Thursday, September 9, 2010

Parodius (PSP)

Checkpoints ON
3 Difficulty levels
6 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Konami
Published by Konami in 2007

Even though this game is no easy achievement, I feel sad about it. I feel sad because I was frightened by the perspective of burning out on the original MSX game, which I played extensively on the PS1 until I finally “beat it”, but alas!!! Only afterwards I came to know that I had done it in the EASY setting (the game is all in Japanese), so to have a genuine victory I would have to do it all over again on HARD. I was shocked. I knew I would eventually come to hate the game, something I absolutely didn’t want to happen. So for the second time in months I gave it a break, while suddenly remembering the PSP had an enhanced port for it. And that’s where we come to my beating of Parodius - Tako wa Chikyū o Sukū, the first game in the Parodius series. This one was released before Parodius Da!, which is sometimes mistaken as the first, and was born on the MSX, not in the arcades.

I mentioned I was sad because I know it sounds as if I had run away like chicken to the easier, redrawn version that’s present in the Parodius Portable compilation. I am being true to myself here, folks. The smooth-as-silk scrolling of the PSP version is like pure heaven when you come straight out of the MSX original – a fiendish nightmare of a game that will haunt me for months – and those who have tried both will certainly corroborate this. Konami could’ve ported it like it was, but whiners and incompetents like myself are surely grateful they remade the game according to acceptable as-of-late standards, heavily rebalancing everything during the process.

Start screen in original resolution for Parodius - Tako wa Chikyū o Sukū

Coming after Salamander, Parodius was the second spin-off to emerge from Gradius. As its name implies, the game consists of a parody on everything Gradius-related, but other games such as Twin Bee and lesser known Konami titles are also mocked at. It plays just like a Gradius game, with a similar weapon array and power-up system. Regular power-up capsules must be collected to light up the weapon array, which is comprised of the following functions: speed-up → missile → double → laser → option → oh god! → shield (western players must memorize this order, since even the power-up names in the game are shown in Japanese). Oh God! is the brand new power-up created for the game, and its (bad) function is to wipe out all power-ups collected so far. It's possible to have up to two options, while missile and laser can be powered up twice. And beware of the several crazy item capsules spread throughout the game that trigger the feared "russian roulette": the weapon array starts cycling very fast, and it takes perfect timing to activate the desired power-up. While the russian roulette is active, any new capsules collected are disregarded.

The second type of power-up icon is the bell, which always "falls" to the left of the screen and must be shot so that it keeps bouncing back. For every couple of shots the bell changes its color, and each different color provides a special power to the character. There are eight colors to choose from, color changes occur in a preset order and the most important colors appear first: yellow for points and for wiping out all on-screen enemies and white for activating horizontal screen warping for 30 seconds. Contrary to what happens in future Parodius titles, where you can play without ever worrying about bells, in this game you must rely on a specific bell color in order to get past at least one part of the game. You see a blocking wall in front of you? No worries, just collect a white bell and warp from left to right.

Selecting one of the five available characters is just a matter of taste, since there's not much difference in how they play. The only changes are the sprites for shot, power-up capsules, options and shield, which vary according to the chosen character. There's the mandatory Vic Viper (from Gradius), Penguin (from Antarctic Adventure, supposedly Pentaro's father), Popolon (from Kightmare), Goemon (from Legend of the Mystical Ninja) and Takosuke, the octopus and main character of the game.

It's just unfair to lose a rock-paper-scissors match when your opponent knows your move in advance...
(courtesy of YouTube user KollisionBR)

