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Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
It's a real pain in the arse to play seriously, too! I love it dearly, but the original version of Salamander has got to be one of the shoddiest things Konami has ever done, tbh. There's just so much that can go south without warning: almost everything that moves is capable of wigging out and behaving unusually at an inopportune moment, the stage 4 boss is only rendered doable either by using a risky safe spot or playing on the second credit of the session (in which case it will do nothing), and even stage walls feel bizarrely unreliable and shaky, like they might suddenly shift two pixels in a certain direction and kill you, or not load at all. The Life Force revisions fix a few things but don't necessarily feel any more stable. Practicing any of them for a 1CC becomes as much as matter of juggling coding oddities as learning the stages...

Thank god for the PCE version, which is somehow blissfully comfy.
 
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spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
Natsuki Chronicles is out on PS4 and Steam, now. I won't have a chance to play it properly for a while but I love it so far! Went straight into arcade mode and played up to the st3 boss. It has shorter levels than Ginga Force, with changes of weapons strewn throughout so that you can always bring the right loadout for the job. It has less of an emphasis on stage-specific gimmicks and seems to be trying to craft a more traditional memoriser, only more open-ended in terms of the the options you have for tackling a given section. Anyone who found GF too oddball in its overall structure and approach to stage design should feel more comfortable with it - it's much more breezy and arcadey, and requires less of an investment to get into since it doesn't make you unlock stages in the story mode for AC mode, etc. Also, half of the weapons are borrowed whole cloth from Darius, R-Type Leo and Border Down - what's not to love?

(Not sure about the sniper-scope lasers on the bullets yet, though - might turn them off and see if they were helping at all.)

Edit: I'm reliably told it is much more strictly memorisation-heavy on extreme difficulty, heh (e.g. pick up the wrong shield power-up and you're finished).
finally picked this up on ps4 tonight, after debating shelling out for one of the physical editions for a while. weird thinking about how much of a journey this was-i'm not sure there's any game i've actually waited for for so long! (not sure if the fact i spent a few years doubting it would ever come out makes it count more or less, though...) i went into story first as i don't have much confidence in horis and i really liked the way ginga force was set up, but i'm enjoying it in the same way as i did getting into that one; fun, chill and well-paced on normal, without feeling like a huge investment at a time, but it's nice to hear that it's got a good arcade mode as well (a couple friends on my twitter have been getting really into extreme as well). that said, the extra lives aren't quite as much of a help in this game, hahaha, since they don't regenerate like normal ones and accordingly get hit hard by the terrain effects that start to really kick in on stage 4. though there were certainly stages in ginga force i had trouble with until i had 10+ lives as well, so that's nothing new.

i figure if i stick with it long enough and start to feel more confident i'll check out arcade, i do think that GF had some really long and mean stages that were somewhat discouraging in the long term and this one's got a nice old-school feel by comparison, but in the meantime i'm really happy to see this kind of progressive design for the genre taken the literal other direction. i've recommended ginga force a lot since i felt that the equipment system and "helper" elements made it more rewarding and approachable for newcomers than most console shmups; with this one, i even feel like i benefit more directly from it as my experience in "true" hori games is so much lower (akai katana shin is just espgaluda 2 sideways anyway)
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Glad you're enjoying it! I think you'd be fine playing the arcade mode alongside the story mode - in fact, there are a few ways in which it's probably easier (at least on normal). Your weapons are at a high (or high enough) level to begin with, your EX shields can be replenished, and obviously since your equipment is changed via floating power-ups rather than in a shop/hangar (and certain types seem to be guaranteed appearances when/where they're needed), you're rarely stuck for an entire stage with weapons that aren't cutting it. I'm with you in finding the extra shields more of a distraction than anything, though - whenever I feel 'safer' for having four or five of them stacked up, I just end up playing a lot more sloppily and pinballing off every bullet and surface.

Stage 4 is definitely a bit of a difficulty spike, too - the boss seems particularly overwhelming at first, but it does stick to a rigid pattern, so you can learn some safe-spots. The following two stages are quite a bit easier. Things ramp up again after those, but for better or worse there's no equivalent of Ginga Force's stage 9!
 
