As much as I love Street Fighter I do hate what it inadvertently caused. In the 80s and early 90s arcades were home to a large variety of games in every genre. That variety dried up as fighting games took over. The games were still there, you were just less likely to see them. Got to make floor space for Time Killers man! Shooters, the genre that seemed to dominate arcades all but became Japan exclusive. We missed a lot of brilliant games, chief among them Gokujou Parodius. This little beauty fortunately received an amazing SNES port and is one of the best shooters on the console.
The roster of playable characters has swelled dramatically, almost tripling if you count the partner characters for player two. Joining the party are Hikaru, Mambo/Sambo from Space Manbow, Michael/Gabriel, Koitsu/Aitsu, and Upa from Bio Miracle Upa. This version also adds two more characters over the arcade: Goemon/Ebisumaru and Dracula/Kid Dracula join the party. Each addition brings a suite of new weapon sets to try out which not only adds variety but adds some incentive for replay value. Most of the returning cast is unchanged outside of a few exceptions. As if the game weren’t enough of a homage to Konami’s history the few weapon changes made are shot outs to obscure Konami arcade games like Xexex and Thunder Cross.
The increased number of characters has not changed the gameplay beyond providing more options. This is still the mutant love child of Gradius and Twin Bee except even wackier than the first game. Each new level is on a mission to one up the previous in terms of ridiculousness and to an extent they do. The first level is set inside a crane machine inside an amusement park. That’s some Inception level shit right there. Stage two is the Parodius take on R-Type’s Gigantic Warship. Except this one features a cat faced pirate ship. Later levels are homages to Gradius like High Speed City and the Moai Battleship. While it sounds derivative their design and challenges help them feel fresh. Besides, can you really fault Konami for paying respect to their history?
As strange as the levels may be it is nothing compared to the bosses. The moment I saw a dancing panda ballerina, complete with tutu I knew the game was special. It only gets weirder from there too. If you thought the naked woman covered in a robe was out there I’ll just say this game outdoes that. One of my favorite bosses is Capsule Monster Cappuccino. This deceptive boss spits out an endless array of power-ups. But watch out! Buried in there are spiked power-ups that kill on touch. I won’t spoil the final boss but it is even more of a head scratcher than the first game.
While Parodius could be difficult I feel Konami has done a better job of balancing the game here. By and large the difficulty comes down to the character chosen. Hikaru and Akane possess powerful weapons, especially the boomerang shot which rebounds off enemies continually. Their options are weak and their shield isn’t as useful to make up for it. Koitsu is probably my overall favorite. Its five-way shot covers nearly the entire screen which is insane. If you need focused fire its energy laser destroys most enemies in a single shot. Regardless of who you pick random deaths due to stray bullets or slowdown are less common. I know the genre is known for its punishing difficulty but I prefer games that are accessible over cruel.
Like many late generation games Gokujou Parodius looks fantastic. Although it ran on Konami’s own arcade board in the arcade they have managed to replicate the art almost perfectly. This is a much livelier game than its predecessor, with far more enemies and activity in its backgrounds. The game is very light on the special effects, instead relying on its zany art. Instances of slowdown are inconsistent; some of the most heavily populated areas run at full speed while moments of relative calm chug. Overall performance is still better than in most SNES shooters.
The soundtrack this time around is an even number of remixes and songs borrowed from the public domain. There are a large number of themes borrowed from other Konami classics in a nod to the game’s roster. Classical music in a shooter might seem strange but considering the wacky tone actually fits. It still is weird to hear a chip tune version of London Bridge is falling down when fighting Japanese rabbits.
What a fantastic game. Although Gokujou Parodius is shorter than its predecessor I still feel it is the better game. Konami did an excellent job bringing the arcade experience home, creating one of the better SNES shooters overall. I would have loved to see this in the US but it’s a shooter, it doesn’t matter. Gokujou Parodius is an excellent addition to the system’s library.