I have a confession to make. For the past week or so I’ve had Taito’s Darius Burst Another Chronicle sitting at my arcade on location test and I didn’t tell everyone about it. That was to give it the obligatory period to see how it did by itself without hype but now comes the hype period which can benefit name recognition for the game from here. For the sweet details, hit the break
It arrived on Friday September 16th at my location, The Game Grid Arcade in West Valley City, Utah . It was supposed to arrive a day earlier but phone problems on our end kept us from getting in contact with the shipper. We got that resolved the next day and by 1:30 or so in the afternoon it had arrived. We had to have it delivered through the “elephant doors” at the Valley Fair Mall, huge doors meant for getting large items into the mall when necessary. As the game came fully assembled and packed on a large palette (which was about the size of four combined palettes) the part of getting it off the truck was not something I was looking forward to, especially where it weighs 1010 lbs. A sticker on the liftgate said that could handle 2500 lbs but when the shipping guy had to push several times to roll it onto the liftgate, well it makes me feel nervous again just thinking about it.
After it was finally on the ground we got a palette jack underneath and surprisingly it wasn’t too hard to move after that. I had been thinking that we were going to need two palette jacks but this worked as long as my brother stood on the palette to balance it out.
Then came the next fun part – unpacking it and getting it off the palette onto level ground. It was well secured to the palette, with a couple of bands and some brackets holding it in place. The feet were all lowered tightly to the palette. We had to raise those up so it could sit on the wheels (I can’t mention enough how happy I am to have a game of this size with wheels on the bottom. Otherwise it would have been a nightmare) and then carefully roll it off the palette.The cabinet was in good condition although as it already had been on location test at a theater in New Jersey, it had some scuff marks in a few areas – as well as a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of the control panel (thanks ya jerks). The buttons were slightly dirty but we cleaned it all up easily.
Once we managed that (without damaging anything inside) we rolled it into place and switched it on. One thing that really surprised me about the settings from when it was on the previous location test is that they deactivated the woofer. If anything that certainly hurt the games earnings as the sound on this game is absolutely incredible. You switch that function off and you’re missing out on a vital element that makes the experience that much more involved. The sound is still good with it off but it does pale in comparison. We cranked it up to the max and could feel the base shaking things a few stores away. Obviously we couldn’t keep it at that level but we had to keep it on to a degree. Here is a “before and after” set of pictures showing the machine stats from the previous location test (top) and from the location test at my place that I took yesterday. In the short time we have had the machine, we’ve already beat all of the scores they managed to post, and by quite a bit. We already have a few people who have come into the play the game over and over and after 1 week it was holding up with Terminator Salvation in earnings.
(I will be recording the top scores and posting photos of them on my website each week as a way to promote competition)
Once we began playing, then people immediately took notice. Of course it was a little spectacle just unpacking it but throughout the day people were drawn to the game as it stood out for being different than anything else in the arcade. Replays were common as people had to get more of what this game offers. As you can see in this pic above, the game tracks the daily, weekly and grand total scores. It also shows scores for the different modes and difficulties; Chronicle mode will show when and which player liberated an area under enemy control.
For the game itself, it has a lot to offer. First you select between two modes, Original and Chronicle Mode. Original offers 12 areas to play in, each with varying difficulty just like in other Darius games. The higher you go, the easier it gets. There are multiple endings to access via this system and it’s interesting as there is a little bit of a storyline you get with it. As always, there are huge bosses based upon sea creatures. You also get to choose from one of four ships: Legend, Next, Formula and Origin. Formula and Origin are the more advanced ships to use as Formula has a short range blast, Origin has no burst weapon to use.
Besides the 12 levels you can play in Original Mode, there are the additional Chronicle Mode levels. I’ve found myself playing Chronicle Mode much more than Original. It’s not that Original isn’t fun, it’s just the fact that there is so much to explore and aim for in Chronicle mode. They did it in such a way that it’s like having the content found in a console game but it works perfectly for arcades. Chronicle Mode separates areas by solar systems. Each planet it shows has a number of area to liberate, 23 for the first system. Each area in the system has a goal that you must achieve to clear it for the machine as a whole. i.e. You have to beat a certain number of levels using fixed equipment, or you have to play with 2,3, or 4 players or you have to clear it on one credit. The screen will show you how many levels are a part of each area (usually it’s four, sometimes more, sometimes less) when you are selecting where to go. Once you clear all the levels under that condition, it’s game over but you get to register your score and name as the person who liberated the area. Here are some pictures of what I am talking about.
