We’ve gotten many incredible arcade ports in the past, including Darius’ own Arcade Collection. These ports aim to bring in all the look and feel of the arcade, as well as faithful recreations of the sound chips and even going above and beyond to recreate portions of the cabinet, as seen on the Darius Arcade Collection. However, something that’s been missing is that microcosm that is a cabinet on your own local arcade. Seeing the high scores, knowing the local players and even having friendly competitions over the top spot. Those have been notably absent from the arcade ports, but Dariusburst is here to change that!
Other than bringing a faithful recreation of Dariusburst AC into consoles, it brings in the cabinet specific features in a way that makes you cherish your cabinet as much as your hometown. While full of ambition and good intentions, there are some things stopping this game from igniting an arcade revolution.
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: July 27, 2021
Tate: Be careful about what you wish for!
In a series with giant enemy fish, wave beams and branching paths, there’s been one thing notably absent: giant laser beams! Although that might not be the fairest statement, given that G-Darius already had huge laser beams. Nevertheless, Dariusburst makes it a point to use the burst beam as the main mechanic of this game for both offense and defense.
Your cabinet, your community
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+ is the cabinet system. Another Chronicle was originally released as an arcade game that featured its own progression in the Chronicle mode and special events. It also featured what you would expect from any cabinet such as local leaderboards. Part of the fun of the arcades has always been knowing the local players and competing for that coveted first place on the scoreboard. Although we usually have online leaderboards on most shmups, it does lose a little of the feeling of belonging to your local arcade scene.
This is where the cabinet system comes into play! When you start the game, you are assigned into one of several cabinets. You can always check this on the menu to see which cabinet you are playing on. You can even switch cabinets if you choose to do so, there are no restrictions.
The advantage of a cabinet is that it groups you with several players into your own ecosystem. For the most part it is not too relevant. Even though you might have leaderboards for your cabinet, you will still be able to check global hi-scores and ghost data. Where it really shines is on the Chronicle mode where the entire cabinet shares a progression system. There is an odd feeling of satisfaction knowing that strangers are also helping you clear the mode.
Dariusburst’s gameplay design is quite different from its predecessors. Although you still control the Silver Hawk and have your traditional Darius upgrade system, the real meat of the game is the burst beam. I’ve thought about the good and the bad of AC EX+ and what I came up is that the game is too reliant on the burst mechanic, for better or for worse.
Your burst beam is a huge energy beam that can be fired at any moment, unlike G-Darius. The burst has its own energy gauge and the beam can be fired as long as you have energy. While the energy rapidly depletes, it can be recharged by destroying enemy ships of erasing enemy bullets. The beam deals massive damage to anything it touches.
My favorite application of the burst beam is the burst counter. The bosses and several enemies will also fire burst beams at you. They really signal their usage with a beeping noise and animation that’s hard to ignore. If you fire your burst beam at the same moment their burst touches you, you will fire an even great yellowish beam called the burst counter. The counter deals massive damage, increases your score multiplier and recovers energy when it comes into contact with the enemy beam.
The burst counter mechanic is absolutely amazing! The most fun I’ve had with this game came courtesy of unleashing this powerful counter. It’s hard to describe, but there is an adrenaline rush that takes me over once I successfully pull a counter. My advice to anyone wanting to play this game is to practice and learn the timings ASAP! That’s how you unlock the most fun in this game!
Strategic beam placement
Lasers are fun with their destructive powers and all, but they can also have its strategic uses. If you press the burst button twice, instead of firing the beam you will “deploy” a laser that continually fires on its own. It spends less energy and also changes the firing direction depending on how you move. The way it responds to your movement depends on your ship. Some bursts follow your ship, while others move away from it. If you press the attack button, your burst will lock-in place and continually fire in the direction it was firing.
What’s neat about this deployable burst beam is that you can use it to adapt to the situation. In a lot of ways it reminds me of R-Type and the force. Similarly, you could use your burst to focus on a group of enemies while you deal with a different group. You set is as a sort of “shield” that will protect you by taking care of enemies, bullets or even beams coming your way.
Although the burst beam adds a nice layer of depth to the game, it also has a clear issue: energy. While you have burst, the game is fun and interactive. However, once you run out of energy, it becomes a miserable experience of odds stacked against you and un-winnable situations. So much of the game is centered around burst that you might as well stop playing if you run out of it. The counter point to this is that energy management is a necessary skill. While this might be true, I can’t get behind a mechanic that makes your experience miserable until you master it. Depth should take a great game and make it better, not turn a miserable experience into a bearable one
This same burst reliance brings me to another issue I have with the game: level design. There are sections that require clever usage of the burst beam, and that’s fine by itself, but Dariusburst feels like it’s a game made for bursting and everything else is meaningless.
