Review by SonicSJU

Reviewed: 10/07/03

A Shooter Classic, but an Import Experience for me!

One of my all time gaming experience was…. The Game Experience. A video game shop that was located on 75th Rd & Queens Blvd. It was here that I experienced imports. In March of 1991, I was already reading about the cool stuff that was coming out from the land of the rising sun. However at mere 13yrs old, I wasn’t able to afford the whopping $100 bucks that the mail order shops were advertising and I had to be wise on my gaming decision since there were no places to rent out 16bit games at the time. The Game Experienced changed all that; it was not only a game shop with imports, but also a game shop that rented out imports!!! Unbelievable, at $3 you could take out a genesis game but $4 gave you the privilege to rent out a Mega Drive game with the import adapter to ease the playing effort. My 2 first rental imports were Shadow Dancer and Darius II. Shadow needed no introduction; it was the latest shinobi installment. However Darius II was intriguing, it was the 1st shooter I had my hands on, way before Gaiares, MUSHA, Hellfire and even the Thunder Force series. Taito even had their own shell casing with their logo inscribed on the cart. That said much because the MD Japanese shells were more slicker that the western ones. The game opened with Japanese text and 2 space ships going into hyperspace. That summer my dad was treating me to a videogame of my choice, I wanted to be daring and decided on an import, I had seen the MD version of Midnight Resistance a week before for 30 bucks, but instead I found Darius II for 20. I took it, shaved the sides of my genesis so that I would ease myself of playing this and all imports, and began my fight against the Belser Armada in my first import game.

Story: 8/10

The sequel to 1986’s Darius hit the arcade scene in 1989; it was a unique shooter that featured 2 screens so that the in-game action would look like a wide screen shooter. The Belser empire, after being defeated by the Silver Hawk fighters in the 1st game, have decided to take on the Earth’s solar system, an SOS signal was sent to the Hawks and they answered. Taito released home versions to both the Sega MD and the PC Engine in 1990. The Sega game was one of the 1st 8 Meg games to come out to the scene even before Sega’s Strider. The US got this game in the summer of 1991 after Taito signed as a 3rd party publisher. The game’s titled Sagaia in the states. Why??

Graphics: 9/10

This game had some of the best graphics for a shooter, they weren’t as extraordinary as those in TF3 or Gaiares but they resembled the arcade game very well. The 1st stage at the surface of the Sun showed some pretty good parallax, the ship is well designed and animated, enemies are well drawn and bosses are intense.

Game play: 9/10

Very good game play, the Silver Hawk ship is capable of power ups that would appear after you destroy a set of enemy drones that fly on the screen. You can power up on your shots, lasers and bombs that eventually turn into homing missiles. Shields are also available. The game is broken up into a series of passages similar to the paths taken in the game OutRun. Therefore only 7 stages are playable per run but the game offers a total of 28 stages. This in turn allows for different endings. About 8 of them in total, so the replay value is quite high for a shooter.

Difficulty: 8/10

The 1st time I played this game I couldn’t get past the 2nd stages so I would say the difficulty was there but there’s always room for improvement and the learning curve is immediate. I would say the game goes well when you sustain your ship with shields. Otherwise the battle will be tougher. Bosses are menacing but incredible and there is a method in defeating each one of them. For a head start on the trip, set your settings to automatic shooting and choose Tiat Young as your fighter, she rides the Blue Hawk, which is powered up by a notch.

Sound & Music: 9/10

Taito’s in the house when it comes to this game’s sounds. The SFX are sweet. Nothing spectacular like in other shooters but its good stuff for this game, as if the explosions and shots belong with what’s going on in the game. The music is the famed works of Zuntata. Taito’s music composers who are famed in doing some truly funky music to their array of games. The Darius series is no exception and this game has some really nice music. The 2nd stage theme is smooth and mellow yet it runs well with the game’s actual environment. This isn’t the soundtrack you are going to love, but you certainly wont hate. After all if something isn’t broken then why bother fix it. This fits the game perfectly.

Overall: 9/10

Darius II is a great shooter, and one that’s great to start getting into this lost genre of games. Granted the 16bit era has some spectacular shooters in its time, this one is certainly not forgotten. Taito followed this game with 2 Darius games for the SNES, and later launched the immortal Darius Gaiden in the arcades and Sega Saturn. Finally the series came to a climax with G-Darius released to Sony PlayStation. To this day there hasn’t been a Darius game, and with the launch of new shooters like R-Type Final and Gradius V. Taito should reconsider bringing back Darius to these new systems, one thing is certain is that this game brought me fond memories of what an import game is about. The experience of shooters and playing games from Japan have fascinated me because it has broaden the possibilities of what other players on the other side of the world are playing. I miss that old game shop which closed its business and was turned into a photography store but i still buy imports on EBay. Besides, I like the original stuff better than anything altered. This is a good reason why I have the Bare Knuckle series instead of the Streets Of Rage games. Did you see what they did to III??

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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