I like a variety of space shoot-em-up games frequently called shmups. They usually task you with shooting lots of enemies and big bosses while dodging a cubic ton of bullets. Whenever a new one is released on a console, I like to check it out. Once I saw the well-known (to shmup fans) Darius series was bringing its latest iteration to the PS4 and Vita, I had to get a review code.
When the game starts up, you get two modes, AC and CS, and no real explanation of either. There's also no real explanation of anything else, sadly. Most of the modes and stuff you have to just try it out and hope for the best. Playing the actual game isn't really difficult to figure it, it's more what each mode does. Plus, the power-ups don't really have explanations. It took me way to long to figure out what each did and their connection with the colored bars at the top of the screen.
The red bars and power-ups are for your main shot (the Square Button). As you pick up the red ball power-ups, you will get more shots, and after the bars are filled, the shot will change and you can power it up again. There is a limit for each ship, though. The green bars are the bombs/missiles you also shoot out when you attack. The power-up is very similarly to that of the shot. The blue bars are your shields, and each mark is another hit you can take. Since it only shows 5 bars, the true number is also shown next to your number of lives near the middle of the top of the screen.
Most of the ships also have a big laser attack when you hold down the X Button. Using it drains a special meter that is either underneath your ship (AC mode) or at the bottom of the screen (CS mode). It drains really quickly and is usually only filled when you destroy an enemy ship or their bullets. A better use for the meter (most times) is a stationary laser satellite. It drains the meter at a much slower pace, and can be used to concentrate fire on a particular area while you move around. I like it a lot on bosses. Plus it can make a nice shield in a pinch.
However, there is one fun use for the burst beam itself. If you fire it right before an enemy's burst laser hits you (you will know they are doing it when they charge it up), you will absorb theirs while shooting back. This will fill your meter while using it and the beam gets bigger and stronger. It's like a Dragonball Z beam struggle in spaceships! Once I figured out more about it, I try to do it on all the bosses, and not just for the trophy. It's just so hype! Although...it doesn't always work. I'm not sure if my timing is off or what, but there are plenty of times I try it and just eat several hits of the enemy's laser, which takes down my precious shield. I guess it's part of the risk/reward for using it.
There are a total of 9 different ships, and there are a few core differences between them. It's a bit hard for me to tell them apart visually, but they all have different shot and bomb patterns. Not all of the ships have the big laser beam attack. Origin is the original ship from way back when, and has no other capabilities than the shot and normal bomb attacks. The Gaiden, my personal favorite, also lacks the beam. Instead, it uses a full burst meter for a massive bomb that nearly clears the screen, similar to those found in other shmups. The Murakumo, another one I really like, has the beam, but does not have the stationary laser bit. It has up to four 'options' (little bits) the follow it, and pressing the L1 button will change their formation and attack pattern. Overall, I really like the selection of ships, even if I couldn't pick them out of a lineup.
Now we will dive into the modes offered, and AC mode is first. I think it stands for Another Chronicle, which was the name of the arcade version. At first I thought it stood for Arcade Cabinet, since it assigns you a cabinet (which is important for the Chronicle mode) and even warns you on a game over to be careful when exiting the machine. That's an authentic port from the arcade. So authentic it sadly won't let you back out of any selections in this mode, and everything selection is on an automatic timer. You have plenty of time, but at first it bothered me when I was trying to check out each mode and ship selection.
The modes inside of AC mode (insert inception meme of choice here) are Original, Original EX, Chronicle and Extra. Original is the first arcade release of the game. There are 12 stages, but you only play three of them. Each level you complete gives you two choices for a next stage (think of a pyramid), so there is some decent replay value when trying to do every stage. Plus, each stage has its own boss. Original EX is very similar, but has a different set of 12 stages, and they are much harder variations of them, with more difficult bosses. Both of these modes allow up to four players.
The third mode is Chronicle, and it boasts over 3000 levels. The levels are spread out over some planets in a solar system. Once you or someone else completes a level, nearby ones may unlock. Each has different rules and restrictions of what ship is allowed, and what its loadout is. Some require multiple players or might restrict it to one credit. There are several "cabinets", and the game assigns you to one when you start. You can change if you want one with more or less unlocked. It's a pretty neat thing to put into the game that will give a lot of replay value if you want to tackle any of it. The last mode is Event, which is locked. Looking at the wikipedia entry for the game states it is an online mode...so I have no idea why it isn't unlocked when I'm online. I think it might be for timed community challenges or something, and I'll update the review if/when I find out what the mode actually does.
AC mode has a lot to do thanks to Chronicle mode, but I feel the arcade faithful representation hurts it in some ways, too. There is no real tutorial to teach you anything about the game. Yes, the main idea is shoot and don't get hit, but some info on the power-ups and the burst counter would have been great at the start. There is a demo attract mode, but the text is really small and hard to read, especially in the time given. In fact, everything in this mode is really small. I have to assume the actual arcade cabinet uses some crazy aspect to its screen, since the one here is letter-boxed on the top and bottom, and everything is small to accommodate the 4 possible players. The loading screens look like they have some info, but they are in Japanese. The pictures in them aren't too helpful either. A manual would have really been helpful.
The second main mode is CS mode. It's single player with main and sub stages, and completing main stages usually open up more, while sub ones are just for extra points. Since it is single player, the viewable area is much nicer than AC mode. You can easily see your ship and all relevant meters and such while playing. When you complete a stage, your score is converted into points (at 1000 to 1) which are used to unlock different ships and power them up. Technically, it isn't necessary to do so if you are good enough, as there is a preset for every level in the mode. However, you can save up your points and buy one of the ships so you will always be able to use that one. You can also get upgrades for a purchased ship to make it start with stronger shots and bombs, plus more shields to make it more durable. The only problem with that is the upgrade costs are paid each time you use the ship in the mode. I guess it means you always have a use for the points, but it sucks when trying to save up for the more expensive ships.
While there are a lot of stages in the game, there aren't many different settings for them. Most stages seem cobbled together from a few different sections, and they rarely stand out from each other. It's not a huge deal, since you are mostly paying attention to the enemy's fire patterns so you don't die. There are a fair amount of different boss types, and each has several variants. Each type is very different from each other, and the further variants are harder with some new attacks each. There is a much bigger variety in the bosses than the stages, which is fine since a lot of stages are boss rushes, where you will have boss fights back to back, or with a small stage in-between.
Dariusburst can get difficult with the harder stages. The hit detection on the ships seems a bit big, so some parts are stupid hard to not get hit. Original and Original EX modes are on free play so you can power your way through all of the stages with any ship no problem, but Chronicle mode has some very difficult stages (I'm rarely one CC good). The same is true for CS mode, where you can easily get stuck trying to move forward, and might have to grind earlier stages to get more points and buff out a purchased ship to get through. Knowing how to fight each boss will go a long way in making the whole game easier, but it can still be very hard to dodge all the bullets.
When I first started Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, I wasn't sure it had enough to justify the price tag. The more I played of it, the faster that doubt disappeared. The AC mode is a faithful representation of the arcade cabinet. A little too faithful, since it is harder to see and the loading screens that likely help teach you the game and controls are in Japanese. There is a lot of replayability in Chronicle mode though. Also the CS mode is a lot of fun, but you can get stuck until you either improve or grind your way to purchasing a ship you like and decking it out. If you are a fan of shmups, you should definitely pick up Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours on the PS4. Now if only I could easily beat Thousand Knives...
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