by sunburstbasser

G-Darius is a horizontal shmup which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. The story contains copious amounts of giant doom fish.

Taito had used polygons to make Ray Storm in 1996, which made perfect sense. Ray Storm was the followup to Ray Force, and using a 3D setting made it easier to create depth. For G-Darius, Taito used the 3D setting to create intricate backgrounds and whole worlds. They also took some ideas from their other games and created an excellent followup to Darius Gaiden.

G-Darius is the first game in-universe in the Darius series, centuries before Darius. It's set so far back, it doesn't have Belser. Instead, your enemies are Thiima, enormous robotic space fish that are less battleships and more robots. Think Decepticons, but more badass. Thiima is pissed off because the Amnelians have been mucking around with potentially universe-smashing technology called A.N., and blown up a planet. Thiima swarms to destroy Amnelia. Amnelian scientists reverse engineer some Thiima technology to create the Silver Hawk. The pilots Sameluck Raida and Lutia Feen are selected to pilot the Silver Hawks to the Darius System, where the threat of Thiima emanates.

The control system has a few additions. Tapping the A button fires a stream of bullets and bombs simultaneously, like Darius Gaiden. It must be continuously tapped. The B button sends out a little Capture Ball. Hit an enemy with it, and they are your slaves. This is similar to capturing the midboss in Darius Gaiden, but now ALL enemies are fair game. Your Silver Hawk itself doesn't get as powerful as it did in Gaiden, but the different enemies can add a ton of firepower. Pressing the B button in this mode detonates your captured enemy like a bomb. Holding the A button sucks the enemy into your Silver Hawk to power up the Alpha Beam, a death ray similar to the one in Metal Black but more awesome. It destroys practically every enemy, although gold plated enemies are immune.

The powerup system is lifted from the first Darius, though without quite so many powerups needed. In Gaiden, your main gun would power down to the lowest level after a couple deaths while in G-Darius it won't go below the current weapon type.

For the first time in the series, Taito added a deep scoring system. Captured enemies that destroy other enemies give a small bonus, while using your Alpha Beam gives a larger one. The Alpha Beam can be used to get massive bonuses on bosses. So if you want points, learn to use those Capture Balls.

Graphically the game is very nice especially for it's time. The FX-1 boards and the G-NET that followed them are all based on the Playstation, but with a little faster processor and some other tweaks Taito made to them. As a result, games like G-Darius can have dragons flying in the background thanks to pre-rendering, and enemies can be huge. Backgrounds tend to consist of both textures and flat colors, while enemies seem to be fairly flat shaded but made up of many polygons and using lighting effects in place of simple textures. It actually looks quite good, much better than Brave Blade or Xevious 3D-G even though all three run on Playstation- based hardware. Enemies and bosses also use more than one plane to attack from. The very first boss will swing his arms around to hit you, and if you make it to the sperm whale G.T. it flies into the background and strafes you from a safe vantage point. Some levels have you circling around instead of flying in a straight line, and even change your orientation to diagonal. My one complaint is that I find it a little difficult to dodge bullets sometimes, they seem to be much harder to follow than in Darius Gaiden.

The sound department is also very good, though I rate it a small step below Darius Gaiden. Explosions and sound effects are very nice, but the music is not quite on the same level as Darius Gaiden. It's still good, but manages to go even stranger somehow and at times sounds like it's weird for the sake of being weird. Melodies are replaced with ambient noises, for instance. It fits the game well, but on it's own I don't find much of it to be good for listening to.

The level structure has been changed. Now, you'll pick just five zones, but each one has two areas in it, and they aren't just a branching path. Each separate area is a whole new stage. In the first one, you can choose to go over land or under water, and each section requires it's own strategy. The levels and boss fights are also fairly long, so this game is at least as long as Darius Gaiden.

Start the game, and after a neat little takeoff sequence we see the Silver Hawk swoop in. Welcome to Green Globe, planet Amnelia, which is besieged by killer fish FROM SPACE! The backgrounds in this stage show off how to properly use 3D in a 2D game. You can see towers behind you, and a bridge even gets blown down by a fish that you can capture. The landscape rises and falls while classic Darius enemies swarm in. At the stage junction, I recommend taking the lower route as it has a large number of shields and makes powering up a little easier.

Every stage has a unique boss in G-Darius, and depending on which path you take during the level, you'll fight a slightly altered form. Each boss also gets a full cinematic intro that really sets the mood. And for the first time, that HUGE BATTLESHIP warning applies to every single boss. The smallest ones are about the size of the battleship from R-Type, the biggest have teeth as large as a Silver Hawk. And each boss has a Beta Beam, which you can counter with your own Alpha Beam. Mash the button, and if you win the beam duel your own beam will actually get bigger, at the most extreme taking up the whole screen.

