Darius Plus

Platforms: PC Engine
Released: 09/21/1990 (Japan)
Developer: Bits Laboratory
Publisher: NEC Avenue
Japanese Name: ダライアスプラス

This second port of arcade shooter Darius was based on the PC Engine CD Super Darius (the first home port ever, released 6 months prior to this one), from the same developer and publisher. Being on a standard HuCard instead of a CD, this was obviously the Darius port for those who couldn’t afford or just didn’t have a PC Engine CD, so a lot more technical limitations were at play here than for Super Darius. But the results of this port are pleasantly surprising.

Darius Plus - King Fossil
Obligatory glamour shot of King Fossil

Of course it can’t compare to a PC Engine CD title in terms of graphics and sound. The sprites aren’t as crisp, and there’s considerably more flicker in them when played on a standard PC Engine. That said, Darius Plus certainly doesn’t look bad, and some sprite flicker for a game like this on the PC Engine wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. This is also the only easily obtainable (more on that qualification later) HuCard that featured graphical enhancements when played on NEC’s PC Engine SuperGrafx system (released in December of 1989). I don’t have the SuperGrafx to test for myself, but it apparently gets rid of most of the sprite flicker and sharpens the graphics up in general. The zoomed-in play field is still a thing here though, along with all of my previous complaints about it. Don’t expect any miracles to have been worked on the sound either, it’s about what you’d expect from the PC Engine. The distinct qualities of the original arcade/Super Darius soundtrack aren’t quite preserved here, but it’s still fine enough.

Darius Plus - Little Stripes
One of the previous cut bosses, Little Stripes

This isn’t simply just a scaled down version of Super Darius though. The previously mentioned Super Darius bug in which points weren’t given for defeating enemies with the Missile upgraded to wave has been fixed. The balance of the game was also changed up in general: The number of power-up capsules that appear has been increased, and enemy placement/capsules that they give out has been slightly changed. The enemy placement changes are extremely small from what I can tell. But the increased number of power-up capsules makes reaching a more powered-up state much quicker to achieve, even as soon as the first level. It also feels a little bit less devastating to lose everything when you die, though that feeling of despair still isn’t completely gone. The Super Darius convenience of reviving you exactly where you died is still here, and you can actually continue from the beginning of the zone you left off in if you know the code (hold Select and Press Run on the title screen). These features make this arguably the most manageable version of Darius on home consoles (though the PlayStation 4 Arcade Archives port allows the use of save states), even if it’s the least accurate port.

Darius Plus doesn’t feature all 26 original bosses like Super Darius did, but it does take 16 of those and shuffle them around into different zones. Some of the old ones were cut (Fatty Glutton is unfortunately one), and some of the new ones were added in.

Darius Plus - Guard Savage
Another previously cut boss, Guard Savage

This version of Darius doesn’t feature a boss rush mode. Why? It was probably for technical and/or space reasons on the HuCard, but those were capitalized on in an interesting way: The extremely rare and expensive Darius Alpha. To commemorate the release of Darius Plus, copies of this HuCard were given out in drawings (some sources say you were only eligible to enter if you had proofs of purchase for both Super Darius and Darius Plus). It was never sold directly to the public, and is apparently also enhanced when played on the PC Engine SuperGrafx. This was nothing but the boss rush mode, allowing you to play your way through all 16 of the bosses featured in Darius Plus. It also featured a time attack mode in which you had to get the highest score possible within a 4 minute time limit.

Despite its expected shortcomings due to being on a standard HuCard, I could certainly see someone wanting to play this Darius port the PC Engine CD one. If for no other reason, it would be better to practice on if you’re not an absolute pro, since you can actually continue. My recommendation for the best way to play Darius at home though, is still the PlayStation 4 Arcade Archives version of Darius though, since you can essentially achieve the same thing with save states. This version is only available as a disc in the Darius 30th Anniversary pack, or on the Japanese PlayStation Store for download though.

This specific version of the game was also made available on the Wii Virtual Console, alongside Super Darius.

Darius Plus Cover
The extremely cool art found on the instruction manual cover for Darius Plus