Monday, October 26, 2009

Super Darius (PC Engine CD)

Checkpoints OFF
4 Difficulty levels
7 Stages
Ship speed fixed
- - - - - - -
Developed by Taito
Published by NEC Avenue in 1990

In a system that already had a port of Darius (Darius Plus), the existence of Super Darius for the PC Engine CD seems totally useless. It is yet another port of the original game, and at a glance exactly the same apart from the obvious CD quality music. What could have warranted a new release? Is it worth owning both?

By 1990 Taito had already released the sequel Darius II on the arcade scene, and maybe Super Darius was their way of warming up to the process of porting the second game to home consoles. This is evident by the inclusion of several bosses from Darius II as new ones in Super Darius, something that gave the game an unique boss for each zone/stage. And so we come to the main difference between this title and the Darius Plus HuCard. The gameplay and general rules are the same, so check out my Darius Plus text for some insight.

Super Darius was the first game I ever played and beat on my PC Engine. I went back to it because (1) my high score was a lot higher when I played Darius Plus; (2) both games share the same save slot, meaning they share the same high score table and (3) I'm not sure if this sharing is really fair with both games. Much like I did with Sagaia on the Mega Drive, I decided to carry an organized approach on how to improve my score on Super Darius, studying the stages, power-ups available, scoring possibilities and best routes. In this process I learned more about the game, and that's what I'm going to write about.

Want to score higher in Super Darius? I can give away some tips:
  • Try to not let any enemy wave escape. I don't feel bad about the difficult ones (those who are blocked by the scenery or pass by too fast), but to let an easily destroyable wave go away can be frustrating (this is true for every Darius game actually);
  • Destroy every damageable part of the bosses. Most of the time, each one is worth 30.000 extra points.
  • If the boss takes too long to be beaten, those dreaded annoying rotating cubes appear and home on you. Well, you can at least get some points from them.
  • Those red missiles that hang on the top of the scenery and fall down as you get closer are worth more points than the incoming waves of small enemies. Destroy the big missiles before they explode, or else you get nothing.
  • Give priority to powering up the main shot (missile-laser-wave) and preserve the shield as much as you can (arm-super-hyper). As a rule of thumb, powering up the main shot to the "wave" level is paramount for both surviving AND scoring during the last stages.

According to the wikipedia article on the game, among the 26 distinct zones (V and Z are represented twice) there are five graphical motifs: cavern, city, mountain, space around the Van Allen belt (?) and underwater. Just like in Darius Plus but with noticeable changes, some stages/zones/bosses are a lot harder than others. Zone L, for instance, is a living nightmare, while zone M is easy and great for scoring. I don't like to fight Fatty Glutton (zone H), My Home Daddy (zone G) or the new incarnation of Alloy Lantern (L), one of the bosses from Darius II. Here Mr. Lantern can summon a series of rocks from outside the screen and trap you with almost no room to evade. Another Darius II boss that can get tricky is Drio Sawn, the space eel. He doesn't perform that dive attack anymore, instead wandering around the screen and trapping you between his body and a fast series of bullets.
No matter what's your deal when it comes to shmups, if you're into the Darius series then you should sooner or later surrender to the coolness that involves everything about the bosses: design, names, colors, attack patterns. As I mentioned, in Super Darius you have one boss for each stage, and that's what I like most about it.

My high score was improved approximately 9,3% from the previous one I had, going through route ABDHMRX.

[EDIT 2009-12-02] To activate difficulty selection press SELECT + RUN.


  1. I finished finally this game today, and is a very nice game. I used some your tips, but I wrong in the last way and I choosed the Zone W, the strange thing is that my system doesn't saved my score in the table. At least I took a picture.

    1. Congratulations on the clear, my friend!
      Sad to hear about the save function though. I remember being surprised when playing this, as all my previous scores were there after many months.

  2. Super Darius was actually released before Darius Plus. The purpose of Super was to finally bring in all 26 unique bosses from the initial Darius draft, since they couldn't do it in 1986 (which is also why Darius has only five (well, six) backgrounds). You can see some of the cut bosses on the Japanese Darius flyer. So, some of those bosses in II were meant for Darius instead, and the implication is that the attacks in Super had been their original attacks from the draft. Which, by the way, makes My Home Daddy all the more terrifying.

    Darius Plus was actually released later on in the year, so it's something like Sol-Deace. There's a product I question the existence of, but apparently Japan had always wanted HuCard games well after even the PC Engine *Duo* came out (CDs were probably way more expensive than HuCards then anyway). Darius Alpha was never released alongside Super; it could only be obtained by sending in a pair of coupons found in the manuals of Super and Plus (so you had to buy both).

    Also, the Wave is even worse to go for in this game than it is in the original. Not only is the Laser absolute hell to play with, but Super has a crazy bug where some enemies will not give you points (seems to be mostly smaller ones) when destroyed with the Wave. Maybe there are some max power bonuses in this game, but I somehow doubt that... This was indeed fixed in Plus.

    (Oh, and never ever go all up in Super. It's absolutely miserable with MHD up there, and you seem to get less powerups than anywhere else. Seems like in Darius you get more powerups the further down you go?)

    1. Thanks for the info, GD.
      That scoring bug kinda explains why I'm still 1st in Super Darius on the shmups forum, and all best results for Darius Plus are a lot higher than that.