Platform: Super Nintendo
Release Date: 1992
Internet publications are notoriously swamped with information on the new.
With the fast-paced nature of the ever-evolving gaming world, pushed forward by increasing forays into Hollywood-esque manpower and development cycles, us poor internet journalists are expected to give only the best, most up-to-date news, previews, and reviews on the latest and greatest entertainment software.
So why can't we slow it down just a little?
Our elongated reviews – thanks to the lack of print-space limitations – give us enough time to muse on brand new releases. But that's still thinking in the current; being thoughtful about the now is not necessarily calming for the writer or the reader. Looking bad on the road that led to the current creations is something that feels a bit more relaxing. The old days of gaming were a simpler time, but also a more challenging time in many respects. Hardware limitations called for miniscule teams, but also a stronger focus on gameplay. Different times, different games.
To kick off this feature, let's take a look back into the days when horizontally-scrolling shooters were the "bee's knees." Taito's Darius Twin, along with the phenominal Gradius III, led the shooter charge on the Super Nintendo. One is now widely regarded to be the apex of a great shooter franchise; the other, a dismal attempt at bringing the arcade experience home. The culprit?
Given the elightened sense that 10 years of fervent, attentive play of these types of games has given me, Darius Twin is simply not in the same league as Gradius III.
Well, first, let's backpedal a bit. It's 1992. The SNES still has a relatively modest selection of titles released, and many gamers are still wasting their days away on their 8-bit consoles. Fans hungry after ripping their way through Gradius III, and especially those spurned by the lack of a two-player mode in that game, found the proposition of another horizontal shmup (the "in the know" slang, which stands for "shoot 'em up") very hard to refuse. They mowed lawns, they – no, we – shoveled sidewalks, begged our parents, perhaps even stole... and finally, Darius Twin sat in our greedy paws. We played the game. We probably thought it "rocked." A few of the more discerning early '90s gamers probably said it was "okay, but kinda bogus."
But now, with the game sitting in my hands after dropping a measly two dollars on the cartridge-only copy, it seems like a little more than "kinda" bogus. Without the hours of hard labor blinding my eyes, I see a wholly disappointing rendition of a series that, historically, has been mediocre, at best.
The Darius series is most famous for Darius Gaiden, but Twin is neither here nor there. This is a stylish shmup with great graphics and music, but also with some of the most terrible enemy layouts and powerup distribution seen in the genre.
The first level is surprisingly difficult for the first foray into the game, and the reason why becomes blindingly clear: you begin without ship upgrades. You see, Twin would have been a great, if difficult, shooter had it leaned more towards the powerup distribution (or near-lack thereof) in Darius 2, than the overbearing havoc players are quickly given to unleash by the end of the first level in Twin. The first of a series of giant fish-shaped ships as bosses is a snap to take down, along with all but the last few stages of the game.
The difficulty is ramped up to insane levels just towards the end of the game, when three aquaticly-inclined minibosses must be fought at once, leaving little room to move the ship about in during the fray. But afterwards, the two singular final bosses fall back into the easy-as-pie grind of the game, leaving the player with a very anti-climactic feeling on the whole thing.
With great older shooters like Gradius III sitting around at flea markets for comparable prices to Twin, and modern shooters Ikaruga and Border Down embarassing the quality of this game, getting into the Darius series, especially in the form of Twin, makes little sense. In this case, it is not a matter of money but a matter of time consumed.
There are much better shooters out there.
It may seem like a bit of an oversight to begin Still Worth Playing with a bad game, but I am making a clear point here: just because a game is old does not mean it is a classic. While design ingenuity was much more commonplace during the two-dimensional eras, the vast majority of releases were just as bad as the vast majority of modern releases. Don't let revisionist history tell you otherwise; things are different now, but the irrelevant shovelware to AAA release ratio hasn't changed much at all.