Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PS Vita, PC
Nostalgia can go a long way in today's gaming market, especially considering how many of us clamor about how great Shovel Knight is, with its Mega Man-ish style quality visuals and sound combined with innovative gameplay ideas. So it shouldn't be any surprise then that Degica decided to take a chance on releasing a well-received “shoot ‘em up” or "shmup" on the U.S. market with Dariusburst Chronicles Saviors, the latest chapter in Taito's much-beloved Darius series.
The principle is still about the same – you're flying through space battling enemies that resemble fish and other aquatic life, in robotic form – but the way that the package is presented is rather impressive, providing far more content than you'd come to expect from a "shmup" such as this. The only major downside is the price that this content comes with, as it's sure to burn a hole in the wallets of many die-hard players. But, hey, for some, it might just be worth it.
Plenty of Chronicles to uncover
Unlike most "shmups," Dariusburst has a satisfying amount of content to dig into, which will keep you busy for a few hours. First up is the traditional arcade mode, where you blaze through waves of enemies as you transfer into zones, eventually getting to the "end game" and starting over again, just to see what you missed.
This mode is best for arcade purists, as it's presented in a "widescreen" format similar to that of the original coin-op release. This may leave a diminishing effect for those with a smaller TV screen, but it's really great to see everything that's happening, especially with larger bosses that take up more than half the space. For good measure, it also supports up to four players in local co-op, presenting a unique take on teamwork for a "shmup" such as this. I highly recommend giving it a try, even if your buddies aren't exactly enthusiasts of the genre. Online would've been nice to consider, but that would just be overcomplicating the game.
The other mode is more of a challenge-based mode, in which you take on individual missions with certain limitations and rules, while moving around a large, galaxy-based map. These provide an additional level of difficulty for tried-and-true "shmup" fans, but they're hardly impossible. They provide a wealth of extra content you normally don't see in a game such as this – and that's something fans will be grateful for.
Finally, there's the Darius Odyssey, which is a large digital art book that chronicles the history of the series, robotic fish and all. Though some will prefer to just jump into the shooting action, this is a wonderful addition for fans of the series, or those who want to learn more about Taito's devotion to it. I'm certainly pleased that it was included.
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
The gameplay in Dariusburst Chronicles Saviors doesn't exactly rely on rocket science. You shoot all the crazy robotic fish you can while picking up power-ups that increase your bombs, bullets and shielding. That's really about it – other than avoiding gunfire and staying alive, of course.
Unlike traditional Darius games, however, you can turn your ship around and fire behind you if you need to, as well as take advantage of temporary "burst" weaponry that can provide a much-needed boost of power. These really add on to the gameplay, especially when you're up against tough-as-nails bosses that don't go down so easily.
That's really all that needs to be said about the gameplay, but it's fulfilling enough that fans will keep coming back.
A classic Taito presentation, for a price
As far as presentation goes, Dariusburst Chronicles Saviors is easily one of the best-looking "shmups" on the market. Even in its widescreen format, the game satisfies with luscious background design, sweet lighting effects and inventive character design – even if they are all just robotic sea creatures. The game maintains its quality throughout, even with the franticness of local multiplayer. It just looks great.
Likewise, you know this is a classic Taito product with the soundtrack, as it's once again handled by the team at Zuntana. This is a group that has made magic with a number of titles over the years, like Ninja Warriors and Elevator Action Returns, and it does so again here, with a bizarre yet likable collection of songs featuring everything from singing to techno beats. There's even a song devoted to sushi, which you just don't get in games often enough. The sound effects are great, too, particularly with the fish that can't help but roar in failure when you finally bring them down.
However, it's time to bring up the 800 pound elephant in the room – the price. Dariusburst Chronicles Saviors goes for a whopping $59.99 on PlayStation 4, and $39.99 on PlayStation Vita – with no cross-buy option. It seems obvious that Degica may be trying to make money back on licensing the game to begin with, but $19.99 would've easily sold a lot more units, even without cross-buy.
Some will see the price as worth it, however, especially considering all the options provided for a game in the "shmup" category. It just would've been nice for a lower price point to be considered, especially to those curious over what Darius is all about. Maybe it'll go down in time.