Amid intense competition to capitalize on the incredible demand in the arcades in the 80s, developers had to boil video games down to their purest form, creating addictive and fast-paced gameplay loops with seemingly achievable goals kept out of reach with tough difficulty levels.
It’s for this very reason that games like 1986-made Darius have changed very little since – formula-wise they simply don’t have to, as they are already perfect pickup-and-play titles.
This hardly does wonders for its sales though, and because releasing the same title on every console for the last 30+ years is Nintendo’s job, after one remix and two re-releases following the original PSP version, Dariusburst, itself the 7th installment of the Darius series, you might wish they made some larger changes, even if EX+ does have some bite to back up its bark.
Avoiding obstacles, picking up power-ups and shooting everything in sight is obviously the name of the game here, but there are certain characteristics that have followed the recent Darius entries that differentiate from others in the genre.
Firstly, large mecha sea creature bosses feature at the end of each stage (of each Original mode) which branch out to a total of three different stages offering to end humanity’s subjugation, and secondly, the atmosphere is one of an oppressive space opera with drab visuals and ethereal tracks teasing foreboding events, giving the game quite a distinctive feel.
So consistent is the difficulty and atmosphere across the stages though that it’s actually quite hard to tell whether you are in the first or last stage of the playthrough. Unfortunately, this is also true across each of the game’s four modes. Original and Original EX is effectively the same mode split in two covering 6 different difficulty levels, while Chronicle and Event modes, the latter of which contains arcade-only released missions, are basically just individual missions.
So while EX+ does not lack content, nor does it suffer from any debilitating bugs or issues, it does suffer from leaving any lasting impression. I prefer my shoot em’ ups vertical-scrolling, with big colorful explosions and exaggerated sound effects, much like AngerForce: Reloaded, but EX+ is understated and underwhelming in comparison.
Different to other Darius games is the inclusion of the Burst weapon, which allows your laser weapon to be rotated (in some cases) and moved to engulf enemy fire and protect yourself during your battles.
Elsewhere, the game’s chosen resolution keeps large black bars above and below the action (originally used for stretching the video over 2 or 3 screens in the arcade) and does the game no favors as it’s unable to show any real detail and the backgrounds are almost always dark and soulless.
The audio, as mentioned previously, gives it a feeling of scale and suffering, but it doesn’t build drama the way that I hoped it might. Funnily enough, Nier Automata, which has clearly been heavily influenced by games like Dariusburst, has its own side-scrolling and vertical-scrolling shoot ’em up sections, but the game’s dark story justifies its surreal soundtrack and creates an incredible oppressive energy that imbues the entire experience. Perhaps comparing it to an Open World game is unfair, but Ex+, with its shrunken screen and miniature-sized, well.. everything, fails to match the tone of the soundtrack until the bosses arrive.
As I simultaneously dodge and carve a path to progress through the carpet of enemies, I found myself wondering when the addictive quality of those 80s games would appear – something that would have me itching for one more retry – but it never materialized. Infinite lives, another of the game’s features, is likely to blame for this as it removes any tension from your playthroughs. Never once did I feel worried about returning to the beginning of the stage following a mistake.
My experience would certainly give me pause for thought on whether to buy this title, but muddying the waters further for newcomers is the sheer number of Darius alternatives on offer with Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours (an enhanced port of Dariusburst Another Chronicle) containing a mode with 186 Stages and a large amount of DLC from other shooter franchise series’, Darius Cozmic Collection Console Edition with 8 past console releases, Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade Edition – 6 past arcade games and Darius Cozmic Revelation (though currently only on sale in JP), includes both G-Darius HD and Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+.
Putting aside this title’s lack of ingenuity and the superior alternatives for a second, and you have yourself an action-packed content-filled game that fans of side-scrolling shoot em’ ups are bound to enjoy, it’s just hard to recommend given the fact that it’s seemingly here to just make up the numbers.