Think you're an expert of shooting?, did i heared "Yes.", well not anymore.
For this review, i'll give you a quick lesson about G-Darius. This game is not your basic shoot em' up so better start reading.
G-Darius redefines everything you know about Darius (and some aspects of shmups in general) since Darius Force (Super Nova) and Gaiden. Starting of with the gameplay's main feature: The Alpha Beam, this weapon redefines the concept of the traditional bomb format because it's not available at the press of the button, it has its "how to" method to use it: The first thing to do is to capture an enemy using the Capture Ball, this will turn the former enemy of yours into your trusty ally. Fortunately, it won't self destruct like in Darius Gaiden, Your captured "ally" will be with you until its destroyed or used as your bomb in two different ways: If you press the Capture Ball button, the ally will explode covering part of the screen with multiple explosions, but if you press and hold the fire button it will become into a charging energy beam until you decide to fire it, once you release the button, it'll unleash a powerful beam which is the Alpha Beam. This weapon along with its role as the bomb weapon, it's also the "Score Making Weapon" because it will multiply the score of an enemy (or group of enemies). The multiplied points depend on what kind of enemy you captured: x4 if it's an average enemy or x8 if its a "Captain", but capturing a Captain (mid-boss) isn't the same thing as the average enemy. To capture a captain you have to destroy its gold protection first, but it has to be destroyed by your conventional weapons because the gold objects and armored enemies are immune to the Alpha Beam. Also the captured type of enemy doesn't just change the multiplier, it also changes drastically the size of the Alpha Beam and the explosions size and time. We've already learned two of the features of the Alpha Beam, but the main one is revealed during the boss battle. After waiting for a while, the boss will release some capturable projectiles and will begin to charge its own beam, the Beta Beam, you can counter its beam when it fires it by firing your Alpha Beam, commencing a Beam Duel in the pure style of Metal Black, but unlike Metal Black's "The one with the most powerful laser wins" mechanism, the way of overpowering the Beta Beam consists of tapping the fire button, increasing the Alpha Beam's size, creating a Counterfold powerful enough to critically damage (or kill) the boss.
Learning this about the Beams is a Life or Death Priority because the enemies in this game are no more the little cute jumping fishes, no man, you're gonna face gigantic bosses from half-screen to multiple screens long, fighting battles that last 4 or 5 minutes, and bullet hells that make Touhou Project look like a kiddie ride. You've gotta now "what's up" with both the game and bosses, or else you'll see how the enemy blows you up mercilessly again and again and again and again. Also you've gotta learn where, when and how often you need to use the Capture Ball to create the Alpha Beam because even if you have 6 Capture Balls, you can't let the "Need for High Scoring" goes up into your head, sooner or later you'll be facing a moment of truth where you'll desperately need the Alpha Beam to survive, because if you die, the Power Up bars will reset, and with a hard game like this you might be missing Darius Twin's "Keep Power Ups after dying". So everything is resumed to wait to the right moment when it comes to using the Capture Ball.
Another concept of Darius that changes in this game is the "Zone Branching", not just by the use of the Greek Alphabet for the main zones, but also it uses the Latin Alphabet for the stage halves known as Areas. Once you reach the first half of the stage, the game will ask you which Area you want (for example Zone Alpha splits in Area A and Area B), depending on which Area the player uses, the enemies and the power ups varies, but also the Boss attack patterns, in Zones Gamma and Eta, the Areas decide if the player wants to attack the upper or lower part of Queen Fossil / Fire Fossil.
Something that i've noticed on the PlayStation 2 version of Taito Legends 2 version is the fact that the game HAS LOADING TIMES, horrible loading times, which is kinda strange because the game is supposed to be based on the arcade hardware instead of the PlayStation CD version. This also happens with another shmup included: RayStorm. Both shmups uses the PSX CPU as the game's hardware, but as far as i remember, arcade games doesn't have load times even for start the game once you press start after inserting the credit. There's like seven or eight loading times on the whole game.
Trying to justify the loading times is just a waste, compare Taito Legends 2 with another compilation; Megaman X Collection, when the player selects one of the CD-based titles (Megaman X4 as example), the Now Loading screen just lasts a fraction of a second, showing how a DVD and the PlayStation 2 can bring instant action to a CD game when you had to wait back then. So, the loading times on G-Darius and RayStorm in Taito Legends 2 are just a terrible issue that could be fixed.
Despite the loading time thing, there is a major benefit of actually owning the PS2 version if we compare this with the original PS1 version: NO SLOWDOWN! remember the PS version? it crawled through some (or most) levels, with the music suddenly stops so the next part of the level could load. The PS2 version does not suffer from it at all, and as such it is almost an entirely new game (you might be able to do a "1 Credit Clear" in the original, but the PS2 version is way harder due to no slowdown). But it is a far superior conversion of the arcade game, even without the VS boss battle modes and the cutscene viewer unlockables of the PS1 port. But there's also another point in favor on the PS2 version: The endings are the same of the arcade, remember the "Poor quality video recorded" endings of the PS1 port?, now you can see the genuine arcade endings.
When it comes to graphics, the 3D renders make the Darius universe fully come to life, with fantastic effects like the dimensional crossing "Dimension Diver", the Aurora Borealis in Zone Iota, chasing a comet while fighting enemies and shooting down asteroids, dragons flying next to your ship in a gigantic forest with enormous flowers that bloom, the mysterious Zone Omicron where the ruined city can be seen for a short while as the thunder and lightning flashes on the screen, and be amazed by the Rave party-like background in Zone Nu. The classical "Whirling Clouds" background of the Darius series also gets in waving motion on the boss battles. The bosses have very interesting opening animations that gives them an overwhelming look, such as Queen Fossil ramming the Amnelian ships in Zone Gamma, or the introduction of Absolute Defender in Zone Zeta. Even some small things add realism to the game, like the eye pupils of Eclipse Eye which follows your Silver Hawk's movements. The boss battles with Queen/Fire Fossil are not just the classic "scrolling" stuff like R-Type, Carrier Air Wing or U.N. Squadron, the boss flips, jumps and swims in the skies! That's a real good use of the advantages of 3D graphics.
As for the music and sounds, if Gaiden had a "New Age" like pace, G-Darius focuses on a more Epic scale of music, combined with the traditional "Flat-out weirdness". However some stages and boss battles have themes mostly focused on techno-industrial sounds, but keeping a sinister tone on the boss battles (Dimension Diver for example), the Opening-Final Boss theme "Adam" is perhaps the best of the whole soundtrack.
In conclusion, G-Darius is the game for experts, with a learning curve that requires quick learning, knowing when is the right moment to attack and use the Capture Ball weapon wisely. If you want to consider yourself a shmup ace, this is your trial of fire. Despite its difficulty, the game is an audiovisual spectacle which will surprise you, a title that i recommend for those who are asking for the challenge of their lives.
Ready to Shmuppin' again... No Guts No Glory!