Taito has a long history with the shoot-em-up genre of games. Afterall, it was Taito that gave us Space Invaders, the first mega-hit video game. Since then, they've followed up with dozens of games, from Gun Frontier to Gekirindan to the famous Ray Force (or Layer Section, if you prefer. Or Galactic Attack. Or Gunlock!).
Taito's flagship series of side-scrollers is the Darius series. Originally, Darius was all about being epic. The first arcade game used a now-famous 3-screen setup, compared to all those other single screen games. And bosses could take up as much as a whole screen, which was really something when the average Gradius or R-Type boss took up maybe half the screen. Darius was also, to my knowledge, the first shooter with a "WARNING" message before bosses, something that now exists in pretty much every shooter from Ikaruga to Tumiki Fighters. And to further distinguish Darius from other games, Taito offered branching paths and a total of 28 levels. And, the bosses. Oh Taito. Darius doesn't assault you with spaceships and aliens. You have to blow away gigantic fish, turtles, whales, seahorses and other aquatic life. The bosses are the best part of the first game, better than the Salamander, Gradius 1 or 2, and at least equal to R-Type. Unfortunately, the levels themselves are pretty bland.
Taito followed up with a second game that came in both 3 and 2 screen versions with better music, weapons, bosses, graphics, and gameplay. Darius II was simply a far superior game. Both got a few ports, to the PC Engine, the Mega Drive, and even the Gameboy and Saturn got a Darius game.
Then, Taito did something different. For the next two games, they went straight to the consoles. And they chose the SNES, even though the Mega Drive and PC Engine were getting far more shooters. These two games were brand new and not based on the arcade games, and have not been ported to any system since. These games are Darius Twin and Darius Force.
Darius Twin was an early game for the SNES. As such, Taito hadn't yet gotten really comfortable with the hardware and there is not much flash to the game. For instance, the attract mode is very straightforward. You have some text under the screen, and there are bad guys that fly from the right to the left. Then, a coelacanth joins them (the coelacanth is more or less the series mascot). The music is brooding and growing in volume. Suddenly, the SNES's slap bass synth kicks in while two Silver Hawks (your ship, and the other mascot of the game) fly from the left. Very large ones, in fact, with lots of detail in the spritework. Taito has always had a thing for the Silver Hawk.
From there, the logo rotates around really fast (simple Mode 7 effects, I believe) and you get the start screen. Options let you set the number of lives, difficulty (normal or easy, no hard), and music and sound effect tests. Then you get the choice of one or two players-handy for blowing away some mecha fish. Easy and Normal only change the number of hits to kill enemies, and it isn't a big deal.
So, you start the game. In an interesting move, you have a green Hawk in one player mode, and in two players you have red and blue Hawks for player one and two. Nice detail, especially when the arcade games all stuck you with a red Hawk in one player mode. And fairly early on, you see your first wave of enemies and then six rotating cubes. These cubes were used to harass the player for not killing bosses quickly in the first game, but here destroying them gives you powerups.
And so the level repeats. Sometimes, enemy waves come from behind, from above, from below, or there are single enemy turrets on the ground. But that's all there is?waves. The only shooting being done is by you until you reach the mid boss. Like in Darius II, the midbosses are all miniaturized versions of bosses from previous games. For Zone A, you have to beat back Little Stripes the angelfish. FINALLY, something shoots you. He fires a few crescents and tries to ram you, then repeats. Beat him, and the level continues on until you reach a mackerel by the name of Killer Higia. This guy appeared in Darius II where he wasn't nearly as cool looking (bad palette choice), but had better attacks. Here, only one attack can harm you and only if you don't move half an inch up or down. Something is odd here.
Taito decided to make Darius Twin a very easy game, to the point where it is laughably simple. Enemies always come in waves, and each enemy gets one wave. The speed of the wave can change, but that's about it. Little blue guys always have a really large sine wave pattern, red guys curve slightly up while flying to the left, these yellow tank things go across the screen and double back, but always the same pattern. Think of the pre-level enemies in early Gradius games and you have the idea, except here they don't even shoot bullets back at you!
Only a few regular enemies shoot bullets at you-there are some red things in Zone D that have been around since Darius, and a couple popcorn enemies that come from behind and shoot a laser if you let them live. The only really difficult enemy is the nautilus. It starts on the left (and often kills you while you sit on the edge of the screen), and fires three bullets in an arc while moving to the right. Not so bad, but it takes several hits to kill. These things kill me more often than the bosses.
