

Darius Force (known as Super Nova in the West) might be one of the series' lesser-known titles, but it's an unique little shooter that sticks to the basics of the genre while doing several things differently from the norm.

Right from the start, the game offers you three different variations of the Silver Hawk for you to choose from, with each one being equipped with its own set of bullets, missiles and multi-directional lasers. Not that you'll be seeing your weapons at full power anytime soon, anyway, since the game takes you back to a checkpoint with no power-ups every time you die, much like the original arcade Darius (thankfully, increasing your power levels now isn't as hard as it was in that game). Also tied to Darius Force's powerup system is the fact that, when used simultaneously, your main and secondary weapons are shot at half power each, thus making you think which aspect of your arsenal - range or firepower - to prioritize at all times (it doesn't help that now you have to switch between your ship's two secondary weapon types using the R button). This game also marks the first appearance of the series' iconic giant laser beams in the form of an extremely rare power-up that grants you an one-use-only screen-long laser once grabbed.

The graphics and sound are improved over Darius Twin while having the darker, grittier style that many shooters were adopting around the mid-nineties. The story is told on an eerily silent intro composed entirely of astoundingly well-written blocks of text, "archival footage" of some of the original Darius' most iconic moments, sudden bursts of static and bubbles that transitions into a simple title screen backed only by the creepy sound of heartbeats as minimanistically as it began.

Thankfully, Darius Force's presentation isn't as simplistic as it seems to be at first, with the game making some interesting uses of the SNES' graphical effects. Zone J, with its rotating stage layout a la R-Type III and chameleon boss (one of the few non-marine-critter-inspired enemies in the series!), works as a particularly great showoff of the system's rotation and transparency capabilities, with a few stages also having some impressive multi-layered backgrounds and diagonal scrolling being applied to them.

This game's soundtrack marks Zuntata's departure from the peppy, upbeat tunes that marked its early career to the moodier, almost dreamlike compositions that made its later works famous. However, its frequent repetition and bland instrumentation makes it rather dull overall. Darius Force feels more like a Gradius or R-Type game at times, but it still is very much its own thing and a worthy addition to any SNES owner's collection. As a cool bonus for Taito fans though, a few of the enemies, like the final boss Zandick II, are from Syvalion, another Taito arcade game that has some loose storyline ties with the Darius series.

Super Nova (SNES)

Super Nova (SNES)

Super Nova (SNES)

Super Nova (SNES)

Super Nova (SNES)


Darius Gaiden - Arcade, Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows (1996)

American Saturn Cover

Japanese Saturn Cover

Despite arguably kicking off the golden age of gaming in 1978 with Space Invaders, Taito's golden age didn't begin until much later, with the 1993 release of the F3 arcade board, whose powerful hardware, affordable interchangeable cartridges and great library of fresh games wowed audiences all over the globe. This prompted the company to greenlight the development of a new Darius game, intended not only to show off the system's awesome capabilities, but also to up the ante of their old franchise, which had not seen an arcade entry in six years. And up the franchise's ante they did, with Darius Gaiden being widely regarded as the point where the series grew its figurative beard and became a respectable (if flashy) franchise of its own.

While the early Darius games relied entirely on their gimmicks - both technologically and aesthetically - to overcome their average level design and pacing, Darius Gaiden manages to combine the series' trademark charm with great and mostly-fair gameplay. The level designs are much more varied and interesting, and you get screen-clearing bombs too. There's also a cool new ability - each level's unique miniboss can now be captured and converted into a powerful Option by destroying and grabbing its small and well-guarded orb-like weakspots, letting players lay waste to enemy forces as long as their newfound ally survives.

