(Switch/PS4) ★★★★★ Age: 7+
So many questions leap to mind here. What is Darius? Are there really 16 versions of the same game? How much Darius is enough? What has Darius creator Taito got against fish?
The first two questions are easy to answer, the latter two not so much but let’s give it a go.
To describe 2D shoot-em-up Darius as a cult classic would be overstating its fame maybe but it emerged in the same year as 1987’s similar R-Type, which colonised arcades around the world. Darius doesn’t seem to have made as much impact outside Japan and yet here we are 33 years later with not one but two compilations of its finest moments.
One focuses on the arcade coin-ops (seven versions, including sequels, remixes and subtly different regional editions), the other on the console conversions (nine versions including duplicates for different consoles and one difficult-to-find boss-run edition that fetches thousands of euro online in its boxed version).
The two collections are sold separately and buying both would set you back €90. So to answer my own question, yes, you probably can have too much Darius. Perhaps a superfan would crave every last pixel but most shmup aficionados can get by with the Arcade compendium.
Thanks to dazzling conversions by retro specialists M2, each of the 16 variants looks and sounds terrific, thanks to crisp 2D visuals and some unearthly soundtracks. There are significant differences between some of them too. The original Darius was, apparently, known in the arcade for its deluxe three-screen set-up. That’s recreated here – meaning it doesn’t work well on the Switch’s small display but is fine on a TV.
Other versions favour a less widescreen treatment and one – Darius Gaiden – is a no less than a psychedelic trip.
Oh, and the fish? Who knows, but you spend a hell of a lot of time pumping bullets into some amazing creature designs that suggest the Taito people were not pescatarians.