Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sagaia (Mega Drive)

Checkpoints OFF
5 Difficulty levels
7 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Taito
Published by Taito in 1991

Even before I was aware of my unconditional passion for shoot’em ups there were those shooters that I played - and loved - extensively. They might have been mixed with platformers and racers, but would still draw my attention much more than other titles. One that really stood out from the glorious 16-bit golden era was Taito’s Darius II, renamed in the west as Sagaia. It was and still is one of my favorite games of all time – simply put, the Mega Drive version was among the 3 games I first bought when I started collecting in September 2007.

I must have beaten this game dozens of times. The reason it’s being included in this log is that recently I was urged to improve my previous high score, which led me to a search campaign for the best route for scoring purposes. One of the results is that I acquired an even deeper understanding of the gameplay, and by doing that I also learned how to easily beat different final bosses other than the easy Little Stripes (stages W and Y).

The probability that a shmup addict has boarded one Silver Hawk for space fish blasting at least once in his lifetime is really high. If you haven’t done this yet, you can always go for the various ports of this game and also of the first Darius, Darius Gaiden or G-Darius (not mentioning the special SNES titles). However, differences exist between all of them, and Sagaia has probably the easiest albeit most unique power-up system of all the franchise. Gameplay 101: start out with a pea shooter and destroy a recurring particular wave of enemies to release power-ups for main shot, missiles, green lasers and shield (occasionally a 1UP will appear as well). As death means getting back to a stripped ship, this game is one of those where you can’t ever die. When you manage to do so, in the last stages the Silver Hawk is so powerful that the firepower will take a whole deal of screen space. Therefore a fully powered Darius ship is also a thing to behold and be proud of, especially if you manage to destroy the final boss without dying.

Even though the Mega Drive port of the 3-screen arcade game lacks the co-op feature, everything is finely presented and holds up well according to 16-bit standards. You can choose in the options screen which character you want to play with: Proco Jr. (default red Silver Hawk) or Tiat Young (alternative blue Silver Hawk, with default weapons increased by 1 power-up each). The graphics are nice and the music is awesome - the 1st stage is an epic flight over the surface of the sun, and conveys what I just wrote really well. You can pretty much say Sagaia is an overall easy shooter, and apart from the slowdown present when 2 or more of those wall tentacles appear it’s definitely a very solid and fun game, even for those who are not so hyped about shmups. The stage branching boosts replay value to a great degree, as every run can be made completely different from the previous one.

Reasons why I love the Darius series in a whole: design of the ship - curvy, pointy and mysteriously threatening; shield - awesome, simple and yet beautiful; gravity center flip - the way the Silver Hawk flips when moving past the bosses’ gravity center is the epitome of hori-shmup coolness (the fight against Red Crab is a perfect example). Even so, there is one thing I like most about the Mega Drive version of Sagaia: the exploding effect of the bomb that appears from time to time, which is cooler than the Arcade or any other available port.

Here is a list of some score-related aspects of the game:
  • An extra life is granted for each 700.000 points;
  • Each remaining life is worth 300.000 points upon game completion;
  • Life counter stops at 9 with no hidden stock, so the maximum possible final bonus is 2.700.000 points (9 × 300.000);
  • The only difference when playing in higher difficulty levels is bullet speed/count.

Other cool side of the Mega Drive port is the possibility to activate a "special mode" at the title screen by pressing the C button 12 times. Here there is no stage branching, and you play on a very hard difficulty straight until level L. Almost all stages are boss rushes - only G and H are full stages with minor enemies. All bosses have to be beaten once, with mid-bosses repeating themselves as the game progresses. The last bastard to be taken down is Bio Strong.

A methodical approach was used to get the high score shown below, with all defaults (path ACEINTZ). Wish I could've reached a higher number, but I exhausted my score attack time with the game and I'll only get back to it for fun!


  1. I believe you should stop taking the pictures of your highscores NOT appearing in them! It didn't happen in this post, but review your posts in order to identify some.
    Remember: make the room darker in order to not show your receding hair... =D

  2. Coquel, be a man and identify yourself.
    Chicky chicky chicken! hehehe

  3. lol, I love them 2 comments here. XD. Always makes me laught when I see it. But nah, I always get a kick of seeing Edward in his shmuping glory mode after conquering another STG.

    Still plugging away at this game, and it's not that easy, thankfully. Seems just right if you ask me, on all default. As it's still very easy to slip up + this game does have rank based on how powered up you are too. 1cc still in progress, but I'm no hurry at all, cuase every failed atempt is a blast with this game. So all is fine as is.

    Anyway, got a question; I read somewhere you beat this game on hard. This true? And you could of at least kept both pics of both difficulties if true, even if it didn't obviously surpass normal difficulty do too being harder without extra enemies, points, etc.. And you need to clarify this better too. Was it "Hard" or Very Hard?" There's a big difference as I messed around with them. On Very Hard by the 4th stage rank goes crazy and starts kicking blast processing into overdrive to the point of looking like frame skipping, lol. Thought my emulator was bugging out for a sec? XD My run eneded there, even with some slowdown help from them wall tenticle things. So yeah, if for folks who think this game is too easy or looking for even more replay then the insane amounts it has to begin with, I'm glad to see Very Hard seems more then enough. At least for me it seems so? (If not, startuing with it should guarantee it, no?) How about you?

    And this game really is top notch amongst the Genesis STGs. I'm thinking it may very well end up at #1 for me? Few levels in shmups is one thing that actually bothers me, as does replay. Plus this series has levels spread out so the game never feels too long in one session (ie. Phalanx comes to mind). Genius! But sadly this Darius II port always seems to get put down as nothing special everywhere I read about it. The Darius curse of not clicking fast enough with folks is very strong with this one. :(

    - Sinful

  4. I liked "shmupping glory mode" hehehehe
    Yes, I did beat this game on Hard, but I didn't record it, no pics, nothing. :(
    However, your enthusiasm is almost making me take it out of the shelf again for some action side by side with MUSHA. If I do I'll go Hard and V.Hard. WITH CRANKED UP VOLUME. :)
    What about that Cx12 trick with the successive zones, did you try it?

    1. Yes, I did. At first I was way overwhealmed. But I gave it another shot later, and did pretty ok past a few more bosses. Never seen another full level though (gonna save this mode for later, it was just a peak). But this mode makes me sad because it's what a second loop could of been like, lol. Would of been so awesome. But would of been way too much extra work for the dev team, I guess? Glad they at least squeezed in this. Really happy with the way this team ported this game. I see a lot of love put into it. Too bad the guys at Sega 16 don't see this.

      And hey, please keep a seperate score picture for the other two difficulty levels. And you should do this for all you fave games you like to revisit. Plus at least a quick extra blurb describbing the extra challenge & how you did. Just keep it seperate from the normal difficulty one. I don't want it gone/replaced.

    2. OK, Darius II beaten on Very Hard last night, path ABEIMSY - just because I don't like Yamato! hehe Lightning fast bullets and more resilient bosses bla bla bla I think you've already read this elsewhere huh? :)
      I 1LCed the game, but the score was roughly 500K below my personal best on Normal (ACEINTZ).