All of these cool new additions and the inclusion of a more balanced power-up system (where only your main weapon goes down a level when dying, with the ship's missiles and shield staying the same even after using a continue) may make Darius Gaiden sound a tad too easy on paper. But don't be fooled by your Silver Hawk's enormous firepower - the game is just as hard as previous entries on the series, if not even harder. Enemy formations tend to zoom by in all directions and flood the screen with all sorts of projectiles, requiring the player to expertly dodge them while taking in consideration each level's unique obstacles and terrain, all the while keeping the game's internal rank in tow and finding hidden powerups and extra lives throughout each stage. The game becomes thick with bullets rather quickly if rank isn't managed expertly, thus making every Zone not only a test of reflexes, but also of decision-making, with every power-up collected, life lost, bomb used and shot fired adding up to the game's internal difficulty counter.

Darius Gaiden's presentation is one of the best ever seen in a shooter. In fact, it's so good that almost every side-scrolling shooter made after its release takes a page or two from it - be it the colorful, dream-like environments, the detailed graphics, the massive bosses (with many old ones given incredibly cool looking overhauls) or the beautifully thick bullet patterns. It has one of the coolest bomb explosions ever seen in a shooter, which creates a black hole that not only flashes in psychedelic colors but sucks almost everything into its powerful void. The boss explosions are just as screen-shatteringly epic.

These elements, combined with Zuntata's hauntingly beautiful and creepy yet energetic score, which includes the oft-covered main theme "VISIONNERZ" (with creepy whispers suggesting you to "close your eyes") and the "Get Ready for This"inspired "FAKE", make for a game that is not only a great shoot-em-up, but also one of the finest audiovisual experiences in any 2D arcade game.

The game was a commercial and critical success at the time, receiving ports for the PS1, Saturn (under the infamous Acclaim Games label, like all other Taito games released for the console on the US) and PC on the mid-90's and being included on the Taito Memories Gekan/Taito Legends 2 compilation for the PS2, PC and XBOX. The PS1 and Saturn versions of the game are pretty barebones yet arcade-perfect except for some slowdown here and there (a bit more prevalent on the PS1 version). The PlayStation version has a CGI rendered intro, but in typical fashion, just isn't very good (and also quite short.) The PS2 release regrettably has even more slowdown, and runs in filtered 480i rather than the 240p of the other console ports. The PC version, which was developed and published by the same folks who gave us the great PC version of Raiden II, has some strange graphical differences, like the use of ugly graphical meshes for shadows and transparencies instead of the traditional alpha blending; otherwise, it's a respectable port.

Available on MAME's long list of special board revisions is Darius Gaiden Extra Version. This remixed version offers a new challenge and re-arranges each stage's location on the progression grid, often putting crazy-hard levels where easy ones should be, while also removing the cap on the maximum number of bombs and increasing the Silver Hawk's default rate of fire. There's also a mode to play all of the levels one after another. Unfortunately, it was never ported.

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)

Darius Gaiden (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots





G-Darius - Arcade, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Windows (1999)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

European Cover

The transition to 3D graphics presented itself as a massive roadblock to the side-scrolling shoot-em-up genre, which had 2D gameplay as an essential part of its DNA. Knowing this, most big games in the genre released around that time took a 2.5D approach to graphics while keeping their old-school gameplay intact, which often resulted on bland-looking and boring titles which failed to grab arcade-goers' attention like their predecessors did. G-Darius, however, is an exception to this rule, being not only a great and pretty-looking game, but also an incredible example of 2.5D graphics done right.

In a twist of the usual Darius formula, G-Darius doesn't star the latest members of the Proco and Tiat dynasties, instead putting Sameluck Raida and Lutia Feen, two young pilots who work for the Amnelian Air Force, in the seats of the red and blue Genesis Silver Hawks, respectively. This is explained by the game's backstory, which reveals that, eons before the Darians' eternal war against Belsar begun, their predecessors, the once-peaceful Kingdom of Amnelia and the ruthless Thiima Empire, were already in conflict. The former was almost succumbing to the latter's army of huge living battleships when its king had the brilliant idea of stealing and reverse-engineering the evil fish-ships' Beta Beam technology and using it to create their own small and highly versatile spaceships, thus giving birth to the series' iconic Silver Hawk in a fashion similar to Metal Black's Black Fly or R-Type's R-9.

