Checking the Score: G-Darius

While many point to how lifelike the next blockbuster action title is or how gorgeous an artistic indie darling is when it comes to evaluating a game, these visuals would lose their impact without a stirring soundtrack to score them. From the chip-tunes of Super Mario Bros to the Gregorian chants of Halo, video game music brings players closer to immersion and fantasy. Much like how a movie’s soundtrack sets the tone for dramatic scenes, game music also helps players connect emotionally with the story.

Checking the Score is a monthly feature devoted to these crucial compositions which are literally the soundtrack to our gaming lives. Delving into what makes them impactful, the process of composing them and the intricacies of each score, our aim is to put a spotlight on the aural backbone of gaming.

The side-scrolling shooter series Darius first kicked off in arcades back in 1987, but this sequel in a long-running series holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts. G-Darius, originally released in 1997, is so adored that it recently saw a re-release in the form of G-Darius HD for PS4 and Switch. This brings back a game beloved by many and gives newcomers a chance to finally try the classic aquatic shooter for themselves. While the gameplay and visuals alone are iconic, the soundtrack brings everything to another level.

Shooters are known for having good music and G-Darius is no exception. It’s fascinating just how good the music was for this mid-90s arcade game. Of course, the excellent audio also made its way onto the PS1 port, and the recent PS4 and Switch versions. Composer Hisayoshi Ogura created the songs for Darius, Darius II, Darius Gaiden, G-Darius and most recently Darius Burst and each is worth a listen. The ’90s were an era of experimental and industrial music, and you can clearly see that influence on the soundtrack. “B.T. Dutch” kicks things off with a raucous, yet totally cohesive track. Sounds of whirring screwdrivers somehow don’t feel out of place in this intense piece!

Sometimes there are tracks that send a shiver down your spine and “Kimera II” is one of them. It’s epic beyond belief, and spans so many moods from beginning to end. It’s violent, with sounds of an enemy’s distorted scream underlying the music. There are beautiful electronic harmonizing vocalizations that completely go against the shrieks. There’s so much going on in this track and yet it never falters. It’s such a unique piece that many only know of this song from G-Darius as a result. It deserves this recognition, as does the rest of the incredible soundtrack.

Looking for something completely different? The G-Darius soundtrack isn’t all about noise and explosive experimentation. There are also tracks like “Net Work” which are far softer and ambient in nature. In the case of this track, it’s not even a dark ambient vibe, but a lot more hopeful and peaceful in tone. It’s songs like this which help elevate the soundtrack beyond a typical high-speed shooter. These are songs you can listen to again and again.

Finally it’s time to face off against the last boss. You need a hardcore track to send off G-Darius and “Adam” fills that role perfectly. It’s 100% a boss battle song and completely overwhelms the player. Can they really win in this last round? As the song progresses, it pushes the player’s confidence levels with a female vocalization and the strange, repeated refrain of “I am.” It’s a tremendously memorable track to conclude the entire experience.

Hisayoshi Ogura created magic when he composed the G-Darius soundtrack. While it fits perfectly within the world of the game, it also has the ability to astonish listeners who have never played it before. The songs explore so many themes and styles and at times things get so chaotic that it shouldn’t work, yet the experimentation pays off big time. Decades later, the G-Darius soundtrack remains an impactful part of the video game music landscape.