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G Darius HD – Review

G Darius is one of my favourite PS1 era shoot em ups. I still play the original, have the disc and find it infinitely playable. This HD polished version is a great excuse to jump back in again and explain to new players why this is one of Taito’s most under appreciated gems.

The bosses are still iconic and they seem to have different attack patterns depending on your skill and difficulty levels.

Everything in the world of G Darius is fishy. By that I mean the mini bosses and big bosses. Ocean creatures in mechanical form, the bosses across the branching stages are a treat to behold. They pounce onto the screen and fire all manner of things at you with hugely varied attack patterns. Thankfully, you come equally as prepared. Not only do you have upgradeable firing weapons, bombs and shields – you have the capture orb.

The capture orb lets you fire a purple orb at almost any enemy ship you come across in the game and take control of it. It’ll sit alongside you and move either directly alongside you or in a pattern of movement behind you depending on what you capture. This opens up dozens of attack patterns and strategies because all the enemies attack in different formations. Some are bullets, others lazers, some spreadshot, others crawl the outside of the screen. The options are huge – plus you can move yourself to sit behind them and they act as a shield until their HP runs out or you die. You can even capture mini-bosses, something I didn’t realise was possible until I read the manual in the game for tips! A handy new encyclopaedia of enemies you capture informs you of your options too. You can see what levels they spawn in and their attack stats.

Capturing enemies to be by your side is still ingenious. It might not be entirely new for the genre but this is one of the best implementations of it.

Level structure and branching paths are also a huge deal in G Darius. Each run is only 5 stages long but after each level, like a game of Outrun, the road forks. This means plenty of replayability as these levels aren’t reskins, they are all unique, full of unique enemies with their own bosses. It’s a joy to discover different routes as mid level you’ll experience a split too. All this is kicking off with a stunning Zuntata soundtrack – one of which I loved so much I imported an arranged soundtrack CD of it over a decade ago. It’s just very Japanese arcade – full of bold synths and epic metallic drama.

Indeed, one of my big takeaways of the HD version is being reminded of just how the game throws everything at you to impress. From the 3D graphics on a 2D plane exploding all around you, to the enemy captures to the screaming sound effects – everything is like a Michael Bay film before they become a meme. It’s a joy to just sit back and be entertained, we need more of this arcade excess and simplicity in games. This all is personified in using your massive lazer special attack to counter bosses lazer attacks. It’s like a kaiju battle of the ages and gets your blood pumping.

I love how much of a crazy b-movie all the effects and action in the background provides.

For all of this, the actual HD remake is lovely to look at but fails to address the frame rate issues properly. Whilst its an improvement over the original, which is included in this release too, it still tanks. I’m not sure how much is down to artistic intent and how much is down to the game really chugging but I was a little disappointed when some of my deaths were down to the game slowing down to a crawl then speeding up when a huge enemy wave clears up. It caught me out a few times. Maybe a ground up remake rather than a HD polish could have solved that. It’s really the only downside I can think of outside the price which may put a few off of a chance buy. Schmups are now pricey by design and G Darius HD is no exception.

I was enthrawled coming back to see G Darius given the HD polish. It looks, sounds and plays like a dream arcade classic. If the frame rate would match, this could be a top tier cave rival. As it is, this is a fantastic and engrossing arcade beauty that deserves love and attention that it didn’t quite get first time around. Colour me a fan.

Review copy provided by publisher.

G Darius HD
Final Thoughts
Reviving this 1997 classic with a fresh gloss of paint reminds you that sometimes games can age like a fine wine. A wonderful arcade experience.
The capture orb mechanic is both fun and strategic.
So many branching paths, levels and gameplay choices.
The original G Darius is here too.
Excellent soundtrack.
Over the top fishy fun with the boss battles.
The frame rate is better than the original release but it still tanks too far too often.
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