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Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Review

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When you think of space shooters, the Darius series is probably not the first one you would think of, so it came as a wonderful surprise to to see this title come from out of nowhere and single handedly brought about what could be the renaissance of the space shooter series.  Dariusburst Chronicles Saviours (DBCS) is a love letter to the Darius series as well as anyone who has nostalgia for the shoot-em-up (shmup) genre. This series first started all the way back in 1986 and was infamously known for its merginging of space and the ocean. By this I mean that enemy ships all look like mechanical fish. It has an incredible design to it that you’ve just never seen anywhere else. Although the Darius series has not seen recent titles in the West, it has been living on with a lot of popularity in Japan on the portable and arcade scene.

The DBCS concept is pretty simple: you’re in a small space ship flying through various environments and your goal is to unload bullet hell onto any fishy looking space ship that happens to disturb your casual flight. The main hook of this game is the “burst” feature, which is a super charged cannon and unloads a devastating beam of death once you have acquired enough charge. It’s an essential feature to use against the gorgeous looking boss battles which range from giant mechanical crabs, lion-fish, and swordfish. It felt like quite the trip to the mechanical aquarium for me as I used to be quite the enthusiast of fish in my younger days and seeing some of creatures recreated in this game brought a smile to my face. What I love about the boss battles in this game is how you’re presented with a giant “WARNING” sign before each foe appears, you have this feeling something sinister is around the corner. Despite seeing this screen hundreds of times it never got old for me. If you’re skilled with the cannon, you can time it just right for when the boss decides to give you a stream of its own beam of death, which you can counter and land an even bigger beam of destruction back at the baddie. This moment when I was clever (or lucky) enough to pull it off was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve had in gaming for quite some time. Its not all burst beams though, ships come in different fins and shells and you can pick up power-ups to upgrade your ship along your level.

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DBCS is overflowing with content probably more so than any other shoot-em-up I have ever played. Included in this title is the arcade original game, Another Chronicle (AC mode) – a port so faithful the game reminds you to “watch your head” as you leave the cabinet when you get a game over – but I was playing this game on some long commutes on the train so this helpful caution probably did prevent potential head trauma. In AC mode you have additional game type choices including original mode, which has you hopping from level to level and allows you select the next zone (also informing you of the difficultly).  This non-linear approach to a shooter campaign is novel and surprisingly enough has been around since the series inception.  If you don’t find this difficult enough you can also play EX mode, which is the same format but with levels that are even harder. Finally there is Chronicle mode, which has you choose a planet to liberate along with a mission and basically means play through a level and defeat a giant fish inspired monster at the end. This all may sound repetitive but each level is very bite-sized and an absolute ton of fun to play, especially if you can only manage short bursts of game time. The arcade mode also allows you to play with up to four people locally or online. There was an additional event mode, which appears to be related to online use only but despite being comfortably in the wi-fi zone in my own home I was unable to access this mode at any point when trying to review DBCS on Vita.  The PC version, on the other hand, did not have such issues and had a handful of online features such as the aforementioned missing mode, Event Mode, which has you tackling challenges in an online competition with various limitations.  In addition, co-operative play for up to 4 ships is also possible when online and the current community of random players seems helpful and skilled (although there was no voice communication to be had with any sessions played). The biggest difference to the portable and home versions in AC mode is that it plays in the series famous 32:9 letterbox mode that has also been around since the series inception.  If you play this at home, especially on PC with multiple screens, you can bump the resolution as high as 6880×1440, but for most of us with a single screen (or PS4/Vita) this will be a heavily letterboxed view to keep the original aspect ratio.  The choice to letterbox is necessary due to the game being designed for the 32:9 resolution, but on the limited real estate of the Vita it makes  some of the details (like your burst beam bar) difficult to see and brought back chilling memories of the time I played Dead Rising on 360 in standard definition and tried to read the subtitles.