The first boss is Eclipse Eye. It doesn't really matter which path you take, as his attacks don't vary much between the two. You can shoot parts and bullets for points. He also takes advantage of the 3D environment and swings spinners around to slap you to death. After a point, he will move over and your Silver Hawk will turn around and point left. At this point, ready an Alpha Beam. Kill him with the Alpha Beam after beating his Beta beat and you'll get a nice score bonus.

I chose Zone Beta, Giant Plant, for my second stage. The second tier is the Moon Mahsah. The dragons and forest in the backgrounds are insanely well rendered. I chose to go up at the branch. This stage isn't too hard until the very end, where you must face off with a huge spider enemy that takes a lot of hits to go down. I still haven't killed it, I have to dodge it's shots and legs every time.

The boss for the zone is Tripod Sardine. I got a purple color scheme. His bullet spams get wider, but can be dodged just like Eclipse Eye's spreads. He has some hip lasers that swing at you. They look deadly but I got around them pretty easily. When Tripod Sardine fires off his Beta Beam, you absolutely need to counter with your Alpha Beam as he also fires off a bunch of bullets. Even if you don't duel, it'll get rid of those bullets.

The third tier is the Osu-Rakia Passage. These stages take place in space. I selected Zone Epsilon, Galaxy Islands. I've pointed out a few times that video game developers love islands in the sky, and this stage goes beyond that and has islands IN SPACE! These islands also seem to harbor a sort of life, if the giant mushroom trees in the background are any indication. It may just be my imagination, but I noticed a sharp increase in difficulty in this stage.

Portal fans should get a kick out of this boss. Dimension Diver is fully capable of being in two places at once, which creates some strange settings. At numerous points, you can see his tail sticking out of a hole in the background, while shooting at his head in the foreground. He has a variety of lasers and bullets, and fires two Beta Beams at once. Counter both, and your bonus will be massive. Beware when he splits himself, he can crush you as he comes out of the wormhole on your plane.

Tier Four is the Planet Mabaher. I chose Zone Theta, simply called Gallery. In the backgrounds, check out those awesome megalithic structures and tall, spindly trees. This zone has enemies coming in from behind, which is a pain in every single shmup ever made.

Rays are naturally look quite fearsome. Every time they show up in a Darius game, they tend towards being badass instead of pathetic. Death Wings lives up to it's name. I ended up in zone P, and the Death Wings I fought had a gold finish. I didn't play the other one, but this one is a total bastard. One of his attacks is a bullet swarm that looks way too dense to be in a Darius game, and it's coupled with gold diamonds that take a lot of hits and seemed to always be in the gap between bullets. Death Wings has a double Beta Beam. If you don't have an Alpha Beam to counter, you can sit right between the beams in his face and move ever so slightly to avoid them while doing a lot of damage to the boss.

The last tier is the space around Darius. I chose Zone Mu. Most of Mu is a fight through a space station, with a particularly brutal midboss. He fires a constant stream of missiles at you, which is a lot harder to dodge than it should be. Ironically, when captured his missiles are very hard to aim with. They tend to go right under enemies.

Sea Turtles are among the least naturally threatening creatures around. Perhaps slightly more menacing than a general issue rabbit. Heavy Arms Shell takes that demeanor, curb stomps it, urinates on it, sets it on fire, then urinates on it again. It seemed every attack was a big "fuck you" and I loved every minute of it. He has a spread attack that doesn't really seem to have a safe spot except maybe right in front of his head. He has multiple Beta Beams, homing lasers that are very accurate, and some straight lasers on his back. His bullet spreads are big, too. Yet the only attack that I genuinely felt to be cheap was his lasers from his tail. He fires a helical laser and swings it around. Even with an Alpha Beam going, it killed me. He has a ton of health too, and while he does give ammo for your Alpha Beam mine were all destroyed by his bullets before I could fire them off.

For my ending, I saw Lutia crash landing, presumably on Darius. Her Silver Hawk is in pretty good shape considering what it went through to get there. Then, she is helped up by a man in a toga. Each final zone gives a different ending, and I don't know if any of them are really cannon. I suppose the ending you get when defeating G.T. might be the closest to cannon, since it shows Belser grabbing the husk of the destroyed whale.

I liked G-Darius a lot. It uses 3D right, and still feels fresh. Compared to Gaiden, it starts off a little easier and gets harder, I felt. It was ported to the Playstation with some extra features, and appears on the PS2 Taito Legends 2 pack as the arcade game only. MAME plays it without music and with broken sound effects loops, but it runs pretty well and unlike Ray Storm on the same hardware I've never had G-Darius crash on me.

Play this game, at least for the boss fights. I can think of only one other game that has boss fights on the same level as G-Darius...


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