Taito’s Darius series of shoot ‘em ups has spanned generations, beginning as a 2D arcade game and eventually evolving into the 2.5D extravaganza Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX . One installment that hasn’t always gotten enough love is G-Darius, the 1997 entry that marked the series’ transition to 3D graphics while maintaining 2D gameplay. That game is now easier to appreciate than ever thanks to ININ Games and M2’s recent release of G-Darius HD on PlayStation and Switch. This new version adds higher resolution graphics and handy emulation features while maintaining the series’ beloved 2-player local co-op shooting action.
HD vs. Original
From the main menu, players can choose between G-Darius HD and the original G-Darius. The new HD version mildly improves the resolution of the enemy and some environmental textures while dramatically improving the players’ Silver Hawk ship models. Most players will prefer the G-Darius HD mode, though the original evokes a certain PSOne-era nostalgia. The main menu’s settings offer a choice between four widescreen borders, but a wide variety of additional settings like difficulty and graphical settings can be accessed from the pause menu during gameplay.
The game opens with a surprisingly plot-heavy introduction. We learn of the war between the planet Amnelia and the mysterious cybernetic aliens from the planet Darius. Amnelia’s forces fall in battle, but not before their scientists develop a paid of Silver Hawk ships using enemy technology. We even catch a glimpse of the Silver Hawks’ human pilots – quite a rarity for this series.
G-Darius is a 2.5D shoot ‘em up that closely resembles its predecessors in gameplay. The Silverhawk is equipped with one main gun and missiles, both of which can be strengthened by collecting powerups. Variety in armaments comes from the Capture System, an evolution of the system introduced in Darius Gaiden. Here, players have a limited number of capture shots to fire at enemies. If a capture shot hits a capturable enemy, that enemy temporarily joins the player as a weapon or companion. Pressing the capture button again destroys the captured ship, acting as a screen-clearing bomb. Capturing minibosses even lets players perform special attacks via a Street Fighter-style fireball motion. The game tracks which of the 53 regular enemies and 8 minibosses have been captured, adding welcome replay value.
The branching levels and aquatic-themed bosses are always a highlight of the Darius series, and G-Darius is no exception. At the end of each level, gamers will battle against a gigantic cyborg fish or other underwater creature. These bosses enter via uniquely dramatic and stylish introductions and then proceed to fill the screen with deadly fire. Skillful players who fire a capture beam at just the right time during boss battles will engage in a tug of war-like counterattack that requires rapid button mashing to win. After thwarting the gigantic foe, you’ll select a path from 15 levels. There are five different final bosses and endings to see, further enhancing the game’s longevity.
Shoot ‘em ups are usually best played with friends. Naturally, G-Darius HD supports 2-player local co-op in both game modes. While this game doesn’t feature any co-op-specific mechanics, it still offers a great time when playing with a partner. A single game consists of five levels, which go by quickly. You can always try another path if your teammate wants another round.
Version 2 Update
In June 2022, ININ published the G-Darius HD Ver. 2 update. This update adds three additional versions of G-Darius and lots of new features. As a result, we've increased the score on this review. See the update story for more details.
Darius fans won’t want to miss G-Darius. The capture mechanics set the gameplay apart, always providing something to do and watch out for while soaring through levels. G-Darius’ environments are some of the most distinct in the series, filled with ambient alien life and distant battles. The industrial-flavored soundtrack makes things even more interesting, though Darius Gaiden’s soundtrack remains my favorite. With the arrival of the Ver. 2 update and a total of five versions of G-Darius to play, this is an excellent shmup that will provide numerous multiple playthroughs.
A PlayStation code was provided by the publisher for review.
The Co-Op Experience: A second pilot can join in at any time and help battle the robotic sea life.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.