Ever since the Nintendo Switch launched back in 2017, many publishers and developers have been bringing multiple retro collections to the hybrid system. These range from arcade classics to collections of home console releases from the 80s and 90s. The shoot ’em up genre has found success on the platform as well with games like Ikaruga and the Psikyo releases being great to play on the go on Nintendo Switch.
One series was missing in action on Nintendo Switch until recently. Taito’s Darius series makes its Nintendo Switch debut with two collections released on the same day in the form of Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade and Darius Cozmic Collection Console.
If you’ve never played a Darius game before, Taito’s long-running 2D shoot ’em up series debuted in arcades before seeing home console ports. The franchise has had aquatic-themed enemies and bosses as a staple in most of the entries alongside music from Zuntata (Taito’s sound team). The other aspect of the games that drew more people into them is the non-linear progression that results in loads of different possible paths in a single run.
As the name suggests, Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of Darius games that were originally released in arcades. This collection has three main Darius games with a few variants of the first two games. The asking price for this collection is definitely on the higher side compared to other retro collections or releases but this collection pulls well above its weight for a few reasons.
Taito’s first Darius game gets its original version from 1987, a new version with rebalanced boss fights and some weapon changes, and an extra version which has even more balance changes. Darius Extra Version of the three has been balanced to be easier initially as well. As a triple screen release, Darius is definitely worth playing but it doesn’t scale too well in handheld especially on the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Darius II (two screen version) is the base of the second main game included in the collection. It was initially released in 1989. Darius II allowed orientation changing as a new addition with a lot of weapon improvements to the ship you control. Sagaia is a Western version of Darius II with stages shortened and an increased difficulty. Another version of Sagaia is also included in the collection.
The final main game included is Darius Gaiden. Darius Gaiden is the third main entry in the Darius series from 1994 and it is excellent across the board. This game itself makes the collection worth owning for me with its fantastic levels, brilliant soundtrack, and the ability to recuit mid-boss characters. The visuals are also a huge upgrade and this is one of the most polished horizontal shoot ’em ups I have played.
In terms of actual emulation for the collection, M2 (Collection of Mana) is the developer here. M2 is one of the best in the business when it comes to emulation with arcade-perfect emulation and screen options. This collection lets you play with fullscreen, fit to screen, and pixel perfect options for display types. There are smoothening, scanlines, and background options as well. There are also various gadget options to adjust the interface and fully remappable controls. A lot of care clearly went into making these games more accessible.
The biggest downside to this release is that the multi-screen games do not scale well (as expected) when played handheld. I got used to them but it really isn’t fun playing games designed for multiple arcade screens on a small handheld. The other issue holding this back from being a perfect collection is the lack of any sort of museum or gallery for the vast history of the games and this series. Some interviews with the developers would’ve gone a long way in making this worth it for more than just people looking for an easy way to experience these arcade classics.
Overall, Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is an easy recommendation for Darius fans despite its high asking price. Darius Gaiden in particular is well worth more than half of this asking price and having arcade-perfect releases of multiple versions of the first two Darius games from M2 is well worth it.