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.
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.
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.
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.
Higher Plain Games is part of the Higher Plain Network. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. There are additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and downloads. You can also share the website or use the affiliate buy now links on reviews. Buying credit from CD Keys using my affiliate link means I get a couple of pence per sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. Thank you.