30th Nov2021

‘G-Darius HD’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

The Darius series pioneered horizontal shoot ’em up games in the mid-to-late 80s and was developed by the legendary TAITO Corporation. The first Darius game wowed arcade going fans when it was released in 1986 with its dedicated dual-display cabinet, imaginative enemy designs and revolutionary sound design.

The first Darius is set in a futuristic 2D world, where the player pilots a Silver Hawk craft alone, or with a second player, and shoots their way through enemy hordes, navigating tricky terrain and battling giant robotic sea creatures. Armed with missiles, bombs and a forcefield, which can be powered up along the way, the players must defeat the alien invaders through a series of branching ‘zones’ to be victorious.

Numerous sequels and ports followed over the years leading us to this, G-Darius, the last game in the franchise until 2009’s Dariusburst. Developed by the masters of remastering at M2, G-Darius HD is a beautiful port of the original game from the late 90s that was known for its epic, boss versus player beam-battles and its brilliant, catchy soundtrack. Unfortunately, unless you have fond memories of the game this iteration doesn’t really feel all that special – even though in the history of the genre it is inescapably special. Even moreso considering this was the FIRST example of a 2D shmup moving into the 3D realm. The issue for me? Ports of old-school shmups always seem slow and cumbersome when compared to new iterations… even of the same video game series. It really does feel that, after playing Dariusburst, every port of classic Darius games that has followed has felt lacking.

G-Darius, in it’s HD iteration does go some way correct that, the game feels a lot more playable than any other retro Darius titles available on the Switch. But there is a major issue. this game is NOT made to be played on the small screen on the Switch in handheld mode, it’s really not. The ship graphics may look fine, but the small detail, i.e. the BULLETS(!) virtually disappear on such a small screen. Which kind of detracts from the whole entire idea of being able to play games on the move… G-Darius HD really needs to be played in docked mode on the biggest screen possible for it to be appreciated.

And even though I can “appreciate” them, I still just don’t see the appeal of the Darius games… I don’t know what it is but the franchise, even in the remakes and reduxes, seems old-fashioned. Whereas shooters from the likes of Cave have aged well and translate well to other formats (have you played any Cave shmups on an iPad? Glorious!) but this series hasn’t in my opinion.

It’s not all bad though. G-Darius does have one major plus over the rest of the games that came before it. Capture Balls. You can lauch the balls at enemies and capture them – the results of which could see the enemy turned into smart bombs, larger enemies may become super-powerful weapons. It’s very much a try it and see but it really adds a brillaint new aspect to the series whilst not changing the gameplay at all. Capture balls are especially useful in the hard-as-nails boss battles – withj a captured enemy you can charge and then release a powerful laser, so powerful in fact that it can destroy bosses easily (well easy-ish) and for those trickier bosses you can defend yourself from enemies lasers with your own powerful one!

It looks good, it plays better than any other of the re-released Darius games on the Nintendo Switch but there’s still something unremarkable about G-Darius HD, so much so that I’d only recommend this one to existing fans of the franchise.

G-Darius HD is available on the Nintendo eShop now.


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