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Game Info:

Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
Developed By: TAITO Corporation
Published By: ININ Games
Released: June 16, 2020
Available On: Nintendo Switch; PlayStation 4; classic arcades
Genre: Shoot 'em up
ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
Number of Players: 1-2 local with online leaderboards
Price: $44.99

Thank you ININ Games for sending us this game collection to review!

The 1980s and 1990s were hallowed decades in the shoot 'em up genre. The games that created and then defined them were released in this time, and Darius certainly belongs in that hallowed list, along with Gradius, R-Type, and no doubt others I've forgotten about. While many games had successful conversions to home consoles, Darius included (we reviewed the Console edition of this very collection here, the arcade originals are always the standards that every game since is compared against. And indeed, these offer something truly unique and worth celebrating.

The basic format of the games should be somewhat familiar to fans of the genre. You fly left to right, blasting enemies out of the sky with either your blaster, bombs, or both. You can collect various orbs that enemies drop, to make your weapons stronger, which can help them do more damage or cover more area (or perhaps both). There are also pickups that grant you shields so you can take more than one hit before you die. You fight bosses at the end of each level, to make sure you're skilled enough to tackle what's next. Many games use this format, but this one is not without differentiators.

Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent emulation of some classic shoot 'em up games; nice new added features like save states, replays, online leaderboards, and training mode 
Weak Points: Pricey for what's on offer 
Moral Warnings: ININ Games for sending us this game collection to review! 

Arcade games in their heyday would often have some gimmick, or something else unique that would draw gamers in so they would keep pumping in those quarters. Back in those days, widescreen monitors were not common, and tube monitors were cheap and plentiful. Horizontal shooters often suffer from a lack of visibility; you don't have a lot of time to react once the enemy appears on screen. Darius' solution is the rather brilliant triple screen setup. They actually installed three tubes into the same arcade cabinet, and used mirrors with two of them to make the gameplay appear as one seamless three-screen playing area. Nowadays, we are blessed with giant TVs with high pixel density, so it's easy to recreate that experience using a single, large screen. That's what this collection does.

I have to say that playing Darius in ultra widescreen is a revelation. You get so much screen real estate, and you have so much more time and space to deal with incoming ships, it's just awesome. It's pretty tiny on the Switch's small screen, but usable. On a large TV, it works really well and it's lots of fun. I played it both solo and with my son as two players simultaneously. What I found interesting is that you can actually get in each other's way, but you have more than enough space to easily make that work.

There are three versions of Darius included in this collection. They are mostly simple balance tweaks. There is the original, the 'new version' which seems to be a bit easier according to the description, and the 'extra version' that has an easier first half and a more difficult second half, again, based on the description. All three versions include the large tree of branching levels, as you can choose to go up or down after defeating a boss, which means no two runs have to be the same. There is a good variety of levels, and I like how this game is less pattern memorization and more skill than other shooter games of that era.

Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The second set of games is Darius II, and its close cousin Sagaia. These are both based on the same engine, but Darius II has much longer levels. Apparently Darius II was Japan only, while Sagaia came West. Darius II is clearly the better game when you play them, but there's certainly a place for a short and sweet battle against space fish also. These games were dual screen, rather than triple. It fits well on modern 16:9 TVs, and the pixels are noticeably larger than they are with the triple-screen games, but there's a lot less wasted space, also. While I love the novelty of Darius' super wide viewport, these games seem the most natural played on the Switch.

The last game is Darius Gaiden, which is a single-screen game released quite a bit later, in 1994. It plays great and certainly looks better, with really smooth animation, scrolling, and so on. It also has a crazy amount of weapon upgrades, and as usual, tons of levels. My son likes this game the best, while I'm partial to Darius (the three screens are great).

I have to say, I like the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade quite a bit more than the Console collection, which I reviewed first. Sure, they are all great games, and the console one has more variety. But each game in the arcade collection has the polish you would expect, and with unlimited credits, and various adjustable knobs through the training mode, I personally find it more enjoyable. (It should be noted that on some games, you can't continue on the final level, as the game expects you to use skill rather than pumping in quarters to beat the final level.) The price is also better, which is a nice touch. Morally, both are basically identical, where you fly a spaceship that shoots other ships, missiles, bionic fish, and so on. While neither game collection is a bargain, this arcade collection is the one to get if you are on the fence and looking into the Darius series. While I enjoyed the console games, this one motivated me to look into other entries - including DARIUSBURST on Steam, which based on what I'm seeing so far, I really look forward to sinking some serious time into.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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