Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Parodius Da! (SNES)

Checkpoints ON
7 Difficulty levels
11 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Konami
Published by Konami in 1992

Of all ports produced by Konami for Parodius Da!, the second chapter of the now classic Parodius spin-off series of Gradius, the one made for the Super Nintendo strikes me as the most interesting of them all. The game was already long by regular standards, but Konami went the extra mile and added another full-fledged level before the final fortress, turning the game into a loopable 11-stage behemoth of Gradius-infused fun. It’s yet another proof that Konami loved the SNES hardware as far as shmups go, so if you’ve got the console and haven’t tried this particular version of Parodius Da! yet you’re missing out on a great game, which didn’t get a release in Western shores but can be properly savored with the Japanese and European editions (in Europe it appeared under the title Parodius - Non-Sense Fantasy).

Parody wasn’t really a strong trait of Parodius on the MSX, the first game. In Parodius Da!, however, three Gradius games (and Salamander) are taken as direct inspiration for stages and enemies, as hinted in the several screens of the introduction sequence. From Gradius we get the volcano stage and the last stage/boss. Gradius II is there in the form of the galactic dancer and the bald eagle with the USA hat of the second stage. Bubbles (some of them with nymphs inside) are the main contribution of Gradius III. Even the first game is parodied since the penguin boss reappears in the first stage. R-Type receives a homage on the spaceship level, the only one where moai statues appear – watch out for the female moai boss and the dirty prank related to her projectiles.

The experience of approaching the game is made different according to the character chosen. It’s possible to play it as pure Gradius, since Vic Viper possesses all capabilities from the first Gradius game. The same old rules apply: collect capsules to highlight a weapon array. If you decide to play the game on "manual power-up" you'll need to activate the weapon array slots with a dedicated button to get the desired upgrade, be it speed, missile, double shot, laser, option or shield. Choosing "auto power-up" will make the game activate the upgrades for the ship automatically (good for beginners or children, but not useful at all if you want to have full control of the ship). Since this is a Parodius game players must be aware of the new slot in the weapon array, the !? bogus switch. Activating this will take away all power from the ship and send it back to its default condition. !? is located between option and shield and normally offers no danger, unless you take one of the roulette capsules that makes the weapon array go crazy. If this happens the player should take the opportunity to exercise his/her ability to press the power-up button carefully.


All weapons are a bit different for the remaining characters of the game. Takosuke the Octopus uses a configuration inspired by the Salamander games, where tail gun replaces double shot and ripple laser replaces regular laser. Twinbee also has a tail gun but replaces laser with a 3-way shot. Pentaro the Penguin uses the combination of regular double shot and daggers with a cluster exploding effect. All characters have slight variations for missiles, with dedicated pre-stage musical themes and specific sprites for shield and power-up capsules.

Coming back to Parodius Da! on the SNES was relaxing, as it is with most of the games we’re familiarized with. It’s a little easier than the original Arcade original but just as fun. It could be just a vague impression from my sound setup, but I like how the bass seems more pronounced on the music for the SNES. Memory served me well on the strategies but I had forgotten how long the game actually is, so allow me to do a quick breakdown on all stages with some notes:

  1. Beach level: an easy introduction to the gameplay, but be careful of the roulette capsule in the middle of the stage (or take it to get another option faster).
  2. Circus level: clowns and incoming enemies can easily overwhelm, so hit them fast and hard. The dancer at the end of the stage is a lot easier than the original mechanical spider of Gradius II, just watch out for the lower penguins.
  3. Pyramid level: the final part of the maze is tricky, it’s better to ignore the capsules so you don’t get crushed by the walls.
  4. Volcano level: a big tree that runs back and forth might get you by surprise, as well as the towels from the sumo guys.
  5. Spaceship level: an easy ride up until the boss. The green moai coming out of her mouth are dangerous but can be destroyed.
  6. Pinball level: one of the toughest stages in the game. Stay centered, use double shot and try to take out stationary enemies as fast as you can. There are loads of roulette capsules and it’s really hard to come out of the stage without one.
  7. Bubble level: whenever I reach this stage on one life I activate the !? power down switch at once to reset rank. Things get really nasty if I go on with a fully powered ship.
  8. Ice cave level: another speed-up is definitely needed underwater, and being aggressive against all those fish is the best way to survive.
  9. Graveyard level: watch out for the bones coming out of destroyed skeletons. I like to get through the umbrella section by staying in the center of the screen.
  10. Bathhouse level: here’s the extra stage, with penguins and bathing pigs all over the place. The beer boss (or a glorified soap?) tosses bubbles in two different patterns but is quite easy to be dispatched.
  11. Fortress level: a carbon-copy of the last stage from Gradius, complete with the penguin-cage and a joke of a last boss (instead of the evil brain we get an octopus, of course).
More than the actual gameplay being a bit toned down, what makes this port of Parodius Da! easier than its Arcade counterpart is the extend scheme: one extra life at 20.000 points and another one for every 100.000 points afterwards.

Omake stage in Parodius Da! for the Super Famicom
(courtesy of YouTube user CHuCHoX246)

Scoring in Parodius Da! has everything to do with yellow bells. Bells? Yes, bells just like in Konami's own Twin Bee. Enemies that are supposed to release power-up capsules will regularly drop bells instead, which change color as the player shoots them. Each consecutive yellow bell collected will increase its value from 500 to 10.000 points in five steps. If you let one bell pass by the next one will be back to 500 points. Keeping a constant stream of maxed out yellow bells is a nice rush and adds an extra dimension to the game. Other colors for bells yield special powers to the ship, such as a smart bomb (blue), three stationary energy bars (brown), enlarging invincibility (green) and a horn that displays Japanese kanji (white). Blue and brown are kept for the player to trigger them with a specific button, but remember that while any of these bells is active the shield cannot be used.

Another treat Konami included in the SNES port is an Omake (special) stage with a lollipop setting. This mode is a single level with way more items to collect and no checkpoints.

I always thought that mocking sound that plays every time you die can be annoying if you're struggling to get past a tougher section. On the other hand the GAME OVER music is outstanding, uplifting enough to make me forget about the mockery - penguins, cats and all - and consider this game a solid and easygoing entry into the Gradius way to shmup. My new high score was achieved with Vic Viper on defaults (difficulty 4), a humble improvement of 15% over my previous best. I died my last life in stage 2-2.

The parody continues on the SNES in Gokujyou Parodius.


  1. Hey cool, I'm also replaying this game right now, only finished the first loop on PAL speed a few years ago.

    The difficulty is just right, especially compared to the Arcade versions of Parodius, but I'm still terrible at recovering from deaths. :(

    Let's see if I can beat your score, back then I didn't quite get 1 million. Still love and hate the bells at once though.

    1. Good to hear from you, mate!
      Go for it, I think this latest score of mine isn't that hard to beat. :)