Whereas the first Taito Milestones only featured one co-op game, the second installment ups the ante with three cooperative shoot ‘em ups.
Darius II (3-Screen Arcade Version, 1989): Darius II appeared in arcades in both 2-screen and 3-screen versions. The 2-screen version was previously included in Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade, but the ultra-wide 3-screen version only sells by itself or as part of Taito Milestones 2. It’s a shame that Hamster doesn’t include themed wallpapers for their retro games, because this title displays a lot of blank space at the top and bottom of the Switch’s screen.
Presentation issues aside, Darius II is a fantastic shoot ‘em up and easily one of the best games on this collection. One or two players will fly across all manner of alien planets, battling fish-themed minibosses and bosses, and then selecting between different paths at the end of each stage. These selectable paths add tons of replay value. Taito was firing on all cylinders with this game. The sprites, backgrounds, and soundtrack are all some of the finest to ever grace the shmup genre.
Gun Frontier (1990): This lesser-known vertical shoot ‘em up has an appealing science fiction meets wild west theme, slightly akin to Cowboy Bebop. The players’ aircrafts and many of the enemy ship designs incorporate western-style pistols into their designs, which look quite cool. The backgrounds are fairly plain but occasionally feature tiny, animated humans and animals. Flying over the edge of a waterfall, seeing a flock of birds take off, and then encountering a giant pistol-based boss is a memorable moment, to be sure. Like most Taito games, the soundtrack is catchy too.
Metal Black (1991): What started as a Darius game eventually became Metal Black, a side-scrolling shooter. The powerup system is somewhat unique in that collecting the many molecules that litter the screen will strengthen players’ weapons. Rather than a bomb mechanic, you can charge up a powerful beam attack as well. Metal Black is as graphically impressive as any Taito shmup, with loads of parallax scrolling and background detail.
In the very first stage, you’ll fly across a ruined cityscape before encountering a giant hermit crab that has made a ruined aircraft carrier its shell! Between some levels, a 3D minigame tasks players with downing as many enemies as possible with lock-on missiles. While Metal Black never became a shmup franchise (the generic title probably didn’t help), it’s still an epic and impressive shooter.
A Better Collection
The first Taito Milestones suffered from an uneven selection of games, poor presentation, and a relatively high price. Taito Milestones 2 doesn’t improve on presentation or cost, but the $40 price is easier to swallow when most of the included games are fairly appealing. What’s more, the three cooperative shooters are all great, so you can bring a friend along for an ample quantity of retro fun this time. This collection is a smart buy for any Taito fan who doesn’t already own Hamster’s separate Arcade Archive releases.
Taito Milestones 2 for Nintendo Switch costs $39.99 in digital and physical formats. Strictly Limited Games also sells a Limited Edition for $39.99 and a Collector’s Edition for $89.99, though quantities are limited.
A Switch download code was provided by the publisher for this review.
The Co-Op Experience: Players can team up on the couch in those titles that support it.
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.