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Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours (PlayStation 4) artwork

Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours (PlayStation 4) review


"Sashimi Overload"


After a lengthy series hiatus, 2009's Dariusburst reintroduced players to the confines of the Silver Hawk cockpit, a beastly spacecraft capable of destroying fleets without a moment's notice. Having such abilities is one thing, but using them competently in the midst of this sci-fi, horizontal shoot-em-up is another, and that's what gamers must do as the Darius star system is once again assaulted by an army bent on dominating the universe. Their numbers are many, skillfully maneuverable, and adept in combat, not to mention oddly-designed; helmet-shaped vehicles? Why not? Frightening still are their larger spaceships proficient at producing destructive firepower, from a barrage of projectile orbs to screen-wide laser beams. And they all look like sea creatures. Giant fish, turtles, octopus, and whales aplenty. Wouldn't truly be a Darius title without these silly-looking foes.

Having been published 12 years after the previous game in the series, 1997's G-Darius, Dariusburst came with expectations usual for titles attempting to resurrect a classic franchise from a supposed eternal slumber; considering the track record of companies reviving beloved IPs from the 1980s and 90s with stale offerings, it's also easy to think this could turn into a dumpster fire. With all that said, if you're expecting Dariusburst to be the best thing ever, the feeling of disappointment is going to be overwhelming. However, that shouldn't be the deciding factor when determining this game's quality; in many aspects, it still manages to be an entertaining entry, and one that both acknowledges and respects its heritage.



In a sense, this release is an amalgamation of sorts, a collection of mechanics, concepts, and ideas taken from its predecessors, all while adding new bits and pieces. The widescreen format, for example, an aspect that made the first two games stand out in the arcades, makes its comeback. Another Darius staple seen in every entry, branching paths, a system allowing players to select one of two stages at the conclusion of a current stage, returns. However, these "pyramids" are much smaller in size, not to mention they're now divided into difficulty selections prior to the start of each playthrough. The days of traveling through one ginormous branch system are apparently long gone. Thankfully, players still get to witness different endings depending on what stage they finish on, though the original PSP endings are absent in this version.

Another interesting tidbit is the option to choose one of several ships, some new and some from previous installments. Granted, they all mostly control the same way, but there's notable differences, such as the Darius Gaiden ship's power to dispense blackhole bombs, wiping out enemies in their vicinity. It's the only ship in the game with instantaneous, "screen-clearing" capabilities. The G-Darius craft allows players to have two support turrets, but it's unfortunately a shell of its 1997 avatar. In the original G-Darius, you can capture enemy ships and use them as support, and each foe comes with powers unique to each type. At least you can still do beam struggles with bosses. As for the new models, they can release lethal laser blasts after building a meter; they can also detach from the ship, enabling interesting tactics for players needing to be in two places at once.

Other such "minuscule" modifications include being able to turn your ship left and right manually. It sounds like a trivial inclusion, but considering the series constantly added and removed auto-turning between games, whenever enemy ships appeared behind your spacecraft, it's a welcomed addition here. Not to mention, this gave Dariusburst more opportunities for varied enemy placements on screen. In terms of co-op play, the ability to have up to four players is an enticing feature, especially since the widescreen format allows for enough visible navigation.



There's also something called Chronicle Mode for those looking for an extra bit of challenge; you can choose from a large variety of missions with predetermined paths, each with their own set of restrictions. These range anywhere from having to complete all stages with one credit, doing so with certain ships, or being forced to survive with a small quantity of power-ups. The latter doesn't seem so bad until the pressure really starts piling on, like the realization that basic shots miss enemies by a narrow margin because you don't have the more powerful, thicker versions, or how shield power-ups are unobtainable in the midst of battle. While Chronicle Mode won't drastically change the Darius blueprint, it is a very nice supplementation to the core game.

