If you happen to enjoy side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, there is a big chance you've already heard of the Darius franchise. Back in the day, Taito created several legendary titles for the arcades, and these were, of course, ported to home consoles as well. The Darius Cozmic Collection Console includes six of these titles, and the time is finally here for us to give this old classic new life on the Nintendo Switch.
The Darius series has been missing in action for many years, apart from a recent, well-deserved cameo on the Sega Mega Drive Mini. I'd like to know why Darius Twin has yet to star in Switch Online's SNES library, considering it is an excellent co-op game. Anyway, I digress.
Few, if any, games can cure a serious case of "shoot 'em up malnutrition syndrome" in the same way as Darius can. All the classic elements are present in the shape of spaceships, power-ups, chaos everywhere, and cool music. The constant need to gather more upgrades so you can blast your way through absolutely everything in your way - we all know that feeling, and we all know how satisfying it can get.
First things first, let me just say that I like this collection. It's really charming in its own particular way, and I love the fact they have included both the Japanese and the Western versions of the games. Also, Taito has included a brutally honest description of all the ports. Just the fact that they wrote the Japanese version of Darius Twin has got a few issues with the sound, and the American version is the ultimate way of playing that game, makes me quite happy; the company is not trying to sell its product as something that it is not, it's making sure the legacy is taken care of in a proper manner.
The collection comes with a total of six different games, but counting all the different versions, it seems like nine. That is great, but somehow I feel the actual material is a tad too little. Having your own Sega version of Darius II was awesome back in the early '90s, but in my opinion, it feels like a shortcoming of this collection. I mean, why they've included the 8-bit version of the aforementioned game (with the odd title Sagaia instead of Darius) beats me. Please don't get me wrong, it's all very charming, but it's also a little trivial.
Taito has released this collection of console ports, as well as a different collection focused on all of the arcade games. I find the fact that they couldn't put all of these games into one huge package to be quite sad. Even if the console bundle is nice and charming, it isn't much else. If all the arcade titles were included as well, Cozmic Collection would have been a brilliant starting point for anyone interested in getting to know Darius. Apparently this does collection indeed exist, but it was only distributed by Strictly Limited Games for a short period of time. As this collection stands, I reckon it's aimed at a narrow niche of people already familiar with the series.
Of all the games in this collection, Darius Twin is my absolute favourite, and I am happy to be able to enjoy it on a modern console. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the underrated PC Engine gets a nice nod with Darius Alpha. This game never got a proper release, it was just a gift for the small number of people who preordered Darius Plus (which is also included here).
It is worth mentioning these are all the original versions of the games. They are not remade, polished or reinvented in any way at all. In this day and age where everything needs to be remodelled within the new set of standards, I find this quite refreshing. The only modern brushing is evident in the menus, where Taito has incorporated several new modes for some of the titles like boss rush and score attack. Some of these were already available in the original games by inputting codes, but now they are a lot more accessible. There are also quick saves, online ranking, and it's possible to watch replays of your own runs.
In many ways, it is interesting to see how Darius has evolved from one console to the next, and this bundle is a nice piece of the legacy in that respect. What's more, like most games in the genre, they are all very challenging - it's supposed to be a tough and painful road of hard lessons until you are ready to kick the robotic guts out of flying sea creatures. Some of the games even have several endings based on the routes you choose, and this increases the replayability and makes it enjoyable to revisit them time and time again.
This is by no means a perfect collection, but if you're already a fan of the genre, the Darius Cozmic Collection Console should be a no-brainer. It's just a shame it's not a bit more definitive.