Darwin 4081

Mega Drive

Review by Rob "Dire 51"



Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 7

I recall reading about Darwin 4081 in EGM many years ago. It looked to be a pretty good, although odd-looking shooter, and it was slated to come out for the Genesis that year. So I started saving up my money for it, but unfortunately it never made it to these shores. My money ended up going to ESWAT: City Under Siege, I think...

Just recently, I found a copy of the Mega Drive version for sale. Remembering what I'd seen and read about it, and recalling how much I wanted to get it, I jumped at the chance to grab it. Upon receiving it, I fired it up, and although it isn't quite what I was expecting it to be (after all, it has been many years since I first saw it), it's a decent shooter.

Originally released by Data East in the arcades and reprogrammed by Sega for the Mega Drive (just like the Data East arcade game Midnight Resistance), Darwin 4081 is an overhead shooter. The plot is something I'm not certain about, as I can't read Japanese... but since when is a plot really necessary for a shooter? The action is fast, there's lots of powerups and things to shoot, it looks decent and it sounds good - what more do you need?

The unique thing about Darwin 4081's powerup system is that the ship uses DNA to evolve. Granted, the powerup system does work similarly to just about every other shooter in existence, but watching your ship (which initially starts out looking like some kind of cybernetic squid) mutate and transform into an even more powerful weapon of destruction is cool. The transformation sequences are handled pretty well.

Unfortunately, the graphics and animation of most of the rest of the game don't seem to stand up to the tranformation sequences, or even a lot of Mega Drive games of the time. The backgrounds have an overall sparse look them, and the enemies seem somewhat uninspired. There are some spots in the game that really stand out, like the board I've termed "the circuitry level" (a circuit board comes to life and its components attack you), but on a whole, the graphics just seem kind of bland.

Audio-wise, Darwin 4081 stands out. I found the music to be particularly good, and there's some decent explosion sound effects. Controlling the ship... well, it's a bit on the slow side at first. It's a good thing that as you evolve, the ship gets faster - otherwise I might have found it unplayable. The difficulty seems fairly balanced too. The first few levels are a cakewalk, but the further you go, the harder it gets.

On a whole, Darwin 4081 is a good, although graphically unexciting, shooter. If you find a copy on the cheap side like I did, then it's a good buy. If you had to choose between this and some of the other Mega Drive shooters that are out there (like MUSHA or ThunderForce III, for instance), I'd say weigh your options carefully before you buy. If you like shooters, you can't go wrong with Darwin 4081... but there are better shooters out there. So choose wisely.

front cover

On a side note, I recently found pictures of the arcade game. Interestingly enough, it's called Darwin 4078 instead of Darwin 4081. It looks a bit different than the Mega Drive game, too, which leads to the question - could Darwin 4081 actually have been Sega and Data East's attempt at making a sequel to the arcade game? That was all the rage with Sega back then... they released sequels to their popular arcade games rather than arcade ports (Space Harrier II, ESWAT: City Under Siege and Shadow Dancer: The Secret Of Shinobi all come to mind when thinking of Sega's Mega Drive-only sequels). Check out the pics below and see what you think.

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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:21 PM