Developers M2 have been responsible for some of the best ports and remasters ever released. The attention to detail they put into every aspect of their games is unmatched. When the UI designer on the Darius project discovered that the screws on the how-to-play card weren’t accurate to the original cabinet, he had the director visit a real arcade to source images of the correct screws. Other games, like Sonic the Hedgehog, utilize the 3DS’ parallax barrier to emulate the curve of an old CRT television. It’s this level of care that makes M2 so beloved. But what happens when one of the most beloved developers gets ahold of one of the most beloved arcade classics? You get Darius Cozmic Collection.
Darius Cozmic Collection. Developed by M2 and published by Taito, is a compilation of various titles from the Darius arcade series. Darius is a side scrolling shoot ‘em up set in the distant future. Piloting your Silver Hawk starfighter, you must eliminate enemy ships, tanks, turrets, and traps through numerous environments and challenges in order to progress to the next zone. The Cozmic Collection consists of six separate gameplay modes. Including three different versions of the original Darius providing different levels of challenge depending on what the player chooses. Darius 2, referred to as Sagaia in the collection, and Darius Gaiden are also playable.
Originally released in 1987, Darius features classic 16 bit graphics. Developer Akira Fujita was interested in creating a shooter with large, complex bosses at the end of each level. He based the designs of these bosses largely on sea creatures like fish, whales, and squid. Combining biological and mechanical aesthetic, these huge, intricate beasts are exciting to face and beautiful to behold. Sagaia and Darius Gaiden continue the tradition of sea creature based enemies, but with larger, more detailed designs. Each level is beautifully detailed and unique providing interesting visuals and challenges specific to that zone.
Arcade games were often designed to be extremely difficult in order to draw out gameplay time and leech more quarters from my parent’s wallet, so the Cozmic Collection offers several different modes to switch up difficulty. The Classic Version is exactly as it was when it was released, extreme difficulty and all. For players who would prefer a less punishing experience, the New Version offers weaker enemies and more powerful weapons and abilities. On the other end of the spectrum, the Extra Version adds more enemies to each level, ramping up the challenge by quite a bit.
Every version of Darius features branching options when moving between levels. After each boss fight, you must choose a new zone to travel to from a set of options. There are a total of 28 zones in the original Darius game, but you will only visit seven during a single playthrough. This gives the game a huge amount of replayability especially given how unique and varied the levels are. One moment you’re in a cave dodging stalactites and rocks and the next you’re underwater fighting a giant starfish. Each level is given the same care in its design as the enemies so they’re each beautiful and memorable in their own way.
The music of Darius has a classic sci-fi feel to it. Composed by Hisayoshi Ogura and performed by Taito’s house band, Zuntata, each track has a feeling of otherworldliness giving certain levels an strange alien tone while others feel more action packed and exciting. This otherworldly sound is only improved in later Darius games as it becomes clear the developers had really discovered the sound they were looking for.
Featuring exciting gameplay, beautiful visuals, and an amazing soundtrack, the Darius Cozmic Collection does this arcade classic a great deal of justice. When it was first released, Darius featured three monitors in its cabinet making the screen much longer than other shoot ‘em up games. It also included speakers under the feet that Taito referred to as their “body sonic” system. These additions to the original game were included to make Darius stand out among its competitors and offer an immersive experience unlike any other arcade game at the time. In the original spirit of going above and beyond to create something amazing, M2 has poured all of their care and creativity into Darius Cozmic Collection and it shows.