Overview – developed by M2 and published by ININ Games/Strictly Limited Games, the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade and Cozmic Collection Console hit the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. These compilations feature a selection of titles from the legendary scrolling shooter franchise. The Arcade version features three games alongside regional variants of two entries, the Console version features four games alongside variants of each release. Links to purchase the game will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank the PR representative for ININ Games, who provided both of the Darius Cozmic Collections used for this review. The provision of these titles has not influenced the contents of this article, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Writer’s Note: this article was written and published previously at my previous outlet, this is being re-published along with the other content I created during my time there in order to maintain a consistent flow of work. Some pieces will be entirely re-written to match the standard I have set for myself over the past two years.
Now, as this is a double feature, I will be covering both compilations in a condensed format, combining some of the usual categories into single segments. So with that being said, let’s get into the first compilation, the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade.
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
The Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features all three entries in the Darius series released in the arcades, also featured are variants that were released both domestically and internationally. The titles featured, along with trivia provided in the menus are as follows;
- Darius (Old Version) – A side-scrolling shooter announced in 1986 and released in 1987. Its revolutionary cabinet at the time made quite the impression, combining a three-screen setup with bass speakers embedded inside the bench seat. Likewise, its iconic cast of colorful boss characters based on sea creatures such as the coelacanth and the sperm whale remain popular to this day.
- Darius (New Version) – In the Old Version of Darius, When the Silver Hawk’s missiles are upgraded to either the laser or wave weapons, each boss’s life increases. However, in this version, the game has been rebalanced such that boss fights are easier when the Silver Hawk has been powered up.
- Darius (Extra Version) – A version of Darius with greatly altered enemy health and enemy placement. Enhancements were added to make the game easier to play, including making the laser even more powerful in the New Version. However, the difficulty of stages in the latter half of the game has been rebalanced under the assumption that players will arrive at them with the Silver Hawk in an upgraded state.
- Darius II (Dual-Screen Version) – the second installment of the Darius series. Released in 1989, it was initially available as a two-screen cabinet before a three-screen cabinet was later released, allowing cabinets containing Darius and the Ninja Warriors to be upgraded to it. New to this entry is the ability to change the orientation of the Silver Hawk left or right during boss battles. The ship’s offensive capabilities have also been greatly improved, as have those of the bosses, which additionally sport new attack patterns, as well.
- Sagaia (Version 1) – A separate version of Darius II released overseas as an upright two-screen cabinet. In order to make gameplay unfold faster in foreign markets, the stages were shortened from the domestic Japanese release and the difficulty level was raised accordingly. Boss health has also been reduced, while some bosses and zone routes have been removed entirely.
- Sagaia (Version 2) – A separate version of Darius II released overseas as an upright two-screen cabinet. In order to make gameplay unfold faster in foreign markets, the stages were shortened from the domestic Japanese release and the difficulty level was raised accordingly. Boss health has also been reduced, while some bosses and zone routes have been removed entirely. This second version features different zones that the first did not, this title was also hardly available on the market, possibly not even at all.
- Darius Gaiden – The third entry in the Darius series, appearing in arcades in 1994. Despite that, it was the series’ first foray into single-screen gameplay, allowing it to be installed in standard and subsequently be available to play at a wider variety of locations compared to its predecessors. Its striking visuals caught people’s attention at the time, employing semi-transparent effects and parallax scrolling, as well as the black hole bomb that the Silver Hawk can employ to devastating effect.
With the details of each game in the Arcade collection covered, I want to talk about the gameplay, presentation and give some personal thoughts on it.
Gameplay – each title in the Darius Arcade collection features the same core gameplay mechanics, with side-scrolling shooter action, challenging marine based bosses and lots of bullets. Each title features the trademark non-linear game progression, as each boss is defeated the player can choose their own path through the game. The majority of the titles feature a total of 28 stages, with the exception of Sagaia ver.1 and ver.2, containing a total of 16 stages, with a different selection of playable stages for each variant.