Having played both versions one after the other, here are the most notable differences I noticed in the upgraded PSP version when compared to the MSX original:
  • improved graphics;
  • choppy scrolling corrected (thank you, Konami!);
  • enemy count and positioning slightly rebalanced;
  • laser got weaker, to the point of not being advantageous at all over the regular or the double shot;
  • russian roulette speed is slower;
  • arranged soundtrack available (though I prefer the original);
  • three difficulty settings instead of only EASY and HARD;
  • more checkpoints within a stage;
  • miscellaneous:
    • the moles in stage 3 don’t block the whole way in the tight corridors;
    • bosses take more hits to die but are overall easier;
    • rock shower in stage 3 is faster and harder to dodge;
    • second part of the graveyard stage is harder, but it’s perfectly possible to get through the last tombstones without the white bell for warping;
    • the brain midboss in the last stage also shoots regular bullets with its normal, ahm... brain thingies.
Everything else in the game remains the same, including hidden areas and extends for every 100.000 points (for a deeper overview on the original check this great page). The graphical overhaul definitely helps bring the game closer to its usual cute’em up labeling. However, the atmosphere is just as oppressive due to the high difficulty (it’s still a hard game, mind you), in a strong contrast with the goofy enemies and bosses, which are heavily influenced by Japanese folklore. There are several wacky highlights here, such as the space pink tapir that tries to stop you in the last stage or the rock-paper-scissors boss (win and boss self-destructs, draw and fight him or lose and play the whole stage all over again). And let's not forget about the penguins, they're everywhere!

After a lot of effort I was able to loop Parodius until stage 3-2 on NORMAL, playing with Takosuke. The 2nd loop doesn’t add much to the challenge, but in the 3rd loop the game unfolds just like in the HARD setting.

And I'm not finished with the MSX version yet. One day I'll nail it. I will.


  1. Wowww, you make your own videos. Good!

    From the like Parodius Games, my favorite is Twin Bee. In fact is one of my favorite Arcade Titles!!!!

  2. Ah Parodius such fun games they are to play.

  3. Great video and great review!!! :D
    Thanks for the review Edw! Nice work like always!!!!!

  4. I really have to get my ass in gear and get my recording system hooked up. God i'm lazy!!

  5. I wish I could've done a better video but it's not possible with my current setup. Besides, getting signal from the PSP is quite tricky!

  6. I was playing the MSX version on Saturn... man this game is hard. i've just reached the second stage a couple of times. Then i've decided to play this version. It's still hard, but not like the MSX version. I've played just to reach the end(until defeat the last boss), and i could make it after a thousands continues.
    I've enjoyed a lot playing this version of Parodius, it's a wonderful game.
    Congratulations for the 1CC Ed!!!

    ps: sorry for the crap english

    1. Indeed the PSP Parodius is a lot more enjoyable than the MSX original, mainly due to the atrocious scrolling.

      And your English is fine.

  7. Ever plan on getting an MSX to cover it's shooters? Or do you at least own Konami Antiques MSX Collection Volume 1-3 or Ultra Pack for alternative access to at least 10 MSX Konami shooters?

    - Sinful

    1. Now that you mention it, Sinful, no I had no plans whatsoever to tackle MSX shooters. Hehehehehe
      Parodius almost traumatized me!

      In any case, I do own all those Saturn/PSX Konami MSX compilations. Except for Parodius, is there any game you'd recommend me to try?

    2. Well you have the improved version of Nemesis 2 with PSP Salamander Collection (I have all 4 Konami PSP shooter collections myself too), so play that if ever. Otherwise just Nemesis 3 (which is easier then 2), maybe Nemesis 1 (since you already know Gradius 1 and it might be a curiosity), Salamander (though I think this one is hard) and maybe Nightmare. Nightmare has this epic stage 1 music track, and that's what makes me think of giving it more of a serious go on of these days.

      And I don't want to force you into playing anything you don't like. Just something to maybe keep in mind. Totally up to you.

    3. I have already tried that Gradius II alternate version on PSP Salamander, it's nice. I should take it with me in my next flight/vacation.

      If I have the chance I'll check out Nightmare.

  8. Edward, I would highly recommend that you don't count out the MSX quite yet. The MSX2 variant of computers house some very nice shewties from Konami, Compile and beyond with nice, smooth scrolling and great use of it's extended color palette. Look into Space Manbow and Aleste 2 for starters. :-)

    1. Many close friends are also great fans of the MSX, Matt, and they keep trying to convince me of its wonders.

      I don't actually count it out, it's just that the system isn't on my radar... When the time comes I might try to emulate at least!