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Through humanity's time on Earth, we have acquired certain primal fears and instinctual knowledge that makes sure we don't bite it. For example, kick a sabretooth tiger in the nuts and he's going to mess you up hardcore. We might not have sabretooth tigers anymore, but some guy runs across one and he's sure to think to himself, "I'm so not kicking that thing in the nuts." The same programming in our brains applies to the shark. Back in the day people might not have known all what was what, but they knew something in the water was chewing off everyone's legs and that was for no good. However, there is one huge advantage in the shark compared to the sabretooth: GET OUT OF THE WATER! Guess what, now the shark is pretty much screwed.

But what if the shark could fly and shoot laser beams?

Oh snap.

Darius: The Terror Begins

Widescreen, bitches.
Widescreen. A bit ahead of its time, really.

If a Japanese person walked into an arcade in 1986, they'd probably see something like the object on the left. At first they would probably be all, "Whoa look at that crazy wide screen...desu." Three CRT monitors gave their lives to the making of one Darius arcade cabinet. When they looked closer, however, a look of pure terror would creep across their face. Japan is a relatively small bit of land with sea all around and through, and in that sea wait the sharks. The Japanese know this. They are ones acquainted with the fright. They see the vision of the future offered by Darius and they know what they must do. Darius pits players against hordes of space marines, and I don't mean the buff no-neck type. Just about every type of sea animal in existence has gotten beefed up, made space-worthy, and sent to destroy mankind for their cheeky use of tartar sauce. Such a game would not be complete without the evil influence of the shark.

In fact, it's quite possible the game was designed by sharks in one of their nefarious plots, because truth be told there was a lot wrong with it. It's rather telling when a scrolling shooter's difficulty comes from not being able to destroy the enemy with terribly underpowered weapons before they just up and leave. Only certain enemies hold power-ups, and they're positioned most of the time at the back of the screen. With every other enemy between the ship and the power up, it can be a massive effort of dodging to get there before the power-up drifts away. It would be massively easier if the ship had the tiniest ability to destroy the enemy. To get the power-ups better weapons are needed. To get better weapons power-ups are needed. Only a shark could come up with such a vicious cycle.

One of the cool things the game introduced was branching paths. After every boss battle, there is a split in the path. Going either up or down changes which level comes next, so there's multiple ways to play through the game. It's just too bad the different zones don't have much to distinguish them.

Darius 2: Now We're Getting Somewhere

Swim
Nothing can stop them, not even temperatures of two million degrees.

Darius 2 hit arcades three years later, in 1989, and did its best to pull a Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, and essentially release the same game with upgraded features. This included reducing the amount of power-ups it took to increase weapons, and a map screen to plot out the progression of levels in the game. Unfortunately, the graphics remained mostly the same, so the sharks really didn't look any different. Except those one sharks that can apparently swim in the sun's corona. The soundtrack was pretty decent though, and when the game was ported to the TurboGrafx CD it was remixed with some rocking synth. Overall, it was quite an improvement from the first game, if not wholly revolutionary.

Darius SNES: The Force Twins

They sacrifice their young as ammunition.
They sacrifice their young as ammunition.

After the relative success of the arcade games, Taito saw fit to bring them to the small screen. Darius Twin was released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo, and is known as the easiest Darius game ever. Seriously, in the first level, if the ship is in the upper middle section, no enemy attacks can hit it. Another element that reduces the difficulty is the fact that you retain all your power-ups, even after you die, which none of the arcade games allowed. Twin made up for the lowered challenge with some good music and graphics for the era. The legions of space marines this time included giant squids, barricuda, walrus, angelfish, and, of course, the sharks.

Darius Force appeared on the Super Nintendo in 1993, but for some weird reason was renamed Super Nova in North America. There were a few changes this time around. There was now a choice of three different ships to take into battle, and each could obtain different weapons to change up your fighting style a bit. Sadly, it seems the unqiue artistic direction that was found in the previous Darius games wasn't exactly maintained here. Some areas are slightly nicer looking compared to Darius Twin, but the enemy designs suffered, resulting in not-as-cool looking sharks.

G. Darius Gaiden: The Epic Finish

The final two games are perhaps the most respected in the series. Darius Gaiden, released to arcades in 1996, was somewhat of a throwback to the olden days of the series, but with the subtle twist that often comes in the greatest entries in a franchise. Taking somewhat of a leaf out of the book of Gradius Gaiden, this game upped just about everything in the formula. More action, more power-ups, more varied stages, and more sharks. The game also added the incredibly cool mechanic where the player could capture the midboss after defeating it and have it join their team. Every great shooter franchise manages to carve out its own type of atmosphere, and with Gaiden that atmosphere was really solidified. And it was fishy, to say the least.

Holy shit.
Holy shit.

The last entry into the series came in 1999, and added polygonal sharks into the mix. G-Darius is often cited as the best game in the series, and no wonder. At this point space sharks are old hat. They've been done. Seen that already. Then, here comes G-Darius with a shark that swims through and rips holes in the fabric of space and time. Remember when humanity was safe as long as they didn't go in the water? Now even Krang hiding out in Dimension X isn't safe. This time around they expanded even more on the previous game by allowing the player to capture any enemy and bring them over to the side of justice.

See You Space Shark...

The Darius series has had some ups and downs, but at the end of the day it's hard to not love those crazy space sharks. Even if they are an unrelenting blight on the human race.

-Orie House and Joey Janowski

Note: Special thanks to Hardcore Gaming 101 for their Darius article, and for referencing our site.

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