Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Star Parodier (PC Engine CD)

Vertical
Checkpoints ON/OFF
3 Difficulty levels
8 Stages
Ship speed selectable
- - - - - - -
Developed by Hudson Soft
Published by Inter State / Kaneko 
in 1992

When Konami decided to launch a parody game about one of its flagship franchises I bet very few people thought the idea would catch on, let alone have any real influence in the shmup scene in the years to come. In time Parodius proved to be a hit both in the arcade and the home console formats, and most nonsensical shooters released afterwards only came to be because of the success the series eventually achieved. Star Parodier is one of the earlier examples if this, serving as a wacky take on everything about the Star Soldier series and its native platform the PC Engine.

There's a lot to like about Star Parodier, especially if you're into fan favorite Super Star Soldier, which is by far the most referenced game of the series. Next and unexpectedly for a self-referencing title, it goes a little overboard in its inspirational source and incorporates a lot of Konami traits in the gameplay. The first three levels, for instance, seem to have been lifted directly from Twin Bee, down to the characteristic floating domes and islands as well as some of the bosses, whereas echoes of Gradius III appear in the bubble-heavy 7th level. There are also a few rather explicit nods to Namco's Dragon Spirit in the underwater passage of stage 3, the icy landscapes of stage 4 and the corridors full of arrows in stage 5.

Paro-ceaser goes all CASTLE OF ILLUSION in stage 2

All three available characters are so distinct from each other that a lot of Star Parodier feels different depending on which one you choose. They're all capable of shooting (button II) and bombing (button I), as well as selecting three speed settings at the press of the SELECT button. Character-specific aspects of the gameplay include three different weapon types and one particular auxiliary attack, as briefly listed below:

  • PC Engine (power-up item is a hucard) — weapons: red (inverted T pattern), blue (forward/backward CD spread), yellow (basic shot + side/rear homing missiles); auxiliary weapon P for rotating options (up to 4);

  • Bomberman (power-up item is a cute bomb face) — weapons: red (inverted Y pattern), blue (black bomb spread), yellow (basic shot + red staggering balloons); auxiliary weapon O for trailing options (up to 3);

  • Paro-ceaser (power-up item is a regular capsule) — weapons: red (classic 5-way star soldier pattern), blue (straight laser with bidirectional wave shots), yellow (exploding soft clouds); auxiliary weapon H for homing missiles.

The following items are the same for all characters: S (shield), B (extra bomb), 1UP (extra life), golden orb (1.000 points), ? (random power-up), kanji sign (avoid, this sends you back to the basic pea shooter default power) and heart (one respawn). Getting as many hearts as you can is essential for survival in the long run since each one grants an instant respawn upon death – a situation that only happens if you're down to the default power level (getting hit successively degrades your firepower until you're in such a condition). Exactly like in Super Star Soldier, whenever you have respawns in reserve the symbol for the number of lives changes its color. Finally, beware of the white hand that appears randomly and steal items before you can take them.

Even though this game might sound excessively derivative at times, there's no denying it's got lots of charm and provides great fun while it lasts. Some bosses might offer a few thrills, but nothing really out of the ordinary for a 16-bit cute'em up. There is a scoring system in place which grants 2.000 points for every surplus item you're able to collect, but unfortunately the gameplay can be exploited for score if you avoid hearts and abuse checkpoints. After all, extra lives can also be obtained by scoring and some levels offer lots of points, the main one being the bubble area in the 7th stage.


Tids and bits of Star Parodier
(courtesy of YouTube user narox)

My favorite character in the game is Bomberman, just because it's so much fun to play with him and find the best way to use his blue and yellow weapons. With the expection of Paro-ceaser and its 5-way Star Soldier patten, the red shot for the other guys sucks. Blue, on the other hand, pretty much decides your character choice due to the way it behaves: for the PC Engine a power level of 2 is often better than max power due to its great forward spread, while the giant wave shots are just too confusing when using Paro-ceaser. Bomberman has the best blue weapon due to the shockwaves that go far beyond the impact spots of those black bombs. It's a murderer when paired with 3 trailing options.

No complaints should be made about the duration of Star Parodier, its lengthy animated intro, the abundance of digitized voices, the nice zooming effects, the absolute lack of slowdown or that marvelous soundtrack, but one thing I missed from the game is a dedicated level/area with a motif specifically designed for the PC Engine character. Lots of places and bosses mimic things from Star Soldier, with stage 6 serving as a very nice homage to the Bomberman series, but the PC Engine emphasis seems to be solely in the cool pixel art that's shown in between stages.

Following the trend established in the Star Soldier games, besides the normal campaign the CD also offers a separate "battle stage" with 2 and 5-minute game modes for caravan fans, complete with two different soundtrack variations. General options allow players to choose from a normal or a vertical/cramped screen ratio, soft rapid ON or OFF (for an even faster firing rate that the default autofire) and the starting stage for the main course (1 to 4).

I have beaten the game with all characters, but decided to show the first 1CC high score I achieved playing with Paro-ceaser on my first credit, Normal difficulty (the default kanji in the options screen). In this run I almost bit the dust halfway into the game and also during all those phases of the last boss.


1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite PC Engine shoot-'em-ups. I'm glad that you have reviewed it. Keep 'em coming!

    ReplyDelete