Over the last few years, various companies have released retro compilations to feed on people’s nostalgia, satisfying those who recall playing the games included and those who always wanted to play them yet never had the console when they were younger. Capcom and SEGA are always re-releasing their classics via dedicated hardware and software collections, yet a number of more niche genres and publishers have also decided to join in with the fun this time around. Today I’m taking a look at the Darius Cozmic Collection: Console Edition from TAITO, six iconic shoot ’em ups from the past…
TAITO was a well-known developer many years ago, creating masterpieces such as Space Invaders and the Bubble Bobble franchise, but they have had a rocky existence over the last decade and a half. The story behind what’s happened between them and Square Enix is quite confusing – I’m not going to pretend I fully understand what happened and who is who anymore. However, it does appear that TAITO is back, with help from publisher ININ Games, and are both creating new games, such as Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, as well as developing compilations of their old classics.
Before laying my hands on this Darius collection, I’d never actually played a game in the franchise before. So, what did I think of these rather challenging and ‘retro’ shoot ’em ups? Let’s find out…
There are two Darius collections which you can pick up today, they are Darius Cozmic Collection: Console and Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade. For the purpose of this review, I’ve been playing the ‘Console’ collection, a selection of home-console ports from yesteryear. However, if you’re more interested in reliving the arcade-quality gameplay with virtual multi-screens and more advanced visuals, then the Arcade collection might be for you.
This particular version has a total of six games which are presented via nine versions. They are:
– DARIUS II (Mega Drive JP version)
– SAGAIA [DARIUS II] (Genesis version)
– SAGAIA [DARIUS II] (Master System EU version)
– DARIUS TWIN (Super Famicom JP version)
– DARIUS TWIN (Super NES US version)
– DARIUS FORCE (Super Famicom JP version)
– SUPER NOVA (Super NES US version)
– DARIUS ALPHA (PC Engine JP version)
– DARIUS PLUS (PC Engine JP version)
The collection itself is very bare-bones, delivering a disappointing lack of bonus features or extra content considering the rather hefty price-point (which I’ll get to later). Other than a webpage which shows you the default controls, there’s nothing here other than the emulated games.
However, the majority of people picking this up will be here for the games, not commemorative extras, so what are the games in layman’s terms?
There are three versions of Darius II, the original Japanese Mega Drive edition, the North American renamed (Sagaia) Genesis edition, and the strange 8-bit European Master System edition. As you’d expect, the Japanese and American Mega Drive versions are pretty much identical (although some cheats were disabled within the American one for some reason) and the Master System port is interesting but you probably won’t play it due to the others being much more advanced and fun to play.
Another interesting feature is that the Japanese edition has two modes. There’s the standard mode in which it plays like the original game did, and there’s a new ‘Special Mode’. This optional mode is a score-based version of the game, disabling cheats and quick load/save so you can try to earn the most points.
You are once again presented with two games which are almost identical. The Japanese Super Famicom and the North American SNES versions. The biggest difference here is that the Japanese version launched just after the console released, resulting in a rushed development and gimped sound – running in Mono and a low bitrate. The NA SNES edition fixed this and had a full stereo soundtrack, meaning this version is the definitive edition and trumps even bothering with the Japanese version.
Darius Force and Super Nova
Officially, the collection counts these two as separate games. However, Darius Force was released in Japan on the Super Famicom and Super Nova was technically the Western version which launched on the SNES. There were some name changes with the bosses, but the gameplay itself is identical between both versions. Unlike Darius II though, it doesn’t appear than any cheats or content was removed from the Western release either in the past or within this collection.
Similar to Darius II, the Japanese version of Darius Force contains a secondary mode which can be chosen before you start the game. This time it’s a ‘Boss Endurance’ mode, allowing you to face all of the bosses with both cheats and quicksave/loading disabled.
I’m not sure why these additional modes have only been on the Japanese version so far.
This game is the most interesting in my opinion. This was never actually sold, it was only distributed to approx 800 people as a bonus for buying Darius Plus. There are four modes you can pick from before loading this game, the normal game, a score attack mode, time-attack against sixteen bosses, and a four-minute time-attack mode. Considering this game sells for over $2000 on eBay, picking up this collection may be the cheapest ‘legal’ way to own this elusive game.
This is a downgraded version of Super Darius. Instead of containing 26 bosses like that title (which was released on the PC Engine CD-ROM2), Darius Plus ironically had ‘minus’ ten bosses, leaving it with a modest sixteen for you to take on.
