Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Parodius Series (Konami)

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There’s been a lot of build-up for the Parodius series, especially because I mentioned it was my favorite series and not one iteration (except maybe technically Otomedius, but I consider it a different series) came out in the United States.  Unfortunately there really isn’t much to say because the game completely parodies the Gradius series and thus it follows the exact same formula.  There is also the fact that I cover the series quite well in the Cute ‘Em Up article on this very web site.  Furthermore, since it has been such a scattered series there are only a handful of titles but they span almost every console in both Europe and Japan.  Why the series never released in the United States is really anyone’s guess.  Some say it’s because so many of the bosses are either mildly sexual or blatantly mock American culture.  Others say that the regionalization team for Konami wasn’t that great and didn’t want to worry about what to trim and what not to trim to get through our audience.  Whatever the reason, and mind you the Japanese don’t have the best track record with US localization, we haven’t ever received a single one.

Parodius

As most would guess, the first title in the series is called Parodius, but it began life on the MSX microcomputer system only in Japan.  At this point it was more cartoon-like and lacked any of the risqué sexual innuendo that the series has always been known for.  Mind you, this sexual undertone is rather innocent and in other countries doesn’t even make a gamer blush.  In the innocent United States, our parents would have probably gone nuts.  Regardless of the content or the controversy, one thing remains constant: Parodius titles are fun and challenging versions of Gradius.  Contrary to popular belief, this game was released solely on the MSX with no ports save for the various collections that had it as an option on Playstation, Saturn and PSP.

Also Known As

What most people, especially Europeans and console playing Japanese probably relate to the original Parodius is actually Parodius Da! – Shinwa kara Owarai e (or to you English speakers that’s It’s Parodius! From Myth to Laughter).  This game premiered in arcades in 1990, two short years after the original, and it was extremely popular.  It was basically a re-release of Parodius with upgraded graphics, level design and a stronger distinction from the Gradius series.  This was also the first title to incorporate mildly sexual themes.  I probably own more titles of Parodius Da!  than any other game in my collection (besides Resident Evil of course) because I wasn’t aware that it had been ported with various titles.  This game was released on the Famicom, Gameboy, PC-Engine, Super Famicom/SNES (Europe only) and Sharp X6800.  I have it on the arcade (MAME), Famicom, Super Famicom and PC-Engine – shockingly all versions are pretty similar with mild graphical improvements based on hardware.  The arcade version was later ported to Playstation and Saturn.

Fantastic Journey

Known more popularly as the title Fantastic Journey, the actual title in Japan of the third Parodius game is Gokujō Parodius! Kako no Eikō o Motomete (Fantastic Parodius! Pursue the Glory of the Past).  This game integrated more aspects of the Twinbee series (meaning tons of bell power-ups), more characters and co-op options.  I am also pretty sure this has the level with a  fully exposed booty of an anime chick, very cheeky.  This title also released in Europe, which is how it became so widely associated with Fantastic Journey in English.  It came out first in arcades and was later ported to the Super NES/Super Famicom followed by later ports on Playstation and Saturn.

Sexy Rockstar

Unlike a lot of other shmups, the fifth iteration of the series, Sexy Parodius actually makes some significant changes to the series.  It was released in Japanese arcades in 1996 and despite the title and a clear focus on female bosses and enemies, the game isn’t all that “sexy”.  No, it’s not a transition to anything out of the ordinary or that will get a gamer in trouble with his respective parent/partner, it’s just a clever naming convention.  The big change is that there are now requirements to complete a level – not only do you have to survive (no easy task by itself), but you also have to do something like destroy a certain enemy or collect a special item.  If you do not meet the level requirement, you will not enter the special stage at the end of the level and thus not complete the level.  Like so many other shmups, this begins as an easy task and near the conclusion creates a new dimension that makes this probably the most difficult for me among the series.  This title also remained solely in Japan and received few ports, making it the best but also one of the most rare in the series.

Ports

I really loved all the ports of these titles because they do arcade porting right – each game saves the levels you have beaten (and especially the ones where you have met the requirements), lets you pick which level to start on and gives you unlimited credits.  I know many hardcore fans disagree with this, but if you want to limit your continues or start from the beginning every time then the player can limit themselves.  Personally, if I’m dropping $40-$60 for an arcade port, I want full control over the options.  This title was only released in Japan for Playstation and Saturn, neither of which were re-released in any digital form in or out of Japan.  There was also the Parodius Portable released for PSP in Japan that contains a collection of all the games and is my most cherished title.  For these reasons, however, all versions of this game (especially Parodius Portable) have skyrocketed on the used import market.

That does it for Parodius, a series I recommend all gamers try, even if you aren’t much of a shmup fan.  While Sexy Parodius is great but hard to find, the early titles are very easy to run in emulation.  Enjoy the game that basically defined the cute ’em up.  Tomorrow we go much more hardcore with a little Japanese title called Radiant Silvergun.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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