A fiendish giant octopus by the name of Zeo and his intergalactic mutant penguin mates are up to no good, wreaking havoc on the inhabitants of the Parodius Zone. Thankfully, help is at hand as Vic Viper, Pentarou the penguin, Twinbee and a gun-toting octopus have come to save the day.
As a parody of Konami’s famous Gradius series, this horizontally scrolling “cute-em-up” shows no restraint in the wackiness department, featuring ludicrous villains such as a sumo-wrestling pig and a screen-filling giantess Vegas dancer blocking your path and forcing you to take a voyeuristic journey between her legs to continue on your quest. There is even an amusing Moai-faced battleship that vaguely resembles the huge spaceship from the third level of R-Type. In a nutshell, this game is as mad as a bucket of spiders.
Those who are used to shooting the core in the Gradius series will feel right at home here, and will notice many borrowed situations from the game. Along the way, you pick up capsules to fill up your power meter and utilise the usual speed-up, missile and laser options to improve your ability to take out the bad guys. To mix things up, the coloured bells from the Twinbee series make an appearance and offer even crazier power-ups such as a megaphone which spouts out bizarre phrases such as “TOASTER OVERHEATED!”, “SHAVING IS BORING!” and perhaps the most bizarre “GOT A STINKFOOT!” to confound your enemies.
Trying to convey in words how much fun playing Parodius is no easy task. If you strip away all the wonderful Japanesey nonsense this could be any other shoot-em-up, but the combination of bizarre characters and imaginative locales makes this a real joy to play. Hardened fans of the genre will still find a challenge here, too; it's not been dumbed down so that you can breeze through this in one sitting without the use of continues.
Much like the patience-testing Gradius series, however, don’t expect this game to be a walk in the park. It’s a bit easier for sure, but you’ll still need to keep your wits about you. As always, memorising the enemy’s movement patterns is the key to success. Checkpoints are available to help you out if you lose a life, but it can be tough when you have gone from riches to rags in the power-up department.
Graphically, Parodius does not disappoint, featuring lots of large moving sprites, detailed backgrounds and an abundance of colour everywhere that you look. Earlier Super Nintendo releases such as Gradius III suffered from a nasty case of slowdown when onscreen action got too hectic, but thankfully this is not the case here. Only on very rare occasions will you notice any hint of lag.
The music deserves a special mention; it’s downright bonkers! The developers give familiar tunes a cutesy remix and you’ll even hear ‘The Can Can’ song at times if you pay attention. The upbeat, circus style soundtrack is a perfect match for the over-the-top visuals and adds nicely to the wackiness of the game.
This port of Parodius is a very faithful conversion of the arcade original; no compromises were made in the audiovisual department. It even manages to sneak in an exclusive new level set in a traditional Japanese bathhouse. As an additional bonus, the developers also added a time attack mode oddly named ‘Lollipop’ which adds a bit more value to the package. It’s just a shame that Parodius was deemed too weird and deviant for a North American audience, as it never saw a release outside of Japan and Europe.
If you’re after a shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then this is the game for you. The Super Nintendo wasn’t home to that many games of this genre, but this was easily a game that spoilt Mega Drive owners would have been jealous of in its day. If you deem the Gradius series of games a bit too testing, then you will most likely find Parodius a lot easier to master due to a much gentler difficulty curve. We can only hope to see a Virtual Console release in the fullness of time. Until then, you owe it to yourself to track down the cart and take yourself on a non-sense fantasy trip.