20% OFF G-DARIUS HD !
June 25th, 2022 at 2:10 PM by Kugee
You don't know how long I had been waiting for this. At long last, a PC port of G-Darius true to its arcade form has arrived, and takes great strides to make conventional emulation methods for it obsolete! Objectively speaking, this is easily one of the very best games of all time, right in the top three, and you need to get it now. Let me explain:
STGs have developed an unfair reputation as being these "generic space shooters", as if they're about nothing more than "shooting and avoiding stuff" like we hadn't moved past Space Invaders and Galaga. The truth is really the complete opposite of that assumption, and speaking as someone who's programmed an STG of my own, I can tell you that it's very difficult to make something that's unique, challenging, and compelling. The most well-designed STGs are highly distinct from each other in how they play out - Gradius, R-Type, and the like...
As the fourth arcade installment in the Darius series, G-Darius completely masters the art of STG. Like many others before it, it's a highly technical game that requires a ton of patience and skill to conquer; after all, its initial objective was to eat away at coins, and do it fast. While the sheer number of projectiles on the screen and the very limited number of hits your ship, the Silver Hawk, can take is bound to be overwhelming at first, you'll eventually notice yourself getting a lot better as you dedicate yourself to G-Darius more. There's nothing more rewarding than the experience of finally conquering an expertly hand-crafted challenge.
One distinguishing feature that's been around since the start of the Darius series is the branched structure of zones, or stages. When you complete a zone, you're given the option to select one of two succeeding zones. Both will have higher difficulty than the last, but the difficulty between each and every zone will vary, which gives players the opportunity to experiment further if they're not doing well on a particular route. When you finally complete this game properly in a single credit, it's not quite done yet!
G-Darius takes that branched structure a step further. Even though it has fewer zones, it offsets this by splitting zones into two areas each, which can be selected at the midpoint of a zone. Depending on the area you select, you'll get a different variant of the zone's boss which could be harder as well.
Perhaps the most important feature of G-Darius is the ability to capture almost any enemy in the game and use it to gain additional firepower and take cover from overwhelming fire. Not only that, you can also convert them into energy to be used for an insanely powerful Alpha Beam, which can even be used to counter a boss's Beta Beam (large beam colored red). While you have to mind that all take only a finite number of hits, knowing what to capture and when exactly to turn them into beams will ultimately make G-Darius much easier to complete, eventually.
G-Darius HD brings forward several other external features to help novices improve. Not only does the built-in replay system allow players to look over exactly what went wrong without the need for a resource-intensive screen recorder, it also offers a training mode which lets players start from any zone with the exact set of powerups they want. As I understand, it even includes automatic savestates. Although I haven't been compelled to use that feature, it's great that it's available.
More than that, you also have the option to display a number of detailed statistics not visible in the original game, including the strength of your barrier, the hit points of the boss and whatever enemy you've captured, and your Alpha Beam charge gauge (useful if you need to hold it down very briefly to make your capture temporarily invulnerable, which is a technique used in some high-scoring runs). For those who want to win, these are immensely helpful.
I should point out upfront that the "HD" moniker is somewhat misleading. This is not a total retexturing of G-Darius; all that's really done here is some upscaling, and a few models were replaced with high-polygon versions. That's not to say it looks terrible; the visual style of G-Darius still holds up really well to this day, and I'm certain it has a lot to do with how the initial technical limitations really pushed the developers to get creative.
There's a lot of distinct, eye-popping scenes to fill the background in each zone, some including various details to make them feel much more alive, such as in this one zone where you're flying alongside pterosaurs on their way to feast on giant flowers, unknowing of the immediate fate of their planet. Such details weren't vital to the game, but the fact that they're there makes it that much more special. There's no lines of dialogue to tell the story; instead, the background is intently used to do so, and it's very well executed. You won this battle, but Amnelia is destroyed; now you drift through its debris in search of a new harbor for life...
Some of these graphics overwhelmed the original hardware at times, making the game slow down at times, and, in turn, making it considerably easier. There have been a few ports of G-Darius in the past; one on the PlayStation 2 found in Taito Legends 2 happened to run at around 60 FPS almost all the time, which could throw off some players more accustomed to previous versions. M2, with their strong reputation of accurately replicating various arcade games to the exact rate they originally ran at, solved this issue. Now I have the perfect version to start up without much trouble!
The soundtrack for G-Darius was composed by Hisayoshi Ogura, then a member of Taito's in-house band Zuntata, who also composed for previous installments. I have to tell you, not only is this his strongest work, it's the absolute best game soundtrack of all time. As with previous Darius games, it's not always some sort of adrenaline-pumping, free-flying magic as is expected from STGs, and that's what makes it so special. The highly unusual instrumentals and techniques it leverages create an experience so powerful, completely unlike anything I've ever heard elsewhere. It's the kind of music that can really grow on you the more you listen to it.
I also really like how G-Darius isn't afraid to start the first zone off with silence, only letting the background music kick in around a minute later. Such a simple cue shifted further away really goes far in emphasizing its importance, and makes the track hit that much stronger.
Even for all the time I hadn't been playing G-Darius, I've listened to its soundtrack for countless hours on end as I worked on some of my many various projects. It's such a pleasure to listen to; this is the exact kind of music I'd want more of. If you watch an interview Ogura partook in for Beep in 2019, you'll really understand how much goes into this.
Though $30 USD is an extreme price for a game originating from 1997 and I would advise you only buy it when it's discounted, G-Darius HD does go the extra mile to help justify itself. (As of writing this, we're early into Gaben season, so now's the time to get it.) The extra features mentioned earlier are enough to obsolete emulation (Nintendo, take notes!!), but there's more to it. The package comes with several variants of the game, including the original, non-HD version with less polygons, as well as both HD and non-HD variants of the lesser known "Ver. 2" release of G-Darius for arcades that changed a number of gameplay aspects. The PC version even includes a special "exhibition mode" that answers the question "what if G-Darius came in a multi-screen cabinet?" It's extremely limited; you can only fight a few bosses in it, but it's cool that it's there. If this mode could be updated to cover the entire game, that would really be something.
I would like to see a few quality of life improvements in this game, including removing the required delay in between adding a credit and starting the game. The ability to skip the intro cutscene is already there, so that's a start.
Overall, G-Darius HD is a fantastic experience well worth your time. In many ways, G-Darius is a swan song to the old school STG, before the bullet hell subgenre started to take over the whole scene. G-Darius is not just a game, it's an instrument for inspiring generations of new elite fighters no matter what they are.
Oh yeah, it also runs reliably in Proton - something I should point out for Linux users like myself.
A Nice Looking HD Remaster as i Might Get it One Day.
Nice article, its gold :bugfix:
I think I should make reviews like this but for rhythm games once I host my WWW server :bugfix_discontent:
Sweet review covering all of the essentials I might need for my future try of G-Darius.
Nice article man, well worth a quality read. What would be the "bullet hell" equivalent of G-Darius? If that sub-genre had a good game like G-Darius, then it should be not sub-par.
Nice article man, well worth a quality read. What would be the "bullet hell" equivalent of G-Darius?
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