Level B and C are nearly identical, sometimes you get an extra forward gun powerup in Zone C but otherwise they are hard to tell apart. The midboss is Guard Savage, and he uses an attack from another old Darius boss. He shoots a little shark, which turns into FIVE little sharks. Coolest attack so far. Also the high point of the levels. Level 2 (both of them) are placed in a generic starfield. That's it. Not even so much as a planet tileset in the background, just stars. And no scenery in the level, just open space. While the open space thing is common in vertical shooters, here you don't even have bullets to dodge to make it much fun.
As if to make up for it, you fight two coelacanths instead of one at the end. Emperor and Queen Fossil greet you and die quickly. Queenie shoots three slow lasers and can make dodging room scarce, but you'll only die if you deserve it. The other guy (the same one from the opening) fires one big laser straight forward.
Zone D is the first really interesting level in the game. For the first time, there are normal enemies who shoot bullets (little red guys), you have to watch for missiles and bombs, and still deal with the normal waves and a lack of weapon powerups. You do get lots of shields though. The level itself stops and scrolls diagonally and even vertically rather than being simply horizontal. Still easy to dodge everything, but at least you won't fall asleep. No midboss this time.
You instead get to fight the first impressive boss, a squid named Demon Sword. You get bullet arcs and tentacles to deal with. A piercing laser for your forward shot will blow away both tentacles in seconds, and the bullets aren't hard to dodge. Then the squid dies.
Zones E and F are again the same, minus a palette swap and maybe different item order. You still fight the same boss and mid boss (the middie is Burst Out!). And the boss is Dual Shears SP, a lobster. He can shoot his claws at you, but by this time you'll be so powerful they'll explode in 5 seconds flat.
Now the only 3-stage tier in Darius Twin. Zones G and I are again clones, while Zone H is the best looking one in the game. G and I are the same as B and C, except replace the star field with black or orange clouds (depending on level). You fight Dark Coronautus at the end, a simple and pathetic sea horse.
Zone H is the requisite underwater level, with watery theme music to boot. All three zones have you face off against a hermit crab named (sit down)...My Home Daddy. With a name like that, you know he can't be so easy. Indeed, his 5-ring attack is the deadliest in the game and he takes a lot of shots to kill. Zone H also has you fight an octopus at the end named Red Mist. The three discs Red Mist shoots out are the second deadliest attack in the game. Zone H is the best level so far!
Zone J and K are nearly clones. J scrolls diagonally up, K diagonally down. No mid boss here. Zone J gives you a turtle for the last boss, Full Metal Shell. Threat level is roughly on par with that of barley.
Zone K has Hyper Greatthing, and a remixed boss theme from his cousin Great Thing from the first Darius. The sperm whales of Darius know how to throw bullets out there, but even so Hyper Greatthing isn't very hard.
And finally, the last zone. Zone L has a nondescript star field for a background just like B and C. Its also the best level in the game. Taito seemingly realized that they had a game with no real aggressive enemies besides midbosses. So, they filled the level with midbosses! The order is somewhat random, but I've had as many as three Little Stripes or Burst Outs at once on screen. At the same time, you have nautiloids popping up from the left to kill you, and there are no powerups in this level. This level has been compared to Darius Gaiden for difficulty, and it really is apt. The only time you are in danger of a game over is this level, especially when your Daddy is chucking rings at you, a Burst Out is molesting you, and you have to fight off a bunch of sharks.
The level ends with Super Alloylantern, an anglerfish that first appeared in Darius II. You actually fly all around him, blowing away different parts before going to kill him somewhat akin to the R-Type Giant Battleship from level 3 of that game, and predating a similar style used in several G.Darius bosses. Its really a nice battle. When he dies, you fly into him, another idea from Darius II. Then you fight a walrus who is completely disappointing. Well done, game complete.
The levels and gameplay certainly don't do much for Darius Twin. The branching paths are almost entirely gone, although each tier does have some kind of theme ala Darius II with it's planets. Zone H doesn't really fit in with the other tiers, but its one of the two best in the game so we'll let it go. The graphics are actually pretty nice all around, not as nice as the good TurboGrafx shooters but on par with the average ones for that system or the Genesis.
The music is the best part. I've read it compared to Capcom's Mega Man X music, but I don't hear it. Taito's sound team Zuntata did use many of the same instruments, but the composition is straight Zuntata all the way with lots of danceable tracks and synth, and not the all-out hard rock of Mega Man X (especially 3). Hyper Greatthing, Zone H, and Zone D all have good music.