As the games are all emulated, we all come to expect some form of emulation bonuses and visual options in order to customise the games to our liking. Thankfully, the Darius Cozmic Collection: Console offers a few options for us to fiddle with.
Every game, despite whatever consoles they originally launched on, seems to have the same visual options available:
• You can toggle between the original aspect ratio of the game, a pixel-perfect scale, the game keeps its ratio but is expanded to fit the screen, or you can stretch it out and make it into a 16:9 fatty. Although it’s sacrilege to stretch out and make a 4:3 game into 16:9, I actually didn’t mind having the games run at that ratio. I think it’s because they’re just side-scrollers and the stretched scaling doesn’t show many artefacts.
• There’s a ‘Smoothing’ option which supposedly makes the sprites look smoother and less pixelated. However, I personally thought that it looked like someone had rubbed vaseline on the screen. I’d advise to leave this off.
• You also have the customary ‘scanlines’ which makes the screen much darker whilst trying to imitate an old CRT. I’ve never been the biggest fan of these but I imagine some people out there will enjoy the extra visual option.
• Finally, you can enable or disable a visual background (which is visible if you have any aspect ratio other than 16:9).
So, although there’s not a lot of options or filters, at least there’s a few to experiment with.
As a collection of games, you can’t really get much better than these if you’re looking to play some iconic classic shoot ’em ups. I personally thought that they were all quite challenging and difficult, requiring fast reflexes and a lot of patience – something I’m lacking if I’m being honest. There’s a decent amount of variety and each title in the franchise offered new mechanics or gameplay options which made each one unique. However, I would have prefered it if they only gave us one title from each iteration (so either the Japanese or NA version) and then added in a few of the arcade games. But, they clearly wanted to separate the games into two collections.
It’s the same issue I had with the Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King collection a few months back, we are provided with a few games which are identical in everything but the language and/or platform, rather than a collection of unique and varied games.
I was very disappointed with the lack of any bonus content or extras which celebrated the games and told us about the history and development. I know that these aren’t exactly ‘anniversary collections’, but a bit more effort would have gone a long way in regards to making the package feel like it’s more value for money. Speaking of…
Currently, on the eShop, this particular collection, the Darius Cozmic Collection: Console version, is a whopping £44.99! The Arcade edition is a little lower at £34.99 but that’s because that one only contains ‘four’ games with seven versions (technically it’s three games if you count Darius II and Sagaia as the same game). If we say that this collection has six games, that’s around £7.50 per game. It’s not a bad price if you’re a fan of the franchise and you have nostalgia for the series and the brutal gameplay, but as someone who doesn’t have fond memories of playing it when I was younger, I would say wait for a sale if you’re just a curious onlooker like me.
I’ve just discovered, by looking at the PS4 trophy list, that there is a way to activate the bonus modes on the English versions of the games and not just the Japanese ones.
– In Sagaia you simply press ‘A’ twelve times on the menu screen (Special Mode)
– In Super Nova, you press the ‘R’ trigger eight times whilst the TAITO logo is on the screen (Boss Rush)
– In Darius Alpha, you press the ‘L’ trigger on the menu screen (4-min time trial).
These modes are the same as the ones you can pick in the Japanese versions but you can use cheats with them if you activate them this way!
The Darius Cozmic Collection: Console edition is a collection of great games yet sadly lacks presentation and substance. If you’re a fan of the genre and/or the franchise then you’ll love the games on offer and the multiple bonus modes. However, if you’re not invested in the series though any form of nostalgia or fond memories, I don’t believe there’s enough here to justify the recommended retail price. I personally think they should have doubled up the Arcade and Console collections to create a single content-rich package, rather than two diluted experiences. Technically, the games are great, but I can’t really recommend the overall ‘collection’ to anyone but the biggest of Darius fans.
If you’re a fan of physical games and you also like the Darius franchise, Strictly Limited have a few copies of both collections still available on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
You can check them out HERE
Darius Cozmic Collection: Console£44.99
- - A collection of great games which any fan of the francise will love
- - Some bonus modes such as time-attack and boss rushes
- - Contains Darius Alpha which often sells at over $2,000
- - The emulation ran perfectly
- - The games are iconic and fun to play, even if they are very challenging and brutal
- - The price seems very expensive and would only be 'worth' the asking price for die-hard fans of the franchise
- - The collection is lacking any bonus features, extras, manuals, artwork, soundtracks, anything but the bare-bones games and the few titles with extra modes
- - It's like the Lion King and Aladdin collection, too many versions of the same game
- - The difficulty could put some people off