|Yes, there were actually GOOD SNES games in 1991.|
Darius Twin is a side-view shooter (like the popular Gradius series) developed by a company called Taito, released only for the SNES in 1991. It's a great example of a game that doesn't try to be anything more than it is: a damned fun shooter. Let's see what this game's all about, shall we?
From the instruction manual for the US release:
"Once, many millennia ago, the young, tranquil world of Darius was invaded by a race of star-hopping barbarians under the command of galactic tyrant, Belser. The peace-loving Dariusites were ill-prepared for such an invasion and most fell quickly. However, before the entire planet succumbed to Belser's domination, a brave young couple, Proco and Tiat, led a resistance effort and managed to escape with many of their fellow Dariusites to sectors of space that were still free.
As the centuries passed, the descendants of this resistance movement multiplied and prospered, and populated many worlds. On Orga, a world of uncommon resources, they established the command center for the Galactic Federation, a governing body that united all the peaceful worlds of the galaxy. After a thousand years, the forces of Belser again decided to expand their empire and headed spaceward to conquer the people who escaped them centuries earlier. Branching ever outward, Belser seized control of even more planets in the solar system.
Inspired by the legends of Proco and Tiat, two of the Federation's best pilots now ready their spacecraft for the long galactic battle that awaits them. These vessels, advanced technological miracles called Silver Hawks, are able to transform energy into powerful weapons and armament. It is your mission to pilot a Silver Hawk, defeat Belser's forces on each of the planets along your selected route, and reach Darius and destroy the formidable Alloylantern, a mechanical fortress from which all of Belser's technological strength springs. Belser's original world remains unknown, but the most noted scientists believe that it was largely oceanic because all of Belser's technology seems patterned after aquatic lifeforms."
It's not often I get to see an instruction manual for a SNES release, so this is a rare treat. Most SNES games you'll find these days have long since lost their original manual. The boxes also didn't hold up so well since Nintendo released all of their games for SNES and N64 in flimsy cardboard cases.
Anyways, the story in this game, while actually pretty entertaining, will barely present itself while playing. Remember, it's a shooter, not an RPG. There are short segments of story, but the game will be just as enjoyable without seeing them.
This game looks pretty slick, really. Like Ys 3, it was released in 1991, and as such, it doesn't look as good as a lot of games made towards the end of the SNES's life cycle. However, the graphics serve their purpose well. There's nary a graphical 'hiccup' to be found; everything moves smoothly while clipping along at a fast rate, even on the highest difficulty in the last few levels when there are bullets and enemies covering almost the entire screen.
The bosses, in particular, look really cool (though odd, as most are modeled after aquatic life of some sort).
|THIS is the future: robotic squids. The Japanese are already working on it.|
Darius Twin plays exactly like a good arcade game should. This, my friends, is amazingly awesome since a lot of arcade-to-SNES transitions went very poorly.
You play as pilot of a single ship, a Silver Hawk, sent in to reach planet Darius and destroy the forces of an evil tyrant. In typical shooter fashion, you go completely alone, tasked with completely destroying everything in your path, with no sympathy for just how insane of a task that really is.
Darius Twin plays like a standard shooter, for the most part.You have a rapid-fire laser shot as your main weapon. Instead of a Tyrian-like system where you get to buy upgrades for your ship, this game plays much more like an arcade game. Killing certain types of enemies will drop power ups. You can find power ups for your main gun, increasing its strength by one level. There are shield power ups, giving you a temporary respite from the bullet hell you're usually in (on hard mode, anyways). There are also power ups for an ancillary weapon that slowly goes from one bomb dropping under your ship to incredibly powerful energy discs shooting out from a diagonal on all 4 corners of your ship.
As you blow through a level, the enemies get progressively more intense, and there's usually a mini-boss sort of enemy at some point. It's not clearly labeled and pointed out, but it's an enemy that's stronger than average. Then, at the end, you'll be warned of a huge ship (or sometimes ships!) approaching, and a boss fight ensues. Most of the bosses aren't too tricky; the hardest part of this game is the levels themselves.
After finishing a level, you're taken to this screen:
|Highlighted: the path of ultimate winnage.|
From here, you can pick the next level you want to play, effectively choosing your own path to get to the end. The levels you can choose between usually aren't too different, but it still adds in an element of control, just like those old choose-your-own-adventure novels.
The most important thing to note, though, is that this game is HARD to do correctly. You have a set number of lives that you can tweak slightly, but there are no continues. This alone already makes the game difficult. However, there are also multiple endings based on your number of deaths. This makes the game 100 times harder for a completionist like me. I've tried so many times to get the best ending (no deaths) but the closest I've ever been able to get is 2 deaths. That involved more tries than I care to talk about. It's also a "one hit, you're dead" type of game, making things even more difficult. To me, though, that just adds to the excitement, and ultimately, makes you feel that much better when you do beat it.
Check this out to see a sample of the opening scenes and the first level.
Lastly, there's a great multiplayer option. Each player has their own separate lives, but you play simultaneously instead of that crappy 'switch back and forth' style you see in so many arcade shooters.
There seems to be a common theme here with a lot of SNES games I've reviewed; the sound effects are largely forgettable and secondary, but the music is just amazingly good. Darius Twin goes along with this theme very well.
The sound effects are all the standard laser and explosion and alarm noises you'd expect from an arcade/SNES shooter.
The music, though, is the shit. The song from the first level is playing clearly in my mind right now and it's been over a year since I've last beaten it. It's very reminiscent of a track from a game like Mega Man X2: very upbeat and fitting for the futuristic setting as well as the gameplay. Seriously, watch the video above and listen to the music...is that not completely fucking awesome?
Replay Value: 10/10
I've gone back to this one many multiple times to replay through it. Even if it is essentially a coin-op arcade game, there's enough twists to make it worth replaying.
One thing keeping you coming back is the planet select screen. There are a lot of different overall paths you can take, making the game slightly different every time. The main draw, though, is the multiple ending system. To see the 'true' ending, you need to play through without losing a single life.
In the end, though, what will make you come back is just how fucking fun this game is. The levels all go quickly, and if you're good, so will the entire game.
Go, find this game, and give it a try. I highly recommend that everyone who even kind of likes arcade shooters play it through at least once. You won't be disappointed. At the very least, play the first level, just to hear how badass the music is. And remember, go for the Queen Fossil first.
Darius Twin @ Amazon.com