SwitchArcade Presents: An Interview with the Developers of ‘Darius Cozmic Revelation’

About a month ago, we had the opportunity to interview Mr. Yuichi Toyama, the director of Taito’s Space Invaders Invincible Collection and Space Invaders Forever. We had such a good time talking with him that we decided to get in touch with him again for the impending release of Taito’s Darius Cozmic Revelation, a souped-up collection that brings together G-Darius HD and Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+, the two 3D entries in the popular shoot-em-up franchise. The physical version of Darius Cozmic Revelation is available for pre-order through Strictly Limited Games and is scheduled to ship in February or March. The set will presumably be available digitally down the road a few months, similar to the Darius Cozmic Collection releases.

We lucked out this time as we were able to talk to four people involved in the making of this fantastic set. Mr. Toyama of Taito, who is serving as director once again on this project, was willing to take more of our questions. We also received answers about the project from M-2’s representative director Naoki Horii, who is working on development of G-Darius HD, and Pyramid’s Junichi Kashiwagi, who worked on Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+ as level designer and game designer. Dariusburst programmer and director Hisatoshi Ikeda also jumped in to answer one of the more technical questions I had. This was an amazing opportunity, and we’re thankful to the folks at PR Hound and Strictly Limited Games for hooking us up.

Yuichi Toyama, TAITO (left) and Junichi Kashiwagi, Pyramid (right) | Naoki Horii, M-2 (right)

TouchArcade (TA): Darius has been making a major comeback lately through appearances on both the Mega Drive Mini and Turbografx-16 Mini, along with Taito’s own collections. Can you explain how this renewed push for the series came about?

Yuichi Toyama, TAITO (YT): To begin with, the quality of the PC-engine version of Super Darius was excellent and it sold very well in the Japanese market back in 1990. I think this is why it has stuck in the minds of many PC Engine users, and also why it was included in the Turbografx-16 Mini. On the other hand, Darius being included in the Mega Drive Mini was made possible through the passion of many and a few miracles too. First, there was the independently developed version of the game started in 2015, followed by the developer meeting the president of M-2, Naoki Horii, the Mega Drive Mini being delayed, and the 3-way collaboration between Taito, M-2 and Sega based on the independent version of the game. All these stars aligned in order to make it happen, but going into any more detail would require a separate interview!

Naoki Horii, M-2 (NH): Darius has fans in every company in the industry, and I think the people involved at Taito, Sega and M-2 always had irons in the fire ready, and when we saw the timing was right, we struck with a fiery passion and, as luck would have it, it paid off. It was not an easy task, but not one person gave up on it.

TA: What kind of new features and extras can we look forward to for the games in Darius Cozmic Revelation?

NH: We’ve used our expertise in remastering and porting many shooting games to uncover the inner workings of G-Darius, so I’d like to invite you to take a look at the secrets; some of which even we weren’t aware of! We also have a large collection of enemy ships to capture, and record in the new encyclopedia so you can catch them all while you play.

Junichi Kashiwagi, Pyramid (JK): I think the best part of DariusBurst ACEX+ is that the Murakumo ship, previously only available in Chronicle Saviour‘s CS Mode, can now be played in the full 32:9 aspect ratio arcade mode. The ship takes some getting used to, but I hope everyone enjoys using the Compression Burst in it’s widescreen glory!

Besides this, a feature that was included since the initial arcade release, but never used due to its complex mechanism, I.E. level changing in Event Mode, has been implemented. In order to utilize this to its full potential, we’ve included some events. There’s some brand new level designs and some that will be familiar that we’ve tweaked to be even trickier than before, so if you were a fan of that mode in the arcades, we have a treat for you.

And, of course, if you’re playing DariusBurst for the first time, I’m sure you’ll find this to be a fun and exhilarating outing.

TA: Since the metal dragon from Sylvalion makes something of a cameo in Dariusburst as one of Dark Helios’s forms, was there ever any thought about including that game in any of the Darius collections?

YT: A guest appearance is one thing, but since Syvalion is a title built around trackball controls, it was never a candidate for inclusion in the collection package. However, if it can be ported in a way that players are comfortable with, then adding it might be an option. Perhaps the Switch’s touch screen or PlayStation 4 controller’s touchpad could be used instead of a trackball, but I imagine the feeling of the game would change quite dramatically.

NH: The Silver Hawk guests in Syvalion, a song from Darius is based on the M5232 sound source version of Metal Soldier Isaac II, and so on and so forth: there are many Taito games that have a connection to Darius, and every time I think of one, I wonder if we can’t include it, but we’re always limited by the deadline! But we’ll find other opportunities.

JK: When we were making the original Darius Burst for the PSP, I remember explaining it was Galvalion (one of the last bosses in Syvalion), not Sylvalion, which had invaded Dark Helios’s body, but for several reasons it ended up being Syvalion. As far as porting goes, reproducing the feel of the original’s controls would be tough, but I’d love to see them recreate that fun. It’s a personal favorite, so that would make me very happy. I wonder if the scenario system was localized?

TA: The Japanese collections have all featured extra games that were only available as a pre-order bonus in a very short window. Are there any plans to make games like MD Darius Extra Version available to Western fans?