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spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i finished story mode on normal and picked up with a few clears on hard, then tried a credit on normal. i managed okay on stage 4 (the bullet density really is a lot lower across the game from what i can tell, but the wall hits are harsher), but got hit enough that by stage 5 i was trapped in a loop of not really being able to hold powerups, which was absolute death on 6. i timed out the giant back tank and was really close to the end of the stage and new powerups but the guys piling in from front and back were too much. 52nd place on the leaderboards; i've seen smaller populations on other localizations. at least i feel like

afterward, i booted up ginga force for a bit. i bought it again in the combo pack to have it in english and support the release, so it was a fresh file, so it was pretty eye-opening to see that, for how much i still love the game, the new one has a ton of improvements. shorter, better-paced stages, better menus, the progression and powerups are more interesting and clear, and the core mechanics just kind of work better for what the game is. ("oh god, i forgot you have to pick up the money..." -my first reaction to stage 1) the stage gimmicks are pretty cool and can work to reward the power growth and equipment experimentation, but there's also just...not a great way to handle a lot of them on a first pass. and it just kind of feels grindier because so many of the stages go on longer but you'll still die at the end. i think comparatively i've had a lot fewer "ok, how do you avoid that at all?" moments in natsuki overall; the last boss final form is kinda nasty but i feel like i remember the last stage in GF being long and relentless.

ginga force does have the "if you die with the extend on screen it'll turn into your ship" mechanic from eschatos, which i don't know if i ever saw before. there's still a lot to discover! i never managed to beat dragon stage even on normal! i do like the soundtrack a bit better (they're both great though). i'm pretty excited to keep playing it again!

i also started messing with the ps4's stream feature this week, and after learning you can get rid of the chat interface i'm now perfectly primed to stream games like this or garegga/feveron/ketsui. even better, my stick (a hori "rap5 silent", appropriately) doesn't seem to have a microphone jack, so anyone who watches will even be spared me just constantly going "fuck." "fuck." "dammit, how did i not dodge that?" as i play. but the world can finally witness my incredible ability to do the exact same thing wrong an unlimited number of times if they wish
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)
If you bought Darius Cozmic Revelation from Strictly Limited Games, they announced this morning that Sagaia's Game Boy entry would be joining the ranks for the first time for western audiences! It won't appear on other releases.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
That's cool, but also slightly maddening? I mean, I get it, it's a Game Boy game that's not going to be a super good translation of the originals, but having it ONLY be on a limited physical edition? That kinda sucks.
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)
If memory serves, it was originally on Darius Cozmic Collection in Japan, but only through a specific retailer in a limited release window. Taito's retro strategy is bonkers, to say the least.
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Yeah, it was originally just a download code included with a small number of Amazon preorders, and this isn't much better, really. The manufactured/fake/digital rarity of it is obscene. I think I'll end up caving and buying some form of Cozmic Revelation LE at some point, but I don't want to support this precedent...

It's a shame too, because GB Sagaia is one of the most interesting and unique conversions of Darius 1, and one of the best little shmups on the system. It deserves to have the same second lease of life that the other main Darius games have been given.

Edit: check out Jun Suemi's poster/cover art for the MD Extra Version:
 
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Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Together at last.



The best port ever is perhaps now the definitive version of the game, since it features the Old, New and Extra revisions from the arcade (the latter featuring significantly different score-play), as well as the option to choose between having the standard 11 bosses from the arcade versions populating the stages, or the full 26 from Super Darius on the PCE CD (where every zone has a unique boss). The Boss Rush mode from the MD Mini version is still here, pretty much supplanting Alpha, and the options screen offers robust autofire options, allowing you to set the firing rate as in the Cozmic ports. The sound is improved on this cartridge, too - better use of FM, PSG and PCM, and better audio separation. Very very cool indeed. Truly the version it was meant to be. It's an enormously generous game in multiple senses - I still can't believe it exists.

(It's also an absolute demon - by far the most aggressive and manic iteration, but refreshingly so.)
 
