You think that when you pick up a shooter that you’re going to enjoy it. Sometimes you’re disappointed… other times, less often, you’re blown away.
G-Darius HD comes in the latter category. It’s the fourth installment of the Darius series, which dates all the way back to 1987.
Having never heard of the game before its 2021 revival, I decided that with the 2022 update, I should try it out on Nintendo Switch. To recap, this revision includes the 1997 original G-Darius along with the high definition update, plus three new versions for Nintendo Switch and PS4:
- G-Darius Ver.2: first released in 1998, this is an updated version of the original G-Darius which was initially published one year earlier. While the story remains the same, G-Darius Ver.2 comes with a beginner mode, rapid-fire function and a lot of adjustments to the gameplay.
- G-Darius Ver.2 HD comes as an HD version of G-Darius Ver.2
- G-Darius for consumer adds the 1998 Japan-released console port of G-Darius
All of this is pretty incidental, however, as the games play very similarly (not identically) so unless you’re a G-Darius afficionado, you probably won’t notice the difference.
What the new version does bring is a collection of new gadgets, modes, and settings that have been implemented in G-Darius and G-Darius Ver.2.
The reason this game took me by surprise is the concept of “capture.” A development of the extra ship in Galaxian (and in many ways developed further in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with the hacking of Imperial droids), it gives the player an advantage over the attacking forces (and the many level bosses/behemoths) by capturing an attacking craft and using it against the enemy.
With so many different ships that can be captured (some cannot) it gives the G-Darius games an enhanced strategic edge that similar shooters don’t have. The scale of the game is impressive too, with level bosses several screens in size and often flying into and out of the screen to emphasize their size. Often this necessitates a flip of attacking direction, which adds an extra challenge to the game. There is also a choice of paths through the game, which has the potential of making every game you start almost unique. It certainly brings a freshness to proceedings.
The new gadgets mentioned include the Boss Gadget, which reveals weaknesses. Elsewhere, there is a nice change in UI between playing on the Switch in handheld mode and on the big screen in docked mode. One thing I noticed that is missing from this release – the first time I’ve come across this with a retro release – is a rewind function.
G-Darius is tough
While it’s easy to instantly create save game states, G-Darius HD’s lack of a rewind feature makes this a far more challenging proposition than many other retro releases on current hardware. I suppose this is mitigated somewhat by the presence of a training mode, but its omission is still puzzling.
After all, G-Darius is a tough game, with unrelenting attackers and a range of powerful weapons that can be dodged (or otherwise) in varying ways, depending on the attacker. It’s the sort of game you really want to master, though – it’s not too tough so as to discourage, and certainly isn’t unplayable. The two-player mode certainly helps.
And even if it was, you’d still want to load it up because not only are the games in the G-Darius HD collection tough, they’re also graphically stunning. Certainly typical of the late 1990s approach, the three-dimensional polygonal graphics look amazing and suit the switch in angles that the game occasionally throws at you. The HD options smooth things out nicely, without losing the feel of the original G-Darius.
G-Darius, the unmissable retro shooter
I’m a sucker for retro shooters, so G-Darius was likely to get a good review from me anyway. But I was unprepared for how good it actually is. Yes, it’s tough, but it’s also replayable, with so many options for slave ships and paths through the game. The HD version might smooth things more than I like, but that’s totally down to personal preference. The Ver 2 releases certainly make the boss battles less of a chore, but if there was any complaint, it would be that the levels aren’t long enough.
If you haven’t already, G-Darius HD is certainly worth picking up in the Nintendo Switch eShop, where it retails for £24.99.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.