G-Darius was originally released in 1997 for the Japanese arcades and then later ported to the PS1 and again for the PS2. G-Darius HD is the fourth installment of the series and the first to use full 3D polygon graphics.
This HD version is a prequel that starts the story for the series; the Amnelia empire uses a weapon of mass destruction that destroys a planet! The Thiima are a long-dormant biocybernetic race made to defend life in the galaxy. The use of the weapon awakens the Thiima and thus starts the battle for humanity’s survival.
The Darius series is known for its difficulty and stunning visuals, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Even for its age, this game holds up well for being 24 years old; yup, 24. The use of polygons over pre-rendered backgrounds is nothing new today, but in 1997 it was awesome. In an age where arcades were almost gone in the US, this game helped keep the series relevant in Japan.
The two versions included in this bundle are G-Darius HD and G-Darius the direct arcade port. The HD variant has some updated 3D models of the ships, and the Bosses seem to have been smoothed out (no jagged lines). However, the gameplay is identical. The music shines in this; I found it added perfectly to the atmosphere of the game, tense and edgy. Honestly, unless you’re a diehard fan of the series, this doesn’t bring much to the table as a release and could have been included in the last Darius bundle to be ported to the Switch (Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade). Other than 3D visuals and two new game mechanics, it’s a typical Darius shooter.
The mechanics mentioned are a beam counter that can turn the tide of tough boss battles and a capturing feature for different enemies to give better offense and defensive abilities. Beyond this, it’s Darius, plain and simple folks. There is an achievement system as well. It doesn’t really do anything for you, and seems kind of a waste.
There is still a lot of fun to be had with this title; two-player co-op with a friend can be a great way to kill some time. The controls are spot-on, and the challenge factor is there. But this game can be easily beat by simply adding more credits; yup, like the arcade, you can coin-up and keep going, chucking the replay value right out the window. I would have put in a deathmatch mode for replay value, with limited lives and no continues, to see how far you can get by improving your piloting skills.
In the end, G-Darius HD is a challenging shooter from a time when arcades were still relevant. It still looks good and sounds cool, but it’s not great as a standalone.