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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

Couple of Shooters Give Arcade Action at Home

Darius and Galactic Attack for Sega are fast and satisfying enough to make for time well spent.

May 09, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who needs a roll of quarters in their pocket anymore?

I spent the weekend a while back lost in a couple of great shooters from Acclaim for Sega's Saturn. While they won't tax anyone's higher reasoning skills, Darius Gaiden and Galactic Attack serve up some blistering arcade action that demonstrates how relentless 32-bit gaming at home can be.

Both games come from the development team over at Taito, which most players will know as a maker of stand-up rigs for the arcades. Given the level of play these two deliver, it's hard to figure out why anyone bothers hoarding quarters for the arcade anymore.

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Darius Gaiden branches off the popular and simple Darius series, in which reflex is more necessary than intellect. Blast, dodge, blast, dodge. That pretty much sums up the game. The story is irrelevant, but more or less follows the familiar line of evil aliens getting in the way of good aliens.

Darius shows off how nicely giant characters can move on some of the next-generation home rigs. Bosses at the end of each level gobble up most of the screen but lose none of their movement or detail and don't slow down the lightning motion of players' ships.

One of the coolest things about Darius is that designers didn't waste their creative energy--or their valuable disk space--on hokey cinematics at the beginning of the game. Instead, the opening sequences are fairly simple, given the lengths some other games have gone to.

Nothing makes me madder than to have a great set of opening sequences dissolve into a crummy game. It sometimes seems as if the game itself was an afterthought to some coolly rendered movie the designers dreamed up.

Instead, Darius focuses on game play and on making the transitions between levels as seamless as possible. Anyone who's played a 32-bit machine knows how annoying the "Loading: Please Wait" message can be. Given the pace of Darius, though, I almost found myself longing for a "Please Wait" break.

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In the same way, Galactic Attack pumps out some stellar graphics and sound that misses nothing from full arcade rigs. My only beef with Galactic Attack is the squeezed screen a la Raiden. All that space on my monitor bums me out. The visuals were so swell, I wanted more.

Unlike Darius, which scrolls side to side, Galactic Attack generally scrolls top to bottom, but the way it does will leave players breathless. It's hard to explain, but scrolling bumps and grinds in so many ways that it never gets routine.

Both Darius Gaiden and Galactic Attack are no-brainer games, but they don't treat players like idiots who will pick up anything with flashy box shots. In both cases, buyers get their money's worth.

Now there's an idea.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games regularly. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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