While never as popular as Gradius and R-Type, Taito's Darius series still managed to leave an impression on fans of side-scrolling shoot-em-ups. Originally launched as an arcade game in the mid-1980s, it didn't take long for this seafood-themed shooter to find its way to Genesis, Super NES, Saturn, PlayStation and even Game Boy Advance. Now thirty years after it first invaded arcades, Degica is hoping to resurrect the long-dormant franchise with Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours on PlayStation 4, PS Vita and Steam.
In a sea of 2D shoot-em-ups, Darius has one of my favorite gimmicks. You play a standard fighter jet going head-to-head with an alien army that has modeled their spaceships on animals found in and around the ocean. You'll fight through schools of fish, take down massive turtles and blow up every seahorse that gets in your way. Not even Red Lobster is responsible for this much seafood carnage.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is a compilation of sorts, packaging together two very different ways to experience this classic shoot-em-up. One side of the package is a port of Dariusburts EX: Another Chronicle, a four-player arcade game designed for dual widescreen monitors. On the other hand, the Chronicle Saviours mode offers bite-sized challenges for a more console-friendly experience. The two iterations perfectly complement each other, making for what should have been an easy recommendation. Unfortunately, the game's steep price point will scare off all but the most loyal fans.
At $60, Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is the most expensive 2D shoot-em-up I've seen in a generation or two. This is a genre that has largely been demoted to small and inexpensive downloads, with most shoot-em-ups listing for no more than $10 or $15. But Dariusburst has taken a different approach, one that pits it head-to-head with Just Cause 3, Fallout 4 and Halo 5. A full-priced shooter in 2015 is a tough sell, especially for a franchise whose best days were in the early 1990s.
The price you pay will depend entirely on the version you want. PS Vita owners get a stripped down port with no multiplayer component for $40, PC gamers will pay $50 and you can find the game for a whopping $60 on the PlayStation 4's digital store. Worst of all, Dariusburst isn't cross-buy between Sony consoles. Players can swap saves between PS4 and PS Vita, but I can't imagine anybody spending $100 to play both.
If you can get beyond the sticker shock, you'll discover an endlessly exciting shoot-em-up with a staggering amount of content and a truly innovative structure. The Chronicles mode alone offers more than 3,000 unlockable stages scattered across 64 different arcade cabinets. The goal is to select a star system and help liberate each zone by completing its challenge. These missions come in all sizes and difficulties, often adding challenging requirements to make the fight that much more satisfying. It's a clever idea that gives players an excuse to keep jumping back into the action.
The same can be said about the lengthy story mode, which sees players fight through a board game-style campaign full of unique missions to complete. Here you'll earn points to buy new ships and upgrade weapons in order to take on more than 200 stages of man vs. fish combat. Some missions will be all about the boss rush action, while others simply want you to survive wave after wave of attackers. Most missions boil down to a handful of action stages and a couple boss fights, all to be completed with only a couple of lives.
At least the single-player campaign does a better job of explaining the game's mythology than the Darius Odyssey mode. This is a digital art book featuring nearly 200 pages of detail and design. While this sounds like the ultimate fan service, it comes with one major catch -- it's all in Japanese. As somebody who can't read the language, I found huge chunks of this book to be completely useless. But even if I could read Japanese, I still wouldn't be able to see the teeny tiny text. Without a zoom button, the Darius Odyssey is all but useless.
As a 2D shoot-em-up, Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is one of the year's best. It looks great, offers a staggering amount content and has a fishy gimmick I can't help but love. But even with thousands of stages and a lengthy story mode, I'm finding it hard to endorse the $60 asking price. This is not for the casual fan who just wants to shoot fish out of the sky, but rather the hardcore gamer who is willing to put dozens of hours into liberating the Darius galaxy. And I have a hunch even those hardcore gamers may wish Dariusburst had more bang for the buck.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!