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I snagged G-Darius off of the JPN Switch eShop! I wasn't too satisfied with the other home ports to date (PSX, PS2) and the last time I checked MAME emulation was kind of dodgy still? At any rate, M2 did this so it's pretty damn good, even though it doesn't have a stage practice mode for some reason. I don't have an arcade stick solution for Switch atm, but I'm using a Hori Pokken pad for its d-pad to try and make my way through in the meantime. So far I've only gotten to the fourth stage on a single credit before getting disposed of, but

this game rocks so hard. I didn't think I'd take to the 3d visuals nearly as much as I have - especially since I was so charmed with Darius Gaiden's vibrant 2d graphics, but: the bosses have never looked better... even next to the much more recent Dariusburst/Another Chronicle EX, I would say. That entry had big bosses, but they didn't have fullscreen cuts while they clash their jaws, or the defensive coiling Queen Fossil does as she pivots to snarl at Silver Hawk before slinking away into another attack. The amount of personality these bosses have is incredible.

In my limited experience with the series so far, this game is probably the most fun Darius to sit down and learn by playing: having A/B routes and versions of the bosses for each stage compounds with the branching stage layout, and improvising with the capture balls while learning and what each capture attach does is very fun! It's an especially good quality to have considering the absence of the stage select/practice mode.

I feel powerful in this game: captured enemies can absorb incoming shots - a great deal, sometimes - while also providing a lot of coverage and serving as a bomb/beam option. Counter-beaming is easy to perform, and the feeling of getting a counter-beam that's absorbed 3 or 4 beta beams (Queen Fossil - A ver.) is really something. Not that it doesn't feel great in Dariusburst with it's way tightened timings... but when the boss starts signaling for their laser, I know I've won the fight and that I'll get nice points to boot!

I don't have the vocab to describe the OST or to praise it sufficiently. But wow.
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Hell yeah, demi! G-Darius is an absurdly ambitious game, and it's really heartening to see someone discussing its unique achievements nearly 25 years later, when so much of what it does is often taken for granted or undersold (it's a nice reminder of the qualities that drew me to it in the first place, too). One thing I'm enjoying about the HD port is the tastefulness of the upscale. It's a terrible cliché but everything looks as it does "in your head", with the sharp, angular models of the Silver Hawk and the bosses fairly popping off the screen at you (I still love how it looks in the SD mode, but it's surprising how dumpy certain things look by comparison), and the backgrounds somehow seeming so much more lurid. I really like how the 2D elements like the missiles, enemy bullets and the HUD have been handled, too - they look as crisp and tidy as something on the DS. These things usually suffer enormously when rendered on modern displays, so it's really great that the whole 'package' has made the transition in one piece, and received the same high level of care.

You might know this stuff already, but just in case, about that alpha beam: the x4 counter gives you a x4 multiplier, so if you're playing for score you ideally want to finish off every boss with one! This makes a lot of fights more nerve-wracking as you hold off on killing them in order to let their beams come out, and have to deal with more of their patterns. (Sometimes it's best to wait for their second alpha beam, as they won't be close enough to death when they do the first one.) One handy thing is that you don't have to hold onto captured enemies all the way to the bosses, since most of them will intermittently send out their own popcorn enemies for you to capture and use against them. This means you can have fun detonating them all over the place! I love using a smaller enemy to blow the armour off a miniboss.

Edit: check out the 'formation bonus' and 'multiplier' notes here for some more scoring tips (some of which you'll have picked up from Burst anyway). They might be covered in much more detail in the Cozmic Revelation manual - haven't had a chance to look at it yet: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/ps/197415-g-darius/faqs/3906
 
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Hell yeah, demi! G-Darius is an absurdly ambitious game, and it's really heartening to see someone discussing its unique achievements nearly 25 years later, when so much of what it does is often taken for granted or undersold (it's a nice reminder of the qualities that drew me to it in the first place, too). One thing I'm enjoying about the HD port is the tastefulness of the upscale. It's a terrible cliché but everything looks as it does "in your head", with the sharp, angular models of the Silver Hawk and the bosses fairly popping off the screen at you (I still love how it looks in the SD mode, but it's surprising how dumpy certain things look by comparison), and the backgrounds somehow seeming so much more lurid. I really like how the 2D elements like the missiles, enemy bullets and the HUD have been handled, too - they look as crisp and tidy as something on the DS. These things usually suffer enormously when rendered on modern displays, so it's really great that the whole 'package' has made the transition in one piece, and received the same high level of care.

