Dariusburst SP Review (iPad/iOS)
Japanese game development can be weird sometimes. For instance, I don’t know where Taito came up with the idea, but they decided to make a space shooter series where you take on an armada of robotic fish, including gigantic bosses with silly names. That series is Darius, and despite its strange premise, it has grown a bit of a following with the hardcore “shmup” crowd, especially with its unique power-up system. After lingering on consoles for the last few years, it’s finally hit the mobile front with Dariusburst SP.
The premise is still the same. You choose your ship and fly through a series of zones, using a variety of power-ups to send robotic fish enemies to meet their maker. The more fleets you shoot down, the more points you earn. Along the way, you can pick up orbs that give your ship incentives, including a power shield, improved shots and bombs, and a gold orb that destroys everything on the screen temporarily. You can also chase after silver orbs for points or hunt down hidden 1ups.
Dariusburst’s power-ups work very well, and you can see the effects on-screen as you pick up each orb. And unlike most unfair shooters, if you die, you don’t automatically start back from square one – unless you’re on a higher difficulty, that is. As you proceed, you’ll also unlock new ships, each with their own attack abilities.
This game has three modes to choose from – SP, which is the main remix mode; Original, which is based on the main arcade code; and Mission, which is divided into mission objectives. All three games are about the same, but it’s cool to see the minor differences with each one, mostly with soundtracks. In addition, you can unlock Achievements through Game Center, always nice to have.
As for gameplay, you control your ship using on-screen drags. Your ship can either fire automatically or manually, though we prefer automatic. In addition, you also have a special Burst tool that can give you an edge with bigger boss enemies, as it fires a huge pulsating laser that can do major damage to whatever it touches. These are accessible through buttons on the corner of the screen. It would’ve helped to have a D-pad, but it’s not completely necessary to get around.
Dariusburst is a visual delight. It’s definitely leagues ahead of Taito’s previously released Rayforce, with the kind of graphics that you’d find in a downloadable Xbox Live/SEN game. The frame rate is smooth, the enemy design is pretty cool (despite all the fish) and the backgrounds are damn good, 3D settings instead of the usual 2D scrolling fare. The bosses take up a good portion of the screen too.
The music, on the other hand, is a bit…weird. Some of it is right up Zuntana’s composing alley, while other selections sound like strange-ass opera pieces that are likely to make you reach for the volume switch.
So what's the negative? Well, that would be Dariusburst’s inflated price. Like Rayforce, it’s set at $11.99, and Taito probably won’t knock it down anytime soon. The difference, though, is that this game validates its price a bit better, especially in the graphics. Do yourself a favor and buy an HDMI adapter and play it on a big screen. You just might like it.
While we would’ve preferred Darius’ return as a downloadable game for consoles, we’ll take what we can get. Dariusburst SP retains all the goofy shooting goodness from previous chapters of the series, and puts on the kind of technical show that makes the most out of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Lock and load and let those fishies have it.