Darius Gaiden is a horizontal shmup which has a story involving blowing
stuff up. The attract mode has some Engrish which attempts to explain the
Darius Gaiden is the first game in the series that really manages to go
beyond being a bland horizontal shooter. None of the earlier games were
outright bad, but often they had bland levels and the only really good
parts were the music and boss fights. That changed with Gaiden, which has
very good level design, intense gameplay, fantastic boss fights and the
strangest music Zuntata could come up with.
Darius Gaiden is set immediately after the first Darius. With that in
mind, let the screenshots tell the story.
Darius Gaiden puts tremendous firepower at your fingertips as you power up.
Button A fires both your gun and your bombs, while B uses the new Black
Hole Bomb. Collecting red shields powers up your gun, green shields your
bomb, and blue shields give you the classic Darius force field. Yellow
shields erase all enemies, and grey ones give a score bonus. Purple
shields give another Black Hole Bomb, and finally a Silver Hawk in a bubble
awards an extend. At full power, you will have homing missiles, auto-
targeting options, and red crescents that pierce enemies and walls all
firing at once. The maximum number of projectiles you can have on screen
is high enough that around half of the screen will have weaponry on it.
Scoring is relatively simple. Shooting down a whole group of enemies gives
a fixed score bonus. The grey shields have a fluctuating point value,
based on where they are in their little orbit when you collect them. Upon
completing the game, any Silver Hawks or bombs left give major bonus
points. Beyond that, just shoot stuff.
Graphically the game is immense. Darius Gaiden was originally made for the
same F3 system that Ray Force runs on. Backgrounds fade in and out, and
the landscape is rendered to give a sense of distance. Enemies will hide
in the background, and shoot lasers out at you. The rotating tube in Stage
1 of Gekirindan originally showed up in Darius Gaiden. More impressively,
the number of sprites on screen at any time can get very massive. Many
bosses are made of many sprites, and can fires bullets all over the screen.
The game doesn't lag at all, even with so much intensity.
Sonically the game is a bit of an odd one. Explosions and sound effects
don't often have a lot of punch. The ones that do are usually enemy
attacks, which helps avoid them a little. The music is very strange.
Dance beats are mixed with warbling melodies and sampled vocal tracks. I
happen to like a lot of it. It isn't really all that good for listening to
by itself, but it fits the game quite well.
Darius Gaiden does have a rank system. It is fairly easy to control. Each
stage has a pre-determined rank. Powering up your gun to the next form on
any stage will increase rank to that stage's pre-determined value. To keep
rank relatively low, simply stop powering up once you reach wide green or
red crescents. Rank will be higher than the beginning, but not so high as
to make later sections nightmarish.
Like other Darius games, Gaiden allows you to select the next stage. Each
tier is given a theme. I'll explain the theme, and show you what one
playthrough looks like.
Zone A is the Vadis Base. This level is pretty easy, and should let you
get accustomed to the game. No really impressive graphical tricks,
although instead of simply entering a new section the background morphs
into it. The midboss shoots a flamethrower and is pretty easy to capture.
Golden Ogre is an ogrefish and Taito seems to be quite proud of it. You
can see him in the background while the WARNING screen flashes, then he
smashes a building when the fight actually begins. The F3 system wasn't
made to draw polygons, but it could draw and manipulate a ton of sprites
and Golden Ogre is made up of many sprites animated in unison to look like
a 3D boss. He doesn't have much in the way of attacks. He shoots scales
at you (shoot through them), he shoots a big beam at you (move up a
little), and he has a bullet spread that is easy to dodge. Pathetic.
The second tier is the Vadis Wilderness. Zone B is a fight over the
unpopulated lands of the planet, including plains, sea and forest. The
ground is rendered to give a sense of depth. The midboss is again easy to
capture, stay on top of him and he'll go down quickly. Some enemies zoom
in from the background, a nice touch. If you collect every powerup up to
the boss without dying, he'll go down much easier than if you died even
once and lost your weapon level. Of interesting note, the music track from
Zone A continues right up until you meet the boss.
Ancient Dozer the horseshoe crab drops down and begins plowing through the
forest. I don't think I've met a more intense logger. On his back are a
couple turrets and a hatch that fires missiles. He can dive into the
background and fire blue balls at you, and then potentially run into you on
the way back. When he takes enough damage, he'll go airborne and start
hitting you with lasers and more blue balls. You can shoot off his little
legs in this form.
