4 Difficulty levels
Ship speed fixed
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Developed by Taito
Published by Interbec in 1995
With the exception of Deep Blue earlier this year, it's been quite a while since I had blasted some dirty fish for the last time. Of course "dirty fish" has different meanings in this context: in the case of the outer space marine creatures from Darius it's a dear, affectionate name, but if we're talking about Deep Blue, well... it's as literal as it gets. In the past couple of weeks I spent some time with the least commented port of Darius Gaiden - the one released for the Playstation only in Japan - so now I understand why 99% of the talks about a console version is always geared towards the Saturn one. An extensive bullet list of the reasons isn't needed, for it all comes down to slowdown. Chronic, constant, sometimes challenge-crippling slowdown.
Maybe the root cause for such a botched disc is the simple fact that Taito didn't directly handle it. A company named Interbec (of Tekkaman Blade fame) is to blame. You see, such was the hysteria over 3D during the mid-90's that Interbec thought it would be a great bonus to include newly animated sequences at the start and the endings in order to enrich the story. Could it be that the slowdown happens because they sucked the energy out of the game itself to come up with these sequences? Yeah right... If things in video games were that simple! What matters is that even with all the unnecessary material, the slowdown and other minor issues Darius Gaiden for the Playstation is still Darius Gaiden. It's still a challenging shooter with tons of fun, but early on I deemed it as being the "training version" of the game in order to keep it in a separate category.
Extra and regular opening sequences for Darius Gaiden on the Playstation
(courtesy of YouTube user kantoku666)
(courtesy of YouTube user kantoku666)
Darius Gaiden continues the famous Taito fish-blasting saga with undeniable flair and power. It takes little to enjoy it, but a lot to master any of its routes. One button (□ or ○) is used to fire weapons, the other (×) triggers a black hole bomb (BHB) that sucks every single bullet and small enemies while making the Silver Hawk invincible. Destroy colored enemies and hit hidden spots in the scenery to release power-up badges and other equally important items. Power-ups consist of red (main shot), green (missiles) and blue (shield). Other items can be black (points), purple (extra bomb/BHB) or orange (screen-clearing bomb), and there's also a small Silver Hawk for an extra life. Main shot is constantly evolving, but for missiles and shield it might take a few power-ups to see their status change (check the gauges below the score counter). Dying degrades firepower by a partial amount only, unlike what happened in previous Darius arcade games.
Besides what's exposed in the above paragraph, the main aspect that defines Darius Gaiden is hidden within the game itself: rank. Basically, everything gets harder if you take all power-ups or if you destroy more boss parts. Therefore, if a particular section or boss is giving trouble try to refrain from taking a red or a green badge (blue ones are a must though, shields are really precious here), or try not to destroy all fins and tips of a boss. Besides offering different game routes, the branching nature of the game also allows for distinct challenge levels since some stages and bosses are noticeably easier or harder than others. Having beaten the Saturn port in the most common route for a higher score, this time I decided to tread the lower path, considered by some as the hardest one. There's no infamous autofire cheat available for the Playstation (maybe another reason why it's so neglected?), but you can get faster firing rates by tapping □ and ○ (same as A and C on the Saturn controller).
Since bosses play a big part in any Darius game, here's my take on the bosses in the lower route:
- Golden Ogre (A): iconic and easy first boss, even easier when you avoid one of the red power-ups and get to him with the triple soft shot (the one that doesn't pierce);
- King Fossil (C): the classic Darius coealacanth is now more dangerous because of the torpedoes coming out of his open belly in his last form.
- Folding Fan (F): I always go for a quick kill on him, because if he's allowed to do a 3rd laser attack from his tail I'll either have to bomb or become dead Silver Hawk meat.
- Neon Light Illusion (J): the first part is easy when you go around him from below and take care of his upper longer tentacle. When his inner shell is exposed it's all about herding and weaving. Pressure!
- Fatty Gluton (O): the drill is the same as before, that is, try to crush whatever comes out of his mouth before it explodes. His third form is the trickiest, if you can't get close enough to the mouth just stand still from a distance and the bullets will go around you.
- Deadly Crescent (U): pretty much avoid the fins and focus on his open mouth. If too many fins are destroyed his mouth will spit a tentacle in his last form and turn an easy fight into a brief nightmare.
- Storm Causer (V'): bigger brother of Golden Ogre and my nemesis in the lower route, full of multiple forms and cheap random attacks. He's also the only boss where I'll bomb in order to keep my shield.
Facing the captain of stage D
By far the biggest innovation in Darius Gaiden is the ability to detach an orb from the body of the mid-boss (a.k.a. captain) and take it so that the creature will fight alongside the Silver Hawk. Try to hit the orb only, otherwise you end up just killing the captain. Not only is this über cool, but it also contributes to the final bonus you get when beating the game (each captured captain is worth 200.000 points). Other completion bonuses come from bomb stock (250.000 points each) and number of lives in reserve (1 million each). Reaching the end without losing any lives while capturing all bosses and having 5 bombs in stock (maximum) results in a final bonus of 6,7 million points. Sure this representes the bulk of any 1CC high score, but scoring well also comes from not letting any wave escape (you always get more points for destroying complete enemy waves) and getting lucky on the black badges.
Luck sucks, I know. I once heard that there are recommended ways to collect the black badges (9 o'clock for the first one in stage A, for instance), but I have now accepted that they're just random. Sometimes you get 51.200 points, sometimes you're left with 200 points only. And you can't help but feel robbed. As I said, luck sucks. But I don't love Darius Gaiden any less for that. :)
ACFJOUV' was done twice in the picture below. In my best run I was able to complete the game on one life (Normal), but I had to use four bombs on that prick Storm Causer. I also failed to capture the captain in the last stage. I feel I'm done with Darius Gaiden for now, so I expect to be moving to G Darius in the near future.