After an earlier release in Japan, we’re finally getting the Darius Cozmic Collection here in the west. Split into two with an “arcade” collection and a series with “console” versions, it’s out now for PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. We played the Switch version for this review.
There are a few genres that I miss from back when I started to play videogames. Adventure games of the classic point and click variety come to mind, but at least there’s a big indie scene that supports it and every now and then we get a bigger release in the genre – even though they look and feel a little different than the classics did. The arcade shooter feels like a bit of a lost art though, because most shooters I see these days are of the bullet hell variety and I’ve never cared much for those.
If, like me, you fondly remember the likes of R-Type and Gradius then you’ll probably recognize the Darius name as well – Taito’s long-running franchise in the genre. Although I’d love a modern day remake for any of these (which is why I like Sine Mora and Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours), retro compilations are our best bet these days and the Cozmic Collection brings Darius back to the foreground for a much-earned turn in the spotlight.
What makes the Darius games so interesting, besides their odd fascination with fish-like enemies, is that the games are non-linear in the sense that they offer branching levels rather than the linear progression that other arcade shooters rely on. What’s also interesting from an arcade perspective is that Darius games would very often use a multiple-monitor setup to create very wide displays that made it easier to see what was coming in these horizontal scrollers – something that was hard to replicate on screens at home.
This last part is what makes the division between the arcade and console collections logical. The console pack games are based on existing ports for consoles like the Mega Drive/Genesis, SNES and PC Engine, and have thus already been adapted for 4:3 displays. As a result, you’ll see borders on the left and right of the screen when playing the console version, whereas the arcade games have borders at the top and bottom of the screen. If you prefer handheld mode on the Switch then the console versions are probably more comfortable to play, but on a bigger screen the arcade versions are the better looking games.
With all of these games being between 25 to 30+ years old, it’s no surprise that they run smoothly on today’s hardware, but it’s nice to see that that applies to the handheld mode on the Switch as well. Quality of life upgrades were added for these ports as well, and include (limited) options to remap the controls to your liking as well as the inclusion of save states. You’re limited to six slots though, which considering the many possible branches you can take is limiting – I would have enjoyed something akin to how you select branches in certain visual novels.
Taking a closer look at the games in these two bundles reveals that several games are featured more than once – the arcade bundle has three versions of the original Darius as well as three versions of Darius II, so unless you’re a devout fan of the franchise you’re only getting three unique titles and not seven different games. The console has a bit more diversity as it’s spread over various consoles and regions, but casual players will still consider a few of them to be “duplicates”.
This isn’t a big issue because the more complete these collections are, the better, but they do factor into something like value for money. With the collection spread over two packs that add up to about 100 Dollars or Euros – a little steep in anyone’s book especially if you consider that there isn’t much (museum-like) content outside of the games themselves.
Although it contains fewer games, the arcade bundle is the more expensive of the two – but it does contain the biggest draw in that it features Darius Gaiden – a game that wasn’t ported to consoles until the Playstation/Saturn generation. Only about five years younger than the older games, it’s a great testament to the strides that the franchise took in terms of technical prowess as well as gameplay design – and it’s a must have for arcade shooter fans.
If you’re a big fan of Taito’s Darius series then this is a bundle you’ll want to own – with the arcade version being the better choice if you play on a bigger screen (and want access to Darius Gaiden). The price point makes me nostalgic for compilations like Taito Legends though, which included Darius Gaiden and G-Darius as well as a diverse host of other games. That was a PS2 release though, so if you can’t wait for something similar on the Switch then this’ll scratch that Darius itch nicely with faithful ports of classic games.