Darius Cozmic Collection is a pair of collection titles, compiling the early years of a legendary shmup title called Darius, yes that was a lot of Cs and no, not the guy who was on Pop Idol/X Factor for us older lot!. Warning, a review is incoming!.
So as mentioned in my overly enthusiastic and age showing blurb, Darius Cozmic Collection has been released in two flavours, digitally courtesy of ININ Games, recent release being Bubble Bobble 4 and the upcoming Umihara Kawase BaZooka!.
Darius is a Shmup developed by Taito in 1987, originally it had a triple screen set up, it munched coins & had a sound system to knock your very socks off. Darius also had multiple endings and various routes you could take, something new to the genre and really set Darius apart from other titles. Oh and there are a lot of enemies themed around fish, that’s a thing Darius does.
Naturally the above was a hit, slowly but surely there was a Darius II, Sagaia to some. Once again this was a success, success breeds ports and both Darius and Darius II saw a healthy share of ports. Darius is still a title around today with the latest being DariusBurst releasing on all major consoles (bar switch). That was the briefest of brief history lessons but should give you a picture of the lineage of this franchise!.
So as mentioned we have 2 collections here, the Arcade and the Console collections, naturally which version you choose determines which games you’ll be playing, here is a list of which game has which.
Darius II (Mega Drive, JP version)
SAGAIA (Genesis, US version)
SAGAIA (Master System, EU version)
Darius Twin (Super Famicom, JP version)
Darius Twin (Super NES, US version)
Darius Force (Super Famicom, JP version)
Super Nova (Super NES, US version)
Darius Alpha (PC Engine, JP version)
Darius Plus (PC Engine, JP version)
Darius (Arcade, original version)
Darius (Arcade, new version)
Darius (Arcade, extra version)
Darius II (Arcade, Dual Screen version)
SAGAIA (Arcade, ver.1)
SAGAIA (Arcade, ver.2)
Darius Gaiden (Arcade)
So initially you’ll notice that the Console collection has more games than the Arcade version, it’s also worth noting the Console collection is also the pricier of the pair.
The first thing we would like to point for both collections is that you aren’t getting collections full of different games, rather variations of them. Arcade Collection is actually 3 games, Darius, Darius II & Darius Gaiden. Console Collection is Darius II, Darius Force, Darius Twin and Darius Alpha.
In the Arcade Collection the extra versions are slightly tweaked versions of Darius & Darius II. The original arcade release of Darius, Darius “new version” a slightly easier version of Darius & Darius Extra Version totally rebalanced version of Darius 1 to make the first half easier but the second half harder.
Darius II features the standard arcade release, “Version 1” with boss energy reduced, some stages removed and some bosses are gone too, there is also “Version 2” this is a bonus revamp of Version1 that was possibly never released!.
Finally you have Darius Gaiden, this is the arcade release but the game also saw release on the Sega Saturn & Playstation 1.
The console collection complies 3 releases of Darius 2, the Japanese version, the American release and the Sega Master System version. While there isn’t too much of a difference between the MD/Gen versions the MS version while sort of redundant is actually an impressive port showing how creative the game developers were to get the title running on 8bit hardware.
Darius Twin is the SNES “version” of Darius 2, while not a shot for shot port, some stages and bosses transfer over to this version. You get the SNES and Super Famicon versions here, it’s mostly audio differences with this title.
Darius Force is a totally original “for console” title that strays from the traditional Darius style, several different ships aside from the Silver Hawk, there are also mid-level transitions too. Quite an impressive original title. SNES and Super Famicon here and you’ll just have translation changes.
Darius Alpha and Plus close out this collection. Darius Plus is the Turbo Grafx port of Darius 1 and Alpha is a boss rush version of the game, a nice little extra! While not identical, especially in the boss section its always good to see the Turbo Grafx getting some love!.
So now you’ve had the rundown of what’s on what, it’s time to talk quality of ports, extras and Collection in general. First off M2 worked on both these collection, this team are the masters at working with Shmups, they have done amazing work on the Sega AGES collection (link to Thunder Force A.C) but also we hear amazing things about the Esp.Ra.De port we are waiting on a release outside of Japan.
Each game runs buttery smooth with no problems, the audio sounds amazing and there is a little notification at the bottom of the screen to tell you the track name when it changes. The games are fully customizable in terms of visuals, from scan lines to aspect. It is worth noting that Darius 1 especially looks really rough on handheld no matter how you set the screen, its either too small or too smushed, not ideal.
Every title has save states, some of the games also have special modes for Hi Scores or Boss endurance added into them. Online leaderboards to try and dominate, outstanding border artwork, especially on the arcade collection. M2 has gone above and beyond with these collections and they just ooze charm and quality.
One issue I did run into which was a shame was the in-game manual, hopefully this is being patched but it’s currently entirely in Japanese making it useless for anyone who doesn’t read or speak the language!.
In terms of which Collection is the best? Both have good and bad aspects to them and balance each other out, I know it’s a cop-out answer but that’s the truth. Even though the arcade version of Darius 2 looks and sounds amazing, the most playable version is the Mega Drive version. As good as the Console versions are, the Arcade Collection not only has amazing artwork but also has Darius Gaiden which is easily the best title of both collections, we are talking gold standard, addictive, challenging, phenomenal soundtrack and beautiful visuals, Darius Gaiden is worth price of admission alone!.
Either collection will see you right, you’ll spend hours upon hours of Fish fighting, Score getting and bomb dropping. I would say if you’re not familiar with the series maybe start with the Console Collection but for Shmup heads, Arcade will offer a much tougher old school challenge and also provide access to possibly one of the best Shmups from the mid-90s that I had never played before, certainly making up for lost time now.
Darius Cozmic Collection is the prime example of how you port classic titles over with love and care. It is beautifully pick up and play arcade action and has converted someone who has never played the series before into someone who is regularly looking for news of a second collection! Now if you excuse me there are more giant robotic fish to take down!.,