The Vita port of Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is a hard one to review. It remains a superb game, but it’s greatly affected by the dimensions of the Vita’s screen, and while these issues may be resolved by a Playstation TV hooked up to a proper monitor, it defeats the purpose of owning the game on a handheld – portability. It’s exciting to see a proper horizontal shooter (or ‘shmup’) brought to the Vita, especially one with so much content and being an incredibly niche genre. It’s a shame that the port is so lazily done; otherwise, it’d be a blast on the road.
While most shmups don’t traditionally offer story modes, Dariusburst is one of the rare few who do through its Chronicle (CS) mode – albeit, an incredibly underwhelming story mode. Don’t expect a narrative describing the enemy’s motivations and explanations of what and who they are and your mission, because you’ll only put down the game in disappointment. What’s considered ‘story’ in Dariusburst are short lines of text offering brief context about the stage and why you’re partaking in said mission, and that’s about it for the story. There a great number of stages, but the story never really expands past this and for a game that boasts about its “brand-new story mode” in it’s store description, I expected much more. For the most dedicated fans of the series, I suppose it may be interesting and may offer neat information, but it’s not all that coherent or interesting for those unfamiliar.
It’s a good thing that shmups don’t rely on story to sell the game, but, rather their gameplay. Dariusburst plays like the standard horizontal shmup (or bullet hell) where you, the ship, scroll from left to right wherein you traverse stages and clear out waves upon waves of enemy ships; all while maneuvering around incredible patterns of bullets in an attempt to not get hit and lose a life. Dariusburst offers some interesting changes to the standard formula of horizontal shmups by allowing you infinite ‘bombs’ or special attacks, the ability to turn your ship around and shoot in the opposite direction, and an extra attack that varies by ship selected. It’s interesting to see the amount of innovation made towards the genre, and they surely help diversify the game and distinguish it from the rest. Add on the fact that the game is incredibly challenging and you have a game with amazing replay value.
The Arcade (AC) mode in Dariusburst is a direct port of the arcade cabinet – even allowing you to ‘change cabinets’ for different experiences and having a warning sign telling the player to “watch their heads when leaving the cabinet” upon Game Over. AC mode is like every other arcade mode – you shoot your way through a stage until you eventually get to the boss and defeat it and move on to the next stage. My gripe with AC is that this is where my problems with Dariusburst originate. On PC and PS4, people are given the option to the play with friends if they so choose. What about the Vita version? There’s no such feature available. For some strange reason, the developers decided to omit the multiplayer from the Vita version of Dariusburst – a feature that can make or break an arcade game, or for those wanting the full experience, they simply won’t get that from this rather lackluster port. Now, the game would be fine without a multiplayer if AC was actually playable on a Vita screen. It seems as if the developers thought people would only play the game on a Playstation TV or monitor when they designed how spread out your field of view would be. On a Vita, you, your enemies’ ships,and the HUD become so ridiculously small and spread out across the screen that it was difficult for me to even clear the 2nd stage of the game on Normal without infinite lives. It’s hard enough not having your ship’s hitbox indicated at all times for precise flying, you now have to dart your eyes across the screen to make sure there are no impending bullets that you glanced over. After a while of playing, it becomes clear that the Vita port was just an afterthought.
While the issues with AC mode really bring the game down, and the story in CS mode may not have been up to par with my expectations, CS offers a completely revamped and optimized experience. It fixes the aspect ratio and field of view to fit the Vita screen and offers a unique mission structure to the gameplay. These missions are like playlists of sorts; compiled of various mission objectives that vary from things like, “survive waves of enemies”, to, “defeat these 3 bosses in a row”. At times, you’ll even get to play some of the levels from the AC mode and it seems to offer a complete experience. Such a shame that AC offers much more, a mode similar to CS but varied depending on your ‘cabinet number’, but is simply unplayable without a proper monitor to keep track of the action.
What Dariusburst also excels at aside from gameplay is presentation. The visuals, while nothing groundbreaking for the Vita, are still stunning and offer some beautiful looking locales. The enemy ship design is especially interesting, taking forms of deep-sea creatures, as if they were the first thing the enemy noticed about Earth. The music is diverse and exciting, offering the usual tension and exciting beats that shmups are especially known for. There were even a few classic songs from previous games thrown into the mix for those revamped stages and they, alongside the rest of the soundtrack. stay consistent in quality.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours isn’t a game I would recommend for the Vita. Being a gimped port with less features and an infuriatingly bad aspect ratio during AC mode, I found myself habitually going to CS mode since it’s the only tolerable way to play on a normal Vita. Perhaps it would take some getting used to, but I simply find the field of view to be too spread out, hurting the game in the long run. If you can put up with just the CS mode and missing out on most of the AC mode stuff, then I would highly recommend buying this game on your Vita for its portability. Otherwise, just buy the PS4 and PC versions for an overall better experience.
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