Monday, June 9, 2008

WARNING: A Huge Battleship Golden Ogre Is Approaching Fast!

I traveled this weekend, and before driving across the state listening to Weezer's Red Album I had several interesting video game-related adventures. First, after seeing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian with my girlfriend, we hit the arcade in the lobby. And, holy shit, they had a Centipede machine, which I'd never seen. Unfortunately, my bullets were invisible in the first level, but everything started working once the screen changed. Second, there was a Ms. Pac-Man machine. Not the Galaga + Ms. Pac-Man anniversary machine which has sprouted up recently, but a grimy, first-edition, old-fashion arcade beauty. I was one level away from the high score, but, sadly, I didn't have what it takes to go down in movie theater arcade legend.

Later, we went to Circuit City and spent thirty minutes digging around in PS2 bargain bins, and I found a $10 copy of Taito Legends 2, which includes 39 classic Taito arcade games. What really sold me, however, was Darius Gaiden.

I originally stumbled upon Darius Gaiden about 10 years ago, when I noticed it for 3 bucks in an Electronics Boutique. The art was amazing, so I decided to buy it. I was completely floored by the music, graphics, and addicting gameplay. On the surface it might not appear that interesting, just another Gradius clone, but the Darius series is unique because all of the enemies look like giant mechanical fish. The music was composed and performed by Taito's in-house band, Zunata, who do a fantastic job with this game. You'll be mesmerized by the trance voice singing "Close your eyes / close your head" during one of the songs.

Darius Gaiden is still your basic shmup. You collect powerups to increase your weapons, missiles (confusingly named "bombs"), shield, and bombs ("black holes").It's just that everything works so well together. The graphics and artwork are out of this world, and the game makes use of several nice effects (such as pseudo-3D backgrounds and multi-layered parallax scrolling). Hands down, this game has the best graphics of any game pre-1994 that I can remember (hey, if you've got a better suggestion the comment button is a few paragraphs below).

Underneath the sweet eye-and-ear candy is a really good game. There are 28 levels, and you pick one of two forking paths after each boss. You'll travel across the oceans of planet Darius, explore space ruins, and battle through post-apocalyptic cities. In order to see every level, you have to play through the game at least 7 times, if you are consciously making an effort to take certain paths.

And, fuck, I'm glad I'm playing the game on a console (for the record, Taito Legends 2 offers arcade-perfect ports, including a credit button!) because I would have spent at least 40 bucks so far at an aracde. Darius Gaiden isn't a hard game; it's brutal. I have the original PC version (the one I purchased in the past), and it only gave you 2 credits. I managed to make it 4-5 stages after a few weeks of practice, but the game is soul-crushingly difficult. That's really the game's only flaw, which can easily be overlooked. The majority of this difficulty is a direct result of the size of your ship, which is fatty glutton compared to modern shooters like Graidus V and Ikaruga.

Check out this psychedelic bullet-hell shooter if you've got the guts. Screw fishing, this game rocks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

definitely awesome soundtrack... reminded me of rez...

glad you had a fun time-- enriched by video games-- when you came to visit!