Late To The Party: G-Darius


I think the second post I ever wrote for this blog was about Darius. If you don’t know, Taito is in the midst of releasing the first major console game in the franchise in almost 20 years. Another significant thing about Dariusburst Chronicle Savoirs is it’s going to be $60 on PS4 and $50 on PC, which in this market is asking a bit much for a shoot em’ up.

When reading about this I remembered that a few years ago I’d found an original PlayStation copy of the 1998 G-Darius which was the last significant Darius game for a console, but I hadn’t played it much at all. So, I want ahead and rectified that for a few hours.

Darius is a bit important to me because as a person who doesn’t really mess with shmups, it’s the one franchise in the genre I care about. When I say I “care about” Darius, what I mean is I spent a great deal of time back in the day playing Darius Twin — a spin off for the Super NES. It was the only shmup I was familiar with and the next noticeable release (there were a lot of other obscure ones with name changes) of that brand was G-Darius, but I didn’t own a PlayStation at the time. In more recent times I’ve never been a fan of “bullet hell” and have never really figured out how to get into Gradius or R-Type. The next time I got even slightly serious about a shmup was when Dariusburst Second Prologue came out on iOS in 2012.

Shmups are the way they are today — relegated to $10 digital-only releases, because they never really evolved all that much from their arcade roots from what I’ve observed. Fighting games, racing games, and other side-scrolling action games found ways to grow the amount of content in each package to justify a $50 price tag. Shmups didn’t really move beyond shooting a bunch of sprites on a handful of different scrolling backgrounds. Media from games like the later Gradius or R-Type games tells me they tried by upping the audiovisual presentation and maybe adding some extra modes. That seems to be what G-Darius tried to do.

Playing it feels structurally a lot like playing Twin, it just looks a lot prettier and has a flashy CG intro. Sometimes you can see massive set-pieces like herds of animals or air battles going on in the background, all rendered in then-beautiful polygons.

At its heart though, G-Darius is still the arcade game from which it was ported. You dodge and shoot things on a scrolling screen, and there’s no saving your progress. You just repeat the game until you get good enough to make it to the end, aside from the franchise’s unique branching level system. In that however, G-Darius did develop the core gameplay systems compared to what I experienced in Twin, I just don’t know when all those things actually entered the series.

These are things like the large beam laser and especially the ball with which you capture enemies and make them temporarily fight alongside you. That one in particular makes perfect sense for Darius. If you haven’t played any of the games, powerups in Darius usually increase the number of bullets you fire as well as the number of directions they come from until you’re eventually firing simultaneously in six directions. Often you have to use this to dodge dangerous enemies like bosses while still laying on the damage at an odd angle. Capturing enemies in G-Darius basically just adds to your spread of fire. Stuff like that, as well as the increased difficulty, actually make G-Darius feel like a significant leap up from Twin, at least in terms of being an arcade game.

How Chronicle Saviors is supposed to feel like a full retail package in 2015 I don’t yet fully understand, but I’ve heard positive impressions. I’ve heard it referred to as “the R-Type Final” of this console generation — another sort of last hurrah for shmups in the big retail space, even though it’s essentially a PSP game that’s been upgraded several times. I know the different modes in Chronicle Saviors are supposed to offer a massive number of levels that could take possibly hundreds of hours to master, but the details of that don’t seem like they’ll come to light until regular consumers have thoroughly played the game.

And I couldn’t tell you what this might ever signal for the future of shmups. I feel like fighting games got lucky to recover the way they did over the past several years. Other than racing games, every other major classic arcade genre was supplanted by mobile games.


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