The publisher behind VASARA Collection recently slashed the price to under a quid. Featuring two little-known arcade shootâ€™em ups and a new-fangled 3D version, itâ€™s the gaming equivalent of a McDonaldâ€™s cheeseburger â€“ cheap and flimsily put together, but mildly satisfying. In comparison, Darius Cozmic Collection Console is a prime rib steak dinner â€“ meaty and fulfilling, but it comes at a steep price that not everyone will be able to justify. Â£47.99, to be exact.
Dropping the fine dining analogies, this collection â€“ handled by emulation specialists M2 – consists of nine titles, although only six are unique. Rather than feature games from one region, it includes the both Japanese and US releases of three titles. The detailed descriptions on the main menu explain the subtle differences, helping to put things into context.
Darius II (aka SAGAIA) fills up three of those slots, including the Japanese Mega Drive version, the translated US version â€“ with minor alterations â€“ and the scaled-down Europe/Brazil Master System iteration. Itâ€™s a decent introduction, being more manageable (in terms of difficulty) than the rest of the collection.
Darius Twin â€“ of which both the Japanese and US versions feature â€“ was an early release for the SNES (1991), being the first Darius exclusively designed for a console. Here, weapons are no longer lost upon death, but the ability to continue was omitted. This is a â€˜continuingâ€™ theme with console Darius games â€“ instead of being coin guzzlers, theyâ€™re downright difficult. Thankfully this collection has save states, and a couple of games even have cheat codes (if youâ€™re that way inclined).
The difficulty level skyrockets with 1993â€™s Darius Force (Super Nova in the US). It looks and sounds great, boasting effects only the SNES could muster, and introduces a choice of crafts and a far wider range of enemy types (dinosaurs!) Itâ€™s fair to say itâ€™s the most challenging of the bunch, with no instant restarts. Although it was never released in Europe, calling it an obscurity in this day and age would be off the mark, especially when the PC Engineâ€™s Darius Alpha and Darius Plus feature.
Darius Alpha is one of those highly elusive games, the presence of which almost justifies the asking price of this collection. Only 800 copies were ever produced, acquirable via a mail promotion. While not much more than Darius Plus boss rush mode, itâ€™s likely to be a highpoint of this collection for Darius purists. Darius Plus itself is exemplary, with some of the best music on the collection.
With M2 at the helm, itâ€™s little surprise to discover this is a masterful collection, each game handled with care and attention. The most impressive thing about this is that we arenâ€™t dealing with a single format here, but rather four wildly different systems. Controls can be altered to suit, as can the addition of scanlines and sprite smoothing. The choice of screen sizes ranges from pixel-perfect to full screen. Playing the Master System version of SAGAIA in full screen is quite the novelty.
While smartly presented, Darius Cozmic Collection Console could be seen as a missed opportunity on the grounds that both Super Darius and G-Darius are absent. Thereâ€™s still enough here for shooter fans to get stuck into, especially when it comes to working through the extensive trophy list but isnâ€™t exactly a complete collection.
Coupled with the steep price tag, this is less of an essential purchase and more of a luxury. Around Â£25 would have been a fairer price, making it appeal not just to the Darius hardcore but casual shooter fans in general.