I've been a huge Darius fan since I was a kid so I'm happy to see that the series is returning with a couple of cool compilations. First up, we have this nifty collection of the original 3 arcade games. Let's take to the skies and check it out!
At first glance, it appears as if Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a compilation of 7 arcade games from the franchise but it's essentially only 3 with the first couple of games featuring a few versions each. First up, we have the original Darius from 1987. For its time, it's an incredible shoot 'em up and its most striking feature is that its visuals expand 3 arcade screens. As a result, it looks quite tiny on a 16:9 television but at least it's authentic. When it comes to gameplay, it features an exceptionally rewarding power-up system that allows you to strengthen your missile and bomb attacks as well as shields. Considering the stages are so wide, it's an impressively challenging game with plenty of intricate layouts that you have to navigate while weaving through enemies and their projectiles. In fact, it can feel downright unfair at times. Plus, you can't even rely on your memory since the levels and enemy patterns are quite unpredictable.
Although the first game is tough, it's a fantastic arcade experience and one incredible aspect about it as well as all of the featured games is that the stages are presented with branching paths at the end of each which increases the replay value substantially. I can't imagine how long it would take to master every single path in each game. Anyway, next we have Darius II (AKA Sagaia) from 1989 which only utilized 2 horizontal screens. It plays similarly to the first game although it's much faster-paced and features vastly improved graphics and sound as well as a cool new laser weapon. Finally, 1994's single-screen Darius Gaiden is a phenomenal shoot 'em up sequel that's bursting with action-packed gameplay throughout its varied campaign. Its gameplay is very simple as all you do is use 1 button to shoot and another for screen-clearing bombs which marks the first time they're used in the series. You can even capture mini-bosses!
I'm very happy with having all 3 original arcade Darius games in one comprehensive package. Plus, the fact that you can experience the first 2 games with a few different variations is a great addition. However, I can't help but be perplexed as to why G-Darius wasn't included. In my opinion, that's the best old-school Darius game so its absence is definitely disappointing. On the plus side, the 3 included games are each fantastic arcade shooters that are actually difficult to come by on console. As a matter of fact, the only one of these games that I own an authentic arcade home port of is Darius Gaiden which is on Taito Legends 2. If you have the PlayStation 2 release of Taito Legends 2, you can also play the arcade version of G-Darius so I recommend picking up a copy if you still own a PS2.
Last but certainly not least, let's discuss Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade's extras. The coolest addition is the fact that you can display all sorts of information onscreen outside of the play area. Being able to see bosses' HP meters, your shield's strength, the current song's title, your collected power-ups, and the zone map whenever you pause the action is simply amazing. You can also save, download, and watch replays which is a great inclusion although there is a missed opportunity with the lack of museum-style content.
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade includes 3 of the most underrated and incredible arcade shooters ever created. Although G-Darius is disappointingly absent, what you get is one super-fun collection that features some truly innovative HUD options.
- + Contains 3 awesome arcade shoot 'em ups with a few interesting variations
- + Clever display and HUD options
- + Oodles of replay value
- - Where the heck is G-Darius?!
- - First game can feel unfair at times
- - Lacks museum-style content