Inside the stages, the player must navigate the hazards of the environment, avoiding enemies that flood the screen and battle the large bosses that fill up the screen with attacks. Each title uses an upgrade system, with the player collecting power-ups to improve weapon fire, bombs and shields that last until the player is hit by enemies or collides with the environment. Being an arcade game, the player has access to unlimited credits, allowing anyone with the patience to continue the chance to clear each game in this collection (with the exception of Darius Old and Darius New versions).
Presentation – the overall presentation of this compilation is very pleasing, with simple menus that are easy to navigate with additional details and trivia below the title screens on the side. There are also enhancements made to each release, with arcade cards, boss health details, route details and more. Additionally, there is a full suite of settings allowing the player to tailor the experience to the way that they want, including adjustable vibration to simulate the arcade experience, screen size for better viewing on smaller screens and customizable controls.
Final Thoughts – I had a lot of fun with this collection of games, there is a lot of content for the price and the challenge alone adds to the value of this package. The enhancements to the experience of each game with the on screen flourishes, the quality of life improvements of training and online leader boards, give these legendary games a new chance to be seen by an audience that may have never had a chance to see them before.
The visuals are striking, the sound crisp and clean, the controls are responsive and the overall quality control of all games in the collection are outstanding. There is however, a significant flaw to the compilation that may be a deal breaker to those using a Nintendo switch lite. The screen for Darius and Darius II may be too small for the handheld system, with the only option to increase visibility being to stretch the image to fill the screen, this negates the flourishes and enhancements introduced, rendering them pointless if the player needs to stretch the screen to see what is happening.
So in the end, I give the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade a score of 4/5. The overall package is outstanding, with these legendary titles being given a new chance to be appreciated with pixel perfect emulation, leaderboards for arcade style competition and replay sharing. The only issue is the visibility when playing in handheld mode on a regular switch, which could be made worse when playing on the smaller switch lite, preventing players from appreciating the enhancements provided.
If you want to pick up this game, links to both versions are below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Physical Versions (HERE)
Darius Cozmic Collection Console
The Darius Cozmic Collection Console features a selection of console releases in the Darius franchise, with entries on the Mega Drive, Master System, Super Famicom and PC Engine. The releases featured and the trivia attached to them are as follows;
- Darius II (Mega Drive) – One of several home conversions released for Darius II. In order to convert what was originally a two-screen arcade game into a single-screen format, all of the character spriteshad to be redrawn to be smaller and the series’ famously wide playfield had to be recreated for the different aspect ratio. Although co-op play was removed from this port and some bosses were switched out, it otherwise admirably maintains the spirit an atmosphere of the original game.
- Sagaia (SEGA Genesis) – The North American release of the Darius II Mega Drive port. Some of the cheats were disabled in this version.
- Sagaia (SEGA Master System) – A home conversion of Darius II that was primarily released in Europe and was never sold in Japan. Even in the wake of 16-bit game consoles such as the Mega Drive and Super Famicom, the 8-bit market in Europe remained strong for some time. As a result, games for the SEGA master system such as this continued the be released there for a longer period of time than in its Japanese home territory.
- Darius Twin (Super Famicom) – The Darius series’ first original entry for home consoles, released in 1991 for the Super Famicom. Although it uses the two-screen Darius II as a base, its design takes advantage of the single-screen format inherent to consumer TVs. Released just four months after the Super Famicom launched in Japan and was becoming a big sensation, in addition to existing fans, it was also played by a wide swath of people who had no experience with the original arcade games.
- Darius Twin (Super NES) – The localized version of Darius Twin produced for foreign markets. While the original Japanese version unfortunately featured compromised audio quality, resorting to monaural sound due to limited ROM capacity on the cartridge this release upgrades the game to stereo quality, making it the definitive version.
- Darius Force (Super Famicom) – A home console original entry. Darius force breaks with what had been series tradition up until that point in featuring bosses that go beyond the typical roster of ones based on marine biology, including ones inspired by bacteria, dinosaurs and more, a point the back of the box was keen to point out to players. That experimental spirit extends to the gameplay as well, with players able to pilot one of several ships, each with different capabilities as well as stages whose geography could change, among other things.
