Game: Darius Cozmic Collection (Arcade and Console)
Genre: Shmup, Arcade, Action
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PS4)
Developer|Publisher: M2 | ININ Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Arcade Collection UK £34.99 | EU 39.99 | AU $59.99 | CA $58.79 | US $44.99
Console Collection UK £44.99 | EU 54.99 | AU $79.99 | CA $78.74 | US $59.99
Release Date: 16th June 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to ININ Games.
Legends of Taito
Developer Taito is responsible for some of my favourite arcade games of all time. Classics such as Rainbow Islands, Bust-a-Move, and Space Invaders are still in regular rotation whenever I need a quick play session of an arcade classic.
A series that doesn’t get talked about as much but receives a lot of praise is the Darius series. Probably best described as that shmup (space shooter) with big fish-like enemy ships in it. I came to the Darius series quite late with Darius Gaiden on the Taito Legends Collection Vol 2 for PS2 and Xbox. But sadly I had yet to experience the series in all its arcade glory as well as on multiple console ports.
However, to my delight, here we have the Darius Collection to catch me up on what I missed out on. There are two collections, the Arcade collection and the Console collection, which can be purchased separately—either digitally, or as a package if you go for a physical version. Originally I wrote separate reviews for each, but since they sounded so similar I decided to combine them both as there is a lot of overlap. However I will point out differences where necessary, so let’s jump into some fishy shooter fun.
Warning, Boss Approaching
The formula for a Darius game is quite simple. The game is a 2D side-scrolling space shooter. You shoot a variety of enemy ships while collecting power-ups for your weapons and shields, all while avoiding the hail of bullets coming your way.
The most memorable thing about the series is the infamous “WARNING” sign that flashes onscreen to signify a boss ship is on the way to wreck your day. These boss fights are often huge fish-inspired spaceships and are by far the most memorable part of the series. These games are hard and demand the player to learn the patterns of enemies and bosses over several plays to become a Darius master. If you’re a fan of shmups, you’ll love these games.
Another unique feature of the series is that upon finishing a level you can choose between two paths to progress onward. This happens at the end of most levels, making the game replayable and every playthrough incredibly unique. As a nice added feature on the pause menu, the game lets you preview the boss characters on future stages but you can switch this off if you want to go in blind.
Many of the Darius games are two-player, so a friend can jump in to give you some assistance with the challenges afoot.
Both collections are developed by M2. This developer is a master magician when it comes to porting retro games to modern systems. M2 is responsible for several ports such as all those cool 3D Sega games on the 3DS, various Sega collections on Xbox 360 and PS3, and the recent Konami collections on modern systems. They developed the recently released Mega Drive Mini. The reason I like to point out these accolades is that M2 has never put a foot wrong when it comes to reviving retro classics. Their emulation is top notch, and their attention to detail with options to tweak is just incredible. I’m happy to report that all this talent has been put to excellent use in the Darius Collections.
On the main menu, every game has a short blurb describing its history, something gaming history buffs will love. The Arcade Collection features 4 arcade titles whilst the Console Collection features 6 games.
Each collection also features multiple versions of chosen games. For example, on the Arcade Collection there are three versions of the original Darius—the original release and two revisited versions. Think of it like showcasing all the versions of Street Fighter II. The Console Collection often showcases both the Japanese release and Western release of the games. This is clearly something for gaming enthusiasts like myself who like to see the small changes, but it’s this sort of effort that makes me pleased that M2 does what they do best. They don’t slap ROMs on a collection and call it a day. They polish, add extras, and totally justify the collection’s existence.
Retro to the pixel
The graphics perfectly emulate the systems they were based off. The games mimic the atmosphere and sound of beloved systems from the past.
As a huge fan of the Master System, I’m very happy to see the port of Sagaia (basically Darius 2 in the West) in this collection, easily one of the most colourful Master games you’ll lay your eyes on. The music for each game is also a treat for the ears, arcade versions understandably being the strongest. But retro gamers will love how the collection captures the feel of the systems the way you remember.
But even if you’re new, there’s a lot to like here. The controls are solid for all games in the collection, and I didn’t encounter any issues with performance either in TV or handheld mode. You also get the usual modern tidbits like quick save if you need it. You can customize the controls to your liking in each game. There’s also a cool replay function which will save your playthrough and allow you to watch it back later.
Things get interesting when it comes to display options. For the Arcade games, many of the Darius games were released on cabinets which had dual screens. How this is handled on the collection is that the game is shrunk down to accommodate a pixel perfect design. This looks absolutely fine on a TV but is a notable issue in handheld mode. The image is just too small. Fortunately M2 took this into account and included a “fit to screen” option which sort of squishes pixels together, making the ship more spherical than long. But the pay-off is that you can enjoy the Arcade games in handheld mode and it works! Since the Console games worked on a single screen, these look fine on both TV and handheld. But if you go for the Arcade collection I would probably recommend playing it on a TV for the best experience.
This bring us to both collections’ biggest issue. Darius as a series must be programmed with some kind of rare metal because they always seem to command a very high price for entry. I noted this back in the day when I reviewed Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours for the Vita. This issue will be the main reason people will avoid a purchase, especially with current circumstances in the world.
The other notable issue is that these collections are not complete collections of the Darius series. This is nothing new with retro collections in general, but the oddest omission is that of the first Darius game on the Console Collection. The reason it’s a bit fishy is that this game was released on the Mega Drive Mini which was also developed by M2 and yet is strangely missing from this collection. There are also a variety of other titles and ports missing that enthusiasts of the series may be disappointed not to have.
Catch of the day
Both the Arcade Collection and Console Collection are brilliant. M2 has once again outdone themselves and proved they’re the best at retro gaming on modern systems. It’s a shame the price is so darn high though, especially since I really couldn’t see owning only one of these collections. If you do take the plunge you have a brilliant collection of one of the best schmup series from ye old days.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up