Darius Twin does have multiple endings, like the earlier Darius games, but rather than being based on the last level, they are based on the number of lives you lost. Not killing Super Alloylantern at all provides my favorite ending! In all the endings, your Silver Hawk has the same coloring it did in game, so if you played the game with a green one you don't get a red one in the ending. Nice touch.
Darius Twin made it over to the United States from Japan pretty much unaltered. All the levels are identical, and all the music is the same. Well, sorta...
Taito changed the sound of your forward firing gun to be the same as your secondary weapon in the US version. It still gets annoying by the end of the game. But they cranked the treble way up on ALL of the tracks. Zone J and K are obnoxious and actually painful because they are so bright. Several other tracks suffer as well. Interestingly, the attack buttons were changed from X and A in Japan to Y and B in the US. No clue why.
Now, as one of about ten people who actually really like this game, I played around a bit using slowdown, savestates and the like to find out some of the smaller details. The big one is easy to see during the game, and that is the shield. Gradius did shields before Darius, but Darius got them right. Gradius II has both the original frontal shield and a full-ship force field. Darius uses only the force field. In Gradius, the shield takes damage, NOT the Vic Viper. Effectively, grabbing a shield makes you easier to hit in Gradius, and it makes the shrink shield from later games far superior. In Darius, the shield doesn't change your hit box. It didn't in the original, it doesn't in Twin. Taito got this one right the first time. You simply get a few free hits. The shield will shrink when you have one hit left on it.
The other thing I tried to figure out was why My Home Daddy's rings are so damn hard to dodge. As it turns out, they don't actually have to be touching you to hit you. The hit box for them is square, and is actually LARGER than the visible sprite. Supposedly, it's a little easier to program box-to-box collision detection than circle-to-box, but the hit box should NEVER extend past the sprite! Think of it as a reverse DoDonPachi, where you can weave through a wad of bullets unfazed even though they pass over the sprite. Now, you don't even have to touch a bullet to die. Fuck you, Taito.
This game isn't going to appeal to hardcore shmuppers unless they grew up with it. And casual gamers will get turned off by the terrible mix on the US release. Its not a bad game at all, really, but make sure you play the Japanese one for best enjoyment. If nothing else, the lack of activity makes the game play at a relatively stable framerate, which both Gradius III and Super R-Type (though better games) were not so great at.
2 out of 5 Silver Hawks
One Aluminum Hawk out of 5 Silver Hawks. Fuck your screeching.
Darius Twin was a success in sales, but perhaps it wasn't so well received after actually being played. There are always copies on Ebay, in fact it would seem that its either the most common game or the least wanted in the series (take your pick). For whatever reason, Taito decided that to follow it up, they would make it more like an arcade shooter, and leave Hudson and Compile to make console shmups. The result was Darius Force, a far superior game to Darius Twin.
So to start off, the attract mode gives some sepia toned still shots based on the two arcade games. They are done in the graphic style of Darius Force, which is somewhat similar to the opening to Super Metroid and the in-game graphics used to recreate images from the first two games. And though there is no coelacanth in the game, we do get a still image of one! All the while there is some boring text about wars and killing fish and shit. Darius Force tries to have plot but really, leave the in-game plot to RPGs and Radiant Silvergun.
So, start up the game. The title screen has no music, just a synth heartbeat growing louder and louder. Somewhat creepy, and it definitely starts the mood off darker than any previous Darius game. We get selections for playing the game and an options screen. No two player, because everyone who bought Darius Twin would NEVER convince a friend to play Darius again, I presume. Options gives us three difficulty modes (yay hard mode!) and a key config so you can choose which button does what. You get shot, bomb, and change. Shot and bomb are the traditional Darius weapons, and I'll explain change in a bit.
So, start the game and you get MORE CHOICES! To my knowledge, this is the only game in the series so far that lets you choose what kind of ship you'll be piloting. They're all Silver Hawks, but they have different colors and WEAPONS!
The green Hawk is based on the original Darius. Weapons are pea shooter, piercing lasers (implemented much better here), and the awesome Death Crescents if you power up all the way. Bombs are standard, they go along the ground a bit when powered up rather than just exploding (ala Gradius), and the laser is a pitifully weak 6-way at max power. This is the balanced Hawk, it never lacks and never excels at anything, and anyone can use it well.
