Release Date: December 24th, 2009
System: Sony PSP
My Score: 7/10
WARNING! A HUGE BATTLESHIP IS APPROACHING FAST!
The last true Darius game released was back in 1997 for the arcades and subsequently, home systems. (G Darius). 2002's "Darius-R" is just a re-badged Darius Plus, so I didn't count it. Now 12 years later, 2009's Dariusburst was released. The box art and title screen insist that "Dariusburst" is one word, so I'll do as they suggest. This is by far the most graphically advanced Darius game yet. As a die-hard shmup fan I love the old Darius games. When I heard there were going to release a new Darius title, I couldn't believe it. I saw the screen shots and trailer and was even more excited for its release. Can pretty graphics make an already great series even better? We'll see!
If you're a fan of the Darius series, then you'll find a lot of familiar faces. From the grunts to the bosses, it will all feel familiar. Like in the past, most of the enemies are mechanized sea creatures. The game retains its old level select system where you choose which level you'd like to go to after defeating a boss. There are a total of 11 levels, but you can only play 5 during each run of the game. The difficulty of the game depends on which level you choose at the end of each stage. The power-up system is also the same as previous Darius games. Just collect the color orbs to build up your main weapon, missiles, and shield. So what did they add to this latest installment of killing fish of steel? There is a new ship called Legend Silverhawk, which is your default ship. Next there are two unlockable ships. One called "Next Silver Hawk" and the other, "Origin Silver Hawk". The Next Silver Hawk is a new type of Darius ship, and the Origin Silver Hawk is what its name implies, the original Silver Hawk from the first Darius games. The difference is all in the burst, which I'll explain next.
The reason the game is called "Dariusburst" is because of the huge laser burst your ship can build up as it destroys enemies. When the burst meter is full, just hold the "X" button down for a powerful burst of annihilation that will pierce through anything in your way. It is very similar to the laser burst system in the Dreamcast masterpiece, Border Down. Quickly double-tap the "X" button and the ship's burst mechanism detaches from the front of the ship and you can control its burst stream 360 degrees. It takes a bit of practice, but if you can learn to control the laser burst and the ship in tandem, you can deal some heavy damage to your foes. Since the burst meter builds as you kill enemies, you can theoretically keep the burst going on as long as there are enemies on the screen. It is greatly satisfying when you master the burst system in this manner. The Origin Silver Hawk does not have a burst laser, so if you'd really like to test your skill, choose the Origin Silver Hawk. The Next Silver Hawk's burst weapon is frustrating to use while in detach mode because of its control scheme. Instead of mastering it, I just always choose the Legend Silver Hawk.
Old fans of the Darius series are treated a familiar soundtrack. Former members of Taito's in-house music group, Zuntata, wrote the tunes for Dariusburst. Now when I said "familiar", it just seems like they got the guys to come into the studio on a lazy Sunday and just slightly remixed old tracks from previous Darius games and decided to just go home on their lunch break and never came back to the studio. Thus, you get a recycled soundtrack...nothing like the masterpieces from Darius Gaiden.
The game is very short compared to most earlier Darius games. Since there are unlockables (ships, options), the game does have replay value. After defeating the game in Arcade mode, you can unlock the Mission mode. The Mission mode plays like a survival mode in different games. You are given one life (but are fully powered-up) and you have to see how far you can go with just one life. You can fight a string of bosses or play through most of the levels at one time, sans bosses. The higher you get in Mission mode, the tougher it gets. The better you do, the more unlockables you get in the View mode. The View mode is just a gallery that shows art pieces from the game. Once you have defeated Mission mode, you unlock Burst mode. Burst mode is a nice little treat. It plays like Mission mode, but your burst meter is always full and you have all the power ups. Kill 'em all!
If you're a fan of the Darius series you'll probably have the same two thoughts I did after the playing the game for a while; "I've been here before, they should try something new" or "This is very nostalgic". If you've never played a Darius game before, then it will all feel new to you and it is a great game with high replay value. But if you are new to the Darius series, I suggest Darius Gaiden (Saturn/PSX) and G-Darius (PSX/JPN PSN) for a great Darius experience.
It's a beautiful game to look at with its colorful graphics and its smooth 60 frames per second fluidity. My final score is a 7/10. I'd love to give it a higher score, but they didn't really innovate the series, they just reminded people that the series exists. While this game is a new addition to the series, it does feel like just a rehash. A graphical updated mash-up of previous Darius games with some unoriginal additions and recycled bosses and soundtrack. Backgrounds were colorful, but boring and uninspired compared to previous Darius games. I hope they make an all-new Darius game from the ground up for PSN/XBL with all new bosses and enemies. That would be the perfect Darius game for the new generation.
Trailer for Darius Burst:
My copy, played on a PSP-3000GT