Published 4 September, 2013 | by Vinh Nguyen2
SNES review: Parodius Da!
The Super Nintendo was no stranger to shoot’em ups: Space Megaforce, Gradius, Darius Twin, Super R-Type, Earth Defense Force… If I list them all, I’d start to develop that warm, fuzzy feeling inside my heart. With that being said, I respect the notion that games are exactly that: Games. They’re a form of escapism, a recreational and pleasurable activity (Minds out of the gutter, you bunch of horses), a day off from a week in the harsh, bitter universe that is reality. But then, there are games that take this notion to the next level. And by next level, I mean approximately thirty levels higher into the realms of absurdity. I present to you, the world of Parodius.
What was originally the well-established Gradius series was given a reality-show style makeover the likes that could only be initially understood and appreciated by those who truly knew Japanese culture, so if you’re less-informed, then do not even bother to try and understand, and appreciate the game for what it is: A “Non-Sense Fantasy”, as the PAL sub-title labels it as, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, “Parodius” is a portmanteau of “parody” and “Gradius”. That should give you some idea of the kind of game this is. A dream match, characters from all over the Konami universe come together here, including Vic Viper and Pentarou of Gradius fame, Twinbee from the Twinbee series, and Octopus from the lesser-known Salamander arcade game, along with a slew of cameos. It’s the stuff Konami wet dreams are made of. Let’s dream it.
Parodius presents classic 2-D arcade style shoot’em up action. Choose one of four characters, each with similar but distinctive weapons and upgrades respective to their abilities from their own games, and get on with it. No technical know-how or complicated puzzles; Just the satisfaction of obliterating hundreds upon hundreds of hapless Japanese mascots in some shape or form. The most noteworthy option is to choose between Auto and Manual upgrade options. I always choose Manual, because I like to be in-control of my own destiny. My fate is my own.
One button to shoot, one button to initiate an upgrade, and one button to use a Bell, if one acquires one. Upon starting each stage, it’s typical Gradius-style space shooting, slowly luring you into a false sense of complacency. Approximately half a minute later, you’ll question what game you’re actually playing; such is the nature of Parodius. The gameplay in general is the same as Gradius: Power-ups, upgrades, all in order, with various methods of shooting, topped with “Option”, allowing a maximum of three sidekicks to accompany you in destroying everything in your path. You then have the “!?” upgrade, which I’ll leave to you to discover its mysterious effects. Lastly, one may choose to upgrade their character to use a Shield, which fades over time.
The Bell power-ups are a little more diverse in nature, ranging from your standard “destroy everything on screen” bomb, to screaming nonsense out of a megaphone. Literally. Like I said, this game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I genuinely believe that’s why it’s so fun: That’s what this game is all about. No fancy storyline (Honestly, if you knew what the storyline was, you’d dismiss it straight away), no complicated puzzles or traps, nothing that will make you think “You damn horse radish, that wasn’t obvious at all”.
Being an arcade port, one could expect compromise. If there was any, it was negligible and unnoticeable. The game runs smoothly, with minimal slowdown, even when there are literally fifty sprites jumping up and down on the screen. Some sprites are huge… And I do mean huge, but the gameplay suffers no drawback; Essential if you’re looking forward to taking out your frustration on those poor generic enemies with no future except in the cross-hairs of your laser. Or boxing gloves. Don’t ask.
I feel a comparison to the western localisation is necessary. The PAL version is far, FAR easier, as was the trend in the nineties. It seems that westerners just couldn’t handle the hardcore difficulty that the Japanese were weaned on. Faster and more abundant enemies will make you no doubt rip a few strands of hair out of your head. Just don’t end up with a horse’s mane, or you may as well become a fitting character for the Parodius series yourself. Additionally, the PAL version includes an Omake mode, meaning that you instantly respawn where you die. Admittedly, this became a staple of the Parodius games in the sequels.
This game is a cartoon. Anyone who knows an inkling of what Manga-style artwork looks like will recognise references in this game. The visuals are bright. Colours are abundant, but never gaudy and drug-induced (Though one could argue the development of this game was done under the influence). As is the limitations of the SNES, Sprite scaling suffers from severe blockiness. To that I merely reassure you that you should just be thankful you’re not playing the original Parodius on the MSX2. Moving on. All in all, they’re sharp and clear. There isn’t a single sprite which leaves you wondering what it’s supposed to be. Rest assured, however, that even though you’ll be able to clearly see the actual sprite, you’ll be wondering for longer than a moment exactly what it is, and why you’re shooting it. We’re talking flying umbrellas, Easter Island heads and eggplants being spewed out of temperamental volcanoes. Like I said, don’t ask.
As mentioned earlier, slow-down is minimal. Some sprites fill up almost the entire screen, and far more often than not, the game will not slow down. The exception to this rule would be the Bomb, which envelops the whole screen and beyond. Slowdown in this instance is understandable; especially considering the game was released in the earliest days of the SNES.
Another comparison to the western localisation reveals some subtle omissions. The clowns on the second stage, for example, reveal crucifixes on their heads after they die… A thinly-veiled religious reference which saw the crucifixes being removed completely. The most controversial visual, however, most definitely belongs to the American Bald Eagle boss, complete with top hat and bow tie emblazoned with the imagery of the American flag. And this boss, in all its patriotic glory, is one you have to shoot the absolute gonads out of, until it literally becomes bald. No wonder then that Parodius has never been released in America. The American Bald Eagle became a staple of the franchise. Konami wins that one.
Undoubtedly my favourite part of not just this game, but the entire Parodius franchise, the audio is exemplary. One could argue that the original content is minimal, but rest assured, the arrangements are superb… From the inclusion of the original themes respective to each character, to the multitude of classical masterpieces on each stage. Even those with a casual taste in music will recognise each arrangement, done with that hint of wackiness and lightheartedness that is only befitting of this game. They’re up-tempo, they’re fast-paced and they really have your heart racing, completely matching the tone of the game.
Other tracks are taken from the Gradius series, but don’t be fooled. As stated before, they’re merely openers and jingles to refer to the game’s main inspiration. I know the audio is of a particularly high standard when they release the soundtrack commercially, as well as further arrangements of said soundtrack. I encourage you all to purchase “Parodius Da! Perfect Selection”, a near-enough orchestral arrangement with extras. It takes nothing away from the original soundtrack, but adds a unique twist on it. Both soundtracks are perfectly acceptable to play along with the game itself.
Don’t expect this game to last. It’s the kind of game you can pick up quickly and put down quickly. All addictiveness aside (The amount of times I’ve wanted to just quit and eat a bowl of noodles out of consolation, but didn’t, astounds me), this game is an arcade-style shoot’em up. As such, Longevity is at a minimum. No hidden content, no secret endings, nothing. If you have your wits about you, even on the hardest setting, this game won’t last you longer than two hours. It’s a shame the game is so short, but with such an enriching experience, it really is all about quality over quantity, and this game has plenty of it. Going back to this game time and time again for a play-through is definitely something you’ll be doing for years to come.
And if you get stuck at the point with the giant cabaret girl, it’s like I keep saying throughout the review: Do. Not. Ask. You bunch of horses.