With recent rereleases offering nearly the entire series on PlayStation consoles, it’s quite clear that the Darius franchise is as eager as ever to show that it belongs as a mainstay in the industry, providing the same fast-paced horizontal shmup experience to newer audiences.
On the menu today is G-Darius HD, which is a remaster of the original 1997 arcade release, G-Darius, which was first ported to PS1 and then included in compilation releases for both the PS2 and PS4. Sprucing up the original with smoother 3D models and resolution grants it a new ‘mode’, alongside the original, but the content otherwise remains the same.
Despite the fact that it’s 20+ years old, G-Darius still holds up great. It has everything you’d want from a shmup – it’s tough, it looks and sounds great and it utilizes a fun weapon gameplay mechanic. It therefore completely justifies its reputation as being one of the best the series has to offer, together with Darius Gaiden, and if you haven’t had the chance to play either of those, and are a fan of shmup games – you should, but probably not with this release.
Making G-Darius stand out from the large list of entries in the series is that it was the first to bring 3D graphics to the party, juxtaposing 3D models to the 2D scrolling action to give it a 2.5D look and making the enemies, and especially the bosses, even more distinctive. The best of these new additions is the ability to fire a gun that can capture an enemy and have it fight alongside you. You can then either choose to sacrifice your new buddy as a bomb or to convert it into a super beam gun, which will very satisfyingly wipe out all in its path or have Dragon Ball Z-like energy wave battles with some tremendously large bosses at the end of each section.
The ease in which these features can be used, in comparison to the relatively convoluted Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX weapons and stretched screen, make this Darius the most enjoyable to play of the most recent two releases and easiest to master.
It doesn’t take long to realize that these titles revolve around the boss battles at the end of each stage, and they deserve a lap of honour here. They are very well-designed in both their visuals and attacks and their difficulty is such that you have to focus on defeating specific enemies that drop weapon and shield upgrades throughout the level before you reach them in order to stand a chance. Intertwining lasers, pistols, missiles – and my personal favourite – a pinball game of hell are all implements of pain that try and blast you out of the sky.
They’ll succeed an awful lot of the time as well, even on normal difficulty, but with another inclusion that allows you to have unlimited lives – and save at any point with the ‘R2’ button – it’s possible to make it from start to finish without much frustration while giving you the chance to practice if you so desire.
With 15 stages in a branch structure and the prior-mentioned difficulty, there is plenty of replay value for those who are crazy enough to want to master it, but you might be disappointed if you are expecting a similar level of content seen in recent series releases. Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX was ironically criticized (*cough* including by me here) for its frugal list of features despite having 9 different playable ships, 4 modes and plenty of missions, but this title is essentially one mode with different visuals.
While there aren’t any big issues with the port, unfortunately both the HD and the original – though it seems more prominent in the HD version – experience slowdown when the screen gets busy with bullets or when the background shifts significantly. I have no doubt that porting a video game is no easy task, but considering the hardware they are running on, I can’t help but question the quality of the port.
Also, the differences in visuals between the HD and original version, while obvious, are not so pronounced that it justifies a new mode – personally, I actually prefer the original’s over the HD version as the 3D features seem to contrast a bit too much for my liking, even though the HD models are far cleaner and crisper.
Judged on its own merits, G-Darius HD is one of the franchise’s best, made better, but it falls short of being perfect only for its slight technical hitches and a lack of features. It’s also not the greatest bang for your buck, unless G-Darius is the only version you wish to play, as there are 3 other packages with better value currently/soon-to-be available on the PS4- Darius Cozmic Collection Console (which includes console releases of Darius 2, SAGAIA, Darius Twin, Darius Force, Super Nova, Darius Alpha and Darius Plus), Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade (which includes arcade versions of Darius, Darius 2, SAGAIA and Darius Gaiden) and if you can wait until the end of the year, Darius Cozmic Revelation, which includes both G-Darius HD and Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+.