Tier 3 is the Vadis System Open Space. These levels tend to be pretty
heavy in the debris department, with scraps of spaceships or asteroids
flying about. Zone D has asteroids, and part way through you'll enter a
space cave. Darius Gaiden does not award extends for score, but any stage
in Tier 3 will have an extend that you can find by shooting the scenery.
Folding Fan the fanfish looks relatively tame when he shows up. For a HUGE
BATTLESHIP, he's only about the size of some of the midbosses you've taken
down by now. He can throw out orbs that shoot at you when destroyed. He
has a bullet spread that if you sit just in front of it in the right spot,
you can dodge these. His signature attack is his lightning spine attack.
When he spreads his fins, each spine will fire an arc. He is very mobile
and can run into you as well.
The fourth tier is the Dimensional Corridor. Each zone starts the same, in
open space being surrounded by enemies. Control is taken away from you,
and just as the enemies close in you warp into the real level. Regardless
of which zone you choose, the levels tend towards the organic. Zone G has
sections with fallen pink gooey things. The level design looks a bit like
Salamander 2, and it even has waving tentacles that retreat as you shoot
them like in Konami shmups.
Prickly Angler starts out as just a little minnow like the ones you fought
throughout the level. It changes into a small anglerfish and starts
pelting you with some lasers. Nothing too awful. When it takes enough
damage, it turns into an adult. It now has blue lasers that expand and
contract in a circular pattern and the straight lasers are more menacing.
It also has many animated parts, such as the fins.
The fifth tier is the Darius system. More space levels with some debris.
For Zone K, the beginning of the stage takes place over a space station,
with enemies hiding in little nooks and shooting at you. A good chunk of
this stage takes place inside of a space fortress. At the beginning and
end, you have to destroy a wall firing bullets at you, which is actually
Fatty Glutton guards Zone K. Being a classic Darius boss, he gets little
orbs that precede him in battle for points. He has some classic attacks,
like the anchors, but also gets some new bullet spreads and lasers to bring
him up to the level of other Gaiden bosses. Like the original Fatty
Glutton, even with just a few attacks he manages to keep you moving at all
Tier six is Planet Darius, Part 1. Zone P takes place mostly either above
or below the sea. The effect of diving into the water in this game is very
cool, with water splashing everywhere. The midboss here has a gatling gun
and a lot of health, but if you capture him can be good help.
The crusty hammer is a mantis shrimp that loves to bounce around. While
all of his back scales indicate damage, you have to aim for the face to
kill him. He has some very danmaku-esque attacks, like when he rotates all
over spraying the place with skinny straight lasers. Even when he isn't
rotating, he can fire straight lasers at you. He will also try to slap you
down with his arm. When he does die, he spins around for a moment before
The seventh tier is the second Darius stage, and the last stage of the
game. Zone Z has a city for a background, though most of the level is
spent fighting through tight corridors. It's not too bad.
Great Thing is another traditional Darius boss, and one of the hardest in
every game. This guy is a flying sperm whale fitted with enough weaponry
to take on entire fleets without being underarmed. He has a ton of attacks
and never stops shooting at least one. He can fire a yellow homing laser
salvo that moves very fast. He has a twisty laser that isn't so bad. He
also has nose drills. His worst attack is his death ray. A cannon on his
back activates and a laser sweeps the stage, trying to follow you. If you
move too fast or don't have enough room when it starts, it will get you
every time. Great Thing can also add some big bullet spreads which are a
little hard to dodge.
Beating Great Thing gives one of the games better endings. Watch the
credits as Golden Ogre swims around.
Darius Gaiden has been ported to numerous systems over the years, usually
in compilation packs. The best is the Saturn version. It is nearly arcade-
perfect. It also allows autofire by special code. The firing rate in the
normal game is high enough that you can't really press the button faster,
but too slow to get through enemies quickly. The Saturn version bumps it
up to a full 30/second. It's possible to kill Golden Ogre before he fires
his beam at this speed, and the first four stages all become really easy
with this amount of firepower. Of course, various emulators like Raine and
most versions of MAME besides the basic one allow the same autofire rate.
Darius Gaiden still stands as my favorite side-scrolling shmup. Check it