G-Darius abandons Darius Gaiden's black hole bombs in favor of Capture Balls, which, as their name implies, allow players to turn the odds to their favor by making almost any enemy in their temporary ally with the push of a button, with each enemy type having their own behavior when under the player's control and with mini-bosses having special commands which can be triggered by simple controller inputs. Unlike Darius Gaiden's mini-boss Options, captured enemies often stay a long time by the player's side, with their sacrifices being what powers the Genesis Silver Hawk's trademark Alpha Beams, which can counter bosses' Beta Beams in beam duels/button-mashing contests of epic proportions, an aspect borrowed from Metal Black.

All of this is also vital to the game's fancy new scoring system, which keeps track of how many enemies you captured, how many formations you destroyed with your beams and how many Beta Beams you countered both individually and simultaneously (certain bosses can use up to a whopping four Beta Beams at the same time, with a successful counter requiring faster button mashing the more beams are countered simultaneously), awarding massive point bonuses and score multipliers based on these stats and ranking players based on their final score at the end of a game.

It is implied that the "G" in the game's title has more than one meaning, what with all of the stages' names beginning with the letter G and with this game's Silver Hawk model being dubbed the Genesis. However, it could also refer to the game's gigantic bosses. Eye-catching boss battles have always been a trademark of the Darius series ever since its creation, but G-Darius manages to single-handedly trump all of its predecessors and most other shooters in this department with its epic, cinematic encounters against screen-filling polygonal monstrosities. Each boss has its own unique brief introduction cutscene which plays as the series' iconic pre-battle wail sounds off, with them more often than not successful managing to inflict feelings of fear and anticipation of what's to come on the player, and the battles themselves are no joke either, with players often having to dodge thick bullet patterns while simultaneously capturing enemies, countering Beta Beams and destroying the bosses piece-by-piece, with new, stronger attacks being introduced to their patterns with each fragment destroyed.

The boss battles, as epic as they are, are just one of the many things that make G-Darius' presentation stand out among shooters, though. Darius Gaiden's colorful yet static stage backgrounds were already a big improvement over its predecessors' boring starfields, generic mechanical bases, and murky caves, but G-Darius' are always bursting to the seams with energy and detail, be it the crowded underwater tunnels of Green Globe or Granulated Star's menacing enemy mothership, whose laser-powered, planet-destroying insides you eventually get to explore (and escape from) mid-stage. The quality of the level design has also increased substantially, with every stage now having a fork on their middle which defines how their second half and boss battle will play out in exchange for the game's shortened overall length (each run is five stages, with fifteen total).

The game's soundtrack is comprised of heavily experimental electronic tunes that manage to create an atmosphere of simultaneous tension, dread and awe via the clever use of a wide variety of samples, synth instruments and ambient sounds. One of the standout tracks is "ADAM", which gets used on the game's most intense battles and the console versions' CG intro.

G-Darius was released for the PS1 and PC, with the former being published by the then-small THQ. The PS1 version looks nearly arcade-perfect (the FX-1B arcade board is similar to the PS1 hardware) with the most notable difference between it and the arcade being the addition of Beginner and Boss Battle modes. However, there's quite a bit of slowdown, and the music cuts out in the middle of the stage during the branching paths, and sometimes doesn't even resume, leaving just sound effects. Also, the cutscenes are now full motion video rather than rendered in the game engine.

The version closest to the arcade original, however, is the one included as an extra exclusively on the PS2 version of the Taito Legends 2/Taito Memories Joukan compilation. It runs much smoother than the PS1 version, though it still uses FMV for the cutscenes.

Exclusive to the arcades is G. Darius Ver. 2, which makes assorted balance tweaks, including a Beginner mode, full auto-fire, and boss timers.

The endings in G-Darius are even weirder than the previous ones. 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 thing in ANY video game, and is actually weirder than the ending where they change into a bird.

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

G Darius (Arcade)

Additional Screenshots






<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Darius
Darius II / Sagaia
Darius Twin

Page 2:
Darius Force
Darius Gaiden
G Darius

Page 3:
Darius Burst

Discuss on the Forums!

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