- Developer: Taito Corporation
- Publisher: ININ Games
- Release date: 27/07/2021
- Price: £34.99 / $39.99
- Code provided by ININ Games
Introducing: Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+ Review
I am not one for bullethell games. Let’s just get that out of the way right at the start. So, I may not have been the most apt to review Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+, but I do like trying new things so I am willing to give a lot of genres of games a shot. So, let’s see if this title was able to convert me to being a fan of these sorts of shoot ’em ups, or if I’ll have to find somewhere else to do that.
What Does the Title Even Mean?
I had never actually heard of the Darius series before picking this one up, so I am not at all familiar with the intricates of how they are laid out and named. I mean, Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ is a mouthful of a title, for sure, able to give some of the more complicated Kingdom Hearts ones a run for their money. But does it actually mean something? Actually, it does! So, Dariusburst is the original PSP game and “Another chronicle” was a 2010 remix for arcades. This was then expanded on and released again which garnered it the EX. And this newest release added even more, which is what gets it the plus added on. I won’t even begin to pretend to know what came from what versions and try to separate it out since this is a game that has been repeatedly iterated on, but from all this, I think it’s safe to assume that this might be the definitive edition of this game.
When it comes to the story, there really isn’t one. Even doing a quick search around for any story that might have been in supplemental material only really yielded a paragraph at most. It comes down to their being new galactic threat that we’re going out to fight and there’s a new ship with some new technology which justifies the new burst mechanics. Fairly simple, but I don’t expect much more than that for a shoot ’em up game. Gameplay is king, after all.
Pew Pew Pew
I’m going to readily admit that I am not very good at this game. Everything that I am going to say here comes from the perspective of someone who is very much a beginner and not skilled in this sort of game in the slightest. If you’re looking for someone who can give you the expert’s view, you might want to look elsewhere. That being said, this is a fairly basic side scrolling shooter, but basic isn’t always a bad thing. This game actually iterates on the basics that it has through a whole host of different modes that offer a variety of different experiences.
The Original mode is your ground level mode that you can experience. You (and up to three friends) take control of a ship and make your way through a branching tree of difficulty levels, the map of which I have put above this section. At the end of each level, you get a choice of which branch you would like to take in order to move onto the next area. This gives a lot of replayability, giving tons of different paths that you can take. The trade off is that if you play well, your run is only three worlds long. Which can be rather short, but this just adds to the arcade-like nature of the game. Going in with only three lives an be tricky since Dariusburst is determined to grind you up and spit you out. If I were playing this at a local arcade, I could totally see this one getting a reputation of being a quarter muncher. The EX mode is an expansion of the original mode, giving another set of levels that take on an even higher difficulty than the first set.
Chronicle mode is where things get a little more interesting. This is a full on mission mode where you select a specific mission and see it through to the end, complete with remixed enemies and bosses to keep you on your toes. Some of these even had a few little extra touches thrown in to make them even more fun. The last mode available is the event mode. This hosts what were at one time time exclusive events to arcades, bringing them into a more permanent place on your console. I think this is a really nifty edition to have and a few of the time attacks were fun to give a whirl between the regular runs that I was making.
I’m Blowing up Space Fish!
Gameplay is your standard shoot ’em up goodness, with the stage scrolling to the side as enemies came flying in from just about every direction. You obviously have your little shooter of a cannon, but you also have a few lasers that are on a cooldown, the titular bursts. These can mow through your basic enemies pretty easy, but you’re going to have to get creative and hone your skills if you want to stand any chance against the bosses that are in your way.
I was pleased to see that with the way the game could sometimes trap me between enemies or objects that there is the ability to turn around and fire behind you as well as in front with the mere press of a button. However, I do think that this isn’t quite enough. The option to at least have a special fire for up and down as well would have been a huge help in some situations. Perhaps keeping it just to these two directions was meant to keep the challenge high, but when I had a boss that kept moving back and forth at the bottom of the screen and throwing so many bullets at me that I couldn’t manage to get to the side of it, I was really wishing for that downward fire capability.