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If AC mode wasn’t enough there is also CS mode, which is built with 16:9 in mind and thus can play in the full screen (although hardcore PC players will be pleased to learn that CS does still support 16:9 and 32:9 in resolutions up to 3440×1440).  In this mode you play from mission to mission similar to Chronicle mode on AC except this time you can earn points and spend them unlocking ships and upgrading them. You can use preset ships for each level – and you will need these presets when starting out before unlocking ships – which are a lot more challenging but help you to maximize points and unlock other ships. The CS mode is a general throwback to previous games in the series, but all content appears to be new and unique despite it being a clear homage.  It is in CS mode that you start to see the massive scope of the game with at time of writing 1906 missions available to conquer.  CS mode is where the breath of what DBCS really has to offer and where you will no doubt be spending countless hours in an interesting hybrid of shmup and RPG.  On one hand, the moment to moment action is exactly what has been described: bite-sized missions often with a
boss battle in the end to overcome.  On the other hand you will then get points to unlock ships and customization, so the unlock/upgrade nature starts to resemble an RPG and offers hope at overcoming the advertised 3000+ levels that will no doubt take a specialized and upgraded arsenal of ships to complete.  This is significant because it tries to bridge the gap that has always existed in shoot-em-ups and prevents new players from getting involved.  Traditional shoot-em-ups require you to play the same 1-2 hour campaign over and over for 10s if not 100s of hours in hopes that you will build skills and memorize the game to eventually get through without dying.  That can be a draw to some, but fewer and fewer players these days have the time and patience to bang their head against a wall while trying to master a skill, so CS Mode gives you newer tools after handling much shorter and smaller portions so that you aren’t tasked with a perfect 2 hour run for the final exam.  The rule of RPGs has always been that if you are persistent and grind enough, the game gets easier, and CS Mode makes a solid effort out of applying that concept to this title.  For the hardcore, you can always jump into preset mode and go about the traditional route.

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From a visual standpoint the graphics dazzle on screen and thanks to polygonal renders, lighting effects, and smooth as silk locked 60fps gameplay (on all platforms) it really feels like a Darius title that has evolved to the modern day.  Not only that but DBCS skates the line of being both a bullet hell and a ship hell title so whether the screen is overtaken by glowing beams or cavalcades of silver ships, there’s not an inkling of slow down.  To accompany these impressive visuals and performance is a musical score that goes everywhere from hard rock to pumping techno.  The music will also occasionally morph into a retro theme, which was a really neat touch.  It also helps that every soundtrack accompanies the levels as if they were designed as such, however with 3000 levels or more in the game I’m betting it’s some pattern recognition with the construction of the levels.  As a side note, it’s not clear how the team was able to assemble so many levels but given the smaller size of each there isn’t a lot of time to notice the smoke and mirrors before a boss approaches and you’re onto a completely different endeavor.

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The content of DBCS is deeper than the ocean itself, but at the end of the day the gameplay is very similar. It’s fast frantic arcade fun, which really felt like a breathe of fresh sea air. We’re in a period of gaming where we are criminally deprived of arcade style games like this and it was fantastic to finally see a score on the screen again. This game brings shoot-em-ups back to the scene in the best way possible with tons of content, a unique graphical style, and a fantastic soundtrack. The one point that must be mentioned is this game is being sold as a download title for the price of a traditional release, which is quite steep considering the distribution and genre.  In addition most fans of the shoot-em-up still hold tightly to a tangible disc release, which may have made price less of an issue had there been a boxed copy. While I feel the enjoyment I got out of this game and the time I spend playing definitely justifies this price point, I can see this being something that will put a lot of gamers off.  That said, this was probably the only way this game was coming to the West and it’s an amazing package, but had this released at a more friendly price point then it would probably convince more people to give it a try and we would see more great releases like this come out in the future.   Overall, if you are able to look past the high price of entry you will have a fantastic arcade shoot-em-up.  You can easily dive back into game at any time – I have a great time playing this on my commutes on the train and can easily see myself going back to this game again and again over the next few months. For a change, you don’t need to be a shmup pro to pick up and enjoy probably the best package the genre has ever seen.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

This review originally appeared on The B-Team Podcast site.  Since the one of the owners of that site also owns GH101, there is an agreement that all reviews can be displayed and archived here.  A review code for the Steam (PC) version and Vita version were provided by the publisher.  This game was played by two reviewers (Jam and Fred) who combined insight, but written by a single author (Jam) and then edited by another (Fred).  This title was played for a combination of approximately 25 hours and average time to complete a single level was 5-10 minutes and approximately 30-45 minutes for a single run through the original arcade campaign in Normal mode.  This title is currently available on Steam (Windows only) for an initial price of $49.99, Playstation 4 at $59.99, and Vita at $39.99 respectively and there is no cross-buy between the PS4/Vita versions.  

Written by jamalais

December 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm

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