The 1990’s were a magical place for video game lovers. The 16-bit generation ushered in an era of seeming arcade perfect ports of some of the greatest games of all time. For a fan of Shooters, it meant that finally games like R-type, Gradius and Darius were finally able to be played in the comfort of your own home. All for the low, low price of around £50 a cart! Imagine that! No more trips to the arcade to throw your hard earned 20 pence pieces into arcade slots, you could play through the game’s 5 or 6 stages without every having to pay again to continue!
If you managed to get a copy of one of these gems for Christmas or a birthday, then it was certainly a good time to be alive.
Unfortunately, times changed. We experienced the rise of 3D Graphics, the arcades died and with them, the Shmup declined in popularity. Fans of the Vic Viper and the Silver Hawk were forced to pay ridiculous import charges for Japanese only releases, cry over articles detailing Japan’s still bustling arcade scene, all between hunting high and low for the few games that got a European localisation.
Then slowly but surely, the increased presence of digital distribution allowed the shooter to finally find a way to reach the West. A lot of these titles were priced to move, with games like Radiant Silver Gun & Ikaruga coming in hot at a bargain basement cost of around a tenner. Again, it was good time to be a gamer.
However, it is the issue of price that has skewed the view of the modern gamer and when Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours’ price was announced for the PS4, Vita and PC, the casual player of the Shmup cried fowl. I’m here to tell you that you can put down your torches and pitchfork, because if there’s one game in this current era of broken releases and lazy ports worth paying the entry price for, then it’s this one.
Some will already be familiar with the Darius series, Taito’s classic arcade game famed for it’s shooting of space fish and it’s behemoth arcade cabinets with dual monitors. Others will know the cries of Warning a huge battleship is approaching under the name of Sagaia, a title given to some titles here in The West. But regardless of what you’re used to calling it, know the Darius name’s promise of high octane shooting and giant bosses are the core of Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviour.
The Dariusburst series started life on the PSP, before migrating to the arcade in Dariusburst: Another Chronicle. While there have been subsequent arcade releases and even a mobile title called Dariusburst Second Prologue, Dariusburst: CS is the first of the games to receive a home console release. The burst mentioned in the title is a reference to one of the core gameplay mechanics, as the score-attack nature of a shooter encourages players to shoot as many enemies as possible. In doing so, the player builds a burst meter, which can be unleashed at any time to cause devastating damage to enemies.
What’s most surprising about this release is it’s actually two games in one, as for the cost of entry players will get to experience not only the exclusive CS mode, but also a version of the pre-mentioned Dariusburst: Another Chronicle, called AC mode.
CS Mode sees the player playing through a Darius campaign with branching paths of progression. In my time with the game, I experienced a surpassingly amount of variety here. While the various stages naturally re-use the impressively large selection of ships and backgrounds, developer Pyramid have gone to great lengths in order to ensure that CS Modes 200 levels don’t get incredibly repetitive. They achieve this in a number of interesting ways, from simple variants in your ships set up, to removing power ups and limiting clear times.
CS mode also will have you focusing on your score, as points mean prizes! After clearing a stage, players are awarded with points based on their score, that can be spent on various customisable ships from the Darius series. Each of these ships has a can be customised to the player’s choosing and can really give you the edge in some of the later levels.
Naturally, the game’s bosses are the series’ biggest draw. While classic enemies appear with a new lick of paint like King Fossil and Great Thing, the game is packed with new crustaceans to conquer and bigger fish to fry. These new entries not only tap into the classic shooter formula of pattern memorisation, but some even tap into the genre’s evolution and go a little bullet hell. Brightly Stare stands out as a particular highlight of my time with the game, and feels like one of the most unique boss fights I’ve had in a shooter since the SNES.
It’s also worth noting that there is also a Darius Odyssey mode, which lets you see a large variety of the games artwork, including the bosses with no unlocking required, however it’s unfortunately not translated from Japanese.
There is a story tying all of these levels together, but as it’s little more than a few lines text on screen, it didn’t immerse me at all. The game’s music however is another story, as it covers such a large variety of genres, it’s going to have something for everyone. From electronica, to J-pop to Akira-like chanting between levels, it’s really an eclectic mix of song choices, but it surprisingly works well with the game.
However, where the game’s true value shines through in it’s AC mode. On starting the game, the player is assigned to a cabinet. The more the player plays the cabinet, the more levels are unlocked for the rest of the community. This idea of working together is something that was originally in the arcade release, where arcades across Japan worked together to unlock the games mind boggling high, 3,000 unique levels. The game also features up to 4 player co-op play, which can be a little overwhelming at times when the screen is jam packed with enemies, but provides a truly exciting experience that I’d never had with a console Shmup before.
Unfortunately as attractive as an offering as this is, AC mode isn’t without it’s issues. For starters, the community driven nature of why a player is assigned to a cabinet isn’t really explained at all from the get go. The game also shows both of monitors from the arcade screen at once, making the home experience feel like it’s in widescreen. This especially feels like an issue while playing co-op, as it becomes very hard to see.
Also once in the cabinet, it seems the only way to get out is to close the game and reopen it, as any button press I could think of only led me to the top line of the cabinet’s menus and not the title screen. If this is the case, then it should be fixed as soon as possible, as while it isn’t a huge hassle, the potential to turn off players to cabinet mode is high. It also
All in all however, Dariusburst: CS is solid experience that certainly warrants its price tag. While it may seem costly, the game offers a lot of variety and will provide hours of entertainment for even the most casual of Shooter fans. There is an incredibly surprising amount of depth of offer, with it’s level structure seemingly able to facilitate not only those looking for a hardcore shooter to pour hours into, but also those looking for a casual time killer. If you’re looking for a shooter experience to get you through the holidays and most of the following year, you don’t have to look any further than Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviour. While a lot may have changed since the 90’s, the game is living proof that a strong shooter still makes for an incredible experience.
You can download the game through Steam, right here.
This review was written by Mat and you can catch up with him on his weekly podcast!