[Review] Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: TAITO Corporation
  • Publisher: ININ Games
  • Release Date: 16/06/2020
  • Price: $44.99 / £34.99
  • Review code provided by ININ Games

Introducing: Darius Collection Switch Review

Looking back at our past is something that separates humans from the rest of the species on Earth. While it is always said that we should look back at our history to learn from it, many of us find a fondness for looking back at our childhood and reliving it through our books, comics, and games. The games industry for the most part have found ways to let us experience the classics, whether it is the Switch Online service, a mini console, or a collection. Our subject is the later, the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade. I have no previous attachment to this series and now I wonder, will this be a worthy blast to the past, or am I doomed to experience something meant to be left in the history books?

Blast Away

The plot in the Darius games consists of an alien invasion of the titular planet, Darius. The only hope are two pilots, Proco Jr. and Tiat Young and their ship, the Silver Hawk. The alien Belser Empire is made up of many giant aquatic spaceships that must be obliterated before the denizens of Darius can once again know peace. The story here is quite meager, but for a side-scrolling shooter, you really do not need a giant story with a grand scale, and the story here is serviceable. One interesting aspect is many of the games feature multiple endings based on the levels played.

May Your Paths Always Branch

The Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade consists of seven games, but upon closer inspection, you will notice it is only four games with different variations. If you wanted to be a stickler, it can be boiled down to three different games. In the collection are Darius I and its two revisions, Darius II, Sagaia and its revision, and lastly Darius Gaiden. Sagaia is a reworked version of Darius II, which is why I believe there are only three unique titles. Regardless, for fans of spaceship shooters, this is still a large amount of content.

What separates Darius from its brethren is not only its crazy aquatic enemy designs, but its branching paths featured in its games. This allowed players the chance to experience different enemy placements, level designs and bosses on subsequent playthroughs. Darius I, II and Gaiden feature 28 different paths while Sagaia features 16 paths. In Darius I, most of the bosses are the same, except for different color variations, until you reach the final zone. Darius II adds a bit more variety with the boss designs during the initial levels, with less variance in the final zone. Gaiden adds the most as many of the stages feature unique bosses with less repeats overall.

With this being a spaceship shooter, it plays as you would expect, with some small differences. Your ship starts off with the ability to shoot small missiles horizontally and bombs diagonally. With upgrades, it can go to multi-shot guns, lasers, and waves. The bombs can also be upgraded to be shot both up and down, as well as behind your ship. In Darius I, it was intended to be shown across three different monitors, which would be a rather large play area. Darius II and Sagaia went to dual screens while Gaiden was only on one screen. I prefer Gaiden’s single screen design as it allows for all the action to be bigger, clearer, and more hectic.

Bullets Everywhere

The first version of Darius is by far the hardest game in the collection. When your ship is destroyed, you must continue from a checkpoint and regardless of how many credits you have, once your lives run out, you must start from the beginning of the game. This can be quite frustrating, especially to more casual fans of shooters. To make the original Darius more of a struggle, when your ship is upgraded, the bosses has more hit points. Even though you can be taken out in a single hit, if you do not have any shields, the bosses may need to be hit for over 700 points of health. I am not a masochist by any means, and if it were not for the inclusion of save states, I would never have completed this version.

The other two versions of Darius feature downgrades to the bosses, with the “Extra Version” being the most playable. While it was fun to see the game as a point in history, I found myself dreading playing all the versions, especially after the original version of the game brought out so much rage. Continuing onward to Darius II, I found myself enjoying it much more. It features the ability to continue right where the action left off when you die, meaning, as long as you kept the quarters coming, you could finish the game. Sagaia, while being a future installment of Darius II, felt like a downgrade as many of its branching paths were done away with altogether. The difficulty also had a giant spike for the main levels, whereas the bosses felt neutered. Even if I had just the most basic weapons, the bosses could all be felled in a matter of seconds.

Lastly, we have the masterpiece that is Darius Gaiden. Where the other titles featured multiple screens, this game’s action took place all on one. The sprites felt bigger and more detailed, and the action was very close to the player. More bullets, more enemies and it felt so much larger than the predecessors. I personally believe this title is worth the price of admission, but I may be biased since it is the newest and most modern of the titles, having been released in 1994.

The Ever-Changing Silver Hawk

The artstyle of Darius starts with a very basic, but still very stylized design for the first title. The player’s ship and the basic enemies are not much to write home about, but the boss designs are extremely detailed. While I was frustrated with the gameplay of the first game, I was always eager to see what new ship awaited to crush me at the end of each level. The graphics took a major jump in Darius II and Sagaia. Everything was pushed to the Nth degree. Even the old bosses from the first game returned as mini bosses with more detail and new animations. By the time we get to Darius Gaiden, the designs excelled further. All the enemies are given greater detail and the bosses still find a way to shine greater.

The soundtracks for the first two Darius games feel like they were pulled straight from the Mega Drive. They are fast paced, bass fueled and felt perfect for the games. I was not sure how they would continue to get better. Many games when switching from 8 and 16 bit move away from their chip tune background and lose some of what makes them special. I was treated to some truly fantastic tunes that showed a true growth in style in Darius Gaiden. Many of the tunes feel reminiscent of Michiru Yamanae’s Castlevania work with symphonic elements.

Keeping It Shipshape

In my time with the Darius Arcade Collection, I can say there were no bugs or glitches that I encountered. All seven titles played as they should, with no noticeable issues. I did prefer to play the earlier titles in docked mode as it allowed me to enjoy the multi-screen titles closer to what they were originally intended, as it can be a bit of a hassle to play them in handheld mode.

Final Thoughts

Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a mixed bag, even if it is a large, overstuffed bag. All the games are playable and to an extent, enjoyable, but the three versions of Darius I are very archaic and if you are not a super fan, may feature a difficulty that can be unsurmountable. The other four titles feature more enjoyable gameplay, with varying amounts of fun. Gaiden is the shining beacon among the list and while I would suggest everyone play this title as it truly is a diamond in the rough, the overall package may not be worth the price.

Pros

  • Darius Gaiden
  • Seven games
  • Diverse OST

Cons

  • Darius I
  • Uneven difficulty in early games
  • Many titles are just revisions

Verdict

Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade packs a ton of content for shooting fans, even if not all the games hold up as well as others.

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