Darius Cozmic Collection Review – Bringing the Classic Shmups Home

    Title: Darius Cozmic Collection
    Developer: M2
    Release Date: June 16, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Taito
    Genre: Shmup

If you’re a fan of retro shmups, then the Darius series needs no introduction. The only thing that would make you more of a fan is if you are genuinely into mech fish. The Darius series has been receiving entries since it first released in 1986. From arcade to consoles, this is a game that would be brought up in conversations about Life Force and R Type. Still, the series has been somewhat dormant this past generation, but thanks to the Darius Cozmic Collection, we can spend some time playing the shmups from our past. What’s even better about this collection is that it combines the international versions of each title for shmup fans to enjoy.

The Darius Cozmic Collection is separated by console and arcade releases. Taking a look at the console version, there’s plenty for fans to be excited about as they definitely went all out. Playing Darius II again as it was released in each region provided a nostalgic and learning experience for me.

Understanding that slight difference between versions and how they took advantage of the hardware was simply a blast. Other inclusions on the console version are Darius Twin and Darius Force. Darius Twin is pretty standard and plays well if you’re coming from Darius II. The game borrows many enemies and powerups, but it is a standalone alone experience. The biggest difference would be the updated graphics, but it’s rather straightforward.

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Darius Force is such a weird game and showed how eager the developers were to try something new. The game doesn’t flow with series at all and is challenging, thanks to a few key changes in options. One feature that gets annoying is how death sends you back to a checkpoint or the beginning of the stage.

It makes getting through levels tedious since the game relies heavily on your memorization of the enemy patterns. Two games in the collection that I have never played or even knew existed were Darius Alpha and Plus, developed on the PC Engine. These two titles attempted to bring the arcade experience to PC, but it is pretty dumbed down. Regardless, I enjoyed playing a Darius game that I had never heard of.

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The arcade version of the Darius Cozmic Collection is where some of the best additions this series has to off can be found. However, like the console version, you’re going to get multiple versions of the same game with slight differences. Still, I couldn’t help but love playing the Dual Screen Version of Darius II with detailed character sprites and levels. When it comes to the arcade versions, it’s good to remember that these titles were meant to take your quarters. Luckily, the developer allows you to insert more credits as you play, so it’s never an issue.

When it comes to this collection, I think that Darius Gaiden stands out as its own experience. The game seems to want to impress bullet hell fans as it features plenty of onscreen enemies and death traps across its stages. Still, no matter how many time I died, I couldn’t help but want to play it over and over again.

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Most entries in the Darius series allows players to choose their own path to end. When it comes to console releases, I think the developers toned things down with bosses and made the levels a bit more forgiving. The stages do get increasingly difficult, but it never feels like they are trying to kill you. Furthermore, each game allows players to collect powerups for their ships along with armor. Darius is all about the powerups too. In Darius II and Darius Twin, losing a life and respawning can be pretty much the end of a run if you don’t find upgrades fast.

The Darius series also enjoys spawning enemies from both sides of the player, forcing them to prepare for anything. Each ship can drop bombs as well as equip lasers that allow them to cover all sides of them. Bosses also tend to shift sides during a match, which forces players to use the entire screen during gameplay. Luckily every time you’re in battle, there is some great music to jam to no matter which game you are playing.

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Additional options in the Darius Cozmic Collection allow players to fine-tune their pixel experience along with changing up the background. Players can also make quick saves so you can just load a save from wherever you wish. One option missing is a gallery with scanned manuals and keyart to look through and learn more about the history of the series. There’s a manual option, but this just leads you to a webpage.

What players might not enjoy about Darius Cozmic Collection is how many versions of the same game are available. While I appreciate this, having three versions of Darius II isn’t totally necessary. It makes the collection fill padded, but at the same time, it makes this the definitive collection. However, the collection is missing G-Darius and Dariusburst, which is a shame.

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Darius Cozmic Collection is a piece of history for shmup fans. The collection includes a full catalog of the series that allows you to experience some titles that weren’t easily accessible before this release. While I wish there was more history featured in the collection, it was a blast playing these games again, or for the first time.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.