I’m finally starting to think iOS might become the place for low-end Japanese imports that have no chance getting released anywhere else in English, since it let me finally play the latest installment of my shump of choice. I never really got the chance to bother with Gradius or R-Type like everybody else. Nah man, my favorite game in that category has always been the somewhat lesser-known Darius.
Gradius and R-Type might be great shooters, and I admit I’m still trying to learn Treasure’s games. The genre must be pretty healthy too with all those recent bullet-hell affairs like Touhou and Dodonpachi. I think I’ll always be partial however to the game where you shoot lasers simultaneously in five directions, choose from like a dozen alternate paths and endings, and kill giant mechanical space crustaceans.
For a little over two years I sat there pissed off that the latest installment, Darius Burst for the PSP, was probably never going to get released outside of Japan. Maybe that was the point where I should have finally installed custom firmware and downloaded the game. I didn’t feel any better when they released the arcade version over there. After all this time I don’t feel like an iOS version is settling for less either. iOS is actually pretty well-suited to shmups.
I’d already played a couple, and just using your thumb to drag the ship is strangely intuitive, and there’s really minimal input involved despite shmups being a genre of maximum intensity. Darius Burst Second Prologue goes one further by just making your ship fire automatically because seriously, who didn’t always have their finger on the fire button in these games? Taito even made an effort to reorganize the game for iOS somewhat.
The underlying game itself is a pleasant advancement over what I’d been playing in the past. The basic stuff like upgrading guns and shields is still there along with the old enemy formations. The crux of this edition though is the “burst” system – the ability to fire a near screen-filling laser for short periods of time. Each ship handles this laser differently, so the system actually takes some effort to master. On top of that, Burst has picked up some of the intensity of more recent shmups, but doesn’t feel like full-blown bullet-hell.
I think the best thing about Burst though is its soundtrack. Darius has always been known for its music, but each level of Burst manages to have a legitimately catchy tune. I’m still trying to track down a download for the soundtrack that has the iOS exclusive song for the first level.
When downloadable games first started becoming a thing, I always lamented at how not very many Japanese games were in this space. It always seemed like the perfect avenue for the smaller Japanese properties that no longer have any chance at retail outside Japan. It seems like they’re finally starting to realize this with iOS.
- As of this typing, the Dungeons & Dragons Anthology is still on sale at GamersGate for roughly $7. It’s both Baldur’s Gate games, both Icewind Dale games, Planetscape: Torment, and The Temple of Elemental Evil, plus all expansions, with no DRM.