Darius is a horizontal-scrolling arcade shoot ‘em up series that has been kicking around the gaming scene since way back in 1987. Known for its panoramic multi-screen arcade cabinets and robotic fish-like enemies, Darius is a fairly recognizable series and genre favorite, which is why it has seen so many entries and console ports over the years. Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ is one such port. As it were, Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ is a remix of 2011’s Another Chronicle EX, which was an updated version of Dariusburst: Another Chronicle, which was a remixed version of PSP original Dariusburst. So to paraphrase Robert Downey Jr. In Tropic Thunder, Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ is a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude (who is also, in this case, playing another dude).
To start off with my biggest issue: the screen is too damn small. The first thing you’ll notice is that the game is in a panoramic widescreen format, with almost two-thirds of the screen taken up by black bars on the top and bottom of it. Instead of any type of fullscreen option, you get a zoom button. Pressing it during a level zooms in until the bars disappear, which cuts down your field of view by half, allowing the enemies to get right up in your grill before you can react. The other aggravating thing about this option is how the UI doesn’t shrink or expand to match the camera zoom. For example, this means that if you die while zoomed in and on the far right of the screen, all you would see is the UE of the word CONTINUE that would normally appear mid-screen. I guess this issue is since the arcade versions use multiple monitors but it seems lazy to port it to console without adding a proper fullscreen. Surprisingly, I had a better time playing the game in handheld mode rather than on my TV, but the trade-off is that a lot of the writing in the Mode menus is unreadable due to its size.
Screen ratio aside, EX+ is a good-looking game. Like most entries in the genre, there are plenty of flashy visuals and colorful munitions zinging around the screen. More importantly, the game itself runs nice and smooth. During my hours of playing, I haven’t encountered the slightest frame dip or slowdown, which in my opinion is a non-starter for these types of games. On the audio side of things, the soundtrack is quite good: the typical fast-paced space bops you would expect. There are some stellar tracks on there that remind me of Origa’s Inner Universe and I’m all for the use of haunting vocals in the background.
We can’t talk about a shoot ‘em up game without talking about the shooting ‘em up part, so let’s take a look at the combat. It’s pretty standard stuff for the most part. The screen slowly scrolls right as you blast oncoming baddies and focus on avoiding the storm of bullets and occasional environmental hazards. As you make your way through each zone you find powerups to strengthen your guns, bombs, and shields. I love the ability to flip your ship around and shoot backwards by toggling a button. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it offers you up a bit more strategy. In addition to your main gun, you get a burst weapon that is fueled by a gauge that fills up over time. Though the effects may vary depending on the ship you chose at startup, the burst weapon is usually some form of powerful beam. You can use it as long as you have some of your gauge filled, or you can wait until it is full to drop a stationary beam that will blast forward for a limited time. As you can imagine, placing a stationary beam and essentially doubling your firepower is quite useful. To me, the stars of the show are the big robotic bosses at the end of each zone. They’re based on aquatic creatures and cool as hell. You’ve never lived life until you have fought with an enormous, laser beam-toting robot space whale.
Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ features four play modes. Original is the basic arcade mode featuring the standard three-level zones in the tree branch format. Between each level, you can choose to stay the path or head up or down. The lower the path the higher the difficulty, so if you find a zone too hard or too easy, you can adjust on the go. If you still think the game is hard, you can choose to have infinite lives before starting the game, but your score won’t be counted. Original EX mode is basically the same as Original, just harder. Event mode features a small collection of tournaments with special modifiers, including the dates they were held. I thought this was a cool idea but it doesn’t feel much different than playing any other mode. Chronicle mode was the biggest letdown for me because it sounds awesome on paper but doesn’t manage to pull off anything exciting. The idea is that you have a solar system full of planets to liberate. Each planet has several areas you must clear to liberate it, and each area has special modifiers to take into account while playing, like beat the area without using continues. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons that put me off of playing it. The main issue is that whenever you complete an area, you are kicked back to the title menu regardless of whether or not you won. Since even a single planet can have 40 different areas to clear, that’s a whole lot of time wasted going through the game over screen and navigating through the clunky planet menu to make your way back to where you left off. EX+ tries to throw in a bunch of modes to make it seem like it is more than it really is, but doesn’t manage to pull it off since every mode feels like more of the same.
While the latest entry in the Dariusburst series fails to break new ground, it does off up more of the same classic shoot ‘em up gameplay that has been a staple of the genre since the good ol’ days of loud arcade cabinets and the furious button-clacking. Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX+ is a great game for a quick and easy pick-up and play experience and oldheads who are into score-based gameplay but doesn’t offer much else.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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