Console: Super NES Company: Taito Release Date: November 1991 Genre: Shoot 'em Up Number of Players: 1 or 2 (simultaneously) Save Feature? No
If nothing else, Darius Twin sure brings back some wonderful memories as it was one of the first games that I ever played for the Super NES. Although it was no Gradius, Darius Twin featured dazzling sights and sounds for a first-generation Super NES game and was actually the first SNES shoot 'em up to feature two-player simultaneous action!
Overview: Remember the fall of 1991 when the Super NES was the rave of the gaming community? When phrases such as "16-bit," "Mode 7," and "32,768" (the number of available colors on the Super NES pallette) were commonplace? It has been nearly fourteen years yet still, the memories are fresh in my mind. I mean, who doesn't remember staying up way past their bedtime playing Super Mario World? Speaking of everyone's favorite plumber, what other game featured an entire world dedicated to some of the slang words of the day like "Groovy," "Mondo," and "Gnarly?" Those were the best times to be a kid I tell you.
Along with Super Mario World, however, there was another game that my good friend Jon Pursel and I got hooked on around this time. Being the diehard shoot 'em up fans we were (see my Life Force review), we found ourselves sucked into the dazzling world of Darius Twin. Along with our trusty Nintendo Power magazine (gotta love the 30 ship code baby!), we played this game for hours on end. Even after beating the game several times, Jon and I would fire it up again and try taking a different route or simply attempting to do even better the next time around.
Not only was the game an enjoyable experience; we really enjoyed the Sound Test feature as well! As I have said countless times, every video game in existence needs to have a sound test option (Gradius Gaiden anyone?) Err...I mean, every video game in existence with a good soundtrack needs one.
So why did we enjoy Darius Twin so much you ask? Although the game had a lot going for it, it was probably the 2-player option that made this game stand out. Amazingly, this game's chief competitor at the time (Gradius III) did not include a 2-player option so, as a result, Jon chose to give Darius Twin a whirl instead.
The funny thing about Darius Twin is that it really doesn't have a whole lot to offer in terms of originality. The gameplay felt pretty much like your typical shoot 'em up. You blasted enemies to kingdom come, obtained more powerful guns, missiles, and shields along the way, and fought a plethora of hideous, alien-like bosses. That two-player mode really was the difference maker. Without that option, this game would have just been another has been. Come to think of it, the whole shoot 'em up genre would probably have gone the way of the dinosaur were it not for that glorious two-player option.
Come to think of it, however, there actually was something that stood out in this game. Unlike your typical shoot 'em up where you would automatically advance to the next level, this game actually allowed you to choose which route to take! Between levels, a map of sorts would appear on the screen showing you where you could go. All routes would eventually lead to Planet Darius (the final stage) but in between, you chose where to go! This was a really cool feature at the time too as it gave the game more replay value than the average shoot 'em up. The atmosphere/feel would change depending on your selections as well. The upper route felt more dark and menacing (Remember that planet with the red clouds?) while some of the lower levels were more whimsical (e.g. the water stage). I suppose that Darius Twin had some originality after all!
Graphics: For a first-generation Super NES pak, Darius Twin did a very nice job of showing the gaming public some of the possibilities 16-bit graphics had to offer. Jon and I were simply amazed the first time we played this game. The backgrounds were just so colorful and detailed and the parallax-scrolling was quite impressive. I don't know; this game just had a really neat feel about it. Part of that could probably be attributed to what I would like to call the "nostalgic" factor but I digress.
The variety is what really stuck with me. Admittedly, a few of the levels were pretty similar (some of those factory/base stages were virtually identical) but for its time, Darius Twin was surprisingly diverse. There are cloud/sky levels if you take the upper route, space and factory levels around the middle section, and underground/ocean areas on the lower route. The final level that takes place in space is memorable as well with its breakneck speed combined with intense battles with the game's multitude of mini-bosses.
More importantly, however, was the noticeable lack of slowdown in this game. Granted, it wasn't perfect and things could flicker at times, but overall, Taito did about as well as you could expect...especially when you compare it to Gradius III (which was plagued with slowdown).
Music: The best aspect of this game has to be its surprisingly catchy soundtrack! Jon and I really didn't expect a whole lot in this area but seriously, this game is filled with superb compositions all the way through! With the exception of the brief intro track and perhaps the boss music, I truly cannot think of one bad or even mediocre track in this game. The music just fits the atmosphere so well and doesn't create unnecessary headaches (which is unfortunately all too common for most games of this genre).
