Shoot ’em ups are one of the oldest genres of video games out there. It’s basically been around since we could make images appear on a screen. Hell, technically the genre predates Pong, arcades, and color TVs. Darius is probably one of the best shoot ’em ups going mainly because it was utterly unique and incredibly stylish. Now you’ll have a chance to play it again with the Darius Cozmic Collection.
A whole bunch of Darius games are being brought to consoles for the first time since 2009. The Darius Cozmic Collection features a lot of ports, both from the arcade and retro home consoles. This compilation was developed by M2, the Japanese studio that has been porting games since the Sega Game Gear era. So, you know, it’s in pretty good hands.
Apparently, Darius Cozmic Collection Has a Story
Apparently, Darius Cozmic Collection has a storyline. Or rather, the series of Darius games feature a storyline. It’s not immediately apparent what it is, at least from the arcade versions of the games. Something about aliens invading a planet called Darius and two heroes having to fight them off or something. Honestly, it’s not all that important. I just want to shoot some aliens.
Darius Cozmic Collection comes in two different flavors. Arcade and Console. The arcade collection is a bunch of ports of the original arcade cabinets that made the series famous in the first place. The console collection features ports of those home console versions you may have played extensively when you were a kid, although the console collection doesn’t include Dariusburst from the PSP, which is a shame.
Darius Cozmic Collection Has an Insane Number of Versions
The main draw of the Darius Cozmic Collection is just the sheer amount of Darius ports that you get access to. Each of the two versions include at least 7 different versions of various Darius titles. Sort of, anyway. There are a lot of incredibly similar ports, such as the ports of Sagaia, which is just Darius 2 again with a few minor changes and a boss rush mode.
You might wonder why you’d bother including so many different versions of the same game, but there’s honestly a reason for it. Fans of Darius are likely to be hardcore shoot ’em up enthusiasts. They’ve probably played a Darius game before and will certainly have a preferred version. Even if the changes between these ports are subtle, including as many as possible was a smart move. And even if each person mainly plays only one version, it’s still nice to know that pretty much the entire series is represented here.
There Are Some Arcade Hang-Ups in Darius Cozmic Collection
In many ways, the arcade versions of Darius are the most pure, which come with some issues. Obviously, these games are meant to inhale quarters in an arcade so the owners can make money. The main advantage of this port is that you can just keep adding credits to the game as much as you want to. So, if you’ve never managed to beat a Darius game at the arcade before, then now is your chance.
One of the important factors to bear in mind if you’re thinking about trying out a Darius game is that, as well as being shoot ’em ups, they’re also bullet hell shooters. If you’re not aware of what that is, I can sum it up for you. Basically, there are going to be 400 things on the screen at once that are trying to kill you. Your job is less about making sure you’re dealing damage and more about staying alive amongst a horde of enemies and bullets flying all over the place. If you’re not cool with that idea, then this port probably isn’t for you.
The Main Point of the Gameplay
Despite the insane number of versions included, the basic thrust of most of the Darius Cozmic Collection remains the same. You move from left-to-right, shooting at enemies coming from ahead and below you with bombs and lasers. You eventually make your way through the stage and fight a giant boss, usually themed around some sort of marine life in most of the game.
It should be made pretty clear that these games are rock hard. At least, they are for someone who hasn’t played a proper bullet hell game for half a decade. Most of the time, I managed to squeak through because I just held down the fire button(s) and focused more on dodging then on attacking. Also, the ability to keep adding credits definitely helped.
There Are Many Paths in the Darius Cozmic Collection
The games also have a branching path system going on, sort of like Shadow the Hedgehog, but without the angst. Each time you finish an area, you can select which of the next two areas to head into. Sometimes these areas offer different types of challenges, such as dodging more obstacles instead of enemies or featuring a completely different boss fight. This path system actually adds a ton of replayability to the game too since you want to try and see as much of the game as you possibly can.
In some ways, the console variant of the Darius Cozmic Collection is the easier choice. Because the original arcade cabinets were specially designed, triple-monitored machines, they could have these extra-large sprites and had lots of stuff going on. By the time I get to the later levels in them, I’m just spamming the ‘credit’ button. The console ports feel a little more subdued. Of course, you actually have to start getting better at the console ports over time since you can’t just keep adding credits to it.
Presentation Is Key
The Darius Cozmic Collection is also pretty well polished and presented. Obviously, the graphics and sound in the game are just as decent as they always were, depending on the port that you’re thinking of. But the menus and extra options are nice touches. Each of the various versions comes with a description so you know which version of Darius it is that you’re about to be playing, although there are a couple of typos here and there, which is a shame.
There are also numerous options once you’re into each game. For a start you can change how much of the screen the game takes up, you can turn filters on and off, like smoothing and fake CRT-like scanlines, and remove or add a border/background to the edges of the screen not taken up by the game. These borders can also contain information since the arcade ones, at least, are based on the cabinets that would have been in arcades. It all goes together to give the entire thing a feeling of utmost care and quality.
My Last Word on the Darius Cozmic Collection
Overall, Darius Cozmic Collection is probably the best way to experience Darius games in the modern era. If you’ve ever been a fan of the series, then this is your chance to get your hands on some versions that you’ve probably never seen before. If you’ve always resented having to pour quarters into this game at the arcade, now you can do it for free. Just don’t play for too long, or you’ll see swarms of bullets every time you close your eyes.
Publisher: TAITO, ININ Games
Platforms: PS4, Switch
Release Date: 16th June 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Darius Cozmic Collection was provided by the publisher.