YT: Those titles have been straight ports of the originals, so in that respect they’re still playable if you buy the original and play it on compatible hardware. Which is no easy feat, I know. Now the MD version of Darius, called Darius Extra Version, is being released separately on a cartridge, so we’d love for all your readers to play that one. (You can pre-order it right now from Strictly Limited Games! -Shaun)

Then there are different versions of Darius available on the various mini consoles too, so please check those if you haven’t already. As for other titles, there may be some news soon!

TA: The games in Darius Cozmic Revelation are quite a bit more advanced than those in the previous collections. Have there been any challenges in adapting them for modern hardware?

NH: The higher performance hardware used for G-Darius meant the work required to reproduce it is increasing by orders of magnitude compared to the previous games. Having said that, with a bit of effort, it’s nothing that can’t be handled by the latest hardware. And if it’s Darius-related, we have motivated staff on call.

Hisatoshi Ikeda, Pyramid (HI): When you talk about DBACEX, you can’t do so without mentioning Chronicle Mode with its huge number of stages, being recaptured cabinet by cabinet (the arcade version recorded the player who recaptured each stage’s name along with the arcade’s name, both of which were recorded on an overall high-score leaderboard). In order to recreate this on console, sharing information between players is essential, but the way the servers handle this on Switch and PS4 is completely different, making implementing this a challenge. The same is true for the new replay functionality. Both PS4 and Switch may be the latest hardware, but the sheer volume of information due to the thousands of stages threatened to overwhelm even that.

TA: Is the included version of G-Darius based on the original arcade version or the 1999 Ver. 2 release?

NH: The original arcade version.

YT: G Darius was released in the arcades on Taito’s FX system arcade board, and then ported to the PlayStation. The FX system, while based on the PlayStation’s architecture, differs in several important aspects. For example, the FX-1B board used in G Darius has twice the amount of VRAM of the PlayStation, and also adds a completely different sound source. In order to port G-Darius, which made full use of the extra VRAM, to the PS1, concessions had to be made to reduce memory footprint, such as changing the graphic and motion data and changing the opening and endings to use movie playback. Over the years, G-Darius has been ported several times, but the base has always been the PlayStation code. G Darius HD represents the first time a port has been based on the arcade version.

TA: Now that we’ve seen virtually the entire Darius series get re-released, is there any chance a new Darius game is on the horizon?

YT: This whole project started out with the aim of getting every Darius on Switch, but since then, we’ve added PS4 to the mix, with all five arcade versions and several console ports completed too.

Also, it was 12 years between G Darius and DariusBurst and it’s been 11 years since DariusBurst now, so it’s time we do something about that. In terms of the Japanese calendar, Darius released during Showa (1926~1989), Darius II to Cozmic Collection was Heisei (1989~2019) and Cozmic Revelation was Reiwa (2019~present). However, compared to the thousands of years of struggle with Thiima and Belser which the combined history of the planets Amnelia and Darius represent, this is a drop in the galactic ocean. Perhaps the next game will feature a new foe, but who knows whether they’ll look like sea life too?

NH: You’ll have to ask Taito about that! Personally, I’ve always wanted to make a two-screen version of Darius with Darius Gaiden‘s pixel art style. We got the chance to work on remakes of Fantasy Zone and Gradius, and I’d like to do Darius while I’m still alive.

JK: “Darius III: Coming Next Year"

As a fan of old-style side-scrolling shooters, I’d love to see a continuation of this game, but it would be very difficult to come up with an art direction which would work in this day and age. I’d love to see someone come forward with a new concept and the confidence to see it through!

TA: Is there any message you would like to give our readers about Darius and the Cozmic Revelation collection?

YT: The majority of the Darius series, starting with the 1986 original, can now be played on current platforms, so I hope players get the chance to enjoy them as games, as well as a look back at the history of the shooting games and planet Darius itself.

The Darius Odyssey booklet is now on its third volume too. Together they represent a look back at the histories of Amnelia, Darius, modern history, the franchise’s story, the developers and players too. They’ve all had a lot of work put into them, and are worth hunting down.

NH: Darius brought the intensity of an aquarium full of sea life to the arcades, and although 100 yen (about $1.00 USD -Shaun) per play was a bit steep for me as a student, I’m finally getting rewarded for the pocket money I spent that got me where I am today.

JK: I really enjoyed designing the levels to match Shouhei Tsuchiya’s new music. There are some fun gimmicks, including the longest stage in the history of DariusBurst, so I think both series fans and shooting game fans will enjoy it! Please play it!

And there you have it, friends. I’m sure you can tell from how detailed those answers were that a lot of work and passion has gone into Darius Cozmic Revelation and indeed all of the recent Darius-related releases. A big thank you to Taito’s Mr. Toyama, M-2’s Mr. Horii, and Pyramid’s Mr. Kashiwagi and Mr. Ikeda for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions, and to the kind people at PR Hound for facilitating. The physical release of Darius Cozmic Revelation and the SEGA Genesis physical version of Darius Extra Version can be pre-ordered at Strictly Limited Games. The Darius Cozmic Collection releases are available on the Nintendo eShop right now.