The controls are a set of Sanwa joystick and buttons for each player. There are three buttons – the top is Burst, middle is Fire and bottom is Flip. With firing, you don’t have to constantly tap the button – holding it down suffices for auto-fire. Flip turns the ship around so you can fire in either direction as needed. The Burst is the element this game uses to add a little strategy to the shooting. You can press and hold for a powerful but short concentrated blast. If you double tap it then you can lay down a fixed burst turret that you can use in a couple of different ways. It can be used offensively to destroy fodder enemies easily, create a constant stream of damage for larger enemies or a defensive barrier to block shots. In co-op play, multiple fixed burst streams can be crossed for a powerful blast. In both cases, there is a Burst meter underneath your ship which is replenished by destroying enemies or landing direct hits on a boss. In some instances, you can keep your fixed burst going for quite a while if there are enough enemies to keep it regenerating. If your ship does not have a Burst weapon (such as the Origin fighter) then another weapon is used in it’s place such as a bomb. The Gaiden Silverhawk can be unlocked playing Chronicle mode where the Black Hole bomb is what the Burst button will activate.
Taito has sent me a “Player Manual” that’s 23 pages long in English. They have these in Japan attached to the cabinets so people can read how to play. It describes the Darius story up to this point and many details on how the game works. Click here to download the Players Guide This is different from the operator manual for the game, which is quite detailed in it’s own right.
Graphically, it’s a vibrant game featuring strong color and spectacular stellar views. The geometric detail isn’t the highest out there but the game easily handles all of the on-screen action smoothly without a hitch (made more impressive by the dual monitors).
What stands out more in this game than the graphics is the sound. Any operator that gets this game and shuts the woofer off is damaging their earnings. Taito calls the sound system the “Body Sonic Seat” as part of the bass is channeled through the seat. Fodder enemies don’t set off the bass but any hit on larger enemies, the Burst laser and the roaring of your ship’s engines do. The boss battles are where the sound really gets a workout and the game calls attention to itself.
Also the idea of letting up to 4 players really works for this kind of game. The screen gets really busy in these matches and since the game was designed with co-op in mind, you don’t need to worry about competing for power-ups. They are shared, so after on player grabs one, the others have a few seconds to get near it to grab the power-up as well. There are red, blue, green, gold and silver. Red increases your firepower; blue activates shields so you can take a few hits; Green increases the power of your automatic missiles/bombs; Gold will damage all enemies on the screen (destroying fodder, damaging larger ones); silver gives you random amounts of points. The only drawback at this point is that the ships are shared between all players, which in the Japanese version is seen as sharing to build friendship; but it can be a problem if you’re playing with people of different skill levels and one draws the overall number of ships down for everyone else. This will be fixed in a subsequent version of the game.
By the end of the year, Darius Burst Another Chronicle will be available for any venue in the US (and Europe) to pick up for themselves. For any place that has a strong focus on video, this is a perfect fit. The game was made in the first place to attract older gamers who grew up in the 70s and 80s playing games of this nature and it has enough of a modern touch to draw them and many others in. A nice thing about the test taking place at my location is I have several new/new-ish games for it to compare to: Terminator Salvation Deluxe, Pac-Man Battle Royale, Blazing Angels, House of the Dead 4 Super Deluxe, and Big Buck Safari. There is Super Street Fighter IV but that has been out on repair since July and I still don’t have it back(on a sidenote, don’t ever deal directly with Capcom for repair of their own games, it’s not worth the trouble). Anyways, after 1 week, Darius ended up just slightly behind Terminator in earnings by about $9, without any advertising of it on my part and it beat out every other game I have by quite a bit. It should be interesting to see how it goes as the days progress now that the word is out.