Darius PC-Engine World / Super
Super Darius PC-Engine World (PC Engine’s World of Darius)
November 21, 1989
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In 1990, NEC Interchannel ported Taito’s arcade classic Darius to the Turbo CD and TurboGrafx-16 (aka PC-Engine) under the names Super Darius and Darius Plus. The port largely stayed faithful to the original arcade game and was generally quite technically accomplished. Shortly following its released in Japan, Apollon released an album featuring the ported music for the game and two bonus arrangements. Does it stand up to the original?
Compared to other ports in the series, the soundtrack for Super Darius falls into a middle ground. It is essentially a resynthing of the original Darius‘ score, in contrast to the more interpretative soundtrack for Super Darius II. However, the resynthing generally maintains the quality of the original, in contrast to the abominable Game Boy version Sagaia. The TurboGrafx-16 had perhaps the most powerful specs of any console back in the day and hence could largely cope with music as complex as the original Darius‘. With previous experience porting titles such as OutRun and Space Harrier, sound driver programmer Shigeharu Isoda of T’s Music handled the conversion competently. However, throughout they seemed to lack appreciation of the features that made Hisayoshi Ogura’s original score so pioneering for its time…
For the most part, the soundtrack for Super Darius is similarly enjoyable as the original, but rarely as impressive. “Captain Neo”, for example, continues to entertain listeners with its adventurous melody and industrial undertones. The synth sounds much smoother than the piercing original, which makes the track all the more accessible but loses some of its edge. “Cosmic Air Way” has gone from being a light-hearted but nuanced track into something that now sounds like candypop; the grittier elements of the original, such as the penetrating bass line, are deemphasised in favour of cheesy synth leads that sound like they came straight from Fantasy Zone. Much like a new age remix of a classical music favourite, it’s still an enjoyable listen, but loses the sophistication and depth of the original.
Indeed, the port loses most of the idiosyncrasies and subtleties that made the original so good. Take the main theme “Chaos”, for instance. Whereas orch hits resounded the track’s iconic phrases in its original version, now it is replaced by a single generic synthesizer that fails to convey or evoke very much. “Boss Scene 1”, despite clear efforts from the developers, has a much thinner texture than the original and works much less effectively than the original. Just like the original, “The Sea” transitions from an impressionistic opening into a nightmarish climax as players approach the final boss. But in both sections, the soundscaping fails to be as deep or broad as the original. Once again, Ogura’s incredible original compositions now sound like generic 80s shmup music.
Super Darius PC-Engine World does have some worthwhile offerings though: three bonus arrangements. A seven-person jazz ensemble, the Ken Ken Band, perform light jazz interpretations of “Cosmic Air Way” and “Boss Scene #7”. More tasteful than most video game jazz arrangements, both tracks feature straightforward but robust arrangements brought to life by some talented performers. Yasuto Tanaka’s lead sax performance stands out for being bold and not slushy, the guitar / bass / drum support is robust throughout, and the violinist and flautist synchronise surprisingly well with the rest of the band to offer some colourful countermelodies. Following the 17-track sound effects collection, there is a hidden 38th track at the end of the album that features a brief reprise of the band’s interpretation of “Boss Scene #7” mid-way through highlighting once again the saxophonist’s power as a soloist. Bonus sheet music of “Captain Neo” is also included in the album package.
The soundtrack for Super Darius once again reflects that Hisayoshi Ogura’s music is a difficult beast to port. While nowhere near as offensive as the Sagaia soundtrack, the interpretations featured here are generally quite superficial and lose the rich hybridised sound that characterised the original. They’re ahead of most game music being released in 1990, but still behind the 1987 arcade original. The album, while well-presented and boasting a couple of fun arrangements, doesn’t offer enough new to justify a purchase. Stick to one of the prints of the arcade soundtrack instead.
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Posted on November 8, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 19, 2016.