[CONSOLE] NEC PC-Engine Game
Darius Plus © 1990 NEC Avenue, Limited.
Darius Plus is a horizontal shooter and is the conversion of the arcade game Darius originally released by Taito in 1986. Massive and aquatic looking mechanical entities are heading towards planet Darius, and they are clear warning signs of an imminent attack. A courageous pilot, Proco Jr., on-board his Silver Hawk space fighter, is given the perilous mission of stopping the upcoming war. The ship is equipped with two attack weapons - a forward facing laser and ground bombs. A third feature is a powerful force field shield that the player can activate to protect a small perimeter around the ship. As aforementioned, although the game only features two weapons and one shield option, they can be incrementally upgraded by collecting orbs left behind by colored enemy ships - Red orbs upgrade the main weapon (from Missiles to Lasers and Waves), Green orbs upgrade the bombs (from Simple to Twin and Multi) and Blue Orbs upgrade the shield (Arm, Super and Hyper). Additionally, other orbs are available for the picking - some destroy all enemies on screen whereas others award the player with Extra Lives or Points. But the upgrade system in Darius is unlike any others - although each collected orb gradually enhances a weapon, a total of eight much be stored to finally upgrade it to the next level (and losing a life takes the ship back to the lowest level). Finally, Darius features an unique branching level progression in which the player can choose an alternate path to take at the end of each stage. Although only seven levels can be accessed in one single play, the whole game boasts a total of twenty six different stages. Unlike the original arcade game, Darius Plus is single player only.
Darius Plus for PC-Engine was released on September 21, 1990 in Japan for 9800 Yen.
The original Darius arcade game was released by Taito in 1986, and used an impressive large display made out of three color monitors aligned left to right, giving the player an unique and incredible panoramic view of the action. It was ported to the PC Engine in 1990 - however, two versions were available; a CD-Rom version called "Super Darius" and a Hucard version called 'Darius Plus'.
This PC Engine Hucard version has a couple of interesting differences with the original arcade game. Obviously, the screen is not as wide as the original display (the PC Engine could only run on a 4:3 standard-definition TV screen after all), so developers had to crop the image and compress the action into a much smaller space - but it actually works pretty well. Additionally, the conversion has lost the two-player option and is single-player only. However, Darius Plus is somehow easier and it resurrects the player on the spot rather than taking him back to the beginning of the stage (unlike the original arcade game). But the game is called 'Darius Plus', and the reason behind this suffix is that it features more bosses than the original arcade game. Darius had a total of eleven different bosses whereas Darius Plus featured sixteen. Additionally, four bosses from Darius were cut from Darius Plus (Fatty Glutton, Iron Hammer, Strong Shell and Great Thing), so the game in reality features nine new bosses - all borrowed from the arcade game Darius II released in 1989 - Big Rajarnn (Zone D), Little Stripes (Zone E), Guard Savage (Zone G & I), Red Crab (Zone H & J), Hard Mollusk (Zone K & N), Tough Spring (Zones L & O), My Home Daddy (Zones P & T), Mystic Power (Zones Q & S) and Fire Star (Zones R & U).
As a side note, Darius Plus is the only HuCard ever produced to also be compatible with the SuperGrafx system (hence the PC-SG logo that can be found on the game's cover). Or to put it correctly, the only HuCard game that can take advantage of the Supergrafx system if present, and enhance its sprite engine and cause less flickering on screen (especially during boss battles).
A promotional release of Darius game was created in 1990 and called Darius Alpha. Owners of both Darius Plus (HuCard) and Super Darius (CD-Rom) could mail a proof of purchase to Taito, and be entered into a drawing for the chance to receive one of the eight hundred copies of Darius Alpha.