Nothing shows this more than the hordes of enemy that constantly spawn. Its purpose is simple and easy to explain. They serve as a way to use your burst to score huge points while simultaneously recovering your energy from the defeated enemies. It’s fine and fun the first few times, but you very quickly realize most stages are just haphazardly throwing hordes at every corner and the fun disappears.
Sometimes it’s debris instead of enemies, but the concept remains the same. There’s even a variation in which debris rapidly approaches from one direction and you must set your burst to protect yourself. A neat idea, but it really brings us back to over reliance on burst. It really comes down to just knowing how to manage your burst, which may or may not be your cup of tea.
An era after the burst
Once you strip away the bursting situation, what little remains is reminiscent of Darius. Collect power-ups, upgrade your weapons, defeat giant enemy fish, etc. However, if doesn’t manage to feel as fun as rewarding as previous Darius entries.
It’s hard to describe how I feel about Dariusburst as a whole, but the word I’ll choose is going to be “flimsy”. The levels feel incredibly shallow and it’s not hard to simply lose yourself in the tedium and space out of the game. Killing enemies doesn’t feel rewarding, and neither does avoiding shots. This is especially true about the small laser shots. Dodging incoming rectangles feels awkward and out of place. This might be a product of me playing too many bullet hells, but maneuvering a giant hitbox through waves of laser shots feels uncomfortable. Even worse with the homing lasers that have a stronger homing effect than they should.
Ultra wide screen gaming
Going back the its Darius roots, Dariusburst AC EX+ also featured the same multiple screen configuration as the original Darius. Well, maybe not the same as I believe AC EX+ used only two screens, but you get the point. While this is definitely something that is exciting to watch and play on the arcades, it is extremely bad when viewed on the Switch screen.
It’s easy to see why this wouldn’t work when you see it in action. Instead of being an exciting and expanded view of the action, what you get is half of the screen space occupied by black wide screen bars and the rest of the action in a minuscule size. You can choose to zoom in and have a view that occupies the entire screen, but doing so makes you miss half the action off-screen, with your movement being the only way to scroll it horizontally.
And movement is very much a big deal in this game. One of the caveats of having extra screen space is that you also have more space to move around. Sadly, the ship speed is horrendously slow in this game, so traversing the screen is a hassle. At the very least there is a button to turn your ship around, so you can fight incoming threats from both sides of the screen.
Darius vs Darius
Multiple screens is kind of Darius’ gimmick, and it was already featured on the Arcade Collection, so why is it different here? The difference was the way in which the empty screen was utilized. There’s only so much you can do when porting a game, which already carries design decisions made long ago. If anything, the real issue is bringing us AC EX+ instead of Dariusburst, which would have felt at home when going from PSP to Switch, but I digress.
In the Arcade Collection, the empty space was used to display the different panels featured on an actual arcade cabinet. It also featured useful gadgets to enhance the experience such as boss HP and an arm strength tracker. While many of the cons of using a single screen were present, at the very least it made the most out of it and helped drive home that arcade cabinet feeling. That’s not the case in AC EX+, where the empty space is only a black screen. No useful gadgets and no arcade panels.
And speaking of arcade cabinets, one of the better features of the Arcade Collection makes a triumphant return. I’m of course referring to the HD Rumble! While I personally haven’t ever sat down at an actual Darius cabinet, I’ve been told that rumble and sounds play a huge factor in immersing you inside of the game. I was mesmerized when I saw the Arcade Collection rumble to the jingle of the credit fanfare. Similar rumble experiences can be found here!
Every time there is a rumble event such as choosing options during the menu and destroying enemies, you will get an HD rumble effect on your Switch. If anything, you might get too much rumble from the constant action. This is probably the first game where I had to tone the rumble down, as I found it to be too much.
Don’t forget to mind your head when exiting the cabinet!
The legends reunite
Dariusburst AC EX+ lets you play as any of the Silver Hawks from Darius’ history! From the current Legend Silver Hawk to the original from the first Darius and even the Gaiden series, you can expect variety in playstyles.
While most Silver Hawks share common characteristics such as shots and bombs, they also have unique abilities. You can see the firepower differences when comparing the wave shot from Legend to the machine cannon from the Darius II ship. Some even deviate more from the concept of the game, such as the Gaiden ship using a black hole bomb instead of the burst beam.