The purple Hawk is taken from Darius II. You get the pea shooter, a double pea shooter, and a double pea shooter with more peas being shot at an angle. Eventually you get giant ovals, and a shotgun sound effect which is the number one reason to use this one. Bombs are weak but like Darius II the powered up ones can roll UP hills, pillars and the like and don't stop until they hit something or leave the screen. Same 6-way laser as the green Hawk, though it seems a little more powerful. Having a large wall of destruction is this Hawk's specialty, but the weapons are overall a bit weaker (do NOT fight Great Force with this fighter-more later).
The red Hawk is new for Darius Force. So we had balance and range. The red one is firepower. The weapons are harder to use, but they deal far more damage than the other Silver Hawks. You get pea shooter, a unique 2-way variable shot, and a piercing laser like the green Hawks. The difference is that rather than a little piddly laser, with the red Hawk the laser covers the length of the screen, and hits multiple times for huge damage. Its slow but with this much firepower, who cares? The bomb doesn't crawl as well as the other two Hawks' but does more damage. The laser is a 16-way I believe, but only shoots one bolt at a time. Holding the button will make it rotate around you, while tapping it makes it shoot forward and slightly down. Its not very useful.
So, lets play. The first level is a space level with no terrain. Doesn't sound so good, right? Well, the back ground has a weird flame-like thing going on, and the stars aren't zooming by. The result is actually far better than the star fields of Darius Twin. The first enemies are some basic, Gradius-style waves, nothing fancy. While it looks and sounds better, so far the game isn't really separating itself from Darius Twin. Powerups now come from little metallic octopus things which come in a few different patterns. But not far into the level, a popcorn enemy SHOOTS A BULLET! Yes, Taito actually made enemies that want to kill you. Well done. What happens if you die? Taito ditched the respawn and sends you back to a checkpoint with NO powerups. Taito had abandoned this with Darius II and the PC Engine Darius ports, making it feel strange here. However, you do get both a weapon and shield powerup when you do come back (usually).
Just one weapon powerup? Yep, Taito simplified it. Red orbs power up all of your guns, blue orbs give you shields. Both mechanics have been reworked from earlier games. If you fire both your bombs and forward gun at the same time, it knocks each one down a couple levels in power. So, you actually have to think and know which weapon is better for the current situation. You can change between bombs or lasers at any time. Lasers cover more area but are pathetically weak. Short of killing homing missiles, stick to bombs.
Shields work just like before, now with an audible "ding" everytime you get hit. I haven't fully figured out the powerup system, but it seems that unless you grab shields at full power, you don't get the silver and gold ones. So you can play the entire game with just a green shield, or I've played to the second stage and gotten a silver shield. And now, you'll actually need them! Thankfully, if you DO manage to powerup to a silver or gold shield and lose it, getting another one will be powered up (handy after death).
The first level is essentially a training level. You can play with your weapons and see how they work, but most of it shouldn't be a challenge. You get a trilobyte for a midboss, but he isn't dangerous. Partway through you can play a variation on Asteroids for a bit and potentially get some green orbs (score bonus or extend), and an extra shield orb. Then, in an homage to the first Darius, the screen completely fades to black before the WARNING siren. The first boss is a water flea named Bio Hazard (rock!).
Bio Hazard is a major step up from Killer Higia and sets a standard for the game's bosses. Each one has multiple parts that can be destroyed. In the original Darius, this was mostly optional. Here, you have to separately destroy an arm, a bubble shield, and the innards of Bio Hazard to kill it. Pretty much every boss either has multiple parts to kill or a few different attacks, and they are all much more aggressive than in Darius Twin.
After beating the flea, its time to choose a new level. Darius ditched the pyramids of earlier games and instead you have a parallelogram of sorts. There are three end levels, reached after playing 5, 6, or 7 stages. Once you move up a level, you can't go back down. The longest path has harder bosses and levels, overall. Again like the first Darius, there are a few different kinds of levels, like space, cave or factories, somewhat randomly splattered around the grid. Themed tiers like Darius II wouldn't work so well with the map setup.
The stages themselves are actually very well done for the first time in a Darius game. No longer is it just varied scenery, scrolling to the right, and killing things. Several of the factory levels have pieces that try to crush you, somewhat like in Gradius III's near-end stage (can't remember which one, sorry!). A few tech levels set in space are actually extremely short, but when you get to the end the whole level rotates (Mode 7!) and you have to go back vertically with new enemies and traps but still with your horizontal perspective. Cave levels often give you the choice of whether to take a high or low path, somewhat like choosing the next stage in Darius. One in particular has you choose multiple times which way to go, and you can actually end up scrolling backwards.
