4 Difficulty levels
Ship speed fixed
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Developed by Taito
Published by Taito in 2006
I've seen in a few manuals for Darius games that the upper route is the easiest one of all, with the lower route being regarded as the hardest. Well, after having my way with Darius II for the Playstation 2 I can definitely say I disagree with that, at least with this particular chapter. This is not like an Out Run title, which indeed gives the player an easier challenge if he/she sticks to the leftmost choices.
Darius II appears in the first volume of the Taito Memories II compilation (also known as Taito Memories II Joukan), which is a Japan exclusive release. When I decided to play it, I sort of envisioned an easy ride both because I had previously beaten the Saturn port and also because I decided to go through the upper route. For the uninitiated people, this game has a branching system where you must choose one out of two paths after every stage is completed, in a total of 7 levels. As in all other Darius games, your mission consists of blasting all sorts of sea/ocean creatures that infested the cosmos. This entry takes place in the Solar System, starting on the Sun and ending in Jupiter. Power-ups will help you out as you proceed, but unless you're very close to the last boss you simply cannot die, or else your game is pretty much finished.
In order to replicate the arcade experience, on the Playstation 2 Darius II is presented in a 8:3 aspect ratio, which means it is displayed in an aggressive widescreen format. In terms of comparison, it's just like the zoomed out view from the Saturn port. Both versions are nearly identical, with only very minor differences between both games, such as some explosion sounds, the gap between two of those laser-firing drones that arrive in groups of five (nerdy note, I know) and a slightly lower resilience of all main bosses in the PS2 port (on NORMAL difficulty at least). Since every different route is a different game in itself, mastering a specific one is challenge enough for the majority of the people who aim for the 1CC. After all, this is no easy task, so don't make the mistake of underestimating the challenge provided here. I'm also assuming the PS2 port is the closest one to the arcade original.
As I attempted to follow the upper route, there came a point where I stumbled upon boss Yamato, in the K stage. As much as I try to come up with some sort of organized means to destroy his last form, I just can't do it consistently. For each time that I manage to beat him hitless I get nine frustrated attempts where he crushes me with his pink homing bullets and his gigantic shell. Whenever I'm in control of the Silver Hawk, Yamato is Proco Jr.'s nemesis in Darius II. The solution for that was a small detour to the L stage and Yamato's ally Leadain. Leadain is much more manageable, even if he hits my glowing shield maybe once or twice. The rest of my journey was dealt with smoothly, but there was a minor graphical bug that caught me off guard at first: in certain occasions the shield will flicker and disappear momentarily when one of those huge bombs explode, leaving you wondering what the hell happened to it. Since losing the shield in Darius II is much like losing the credit, you can imagine my surprise when it first happened.
Proco Jr. and Tiat Young board their Silver Hawks on Darius II for the PS2
(courtesy of YouTube user KollisionBR)
All other gameplay traits remain the same. Power up main shot, bombs/missiles, laser and shield. Get extra lives through 1UPs and for every 800.000 points. Learn to deal with the slow speed of the ship and kill all enemies in a single wave to receive bonus points. This time I also had to get used with the HUD invading the top of the gameplay area. Co-op play is allowed, and both players (Proco Jr. and Tiat Young) start with the same default power level.
I wish Taito had given us the ability to choose a different wallpaper other than the one that's fixed there while you play. For all other options the game is pretty much customizable, although it's still not possible to map both shot and bomb functions to the same button. Credits are added with the L2 button, and SELECT pauses and gives access to a branching menu. The main interface of the compilation is English-friendly, but specific game options are all in Japanese.
On NORMAL, the 1CC high score below was achieved on route ABDGLQV. The last boss in this case is Bio Strong. See you in Darius Twin!