When it comes to quality shoot 'em ups, Darius is where it's at and G-Darius is a prime example of what the series has to offer.
When I really started getting into shoot 'em ups back in the '90s, I remember playing a PlayStation demo disc that had G-Darius on it and it completely knocked my socks off. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anywhere that sold the full game in my town but years later, I was delighted to finally have the arcade version after picking up the awesome Taito Legends 2. I specifically remember how incredible it was that this modern 3D-renderred shmup was merely a part of an inexpensive compilation along with 38 other games; those were the days... but I digress. Now that we have G-Darius HD, a whole new gaggle of gamers can appreciate its greatness.
What makes G-Darius so special? Well, the first thing that you'll notice is that its graphics are 3D even though the classic 2D gameplay remains intact. This was quite commonplace for the era and I remember thoroughly enjoying similar games such as Einhänder, Silpheed, and R-Type Delta. I still think that low-poly graphical style kicks ass and I loved revisiting it in G-Darius HD.
However, its gameplay is where G-Darius really shines. Series veterans will recognize the familiar power-up system which is fantastic on its own as you expand your arsenal to incorporate more powerful weapons and put up temporary shields but there's much more to it than that. The most notable addition is the capture system which allows you to fire an energy ball at an enemy in order to use them as a part of your firepower. On top of that, you can charge-up and release a powerful beam attack whenever an enemy is in your possession.
Thankfully, the campaign features classic branching paths after completing each stage so every playthrough will be different to the last. There are also mini-bosses that are fun to take on because you destroy their armour so you can capture them and hopefully hang on to them for the inevitably epic boss fight at the end of the level. Speaking of which, these bosses are so cool that it's absurd with their many destructible parts, clever attacks, and nifty transformations. Some of them even take longer to complete than the stage itself.
The main downside to G-Darius HD is that it isn't a huge step up from the original game. Yes, the visuals are a bit cleaner and your Silver Hawk ship is more detailed. There are also some cool options and features such as quick save, customizable controls, graphical settings, and extra HUD gadgets. Additionally, there are online leaderboards, a handy museum of captured enemy types, and an informative manual but I wish there was a sound test mode because the soundtrack is excellent. My only other complaint is that, just like in the original, some projectiles blend in with the backgrounds a bit too well which makes taking damage from them quite frustrating.
G-Darius is a top-of-the-line shoot 'em up and this HD iteration is a fairly nifty updated version of the classic albeit with minimal additions. That being said, when a game is this good, bells and whistles don't really add up to much.
- + Phenomenal shmup gameplay with some downright awesome mechanics
- + Flashy 3D visuals and great music
- + Welcome options and extras
- - Not a massive step up from the original
- - Some projectiles are hard to spot