One option that I was really please to see, though, was the ability to go into a run of many of these modes with infinite ships on your sides. Being unconstrained from just the three ships that a normal crack at it would allow you. Now, I know that a lot of people aren’t big fans of easy modes or infinite life modes, but in this case, I think it’s more vital than just letting people who are struggling see the end. First off, your scores aren’t going to be recorded if you’re not in the mode where you can lose, so there’s no need to worry about people taking the easy path dominating the leaderboards. But, this is also a game where knowing the patterns is absolutely vital to success. Having a mode where I can work through an entire path and try and learn the patterns for some of the bosses and levels without the threat of being tossed out if I screw up was valuable. It meant that I was still getting some variety and not having to play the same sections over and over, which had a solid chance of leading to boredom.
In Space Nobody can Hear you Explode
The visuals here were a little bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand the models and backgrounds all still look great. I’m personally a big fan of the way that all the bosses are designed after aquatic life. I don’t know if this is a series wide thing or something that that was just in this game, but every time I got to a new boss it was exciting to see what clever gimmick they were able to make from the design. Not to mention the way that they were named had me confused until I would see them and go “ah, that makes sense”. It’s just plain fun!
On the other hand, this game keeps the extreme wide screen of the arcade cabinet, which means that the way it is laid out can be a little frustrating. There are huge black bars at the top and bottom of the play area at all times, which can leave it feeling cramped. The only thing outside of these bars being your constantly racking up score. It meant that some of the smaller information on screen could be a bit harder to read at times. There is an option to zoom in on just your ship, but it zooms in so closely that you are barely going to be able to avoid anything coming at you from the areas of the screen that you can no longer see. I learned this the hard way when I accidentally zoomed super close during on a boss fight.
There’s also the issue that some of the enemies didn’t give very strong feedback on if they had been hit or not. Some enemies might flash to let you know they had been hit, but there were several cases where I wasn’t even sure if I was doing damage to the boss or not because I wasn’t given any sort of a visual indicator.
Arcade to Home
Everything ran perfectly fine, no matter which configuration that I put my Switch into. I never noticed any kind of stuttering at all. The vibration in this game is practically out of control, though. There were so many times that the game insisted on having full force vibrations that my roommate could hear my controllers vibrating from across the living room at some points. There’s no option to turn this off, even if there are options to remap the controls to your heart’s content.
There were also a few strange choices that were carried over from the arcade edition of the game that I think could have been cut for the sake of a better console experience. For instance, all the menus besides the pause menu have a timer on them. You have 99 seconds to select your mode or 10 to select between your stages at the end of one. I just don’t see why this was something that needed to carry over. If you’re playing with a group of people and end up not agreeing which way to go, you might end up with the game deciding for you because time ran out.
Back to the Docking Bay
Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ might have been a bit of fun for me, but I don’t think it’s one that I am personally going to be keeping around on my Switch for very long. While I could have fun with it at times, it wasn’t enough to sucker me in to being a bullethell junkie. If you’re on the fence about if this will get you into the genre, I suggest looking somewhere else for now. For those of you who are big fans of the Darius series, I get the feeling that you might be satisfied with what is clearly the most comprehensive edition of Dariusburst that you are going to get, but there are some design choices here that stick out like a sore thumb and might leave you wanting some tweaks. It’s by no means a bad game, it has moments of brilliance, but I think that some of the choices that were made can keep it from greatness.
- Vast variety of modes
- Infinite ship option for those who just want the experience or want to learn
- A definitive edition if I’ve ever seen one
- Ability to fire in only two directions can feel limiting
- Some choices when bringing the game to console didn’t improve the quality of life
- Really intense vibration with no ability to turn it off
- Some enemies don’t give good feedback on if they are being damaged or not