In 1986, Taito created an arcade game
that spanned three screens wide and featured revolutionary graphics, music,
and sound effects. That game was Darius, a side-scrolling space shooter,
and it was the first of series of sequels and spin-offs that include Gradius
and Sagaia. In Darius, you started out in zone A, and the object
was to go through each set of levels and defeat one of the final bosses.
The Darius arcade machine had two M68000 processors
and a Z80, six speakers, and three TV screens with the image blended together
seamlessly by a system of mirrors. It was very fast with little slowdown
and it could display over 100 sprites, such as enemy ships and bullets,
on the screen at a time. It had a joystick and two buttons, the fire
button and the bomb button. Two players could play at the same time.
The first level - Zone A
In each level, you would travel through a level for
a while, and then fight a boss. There were five different types of
terrain: cavern, factory, mountain, ocean, and moon. Ther were many
kinds of enemies in the levels, and they all had distinct attack patterns.
The basic enemy types were:
Small enemies that come at you fast and sometimes fire, but you can destroy
them with one shot.
Larger, slower enemies that can take more damage.
Ground- or ceiling-based gun turrets that fire bullets or lasers at you.
Small enemies that appear out of nowhere.
Obstacles that fly at you and cannot be destroyed easily.
You fought off these enemies with an unlimited supply
of shots and bombs. Occasionally, a red, green, or blue enemy would
attack. If you destroyed it, a sphere of the same color would appear.
These spheres powered up your ship's missiles, bombs, and shields.
A red sphere powers
up your basic missile weapon.
A green sphere powers
up your bomb weapon.
A blue sphere gives
your ship a shield and powers it up.
If you got eight of one color sphere, you would
get more powerful weapons and shields. The different types were:
Missile - hits enemy or wall and stops.
Laser - goes through enemies, but not walls.
Wave - goes through enemies and walls.
Bomb - one bomb fired downward.
Twin - two bombs, one up and one down.
Multi - four bombs in all diagonal directions.
Arm - weak green shield.
Super - strong silver shield.
Hyper - very strong gold shield, with it you
can bounce off walls instead of crashing.
The first boss - King Fossil
After playing far enough into a stage, the screen will
go black and a warning will appear telling you that a boss is approaching.
You would appear in a cavernous passage, and a bubble would come at you
from the right. The bubble would split into even more bubbles as
you shot it, but they would eventually stop dividing. Then the boss
creature would show itself. The bosses in Darius were huge, and they
all resembled aquatic creatures like fish and squids. Many of them
would shoot homing missiles and multiple shots at you. If you took
too long to defeat the boss, cubes would come out of the walls and circle
toward your ship.
The level structure in Darius.
When you defeated the boss, you were given a choice
of whether to go up or down. If you finished zone A, you could go
to either B or C. If you chose C, then after you finished that zone
you could go to either E or F. There were 26 stages in all, and you
had to complete 7 of them. On one of the final zones - V, W, X, Y,
or Z - you would fight the final boss. There were five final bosses,
one for each of those levels, and each final zone had its own ending.
If you beat zone X, you would see a different ending than if you beat zone
Z. A fun thing to do was trying to find the best order to finish
the levels to maximize your powerups. It was also fun to try to see
all five ending scenes.