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Parodius (Saturn) artwork

Parodius (Saturn) review


"After the "thing" (Gradius III) was released in arcades, the main line of Gradius games went into hibernation for most of the 1990s; it was only at the tail end of the decade where two, big titles were released, Gradius Gaiden and Gradius IV. That still left a huge chunk of the 90s untouched, meaning gamers had to go elsewhere to get their Gradius fix with similar titles. The Parodius series answered the call, filling the void with a total of four shoot-em-up titles..."



After the "thing" (Gradius III) was released in arcades, the main line of Gradius games went into hibernation for most of the 1990s; it was only at the tail end of the decade where two, big titles were released, Gradius Gaiden and Gradius IV. That still left a huge chunk of the 90s untouched, meaning gamers had to go elsewhere to get their Gradius fix with similar titles. The Parodius series answered the call, filling the void with a total of four shoot-em-up titles... and one strategy-game, oddly. As the name implies, this offshoot franchise is a parody version of Gradius, grabbing its core play mechanics, like the power-up selection bar, as well as a power-up element from the TwinBee series (shoot bells to change the ability before acquisition), while tossing players into a looney world that spoofs various subjects. This could be Gradius itself, different shooting titles, American culture, Japanese culture and folklore, among other stuff you wouldn't expect.

The second and third games, Parodius Da! and Gokujou Parodius, both featured on Gokujou Parodius Da! Deluxe Pack, do a pretty bang up job at demonstrating the zaniness of the series. You'll constantly be thrown into situations that make zero sense, but that's okay, it's what this series does best. One minute, you start out in space, collecting power-up capsules from enemy formations of moai heads in odd masks, and the next, you're somehow in a giant, crane game cabinet, dodging a group of cranes picking up and dropping kettles, cats, and penguins. The boss? A huge panda ballerina. Obviously.

Another stage has you pitted against one enemy, a warship... made up of moai heads. Its front side is a moai head with shades, its turrets are moai heads, and it even unleashes a moai head boss that, well, shoots moai head missiles from its mouth. Did I mention you'll be attacked by towering, half-naked women at times? Because you will. All this is occurring while video game renditions of classic music play in the background, too! Fly through pink clouds, maneuvering around bubbles to the tune of Waltz of the Flowers, avoid a gang of punk birds in a high-speed segment with the finale to William Tell Overture, and listen to Mambo No. 5 as you take on the Gradius III boss that traps you with lasers, except now it's just lips attached to hands squeezing pastry bags.

Not wanting to be left out, the large cast of fighters you get to choose are just as absurd: you have an octopus, a pig angel, and a woman in a playboy-ish outfit riding a missile, to name a few. And dedication went into these characters, as each has exclusive animations and sprites. Pick the stick figure gliding on a paper plane, for example. Acquire a missile power-up and watch as smaller figures parachute to the ground and run forward. Now gain a shield power-up... which is literally a condom that protects his front. Every avatar has their own unique selection bar set, as well, just like the main series. Some are lifted from Gradius, others from Salamander, and even a few from other shoot-em-ups you probably never heard about, like Thunder Cross. While the varied selection of bars isn't anything new by the time these two games came around, it's actually one rare time I enjoyed messing with most of the configurations. They felt accessible in comparison to some Gradius titles where only one or two felt comfortable.

While the two titles could be labeled clinically insane, there is a method to the madness; they don't forgo the challenging nature of Gradius titles, embracing their checkpoint system and growing enemy aggressiveness to power-up collecting. This is most evident in Parodius Da!, which will likely frustrate you to hell and back the first time you attempt to complete it. But, see, the wonderful thing is that it doesn't take after the annoying difficulty of certain Gradius sequels, instead harking back to the challenging tone of the original. It's tough, yeah, but it's the kind of tough you can learn from, come back a better player, and motivate you to complete the game in as few continues as possible. I guess I shouldn't be, but I was delightfully surprised to see a proclamation of "WE LOVE GRADIUS 1" at the very end of the credits crawl.

Gokujou (or however you want to spell that), though, is the easiest of the two in this deluxe pack. It's not for the lack of trying, however, as it intentionally sacrifices gameplay at times just to tell a joke. The greatest example is when you face the 5th stage boss, a huge, living power-up that does nothing but spit out power-ups by the buttload. It does throw out a spike or two, but they're so disturbingly easy to dodge, that shame will fall upon you and your family if one destroys your character. Granted, Gokujou can kick your ass if you're being lazy, but you can still finish the game in a short span of time, even with the suckage. I still enjoy the Gokujou, and they try making up for the difficulty with tough extra stages, but don't expect it to be just as hard as its predecessor.

I do find it amusing this Gradius-style compilation is the best of the three released, since it really just contain a bunch of silly games. With the other two, Gradius Deluxe Pack and Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus, they're more novelty or nostalgic purchases than something you'd want to play a lot. This is basically due to annoying issues a specific game has in those discs that ruin the overall fun and replayability. The biggest problem with Gokujou Parodius Da! Deluxe Pack is that one game is kinda easier than the other. That's all. So, if you own a Sega Saturn and have an itch to import a fun Gradius deluxe pack, then get the Parodius deluxe pack, instead.

Just make sure you're mentally prepared for the non-sense fantastical journey.

Rating: 8/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (August 21, 2011)

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Feedback

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threetimes posted August 23, 2011:

"and aspire you" should be "inspire"

I suppose the intro was necessary to set the scene but it didn't really grab attention, for what is a totally grabby attention game. And that applied to the conclusion too. I haven't played Parodius but a friend did and I saw the whole crazy thing! Loved the descriptions in the third paragraph.

PS. some sceenshots would be awesome!
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pickhut posted August 23, 2011:

Wouldn't aspire still work in that situation? Like "I aspire not to be a continue whore!"

I understand the want for screenshots, but it's more of a preference for me not to show them in my reviews. I only do it in rare instances. There are screenshots of both games for the arcade versions, so maybe I might put those in.

Thanks for reading, too.
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 24, 2011:

'Aspire' would still work, but not the way you phrased it. To get technical for a moment, you've got the subject and object of the verb the wrong way round. The way it's phrased at the moment, it's the game that's aspiring to something. It might seem minor, but it's like the difference between 'man bites dog' and 'dog bites man'.

To use 'aspire' here, it would need to be something like 'and make you aspire to complete the game', which is a bit clumsy. Better to use something like 'inspire' or 'compel'.

TL;DR version: threetimes is right. :P
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pickhut posted August 24, 2011:

I'll use motivate.
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Masters posted August 25, 2011:

Nice review, by the way.
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 25, 2011:

Yes, that's true, I should have mentioned that :p I just get carried away with writing/grammar issues because I'm a pedant. It's a good review, nice work. I particularly enjoyed you putting Parodius in context as essentially a Gradius substitute for the 90s.
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pickhut posted August 25, 2011:

Haha, thanks, guys. I'm not one to whine or complain about this stuff, but I was getting worried when the only positive thing I've gotten about the review so far was "I love the third paragraph!" XD

That's not to say I don't appreciate the corrections.
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overdrive posted August 25, 2011:

The Parodius games are fun as hell. Good shooters that are entertaining to watch, as well as enjoyable to play.

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