The water levels are the best. You start off in the air and have to fend off some waves of enemies that seems to get really fierce in these areas for some reason. After a while the screen stops and scrolls straight down plunging you into the sea before scrolling to the right again to finish the stage. What makes these levels so great is that Taito actually took the time to animate a splash as you touch the water's surface, and submerging different amounts of your Silver Hawk changes the amount of splash. VERY nice detail, something I'd expect from Irem more than Taito at this point. Even easier to miss is that when you move forward, your engine momentarily expands the little glow behind it. Move back, and it stops completely. No point to gameplay, just a little touch showing that Taito really put some effort into this game.
The bosses are equally well done. All of them are new and unique to this game, though not every level has a unique boss. The jellyfish boss of Zones B and C, Mudy Crystal (their spelling) fires bullets and tries to whack you with a tentacle. You can kill the tentacle but it'll grow back. You can even blow off the bottom half of the tentacles with some patience. Kill the dome on top to expose a red eye, and it fires suicide bombs that shoot at you when you kill them. It also gets a VERY high-speed bullet that tracks you to a point. With a penetrating weapon like the green Hawks lasers, you can kill it. A very well-done battle all around.
The boss Spiral Snail is the first use of the SNES' Mode 7 for scaling in the game, with a scaling snail shell in the background. Once it reaches your plane, the shell and snail split. The shell attacks with a few different weapons but the snail shoots off a hard-to-see homing laser that is the difficult part. The weak part is a command tower on the snail's back which has to be destroyed twice.
Devil Fish (great name, BTW) is an octopus smaller than Red Mist but much less gimmicky. You now have a tentacle and a little pod to kill. Do that, and you have to kill a door on it's head. Do THAT and you have to blow up a jewel. Its got a few different attacks but really just having so many different parts to kill makes this guy pretty fun to fight.
The gimmick award goes to Thunderbolt Fans. Electric Fan was the sea anemone boss of the original Darius. For his update, he got mounted to a platform and had a smaller anemone bolted to his back. A few bullet arcs here, but the cool attack is when the back anemone detaches itself (completely with simple rocket booster sound effect) and the two spit out some orbs. They actually spit lightning between each other, and it follows the pattern that the orbs are in. They are always moving, and the bolt seems larger than it should be, but its really not hard to dodge unless you do something stupid (it isn't cheap like Daddy's Rings). Kill the small one, and now the big one just spits out an arc of electricity. You can sit above him and bomb him to death, but there are still some bullets.
The guy who runs the Huge Darius Battleships database pointed out that you tend to get more highly evolved creatures as you progress. The next main boss is Stealther, a three-horned chameleon!
Stealther does not have multiple parts to kill, but he takes an awful lot of punishment before he goes down. He uses standard bullets, some lasers, and also has a cluster bomb, but his best attack is his tongue. It doesn't actually hurt you, but if it hits you'll be encased in a bubble and have to shoot your way out. Eventually, Stealther does do a bit of graphical wizardry and go semi-transparent like any good chameleon. You can't hit him, and his lasers are pretty easy to dodge. A joke, but a good one. Interestingly, Stealther can be met in two different levels. In one you just fight him, in the other the ceiling will occasionally try to crush you, making for a far more difficult fight even though the boss itself is unchanged.
Peace Destroyer is Taito's version of the whole-level battleship from R-Type. In this case, you fight an oarfish with torpedo tubes, guns, and giant plasma balls. Blow off the face and you actually have to fight your way inside the fish. Its really not hard, but there are some sections where the terrain really gets nasty. At the end, you get to fight off falling spikes, those same plasma balls, mortars, and a cool pair of orbs somewhat like those from Thunderbolt Fans, and still with lightning. Overall, fun, but not nearly as epic as R-Type stage 3 where you actually have engines, guns, and just random stuff to kill. Darius would get proper Huge Battleships with Titanic Lance in Darius Gaiden and pretty much re-define the style with G.Darius (just watch a video of the Queen Fossil from G.Darius sometime!).
Hyper Greatthing wasn't really so great, and Darius Force doesn't have a sperm whale. Instead, it has a humpback whale, Great Force. This one seems to borrow from the Compile school of boss design, as rather than one or two weak points the whale is COVERED in turrets and guns, and each one has to be destroyed. This guy can be a real challenge, especially with the purple Hawk because it doesn't have a penetrating weapon and has a really hard time destroying some of the turrets. You'll have to contend with bullet arcs, flame pillars, lasers, and after shooting off his guns spit wads of death from his mouth. While not my favorite boss in the game, I would say that Great Force is definitely the hardest overall.
