Taito's beloved Darius series took its sweet game to appear in a dedicated compilation. Until now, only 2006's jam-packed Taito Legends 2 package represented the series with the latter titles Darius Gaiden and G-Darius, but with the release of Darius Cozmic Collection, we finally have a near-complete museum of this venerable horizontal shoot-'em-up franchise.
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade isn't an easy sell for non-fans, but to be perfectly frank it's not the most enticing pick-up for the die-hards, either. £34.99 for a compilation of classic games isn't necessarily ridiculously steep, but Cozmic Collection Arcade – when you get right down to it – is only three really distinct titles.
Now, admittedly, that's a little bit of a controversial statement – for posterity, you've got three versions of the original Darius, three versions of its sequel Darius II (and Sagaia variation) and the excellent Darius Gaiden bringing up the rear. These are good games and well worth playing, but – and hardcore shmup fans will contest this – the variants are not that different.
Starting (sensibly) with Darius, you've got the original three-screen ultra-wide shooter here, the inaugural mission of the Silver Hawk ship in its quest to destroy a captain's table's worth of seafood. The widescreen gimmick is really cool but it ultimately means you've got a lot more to pay attention to, and when even the fodder enemies seem to take multiple hits, you'll have your work cut out. Losing a ship will cause you to drop all your power-ups ala Gradius, so unless you're good you'll be spending a lot of time with a weedy little peashooter. Included Darius variants "New Version" and "Extra Version" mitigate this slightly with rebalancing, but they're still no picnic.
Darius II reduces the number of screens to two, but this helps you focus as a player (as well as appreciate the still-amazing sprite work). As if in response to this concession, the game is far harder – bullets and enemy ships flood the screen within seconds. It's otherwise very similar to the original, and similarly compelling. Included variations of Sagaia adjust both the difficulty and the order you visit the levels, but none of them are huge change-ups.
Finally, the stand-out game of the package is Darius Gaiden; only a single screen here, but it's possibly even harder than its predecessors. The spectacular boss battles and bizarre, haunting soundtrack are extremely memorable and – as with all the games in the package – it's emulated brilliantly.
The oddest thing about Cozmic Collection Arcade is its lack of extras, so to speak; there are training modes for each game that let you play fully-powered and select your stage. This way you can check out those later levels that you may never see in normal gameplay. Besides this and the expected options menus, there's no galleries or anything to put the games into historical context, aside from a short blurb next to each one in the main menu.
Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a good compilation and the titles included are of a high quality, but as comprehensive as it is, it's still a little limited for the price. Enthusiasts, however, will be delighted by it.