- Super Nova (Super NES) – The localized, international version of Darius Force. Some of the boss names were changed in this release.
- Darius Alpha (PC Engine) – A game produced in extremely limited numbers that wasn’t made for sale. Instead, it was instead primarily available via a special campaign for purchasers of Darius Plus through which 800 people were able to obtain a copy. It features a boss rush mode that pits players against the 16 bosses from Darius Plus and a four-minute time trial mode.
- Darius Plus (PC Engine) – A downgraded version of sorts of Super Darius. Whereas that game was previously released for the PC Engine CD-ROM2 and contained 26 bosses, this game was released as a HuCard and featured a more modest 16 bosses.
With the details of each game in the Console collection covered, I want to talk about the gameplay, presentation and give some personal thoughts on it.
Gameplay – much like the arcade releases, the titles in the Darius console collection feature the same side-scrolling shooting action, with non-linear gameplay progression, challenging bosses and a barrage of enemies trying to take the player down. Darius II and Sagaia for the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis feature the full 28 stages that the arcade version does, with some alterations being that they are home conversions. The Master System, Super Famicom, Super NES and PC Engine titles feature less total stages to play, but have the same quality and challenge that the Mega Drive and Genesis titles have.
The difficulty of the home console releases is much higher, this is due to the limited continues available in each game, with the exception of the Darius Plus, Alpha and Twin having no continues at all. There are settings in most titles that can ease the level of challenge, with difficulty selection and adjustable lives. However, the PC Engine title has no adjustable settings and the only way to succeed will be practice, patience and persistence, with the ability to save during play being a useful tool for progression.
Presentation – the presentation of titles in this collection is a delight to behold, with quality of life improvements to the games and the simplicity of the interface carried over from the arcade collection. Like the arcade version, there are additional gameplay modes and leaderboards available for some of the included titles. The additional gameplay modes include time attack, boss rush and a special mode that was hidden in Darius II. The last thing that makes this compilation so impressive is the inclusion of SUPER GRAFX emulation, reducing the amount of graphical flickering during play.
Final thoughts – the console collection has an excellent variety of titles to play, providing a time capsule for the home consoles that were around during the early 90’s. The only disappointment that was present is the omission of the PC Engine CD-ROM2 version of Super Darius, this may have been due to difficulties with emulation, so it isn’t a deal breaker. I did have a lot of fun playing these games and the score challenges add to the replay value, I spent several hours practicing the 4-Minute Time Attack in Darius Alpha, reaching number 25 on the leader boards with more room for improvement.
The majority of these titles are single player, with the only release having co-op play being Darius Twin. The lack of multiplayer isn’t an issue however, the score based nature of the game promotes pass over multiplayer, where a couple of people can pass a controller or Switch Lite unit and take turns trying to score the most points. The screen visibility is clear in all play styles and the controls are intuitive, allowing quick responsive movement during the tense boss battles and dodging hazards.
In the end, I give Darius Cozmic Collection Console a score of 5/5. An excellent compilation of titles, the emulation of the four different systems is fantastic, and the inclusion of the incredibly rare Darius Alpha is the cherry on top. There are no downsides with the presentation, quality or playability of the games, the only thing that could be classed as a flaw is the extreme difficulty, as having just a single credit before needing to start again can be frustrating.
If you want to pick this title up, links to both versions are below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Physical versions (HERE)
Having spent a lot of time playing these collections and having some experience in the past playing the Darius games, I can fully recommend both of these compilations. The quality of each game is high and the challenges are rewarding, I was unable to clear any of the console games, but plan to sink more time into the games. The majority of arcade games are easier to clear, with the ability to continue and unlimited credits. If you are looking for a more laid back experience, the arcade collection is the best choice, or if a demanding and challenging experience then the console collection is the way to go.
Please stay tuned as I plan to create more content centered around classic gaming, along with video content planned for the future.