You might know this stuff already, but just in case, about that alpha beam: the x4 counter gives you a x4 multiplier, so if you're playing for score you ideally want to finish off every boss with one! This makes a lot of fights more nerve-wracking as you hold off on killing them in order to let their beams come out, and have to deal with more of their patterns. (Sometimes it's best to wait for their second alpha beam, as they won't be close enough to death when they do the first one.) One handy thing is that you don't have to hold onto captured enemies all the way to the bosses, since most of them will intermittently send out their own popcorn enemies for you to capture and use against them. This means you can have fun detonating them all over the place! I love using a smaller enemy to blow the armour off a miniboss.

Edit: check out the 'formation bonus' and 'multiplier' notes here for some more scoring tips (some of which you'll have picked up from Burst anyway). They might be covered in much more detail in the Cozmic Revelation manual - haven't had a chance to look at it yet: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/ps/197415-g-darius/faqs/3906
Yea, the upscale is artfully done, the backgrounds are beautiful but all the small little orange bullets and such are still very much visible, perhaps all the moreso. I still love the way the PSX port looks, but I honestly have no gripes with this much more playable fancier version haha. Thanks for the scoring tips too. I have noticed in my exploration so far that some bosses require more manipulation or preparation to get the last-hit counterbeam than others, just like Dariusburst AC: Tripod Sardine, for instance, will go into a never-ending wave/shot pattern and not ever charge the beam if I blitz the boss too hard and destroy its head. Actually, I haven't gotten the counter-beam kill on that one yet because the remaining body is so durable after I inevitably destroy its head with said beam... but there's a lot about that boss that's way more challenging than Gamma's Queen Fossil fight imo.

Anyway, obvi I've played stage 1 the most, can get to Eclipse Eye with 1m pts and on my best kills come out of the fight with 2m pts: I haven't figured out whether it's worth to beam twice, once to kill its left eye and then second time to try and get its jaw, right eye, cheek scales, etc for the kill? Or, should I try to keep the midboss capture alive through the boss and kill with a single counter beam? Is it best to target the jaw then move up to destroy the face, or will destroying the boss cash the beam multiplier in on any undestroyed parts? How would you play it?

It's funny that you linked that guide, I saw it referenced in an '08 post on the shmups forums but the link to the Geocities page was broken, so I went through this internet archive search just to find a backup it before realizing it was already on GameFAQs lol! Last question if you'd know: do all paths have the same amount of extends available, or is it worth picking a specific route if I would like more of them?

Thank you!
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
To be honest I'm usually not super-fussy about surgically removing every last boss part*, so I'm not the best person to ask on this one, but for Eclipse Eye you can use the fireball command with the first captured Captain to easily get rid of the eyes when its head tilts them at you, and the cheeks as it dips into the background. I think that might be all there is for Eclipse! (It's enough to just chip them off with normal shots, too - there aren't many situations where you can alpha beam them all.) For a lot of other bosses, though, I wouldn't try to keep the Captains alive throughout the fight - they'll often get themselves killed at the worst time, causing you to miss a counter, and the smaller enemies the bosses throw out are just as good for alpha beaming (x4 counter kills are worth a lot more at the end of the game than captured enemies kept alive). You want to use that beam during the stages in a lot of cases, too! Lots of great formation bonuses with the alpha beam multiplier applied to them, etc.

IIRC Eta, Theta, Kappa and Iota are the zones with extends, and you can find them regardless of the routes you take. I need to refresh my memory on the actual locations, though - hoping to play more tonight! If you sweep your missiles around on the scenery you'll definitely find them. :)

*though you definitely should if you want really high scores - I'm usually just happy enough to get the counter-kill!
 
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Thanks, was curious about general scoring application of resources/beams vs parts. I'd be the same way though, I enjoy applying the tools available to achieve scores reflective of some success with them; but I'm not actually all that interested in optimizing. In CAVE games I just try to score well enough to get the extends, but here that's a non-issue.
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Yeah, I like to aim for high scores within the realm of the mechanics that interest me, but I'm not too bothered about the optimal routes. I think the really high 50mil+ scores on the Omicron route are mostly gleaned from milking GT, and fuck that, tbh. :p


Using captured enemies to destroy formations, occasionally converting a Captain into an alpha beam mid-stage, and getting x4 counters on bosses are enough to keep me occupied. The player in the Ver. 2 video below gets a high score just by doing this stuff, IIRC.