Unfortunately, this variety isn’t very compatible with the burst centric design of this game. While every ship has its own learning curve, some end up falling flat in certain facets of the game. There are stages where playing as certain configurations will feel too oppressive, as if you lack the tools for the job.
One of my favorite modes from Dariusburst AC EX+ is definitely the Chronicle mode. In it, you are tasked with liberating the galaxy from the Belsar enemy forces. You do this by exploring the different worlds and liberating sectors of the galaxy one by one. Once you beat a specific challenge, a zone is liberated and you can continue to help other zones.
In simpler terms, Chronicle mode is basically a mission mode. Each world just serves as a way to add more missions, and there certainly are quite a lot of missions to complete. These missions will have you play 3 different levels with some conditions. Some might limit the ships you can use. Other might make you play with 4 people. Some might even force you to finish with 1 credit. It’s a way to spice up gameplay, but not too much.
Here is where the shared cabinet system comes into play. The galaxies to liberate are shared across the entire cabinet. You can be doing some liberation, and the next day you’ll find that some other player somewhere else also joined the fray and helped you liberate some more zones. It’s a little funny, because you’ll also see which zones other players have been avoiding. Mostly the ones with the 4-player rule and 1CC challenges.
Putting the + in EX+
Included in this version are special event missions that are unique to EX+. These missions, much like Chronicle mode, task you with beating the game with several conditions and restrictions. One mayor difference, is that not every mission is a 3 stage affair. Event mode can get a little creative and change the formula, such as making an event be purely boss fights.
A special ship is also available in Dariusburst AC EX+. The Murakumo Silver Hawk can be used in pretty much all modes, and features an option system that can be rearranged and even used to aim in every direction. In a way it resembles the rolling gunner from Rolling Gunner. The burst beam is also simplified, with Murakumo’s burst only needing to touch an enemy beam to trigger a counter instead of requiring timing. It’s what I call the easy mode burst.
The biggest weakness of this game is definitely its poor quality as a port. The nicest way I can say this is that Dariusburst AC EX+ is just the vanilla arcade experience with some goodies. No content was skipped and arcade experiences were translated to what we have. But there really isn’t anything else to it.
This comes as a stark contrast to M2’s work with the Arcade Collection. In the Arcade Collection, you can see nudges and tidbits of information related to the arcade cabinet everywhere. The game experience was enhanced with additional gadgets and endless customizations that allowed you to play in your own way. Then you had your sort of museum to explore the history of the arcade releases and even special modes in some of the games. Not to mention a robust replay and recording system to boot.
Dariusburst doesn’t really go beyond the bare minimum. There’s replays and leaderboards, but that’s pretty much it. There isn’t anything to help me understand the celebrated history of this arcade game. There aren’t many ways to customize my experience, or further enrich it. It’s simply just… the game.
Overall, Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+ is an extremely weak entry in the Darius Cozmic Series. On its own, Another Chronicle is a game that is just ok. The ambitious design of Darius games, the marine lore and branching paths all took a cut to create this version. It doesn’t bring the same fulfilling experience as other Darius games, and you can see it was definitely made with replay value in mind. That’s why each run is only 3 stages and the same applies to mission mode. Unfortunately, those 3 stages just end up meshing together and nothing ever stands out other than the burst beams.
This port doesn’t do it any favors either. It doesn’t put an effort to elevate the legacy of the game, and doesn’t bring in anything new or noteworthy to this release. Even worse is how ill-equipped the Switch is to handle a multiple screen styled gameplay without additional tweaks. And yet, this game’s asking price is similar to the Arcade Collection, even though the difference in quality between those two entries is like night and day. If you are in the mood for some Darius, I would recommend to instead take a look at the Arcade Collection.
THE RANKING SO FAR:
- Crimzon Clover – World EXplosion
- ESP Ra.De.
- Psyvariar Delta
- Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
- Rolling Gunner
- Blazing Star
- Raiden V: Director’s Cut
- Darius Cozmic Collection Console
- Super Hydorah
- Steredenn: Binary Stars
- Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
- Sky Force: Reloaded
- Strikers 1945
- Black Paradox
- R-Type Dimensions EX
- Sine Mora EX
- R-Type Final 2 (Switch version)
- Shikhondo – Soul Eater
- Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+
- Freedom Finger
- Ghost Blade HD
- AngerForce: Reloaded
- Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
- Q-YO Blaster
- Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
- Red Death
- Task Force Kampas
- Switch ‘N’ Shoot
- Last Resort (ACA Neogeo)