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So, you've finally gotten around to purchasing this game, and you find yourself overwhelmed by a bunch of projectiles all over the screen, all flinging at you. Where do you go from here? You have two options:
One. Spam rapid fire at all the fish and keep credit feeding until you reach the end.
Two. Take the time to absorb everything that comes towards you, learn how to approach every section, and anticipate every move the enemy makes and counter them all with your cunning.
The first method is the easy route, but it is not nourishing. Perhaps it is useful for simply getting a feel of the Silver Hawk's movement, but panicked dodging and firing will not get you far on a single credit. To truly reap the rewards of victory, you must use the second method. But in order to succeed, you must have the proper discipline. When you get hit, this question must come to mind: Why did the fish bite off your arm? You must be able to answer the question... many times.
Now, if you haven't already, you should first play the game as you would to get a grip on the movement and firing controls. Otherwise, you won't understand anything I'm talking about. Those who rise to glory do so by first falling. I will describe the essential mechanics in the immediate next section in case they are not immediately obvious.
Getting to know the Silver Hawk is imperative to your success. As G-Darius is an STG, you should immediately know that it is all about firing straight ahead of your ship. Now, let's take a look at how the Silver Hawk shoots...
The Silver Hawk has three forms of forward fire. The one you start with is the missile. While it starts off narrow, it quickly grows wider as you upgrade it by collecting red powerups, which are contained in red-colored enemies.
Missiles can destroy enemies, obviously, but they are destroyed upon making contact with an enemy, destructible projectile, or terrain. Because only a limited number of your projectiles can exist on the screen at a time, some speedrunners may prefer this weapon to maximize shot output.
Upon collecting seven red powerups, the Silver Hawk is upgraded with the laser weapon. This weapon is capable of piercing through enemies and destructible projectiles, but is destroyed upon colliding with terrain. While very powerful at higher levels, it is always quite narrow, so it is not ideal to get stuck with this weapon for longer than you need to.
The most powerful type of weapon is the wave shot, which can pierce through almost everything, including enemies, destructible projectiles, and terrain. Even at its lowest level, wave shots are pretty wide, and at the highest level, it is extremely effective at clearing out enemies to your side. About the only thing it cannot pierce through is Refnite, a strange, indestructible, rainbow-colored polygon - more on that later.
The bomb is the Silver Hawk's auxiliary, gravity-propelled form of fire, often useful for attacking ground units. You strengthen it by picking up green-colored powerups.
To upgrade the bomb weapon, you only need to collect four green powerups. As with the forward fire, there are three tiers here: the initial single bomb, twin, and multi. Twin bombs is what the name implies; you fire two bombs at once, one down right, and another up right. Multi does this as well as firing two additional bombs behind you, which is really important for attacking enemies behind you.
Now, Arm in this context is not a weapon, but a shield that protects you from enemy fire in all directions. Depending on the tier, it can take a certain number of hits at maximum. This shield is repaired by collecting blue powerups. The amount of hits recovered depends also depends on the tier.
There are some things to keep in mind here. For one, the arm barrier does not protect against terrain collision to my knowledge, except in the Hyper tier. Also, because collecting a blue powerup in the normal tier only adds one hit to an existing barrier, you should try to get hit once if your shield has only one hit left and then pick up the powerup if at all possible, because picking one up with no shield equipped always gives you three hits right off the bat.
Furthermore, blue powerups are disprportionately scared compared to red and green powerups, hence you cannot entirely rely on the arm barrier to survive. This is where something else comes into play, as described in the next section.
Last but not least, if you lose your ship, each of your levels are reset to zero, but you do keep any higher tier weapons you may have. Recovery is very much doable to some degree, but for best results, you should try to run through the game on a single life as much as you can.
The signature mechanic of G-Darius is the ability to capture almost any enemy in the game, and exploit them to gain additional firepower and/or protection against enemy fire. If, when you see it in action, the first thing that comes to your mind is Pokemon, or, I don't know, Shin Megami Tensei II, you've got the right idea, although this is a much more abusive "use 'em and lose 'em" type of scenario.
As the opening message box reads, "use B button to capture enemies". Pressing the B button (or whatever your capture button is assigned to) fires a capture ball. If it hits an enemy, it's turned to your side. Don't worry if your capture ball misses; the count of capture balls you have only decrements when you capture an enemy.
You start off with three capture balls when you respawn. A purple powerup gives you an additional capture ball, and you can carry up to six at once. Trying to pick up more only awards you 5,000 points, which is measly compared to what you could gain from leveraging additional mechanics stemming from the capture system.
How Captured Enemies Work
I'm not going to describe how every captured enemy works in this guide works, but as you go along, you'll figure out which ones best suit you. However, there are a few things you should know about them in general.
Many enemies are capable of absorbing projectiles for you, but all can only withstand a finite number of hits, so you should at least treat them with love and care before you coldly sacrifice them. The only exception to this rule is Refnite, the aforementioned rainbow polygon type thing which only appears in the fourth and fifth bosses. It cannot be destroyed, but it can be captured, making it invaluable for more risky tactics.
Some enemies will fire projectiles of their own, which are always colored green. When these projectiles destroy an enemy, you gain double the normal score for it, which is especially valuable when completing formations. Captures that destroy enemies by colliding with them also award double points, but your main firepower still only gives you the baseline score. Of course, this is entirely inconsequential to gameplay, as scoring does not award any extends (extra lives).
Captains, otherwise known as minibosses, require some additional involvement to capture. They're protected by a gold shield that needs to be destroyed with your normal firepower. You have to aim right at that gold piece; firing elsewhere at the body too much will destroy the captain. Once the shield is broken, the captain is ready to be captured.
Captains have even more firepower available in addition to what they fire by default. By performing a quick sequence of movements with the joystick, you can make the captain perform its special attack; the motion should be similar to what you'd find in fighting games, I think. If you are playing G-Darius HD, you can refer to a gadget for the specific movement combination you need for your captain.
To Beam, or Not to Beam?
When you have a captured enemy on hand, you have two means of disposing it. One is by simply detonating it by pressing the B (capture) button again. This is useful if you are in a pinch and need to discard an enemy right away or create a large barrier around yourself, perhaps to help you capture a captain. For scoring, however, it is objectively bad since it only gives a triple multiplier and does not last all that long.
A much more versatile way to discard an enemy is with the Alpha Beam, an absolutely insane stream of constant fire that obliterates almost everything in its path, including projectiles. At its baseline level, it gives you a quadruple multiplier.
You fire this beam by holding down your shot button (NOT rapid fire) for a brief moment until the enemy's energy is all charged up into some orb as depicted above. Keep it held down until you are ready to release the beam. When you release the beam, normally, it doesn't last very long, but if you rapidly tap the shot button (or hold rapid fire), you can significantly extend the duration of the beam.
This beam becomes even more powerful and awards even more points when you use it to counter a Beta Beam, colored red, which is fired by bosses at certain points. To counter a Beta Beam, you should have your alpha beam ready or active at the right moment. Move it right into the beta beam, and make sure you're holding rapid fire or pressing the fire button frequently. There, you can do some serious damage to the boss; without countering beams, fights can take a very, very long time. Turning a captain into an alpha beam automatically makes it worth a single counter, delivering a higher level of damage and a hextuple score multiplier.
There is one caveat, though. Any such gold pieces flying around, as well as the gold shields endowed by captains, CANNOT be destroyed by alpha beams, only your normal shots. As such, you have to be mindful of when and where you're beaming so as to not leave it to waste too much.
Now that you've read up on the functions of the Silver Hawk, it's time to put them to action!