It would be downright sacrilegious if I didn't go out of my way to mention the soundtrack, composed by Zuntata, who did music for all the main Darius titles. The team has created unique, "experimental" tunes that easily stand out from everything else within the shoot-em-up genre, whether it's the original Darius' endearingly 80s rap beats and unorthodox compositions, Darius Gaiden's electronic symphony, or G-Darius' hypnotic arrangements. Thankfully, they don't disappoint with this latest release, though out of all the entries, this one may seem the most "streamlined" because of how "traditional" it sounds compared to previous outings. That's not really a knock against the soundtrack, as the OST is still befitting of a Darius experience, due to the engrossing vibe it gives off.

Though, with the soundtrack supplying a fusion of music genres, it's actually kind of hard to describe the ambience adequately. But, out of everything, I'd say the ones that stick out the most are the jazz, electronic, and tribal house tunes, with lots and lots of operatic humming. I should also point out that at times they sound consistent, but other points they sound surprisingly erratic, and if you've never played Dariusburst and purely listened to some of the turbulent, irregular-sounding music, you would likely perceive them as incoherent earaches. However, within the frame of the game's action, most of these actually fit, especially a specific boss theme that is obnoxiously loud and constantly loops on top of itself; it very much matches the chaos of bullet projectiles, giant laser beams, and small enemy clutters encountered in that battle.



As previously mentioned, all these elements accumulate in a fun action trek for both Darius fans and shoot-em-up admirers, especially if you're not going in expecting an opus. But there is one unfortunate catch: Dariusburst only feels this fun and absorbing in arcade mode, aka AC Mode. There is another prominent feature, called CS Mode, which is ambitious in nature, but ultimately succumbs to several issues that make it a chore to play. Basically an expansion of AC's Chronicle Mode, you're tasked with completing missions, each with predetermined stages and restrictions. Additionally, the playing field forgoes the black bar widescreen format, instead filling the whole screen and zooming the camera closer, has a few extra features such as tower defense stages, and also fiddles with nostalgia; with the latter, for example, one mission has a selection of Darius 1 music while the ship you're forced to play mimics the 1987 game's maxed power-up loadout.

So how is it possible for a better-sounding version of Chronicle Mode to be badly-designed?

You would think that, for being an extensive version of Chronicle Mode, the devs would go out of their way to make CS Mode drastically diverse and unique, to separate it from its predecessor, right? Sadly, they barely strayed from the template, and in doing so, make this a very questionable addition over something like... say... actual new stages and bosses. And for some reason, the devs insisted players go through the same stages and boss fights, one mission after another, ad nauseam. I guess they figured switching ship types, slightly configuring their loadouts, and faintly modifying enemy patterns would be enough "variety." Instead, this creates extreme repetition. Don't get me started on how many times bosses are rehashed; the devs really, really love reusing the hermit crab. I even fought that ship three times in one mission!

Every now and then, some genuine variation or difficulty twist is thrown your way. But it doesn't matter that you occasionally get something different, since all the "fresh" stuff is sooooo far apart from one another. Worse, if you somehow plow through a good chunk of CS Mode, the devs then start tossing marathon missions at you. Have fun completing repetitive tasks with up to 15 stages each! Even though AC Mode uses the same core, it works better than CS Mode because there's no nonsense between all the good stuff; it's literally JUST the good stuff from beginning to end. No padding. Suffice it to say, this logic applies to nearly every game out there: if you shove in needless filler without much thought, just to lengthen something, it's not going to work. The "filler" has to be actual good content, as well. CS Mode fails in that regard.



Unfortunately, these issues stain the overall product of Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours. Frustrating, since AC Mode is a fine addition to the Darius series, what with solid pacing and structuring, playable references to previous installments, new, small inclusions, and another great soundtrack by Zuntata. And I can't recommend purchasing this game at full price due to CS Mode's irritating flaws. I can't, in good conscious, tell people to spend $50 to $60 for half of a game. If the devs had made CS Mode better, created something completely different in its stead, or only featured AC Mode with a reduced price, I would be encouraging shoot-em-up fans to buy this. However, that's not the case, so: wait for a sale. If another Darius title is ever created in the future, hopefully they won't repeat this crucial, sloppy mistake.

3/5

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (March 25, 2018)

There isn't an Arcade Archives port of Double Dragon 3. This is probably the wisest decision Hamster has made.

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