Today is a great day to be a retro shmup fan; with countless indie developers tackling the genre, it's awesome to see a classic series make a triumphant return. Get ready to dodge and shoot because this is a prime example of pure challenging old-school shooting.
The Darius series has been around for almost thirty years yet we haven't seen many titles come to the west. In fact, the latest console installment we got was 1997's G-Darius on the original PlayStation. So, what's special about Darius? Although it doesn't have the status of Gradius or R-Type, its solid gameplay and unique sea-creature themed enemy forces have a special place in many shmup enthusiasts' hearts. This installment boasts phenomenally fine-tuned gameplay that'll keep your eyes glued to the action and your thumbs sweating profusely for every second you play. You control your ship quite simply by holding a button to shoot, unleashing the occasional "Burst" attack, and tapping a button to reverse your direction. When you take into account all of the additional special moves that you can pull off (given some practice) and challenging bosses that you'll face, you're left with nothing but arcade perfection. It's simple, intense, challenging, and above all else; fun.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours includes many modes and challenges that'll keep you busy for weeks. First off, you can select either the arcade mode or "CS" mode which is exclusive to this version. Arcade mode is divided into a few additional modes that include the original 12 stage campaign with branching paths, a more challenging campaign with a similar setup, and "Chronicle Mode" that consists of loads of challenges to complete with different sets of rules. All of these modes can be played with four simultaneous players but considering the aspect ratio is as unthinkably wide as it is, you need an enormous television to make the most of it. If you and your pals can see the screen fine then you'll be amazed at how well multiplayer is handled. The ability to cross Burst attack streams to create a more powerful stream and use less energy is exhilarating. It's the exact opposite of the proton beams in Ghostbusters, but I digress. This is similar to countering an enemy's Burst attack yet synchronizing with a buddy is much more satisfying.
Thankfully, CS mode has a more traditional aspect ratio although there are still small black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Here, you conquer various strings of stages one after the other in order to uncover the entire map. It's similar to Chronicle Mode yet with more of a story and sense of progression. Acquiring new ships as you explore branching paths makes for quite a rewarding adventure. It's unfortunate that you're forced to play by yourself in this mode. I can imagine how much more enjoyable it would have been with friends. That being said, there's enough content that you'll find yourself regularly coming back for more.
As you play, you gather power-ups that increase your base firepower, add more missiles, and strengthen your defenses. Not only do these help with increasing your score multiplier, you'll also need quite an arsenal to have a chance against the enormous bosses. Speaking of which, be prepared to partake in some of the toughest boss fights ever crafted. Some of them go on for minutes and considering there are so many with their own unique traits, you'll delight in discovering new tactics as you familiarize yourself with each of their idiosyncrasies. One boss had its underlings arrange themselves in a formation similar to Space Invaders (also originally developed by Taito). On top of all this, there's a rather impressive array of ships to choose from with distinct characteristics of their own that are worth taking the time to experiment with. Just when you think you've seen it all, Dariusburst introduces you to something new and exciting.
After all is said and done, you have to be a dedicated shmup fan to get anything out of Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours. There aren't many options that cater to casual gamers which is sure to turn away anyone but retro arcade enthusiasts. Even the ability to have infinite lives doesn't add up to much when your ship keeps exploding faster than you can insert quarters. I know, this isn't that significant of a complaint but it does limit its appeal down to a tight niche. However, that niche is in for one heck of a time.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is a fantastic return of a long-lost series. Although newcomers will be left in the dust, anyone with a passion for 2D shooting will fall in love with the genre all over again upon laying their thumbs on this beauty.
- + Challenging retro shoot 'em up gameplay that's fine-tuned to perfection
- + Great replay value with loads of ways to play
- + Up to four local players can shoot together
- - You need a very big television in order to play arcade mode effectively
- - Only caters to hardcore shmup fans with little appeal for newcomers