Not only was the music surprisingly pleasant; I thought that the flow was brilliantly orchestrated as well. The intro stage music sets the perfect tone with its medium tempo, the middle stages tend to be mysterious, serious, and/or whimsical, the next-to-last stage is upbeat and gets the juices flowing a little, and the final stage, simply stated, is fast-paced and deliciously heroic. This explanation of the game's music may sound a little silly at first but once you've played through the game, it should make more sense. Whatever the case, there is enough variety in the game's soundtrack to please just about anyone.
Although I enjoyed the intro stage track a lot, the music that plays during the game's final level really stood out the first time I played the game. I just loved the heroic feeling you got while playing through the last (and by far the hardest) level in the game. I would listen to that particular tune in the game's Sound Test over and over and over again. Hey, for 1991, that was state-of-the-art man! :)
Play Control: If you can move your spacecraft and shoot, you've got what it takes to play this game. Seriously, the learning curve probably ranges anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the player. I'll be the first to admit that there was virtually nothing original about the game's controls but when you're a shoot 'em up, what's there to change right? Skill is definitely the end all and be all for most shoot 'em ups and this one is no exception. The controls are easy as pie...the true challenge is showing great reflexes and getting your timing down.
Challenge: Of all the shoot 'em ups that I have ever played, Darius Twin has to have one of the strangest levels of difficulty that I have ever seen. Why you ask? Well, the game starts out innocent enough. Like any normal game, the first stage is fairly easy; pretty much a training ground for the remainder of the game. The same holds true for the next four or five stages as well. They can be testy at times and some of the bosses can be pretty nasty but, as a whole, they are probably moderate in difficulty.
Which brings us to the game's final stage in the heart of Planet Darius...ahh...that fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping level. While the level is actually quite fun, it is also difficult beyond all reason! I'm talking off the charts compared to previous levels! For reasons I may never understand, it is nearly impossible to even make it to the final boss let alone defeat him. Honestly, this level is so difficult that I have to confess that I have never beat the game without using the 30 man code! Seriously! And believe me; I have tried many times. I can't tell you how many times I have made it to the final stage completely unscathed with a perfect game intact before getting slaughtered mercilessly by incoming crabs, fishfiends, and other watery vermin. Note that this is coming from someone who has beat Gradius III with two lives and Gradius Gaiden without continuing! AAAUUUGGGHHH!! :)
Whatever the case, you'll probably need that 30 man code if you want to witness the game's finale. Perhaps it's just me but I can't recall seeing such an unbalanced challenge level before. It was kind of like Battletoads for the NES actually! Remember that dreaded third level where you had to ride a turbo bike past some of the most difficult obstacles known to mankind? Darius Twin's final level was kind of like that but not as extreme (after all, it was the final level; Battletoads actually had 12 levels!!)
Storyline: If there was an area where Darius Twin fell flat on its face, it would have to be the game's pathetic excuse for a story. Granted, only about 10% or so of shoot 'em ups actually have an interesting background story but still, we've come to expect more than this! Still, I've definitely seen worse (see my Sqoon review).
In a nutshell, the story involves your home planet being threatened by the likes of the evil Belser, ruler of Planet Darius. For some reason I'm too tired to explain, this greedy pig of a king isn't satisfied with one galaxy so he sends his armies to take over others. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, your homeworld winds up in Belser's plans as well. However, Belser's army is unlike any you've ever seen. Belser seems to have a strange affinity for underwater creatures as flying fish, crabs from the netherworld, and vermin too unspeakably evil to mention (jk) are everywhere in this game! It makes me want to take a trip to Long John Silver's (especially after playing that danged final stage).
Funfactor: Even though there are plenty of better, more intuitive shoot 'em ups out there (Gradius Gaiden and Life Force to name just two.), Darius Twin still has the gameplay and nostalgia to keep me coming back every once in a while. It's just good, clean fun that never grows old even with the Gradius V's and R-Type Final's ruling the shoot 'em up market today. If you ever get a 20 to 30 minute window and you're looking for an enjoyable old-school game to fire up, Darius Twin would make a great choice...especially if you have a video game partner around!
Negatives: Although Darius Twin is a lot of fun and features a unique level system, it still lacks originality. As much as I hate to say it about a game I am quite fond of, you could probably pass this game by and not be missing a whole lot.
As I discussed earlier, the challenge level is nothing short of bizarre. It's one of those games where all bets are off once you enter Planet Darius. If you're a master at dodging countless enemies and projectiles, you might stand a chance.
And lastly, the background story is as cheesy as they come. That's pretty much the norm for this genre though.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.4 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.0 Challenge: 3.0 (bizarre) Storyline: 3.0 Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 22.9 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Unsung Hero
Back to Super NES SpecialLast Updated: May 23, 2006