Finally officially available in the West, Darius Cozmic Collection is a grand assortment of some of the most quintessential shooters that helped influence an entire generation of shoot ’em ups. That’s great and all, but the catch is that the collection is split into two versions, one covering the arcade games and another covering console ports and original titles. And that’s where the issues can arise.
In terms of presentation, both collections have the same M2 polish that you expect. There are snappy load times, additional features like quick save and quick load, and the ability to add various pieces of info on the unused screen space towards the sides like boss health and upcoming Zones. The additional information is very handy and something I’m usually glad to have on-hand going back to the less hand-holdy era of gaming. But while the extras are great, I want to discuss the lineup, which is much more uneven compared to what you might expect.
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade comes first and focuses on the three core titles that conquered arcades back in the day: Darius, Darius II, and Darius Gaiden. There is also Sagaia, a modified version of Darius II that was only available in the West. They provide a look at how Taito successfully innovated in the shooter genre by using multi-screen cabinets, before dropping back to one-screen setups in order to reduce costs and increase availability.
This is especially apparent with Darius, which employed a three-screen setup. Darius stretches all across the TV or Switch screen, and everything looks tiny as a result in Pixel perfect setup. While tolerable on large flatscreen TVs, it’s absolutely ant-sized in Handheld mode and you’ll definitely need Screen Fit size to play properly. It’s annoying that Screen Size can’t be tailor customized for different Switch forms of play, but going to Options is quick enough that it’s not too much of an issue.
Fortunately, Darius II‘s two-screen setup and Darius Gaiden‘s one screen fare much better, and each are more akin to what you expect in terms of screen size. For Darius and Darius II, M2 has tried recreating the Body Sonic technology that added rumble to arcade game cabinets with HD Rumble, to mixed effect. While the feature is utilized in a very fun manner, you really have to tone it down if you don’t want the controllers to be constantly rumbling, which is disappointing.
Darius II (and Sagaia) and Darius Gaiden are a great look at some of the most polished games in the series, especially Gaiden. Graphically and musically, these games are also among the best. On a more personal note, these two games also drop checkpoints for the ability to respawn where you left off, which I have always found to be much better for pacing in such a hectic genre.
Then there is Darius Cozmic Collection Console, which is much more of a mixed bag. The problem with a collection like this is that the games came out during a time when perfect arcade ports couldn’t be made, so many of the games in this version are technically compromised versions that don’t fully capture the experience. That’s great for collection or comparison purposes, or if you’re in the mood to try different experiences of the same game, but unless you grew up with the console versions, why would you ever go for the console versions first over the arcade versions?
It doesn’t help that Darius never got many ports, unlike space shooters like Gradius. The main inclusion here is Darius Plus, which wasn’t even originally available in the Japanese Switch release until the PS4 version came out in Japan. That said, it definitely is a great version of the title that shows off the power and graphical capabilities of the PC-Engine. It even adds in instant respawn! But I can’t help wishing that M2 would back-port the Sega Genesis version of Darius completed for the Genesis Mini to this collection for some extra variety. (It should be noted that the collection includes Darius Alpha, which is nothing more than a Boss Rush version of Darius Plus.)
For Darius II and Sagaia, these are perfectly good ports of the original arcade version from the Mega Drive and Genesis respectively. Bizarrely, there was also a Master System version of Sagaia for Europe that is included, and is worth a run for novelty’s sake. But the main dish for this collection are definitely Darius Twin and Darius Force (Super Nova), two console-original titles released on SNES.
Both of these titles are very fun, featuring original stages, music, and, for Darius Force, a selection of different Silver Hawk variants that differ in capabilities. Graphically, these are vibrant shooters featuring some of the best 16-bit graphics. However, it can be difficult to adjust to these games if you’re coming from Arcade, as these titles are definitely more challenging from the get-go, forcing you to replay over and over again just to clear the stages. Both games also don’t have any continues, and Darius Force brings back checkpoint respawns. Despite these issues, they’re still great to go through, and each offer a different experience so that neither of them feel like a mission pack expansion for the other.
Both these titles are definitely great incentives for getting Darius Cozmic Collection Console. That said, I still can’t help but think that the consoles got the shorter end of the stick, considering the roster of titles. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade also offers multiplayer as an incentive, whereas Console only includes Darius Twin as a co-op title. If Taito hadn’t saved G-Darius and Dariusburst for Darius Cozmic Revelation, there would definitely be more of a case to make for the console games, but as it stands, stick to Arcade if you have to only pick one.
Darius Cozmic Collection is available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.