Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours – Review

Title   Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours
Developer  Pyramid / Chara-Ani Corporation
Publisher  Kadokawa Games / Degica
Platform  Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PlayStation Vita
Genre  Shoot 'em up
Release Date  December 8, 2015

Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is the latest in a respected line of shoot ‘em ups from Taito’s ‘Darius‘ series. It comes to the PS4 via the lesser-travelled route of PSP to Arcade to PS4 and follows some of the concepts and trademarks of the Gradius series.

That means fish, mainly. Where most space shoot ‘em ups focus on bio-mechanical beasties or giant spaceships, Gradius has always been about large robotic fish, and Dariusburst keeps that going. Also, the Darius games do love to use exended super-widescreen displays in their arcade forms too. Finally, you can expect selectable, branching routes through the levels (a’la Outrun).

Dariusburst sticks to these traditions and comes split into two parts. The ‘Another Chronicle’ option on the main menu takes you to the original 2010 arcade Dariusburst experience. Here you have the ‘Original’ mode (a straight port of the arcade game with its branching stages that let you choose how difficult you want things to be), ‘Original EX’ (the arcade game but more upsettingly difficult), ‘Event Play’ (unselectable and unexplained, so no-one’s quite sure what this is about), and finally ‘Chronicles’ mode.

These are all based on the original visuals and gameplay of Dariusburst and, to be honest, they don’t feel that at-home on the PS4. This is mainly due to the 32:9 aspect ratio. This leaves you with huge black borders at the top and bottom of the screen. While this gives you the authentic experience, it makes the action kind of tiny (even on a 40-inch screen) and any HUD-displayed information is very hard to make out.

Chronicles mode is the best thing on offer here, and it’s kind of an interesting concept (albeit one that isn’t explained by the game at all well). Upon booting up the game, you are allocated to a ‘cabinet’ which is essentially a version of Chronicles mode that you share with other online users. There are 3000+ challenges to take on (these are stages and boss battles from the game with various win conditions such as not using continues, having no access to power-ups or having to beat the challenge in 2, 3 or 4-player local co-op) and these are shared by your group. You can’t communicate or interact but you can see which challenges have been beaten.

This mode is good because of the variation it brings, but as a whole the 2010 visuals are very lacking. The display is too small, the resolution is suspect, and the backdrops (and stage design) are very lacking.

The other main mode is ‘Chronicle Saviours’, and is much more welcome. It puts the same gameplay into a much more sensible aspect ratio which brings the graphics a lot closer. The updated backdrops also give this mode a bit more polish and it’s just a nicer experience overall.

There’s no straightforward arcade mode here, though. Instead there are 200 or so challenges to work through which, again, mix up various gameplay elements. Some challenges are based around time, others limit or change your weapon loadouts, and some have more or fewer stages than others to get through. Where ‘Another Chronicle’ mode lets you credit-feed your way to victory, this mode doesn’t, so skill and concentration are much more important.

On top of that you can also customise your ship (focusing on fire points, support weapons, and armour as you see fit). So there’s quite a bit of content in here for you. That said, all variations seem to be based around a dozen or so stages and giant boss fish, so where other shoot ‘em ups have proper levels and difficulty curves that have been perfectly cultivated, things all seem a bit thrown-together here.

In terms of presentation, Dariusburst woos and underwhelms. The shoot ‘em up genre is known for some top-notch visuals from the stunning biomechanical behemoths of R-Type, the hand-drawn craziness of the various Cave shooters, to the high-res laser-powered Gradius V (no relation to this), we like our shoot ‘em ups to wow us and Dariusburst doesn’t do that. It all looks a bit low-res at times and, bosses aside, it’s quite generic. The huge robot fish do help but I remember how bright and manic G-Darius was on the PS1 and this game doesn’t really have its share of eye-candy moments.

On the other hand, the music is stunning. While the in-game sound effects are a tad weak, the soundtrack is a high quality mix of Japanese arcade techno, opera, and sci-fi score madness. It sounds fantastic and really injects energy into the game.

Overall, Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is a very solid shooter. It’s not a polished as I’d like, and its large amount of content seems very copy-and-paste heavy, which is a problem because the price is no joke. For £40 on PSN, I want a bit more than an arcade shooter, and with Resogun and Geometry Wars 3 out there, this price just doesn’t make sense. On top of that, the Vita version supports cross-saving with this but isn’t a cross-buy. At these prices that just seems deliberately mean spirited.

When Dariusburst hits a more sensible price point, it’ll be well worth picking up if you’re a fan of the genre. If this was a PS+ freebie I’d be mopping up all the fishy bits with a piece of bread. But it’s forty motherfucking quids. So, until then keep working on that Resogun platinum, people.

  • solid shooting action
  • Good boss designs
  • Some interesting modes and variations
  • The console-specific modes are where the best bits are at
  • Co-op is good fun (local only though)
  • The music
  • That price though
  • Could be a bit more impressive visually
  • 200 branching stages and 3000 challenges? Kind of feels like a dozen or so stages getting remixed to death
  • no cross-buy

Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is very good. It feels good to play, it looks alright, and sounds decent. There's a bit more depth than the usual shoot 'em up too but this comes at a cost to the game's overall level design and focus. There aren't many better shoot 'em ups on the PS4 though and if you like murdering fish, this is the game for you.

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