Darius Twin marks the first appearance of the Darius franchise on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the third game in the series’ cannon. It was developed by Taito (of Bubble Bobble fame) and released stateside in November 1991. The Super Nintendo is not traditionally known for it’s shmups (unlike the TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis), so how does Darius Twin stand up?
Darius Twin is a shoot ‘em up of the horizontal variety. You pilot a Silver Hawk space ship and fight your way through the galaxy fighting aquatic themed robots. The main gimmick in Darius is a branching path system, allowing you to complete the 7 levels in a non-linear fashion. Overall, there are 12 different planets, and a total of 16 different paths.
Other than the branching paths, Darius Twin is fairly unremarkable. You have a main weapon, called a missile, that fires forward. Your secondary weapon is called a bomb, which are four projectiles that fire diagonally out in all four directions (northwest, northeast, etc.). Both weapons have unlimited ammo. The last item is called an arm, which is a shield.
Your missiles and bombs can each be upgraded 8 times. You can switch missiles types between the Photon Power Disc and a Segmented Laser Wave Beam. The Photon Power Disc has a larger strike radius but does less damage. The Segmented Laser Wave Beam is narrower, but more powerful. Lastly, there are 3 levels of shields (normal, super, and hyper).
The level design is Darius Twin is again fairly unremarkable. Most planets have their own look and feel, from bright skies and mountains to underwater oceans. Your typical level set. Some planets (on the same level) feature nearly identical environments with some enemy variations. A few levels have some variation in the movement (where the level scrolls up, down, and diagonally, as opposed to just right), but it all stays fairly traditional.
Where Darius Twin does shine is the boss design. As mentioned earlier, there is an aquatic theme to the title, and that is the most evident in the bosses. There is a shark, angel fish, sea-horse, lobster, sea turtle, sperm whale, angler fish, walrus, squid, and a blow fish. They are all colorful, mechanical, and very creative. If only the rest of the game had this much detail.
Graphically, Darius Twin hardly pushes the limits of the Super Nintendo hardware. Most of the enemies feature little to no animation. Despite their simplicity, the game stills does feature slow down when there is a lot of action on the screen. Strange. What I do like is the art direction, specifically the choice of colors. Darius Twin features a light color palette and really looks a lot different than Sega Genesis shmups of the era.
The music is a mixed bag. Darius Twin features some nice clean sounding orchestra like instruments. While technically adequate, some of the tracks feature very awkward beats that are not pleasing. The game also has a hollow echo style to it like many Super Nintendo games. The sound effects are weak. No matter how powerful your arms or missiles, they make the same simple noise throughout the game. Hitting enemies isn’t satisfying either. Destroying a giant fish boss makes the same noise as hitting the smallest targets in the game. I want some epic explosions to match the epic bosses!
As a shmup, Darius Twin is overly simplistic. My first problem is the lack of enemy fire. Very few opponents actually shoot at you. For the most part all you need to do is dodge the enemies. There is no tactile reason to destroy them. Waves of enemies just follow a predetermined path, never posing any threat to you.
The weak artificial intelligence carries over to the bosses as well. Many bosses can be defeated by staying at the top or bottom of the screen,and using your diagonal fire to take them out. This takes away some of the satisfaction when you beat them. Overall, Darius Twin isn’t that difficult, and at times, very easy.
Rounding out Darius Twin is a 2-player mode for cooperative play. You can change the difficulty between easy and normal. Easy mode just reduces the amount of hits it takes to take down an enemy. You can also select up to 8 continues.
Overall, Darius Twin is an average affair. Shmup fans will find it too easy, and newcomers to the genre will find it too boring. The saving grace of the game is the awesome bosses. Just seeing what crazy bio-mechanical crustacean the designers came up with is worth the price of admission. Thankfully Darius Twin is a cheap Super Nintendo game, so it’s worth a look.
Graphics 5/10 - Technically limited, but great color palettes and detailed bosses
Sound 5/10 - Clean soundtrack, some awkward compositions, weak effects
Game play 5/10 - Fine controls, interesting branching path concept
Overall 5/10 - Very blah shmup