Title: Darius
Rom Player: M.A.M.E.
Reviewer: Shane Skekel

Synopsis: Alright everyone, I am about to show you one game that kicked ass ,but never did get as much attention as Taito's previous arcade hits such as Space Invaders or Zoo Keeper. That game is Darius; a multi-monitor horizontal shoot-em-up that had those monitors for the same reason why vertical shooters such as Xevious, Image Fight, and Galaga have their monitors mounted vertically. You play as Proco and/or Tiat to fight the forces of Belser; an army of robots hell-bent on conquering the known galaxy.

Now onto the rest of this review.

Game Play: This is what separated this game from Gradius and other horizontal shooters at this time; Darius was the First Horizontal Shoot-em-up that let two players co-operate in annihilating robots left and right. When either player shoots down a different colored droid or bombed a certain part of the landscape, you freed a power-up. These power-ups came in five colors: Red(front weapons), Green(Bombs), Blue(Shielding), Silver(points), Gold (nuke all enemies), and an actual 1-up(something Gradius, R-Type, other space shooters lacked). You had a whopping 26 stages to traverse, but you only needed to choose which one to go to next after you took out the enemy battleship. Speaking of which lets go over them, shall we?

  • King Fossil(coelocanth): The first boss of the game is a pushover; just aim for the mouth when it opens and steer clear of the bullets, and bombing the mouth can be used. However, this is only recommended in the TurboGrafx and Game Boy(Advance) versions of the game.

  • Electric Fan(Sea Anemone): A much faster battle with this boss adds homing missles and lasers that pierce your shield(unless you got it up to super). Just aim for the mouth like the previous battle and you win.

  • Dual Shears(Lobster): Stay below the eye(where the lasers are fired) and take out the claws while dodging the bullets they fire. After that, aim for the gem and avoid its shots.

  • Fatty Glutton(Piranha): Goddamn, is this a bastard to kill or what? The fish missile it fires will corner you making its spread hard to dodge, then it fires another when the first one is nearing its target. It IS possible to take him out with one player, but two players makes it easier to manage.

  • Keen Bayonet(Swordfish): Just as hard as the previous boss, but it has more weaponry to dish out at your Silver Hawk: Fireballs from the snout, lasers from the dorsal fin(that can be taken out), and hard-to-see machine gun fire from the pectoral fins(also a must-destroy) while you try to aim for the mouth(easier said than done).

  • Iron Hammer(Hammerhead Shark): This is one tough nut to crack, but not as tough as Zone Z's boss. Lasers, Machine guns, and Homing missiles will keep you occupied. Plus, this bastard takes 70 HITS TO KILL! Aim for this beast's back to deal damage and by this time you must have the wave cannon or you're in for one long, difficult, and frenzied battle. Again, Two Players can make it more manageable.

  • Strong Shell(Loggerhead Turtle): Not as tough as the other bosses, but it can rather hellish. You must dodge bullets from the mouth while trying to score hits, and the projectiles from the shell cannons.

  • Green Coronatus(Crowned Seahorse): Take out the tail since it is damn near impossible to dodge homing missiles and take the helmet out at the same time. While avoiding the lasers it fires, aim for the head(it takes 60 hits for the helmet, 10 for the control deck).

  • Octopus: Take out every tentacle(they require 30 shots for each one) while dodging bulletspam. A hectic battle, but not as hectic as the next two.

  • Cuttle Fish(Squid): First things first; take out the arms because the fire balls can be a major nuissance. Then, take out the mouth while avoiding the laser fire and bulletspam.

  • Great Thing(Sperm Whale): If you thought the previous bosses were tough, then you ain't seen nothing yet. He fires homing missles, lasers, a dolphin-shaped bomb that splits into three bullets, and a drill missile. Throw in the fact that it takes a ball-busting 255 HITS TO TAKE THIS FUCKER DOWN I SHIT YOU NOT!!. I never made it to any of the final bosses and it takes the stringent skill of both players to polish these zones off.

    Graphics: For a game made in 1986, they are very colorful and the lighting effects are well-done. The Silver Hawk you control isn't as well animated as the Vic Viper from Gradius.

    Music & Sound: This is one thing that makes this game stand out from the other games in this genre at this time. They were catchy to the point where this game as well as its sequels their own music CDs(its a shame they weren't released here), and this was the first game to use a band for the soundtrack(the second game was SNK's Psycho Soldier, which used vocal tracks). The sound effects on the other hand, are up to par with Galaga(and that is not a complement).

    Originaliy: Simple plot, dated sound effects, and the somewhat monotonous stages are very minor issues when compared to the ground that this game broke. Three other taito games used the multi-monitor design including(but not limited to) Darius 2(released in the US as "Sagaia" under the Romstar label).

    Overall Verdict: If you see this coin-op at an arcade or restaurant; do not hesitate to plop down a few quarters. If you see this at an auction, get it if you have the cash(including spare parts). If you find a copy of the TurboGrafx or GB(A) version; see above. ROM downloads: it is hard to see on most monitors(including mine), so it depends.

    Best Cheats: First of all: Try not to die because it affects both your lives and power-ups. Not to mention that if you lose all your lives in the final zones; you can't continue to Strong Shell, Green Coronatus, Octopus, Cuttle Fish, and Great Thing. Second: Bring a friend along because with two players playing the game together; it helps with the game's high difficulty. Third: I AM NOT GIVING AWAY THE ENDINGS! I already gave you the how to's on the fish battleships, so play the game yourselves to get them.

    Game Play: 10
    Graphics: 8
    Music/Sound: 9
    Originality: 10
    Overall Rating: 10

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