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 Post subject: Darius Alpha (PC Engine - PlayStation 4 - Nintendo Switch)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:48 pm 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 228
Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base
Time to review an obscure port of Darius, this time is Darius Alpha for the PC Engine, and part of the Darius Cozmic Collection "International Edition".

Based on the PC Engine port known as Darius Plus, Darius Alpha skips all the shoot out frenzy to focus on one thing: Boss Fights. Yeah, an All-or-Nothing fight against the big guys.
Now, if the game is based on boss fights, one question remains: ┬┐How does the Silver Hawk going to power up if the power up items were removed from the game?

Here's the catch: The power ups are given to you when you defeat a boss. Instead of getting red, blue and green orbs to upgrade your shots, bombs and shields, a certain amount of upgrades are automatically installed in the next boss fight.

So, here's the boss list of this game and how many powers they'll give you.
01.- King Fossil (3 Shots - 3 Bombs - 3 Shields)
02.- Electric Fan (3 Shots - 3 Bombs - 3 Shields)
03.- Big Rajarnn (2 Shots - 2 Bombs - 2 Shields)
04.- Little Stripes (2 Shots - 2 Bombs - 2 Shields)
05.- Dual Shears (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
06.- Guard Savage (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
07.- Red Crab (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
08.- Hard Mollusk (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
09.- Tough Spring (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
10.- Keen Bayonet (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
11.- My Home Daddy (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
12.- Mystic Power (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
13.- Fire Star (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
14.- Green Coronatus (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
15.- Octopus (1 Shot - 1 Bomb - 1 Shield)
16.- Cuttle Fish (None)

With the defeated bosses giving you power ups, the game drastically reduces the gratuitous amounts after the 4th battle, probably to bring a balanced challenge between an average powered Silver Hawk and a strong boss, but keep in mind that if you lose a life, the power bar resets to nothing, this could be fatal in the first 10 battles, because you'll need to reach the Wave, the Multi-bomb and the Hyper Shield, resulting in a very, very minimal room for error. To make things even harder, if you lose all of your lives is Game Over and you'll have to start all the fight from the beginning. Also, the continue cheat code from Darius Plus was also removed, but in this case the cheat wouldn't help much since in Darius Plus, using the continue downgraded your weapons to their lowest power levels, making difficulty even worse.

Graphically, the PC Engine was a very early 16 bit console, but it made a great effort in pulling arcade accuracy, and both Darius Plus and Alpha are a good example. However, NEC Avenue forgot one thing: They're making a 1 TV screen port of a three screen arcade game, and this result in large bosses that cover a good portion of the screen. ┬┐Remember the advertising blurb on the package of Contra III The Alien Wars, specially the one that says "the Boss Enemies are so gigantic, your screen can hardly hold them."? That's what you're gonna face in Darius Alpha (and Darius Plus), a good example are My Home Daddy and Octopus which they occupy 1/3 of your screen and this greatly reduces your flight space, giving you a minimal room for error.
While the sprite art aims to arcade faithfulness, the game uses a horrible choice of bright colors that result in eye hurting graphics in most of the times (King Fossil, Electric Fan and Octopus), as for scenery there's not too much to talk about since it takes place on the cavern where the boss fights take place. The only difference is the whirling clouds background that changes color on each boss fight.

The music is the same of Darius Plus, just uses the boss themes which they're a decent rendition of the arcade ones despite the limitations of the PC Engine that sounds like something in-between the 8 and 16 bit sound card due to the pitched "notes" in the soundtrack. Some of the sound effects are well recognizable from the original arcade, like your ship's bullets and the "Wail-Howl" sound of a dying boss.

- Darius Alpha is a promotional version of Darius Plus released in 1990 for the PC Engine. It was a mail-order exclusive, obtainable by sending in a pair of coupons found in the manuals of Super Darius and Darius Plus.
- There were only 800 copies of the Darius Alpha HuCard produced, making it one of the rarest, and the absolute most expensive, PC Engine HuCard ever made.
- Big Rajarnn was an unused boss of the original Darius arcade game, but it saw the light on Darius Plus and Alpha, and its PC Engine sprite is very arcade faithful.

If you own a PS4 or a Switch then you have great chances of playing this obscure port which was back then a rare collectible. So, if you want to play a Boss Rush of Darius, then this is the game for you.
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