- Format: PC (version reviewed), PS4, PSVita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Degica
- Developer: Pyramid
- Players: 1-4
- Site: http://darius.jp/dbcs/en/
- Game code provided by PR
DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours’ gameplay will be immediately familiar to those with even a passing interest in the bullet hell shooter genre: You control one of a variety of ships faced with an overwhelming force of adversaries, and must shoot your way through the horde while evading all manner of laser beams, mines, and other means of blowing you up. Where this might diverge from some players’ view of the genre, however, is that DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours sees your ship blasting a course through space from left to right rather than bottom to top. If you aren’t used to this, it might be jarring, but it’s nice to be able to utilise the wider screen to see more of what’s coming your way.
What’s also interesting about DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours is your hit-box. While the majority of bullet hell shooters give you a tiny area vulnerable to damage – sometimes as small as a single pixel – this game is a little harder on you and opens your entire ship up to the enemies’ fire. This makes for an incredibly challenging task when things get out of hand and most of your screen is full of enemy fire. It’s a welcome change, however, as it makes it easier to know when you’re going to take damage and when you aren’t, free of the obfuscation of other bull hell shooters’ design.
The game overall is quite good at this kind of graphical communication of its mechanics: enemies with drops are coloured accordingly, boss’s weak points are simple to pick out if you’re observant enough, and the brief glow of your ship upon taking a hit is a fine indicator of how many more you can take. Because of this the UI is quite clean in the AC mode, making a concession only for a small bar beneath your ship to indicate how much charge your more powerful weapon has, as well as a small indicator in the top left to show how many upgrades you have.
These upgrades can be picked up throughout the level and do a number of things to your arsenal, granting your main weapon a faster rate of fire, wider area of effect, and punch-through among a few other effects. You can use this to your advantage, picking up the right colours for whatever you might deem advantageous against the particular level’s enemies and boss.
The bosses are perhaps the highlight of the game; each of them are challenging in ways that are very satisfying to defeat, be that obstacles to overcome in the moment or patterns to learn over various attempts. There’s a large variety of them to defeat and the vast majority are gratifying in this manner and in their appearance, as they’re all enormous ships based on marine life.
All of these core mechanics make up the AC mode, a port of the game’s original arcade cabinet from Japan that features a run of three levels in Original Mode and a map composed of levels with tweaks on the rules such as item limitations. CS mode, on the other hand, is a new mode that allows players to tackle levels of ever-increasing challenges with only three lives across a branching map.
All of these modes can be played co-operatively if you have a few extra controllers lying around. The co-op is well done, giving each player a different colour to differentiate them so that you don’t get lost in the crowd and get confused as to which one of the tiny ships you are. On top of that, it’s enormous fun to swipe all of the power-ups that your allies are uncovering while they remain oblivious to your chicanery.
DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours isn’t exactly a pretty game, though this isn’t a fault of the technical side of things but rather an aesthetic choice by the designers. It’s an almost utilitarian art style due to the importance of communication to the player at the cost of any kind of flair. It’s a very plain-looking game for better or worse.
The game’s soundtrack is sure to be as divisive as it is varied: some levels will see an operatic singer bellowing over synthesizers while others utilise a more traditional soundtrack. What each player gets out of it will of course be entirely subjective, but from a production perspective the music sounds perfectly fine.
If you’re a fan of bullet hell shooters, DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours offers of a great mix of unique and familiar mechanics as well as the ruthless challenge you’ve come to expect of the genre. There’s also not much of a barrier to entry, giving newcomers a great place to make their entry into the beloved though still very niche genre. This ability to adequately serve both markets makes it very easy to recommend DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours, despite some stylistic choices that might be off-putting to some.