Edit: I'm reminded that the Captains' alpha beams might start off bigger than those of normal enemies, in which case the multiplier would start off bigger too. I guess it's a judgement call as to whether it's worth trying to keep one around until the final encounter.
 
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spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i played a bunch of this game back in like 2007-2009 myself when i got into shmups and a copy of TL2, and i think a couple times i managed to get to the last boss without continuing though i'm pretty sure i never 1cc'd on my favorite route at the time (the kind of w-shaped one that ends on nu). been fun playing a little again on the switch version although i guess i kinda wanna try and mix it up with routes as a result and don't know which one to try for now.

it's always been one of my favorite games as a whole thing, although i can't say i've ever felt majorly inclined to get very good at it, and to be honest if we're talking games i've "meant to learn how to play for years" i'm kind of permanently hung up on silvergun (which is all the more appealing with some of the other stuff that's been on rotation in our apartment lately) and espgaluda ii

although in both cases those both sound like such nice things to do...until it's time to learn stages 5 and beyond
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
I just put some time in on Fire Shark for Genesis while watching Frank Cifaldi unbox like 16 boxes worth of old game magazines and... maybe instead of Gradius Syndrome, it should be called Fire Shark Syndrome. The game is super breezy... until you die and lose all of your power-ups. Then you're stuck with a three-way peashooter. Every one of the three weapons take three power-ups to bump up one level of power, and both the laser and titular Fire Shark are rare as hen's teeth, particularly in later levels. Getting a fully-upgraded Fire Shark takes about three stages of no-miss gameplay early on and is impossible later. The game also trolls you in some spots by dropping a metric ton of blue power-ups (the basic gun), and doesn't even do the thing some games like this do where it upgrades your weapons immediately by getting duplicate power-ups. Just bonus points.

So yeah, if you want to do a no-miss, Fire Shark is pretty fun! If you want to have any room for error, period, fuck this game.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i certainly wouldn't say gradius is alone in that kind of design, and probably not the worst either-the extent to which it's particularly known for it almost certainly comes down to the fact that it's just held up as such a representative of the genre in general, as a long running series with a lot of games and some pretty iconic elements that even now get riffed on and paid homage to quite a lot. which is kind of funny considering how notoriously brutal 3 and 4 are in particular, but
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
Yeah, it's a complaint that can be levelled at a fair few older shmups, but I've always maintained Gradius isn't an example of it (nor R-Type), or at least not a strong one. It has really well-considered recovery points for the most part, it's just that learning to recover is a game in itself. You're rarely completely without a hope in any Gradius - it's nearly always a matter of routing, so instead of just giving up upon dying it's important to use your remaining lives to practice the checkpoint, imo. Most of them are more fair than you might expect (especially since dying tanks the rank), and off the top of my head only Gradius II stage 4 stands out as a definite non-starter. (You can even get through III's dreaded Fire Scramble stage with next to nothing on loop 1.)

Fire Shark checkpoints are definitely rougher - I struggle even with the MD version of Tatsujin!
 

Ludendorkk

(he/him)
I wish the default speed in Gradius games wasn't so slow so to make burning a few pickups on speed upgrades feel necessary. Other than that I don't have a great problem with them
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
That's still just on the Japanese eShop, yeah? I added it to my wishlist on my JP account, but it would be nice to have the menus, etc, in English, and not have to deal with Japanese eShop cards.
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)
Cozmic Revelation is scheduled for NA and Europe for May or June last I checked with Strictly Limited. Not sure about the digital.
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
My copy was in English on first boot, so I imagine it's just tied to your system's region/language settings. I think SLG have pushed their dates back a bit, BTW - "late 2021" at the moment. I still haven't heard about US/euro digital releases either, but the first collection (now split into two) didn't get a digital release here until after SLG had got around to shipping their physical copies, so maybe that'll happen again.

(Incidentally, if anyone was waiting for the physical SLG release of Revelation because the art book would be in English, I can confirm the Japanese version already is!)
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Oh, nice. I'm not sure how much I care about DariusBurst Another Chronicle, but I think I'll throw down for the physical, because G Darius is that damn good.

EDIT: Checked my bank and my stimmy hit, so I just said fuck it and ordered the Switch physical edition.
 
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