The last levels all have some pretty interesting bosses. The lower level has a plesiosaur, the middle level is a pteranodon, and the top level is the head off of the Terminator. I don't think any of them have parallels in other Darius games.
Zandick II the Plesiosaurus resides at the end of a cave. During the fight the screen scrolls backwards slowly and you have to try to hit him while maneuvering in the cavern. When he can't reach you, he slashes his head and destroys a portion of the level. Beyond that, not a hard fight. Shoot him in the head.
Megalopros the Pteranodon guards the middle level. This guy is oriented diagonally to match the stage's scrolling. He has guns on front and behind his wings and some cool looking engines. He moves a bunch and can crush you pretty easily, and both the normal projectiles and the flame from his engines can kill you. By far the coolest part is the shades he wears, though!
Galst Vic is the boss of the top tier. Starts out as a suspended half-body with some really creepy music. There are some respawning turrets here, but its mostly a gimmick with some easily dodged attacks. Beat him and you have to do a Gradius-style dash through a level, though in this case it is actually exploding behind you. This is actually the only part of the game where I've noticed lag. Well done, Taito.
And after that? No, you still aren't done. The head of Galst flies in and uses some Mode 7 scaling to bother you a bit more. Really, Megalopros was a much better last boss than Galst Vic, and I play the middle route because that is such a fun battle.
Taito didn't stop with actually working on the game, though. Set the game to Hard. Enemies don't get stronger, they get meaner and I swear they get faster too. Stages with falling rocks will have more of them. But the big thing is that all the bosses get a new attack. Mudy Crystal will now try to slap you around. Megalopros steals the thunder from Thunderbolt Fans, and the Fans get some aimed lasers. Actual replay value here.
The music and sounds for the game are much better than in Darius Twin. Most of the music tends towards moody sound textures rather than the rock of Darius Twin, and it really doesn't sound like any other Darius game. There are several themes for bosses, like the swung beat for Mudy Crystal or the epic keyboards used for Great Force. Overall, very well done and on par quality-wise with Gradius III, though much moodier and darker rather than upbeat. Explosions have a distinct blast and are animated much better than Darius Twin's weak fireball and rumbling boom. There are numerous sound effects for your weapons but all are toned down and lower in the mix so they don't get annoying (fuck you Darius Twin).
This game is one of the most over-looked shooters on the SNES. It looks better than most of the TurboGrafx shmups and puts the graphical strengths of the SNES to use while still having legitimately good gameplay. It also seems to be the least well known in the Darius series, probably because a year later Darius Gaiden was released in arcades and totally slaughtered the first four games in the first level alone (yeah, it really is that good). Some of the little touches from Darius Force made their way to Gaiden, like the splashes when you submerge in water and the Asteroids sections of levels. The weapons all seem to be incredibly upgraded versions of those from Darius Force's green Silver Hawk. Compared to this, Darius Force just can't compete with Gaiden. Indeed, just in graphical shit Gaiden would melt the SNES, and it was still a few years before the Saturn and Playstation came out.
Taito did bring Darius Force over to the United States, but they changed the name like they did with Darius II. Darius II became Sagaia on the Genesis, while Darius Force became Super Nova, arguably one of the most generic names for a shooter ever. The gameplay is completely unchanged, the music is unchanged, only the title. This game is far harder to find a copy of and I think it is partially because people who have it don't always know what it is and Darius fans didn't buy it back in the day. Fuck you, Taito.
Overall this game is very well done. It's a huge step forward from Darius Twin and personally I play it more than Gradius III. It isn't as good as R-Type III, but I'd say it is still one of the few really awesome SNES exclusive shooters (I'll count R-Type III since the only other port I know of is the GBA, a portable SNES). The only problem is that it came out when Taito really started making great shooters like Ray Force and a year before Darius Gaiden, and it stands in the shadows of those games most because, in my view, the SNES hardware just can't keep up with Taito's arcade machines of the early 90s. Taito's other Darius game from 1993, Super Darius II on the PC Engine CD, is even harder to find and is the best version of Darius II going, with a unique boss for each level and the most kick-ass music in the entire series, but like Darius Force it just wasn't as awesome as Taito's other games. And lets face it, by 1993 even in Japan the PC Engine was getting pretty old.
Even after all that though, Darius Force is a very fun game and I recommend playing it a few times. The SNES isn't exactly full of awesome shooters and this one manages to hold it's own with the best of 'em.
5 out of 5 Silver Hawks.
Oh, and Fuck You Taito.