Platform:  PlayStation
Players:  1-2
Memory Usage:  1 block
Optional:  DualShock (vibration only)

    The great and much loved genre of video games that is the 2-D shooter is sadly all but dead.  However, a few franchises have managed to continue to stay alive with new games released every couple years or so, breathing new life into an area of the video game industry still ripe with innovation.  The first that comes to mind is undoubtedly the Gradius series, followed by R-Type, RayStorm, Aero Fighters, ThunderForce and the like.  (Yes I know, what about Radiant Silvergun, Blazing Lazers, Raiden, Einhänder, LifeForce / Salamander, and any of your other favorite shooters... I'm talking about extended franchises here, besides LifeForce / Salamander took place in the Gradius Galaxy)  One franchise that was touched on fairly lightly in the USA is Darius, a big reason for this being some of the best Darius games were for the PC/Engine and even then were in limited supply.  Well during my senior year of high school (that'd be 1998-1999) right around my 17th birthday, Darius got its comeback special on the PlayStation and it's first coat of 3-D paint in a game called G.Darius.  The game was praised, was a smash release, and an instant 32-bit classic.

Description:  It's a classic 2-D shooter, so blast everything in sight, don't get hit, and move on.  Well that's if you want to be blunt about it.  G.Darius continues the tradition and style of all Darius games in that most of your enemies are robotic fish and other such mechanical sea life.  Your ship powers up along the way by picking up orbs that boost either your forward firing, spread bombs, or shield strength depending on their color.  You also have capture balls, that allow you to use any disabled enemy craft (except for end of zone bosses) as wingmen.  What's really cool about this is you can use their energy to fire your Alpha Beam for serious damage, and if you fire your Alpha Beam into an enemy's Beta Beam you'll actually syphon power off them and unleash an insanely powerful Counter Beam, sometimes these beams will take up nearly the entire screen!  There are multiple routes that ultimately lead to five ending cinematics and there are two sub-routes through each stage.

Graphics:  Everything looks really good, especially the enormous bosses.  The typical 2-D shooter flare is here with levels that rapidly become crowded with enemies and shrapnel.  G.Darius also sports some very nice 3-D background visuals throughout.  All the enemies are made up of 3-D polygons but don't be fooled, this is traditional 2-D shooter action.  However this visual prowess comes at a price, there are quite a few moments of horrible slowdown, nothing that will lead to cheap deaths but it still is an issue that can't be overlooked.  Back to the bosses, the art design is amazing and extremely detailed.  Even though they are robotic fish they seem to breathe with the fire of life, their eyes follow your ship around, you can sense when they're getting ready to change attacks, it feels more like you're fighting against a being rather than a static machine.

Sound:  A total letdown.  During the era of thumping techno rhythms in shooters such as Nitrous Oxide, the lack of good music in G.Darius is inexcusable.  What music there is, there is very little of.  During boss battles music plays in the background, and at the midpoint in stages an occasional tune will play, but nothing really noticeable.  As for sound effects they're pretty stale, just standardized firing and explosion sounds.

Play Control:  Control is nice and fluid, the way all shooters should be.  The simple four button weapons set up keeps things from getting overly complicated: fire, rapid fire, capture ball, and Alpha Beam charge.  Use of the analog sticks would be nice, but you can get along fine with the D-pad.  More doesn't need to be said and that's the mark of good control in a great shooter.

Replay:  There are a lot of stages to clear to really have seen everything in G.Darius.  The game branches out into different paths leading to five endings, kind of like Outrun.  There are 15 zones, each one has two areas that the player decides upon mid-zone.  There are 28 bosses, however just under half of them are simply different colors with slightly different behaviors, it depends on which area of each zone you decide upon as to which version of each boss you'll fight.

Final Verdict:  If you like shooters, you should already have G.Darius, simple as that.  It's a wonderful rebirth of a great shooter franchise and one of the best shooters ever released on the PlayStation.  The difficulty level gets up there pretty high from time to time, then again that's why we play 2-D shooters, isn't it?

Written on 05-13-03 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net
Last amended 04-13-06 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net

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