Parodius Da!

Posted February 15, 2014

It took many hours across several days but I finally made my way through the arcade release* of Parodius Da!, which has become my favorite shmup series. Released in 1990, Konami crafted this absurdist string of games as a parody of Gradius, their celebrated and much more serious scrolling shooter. After 10 minutes with Parodius I’ve found it nearly impossible to go back to Gradius, especially considering the lack of the option to continue (c’mon, it’s a 90s-era game).

With the mechanics of Gradius as a foundation, everything else is pure creative potpourri, from hundreds of flying penguins, cats and pigs working hard to kill you, to blissful mountains (trying to kill you), power-ups made of deadly Japanese phrases, and playful American characters. Watching someone else play allows you to take in all the detailed sprites, beautiful backgrounds, and enormous bosses like pig sumo wrestlers, pirate ships with cat heads, and dancing showgirls with a dangerous pelvic thrust. If you’re playing and you tend to die a lot like me, be prepared to replay several of the later stages repeatedly, particularly the last two which I nearly gave up on. I’m not sure if it truly approaches bullet hell, but the slowdown in many areas proves to be helpful, unintended or not. The sound effects are pure arcade goodness and the music, circus variations on classical compositions by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Rossini, certainly adds another textural layer to this phantasmic porno.

For a long time the game crew I most wanted to hang out with were the original SNK creators of Metal Slug. But really, to have worked at Konami in the 1990s is the dream.

* While the Super Famicom port is said to be very true to the arcade version, unfortunately it never had a U.S. release.  In fact none of the Parodius games had a U.S. release.  Bemoaning this fact on Twitter, Konami actually replied with, “Sorry about that.  Apparently late 80s and early 90s America was just not ready for the absurdity that is Parodius.”

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