Monday, April 26, 2010

Parodius Da


There was a time when the way to resolve an alien-initiated conflict was always evident. Needed to exterminate a ring-spitting flock of Moai heads? Perhaps your planet was under attack by a large ship with a soft mid-section. Well then, you would call in the Vic Viper, of course. It was a reliable formula that became cliché with the continued success of Konami’s Gradius games, so leave it to the old pros themselves to construct one of the wackiest worlds a spacecraft has ever been hurled into--a world designed to mock and exaggerate all those concepts that made the company many a friend amongst shooter fans and many a penny in the gaming market. Welcome to the world of Parodius--a world where even the venerable Vic receives a little bit of help.

Meet the penguin Pentarou, a waddling warrior who wields a devastating spread gun (the projectiles don’t spread out--the explosions caused upon impact rise and engulf nearby enemies). TwinBee enters the fray and flings forth his little fists, which are packed cozily within tremendous boxing gloves. Should our allies find themselves outnumbered, their only hope will be to call in Octopus, who commands a legion of miniature multi-armed huntsmen.

Choose any of our four friends and set off on a journey that replaces standard metal-ship mini-bosses with the likes of an enormous flying boat that boasts a meowing countenance at its bow. Countless cool touches are applied: funny little bird guys run atop gears to set contraptions into motion, and sudden graveyard downpours occur.

Gradius staples are dressed up in new attire. Moai heads become angry clown marauders who maintain the phlegm-spewing traditions of yore. Huge steel spider things are now enormous, indestructible showgirls. Boss ships arrive with VIVA CORE messages adorning their hulls. And the final showdown is, well, a joke, of course, but one that actually makes sense within its context.

Don’t let the oddball antics fool you, however; this is no tailored-for-toddlers blaster. While the cute imagery will undoubtedly endear the game to players of all skill levels, Parodius does enforce the same sorts of memorization requirements that must be adhered to in its serious-minded ancestors. Taking things a step further, the chip has an unnatural knack for flooding the screen with missiles, enemies, and obstacles, which makes for particularly tricky navigation when one arrives at stretches where the playfield loops vertically or suddenly becomes cramped.

To cope with the chaos, players are granted the traditional Gradius “we give you the icons--you decide what to do with them” method of powering up. It’s a reliable system, augmented here by fancy bell icons that provide your hero with extraordinarily useful abilities. An “instant giant” formula, for instance, allows your newly grown behemoth to smash its way through the enemy armada.

Gorgeous backgrounds accompanied by bevies of unique enemies and HUGE bosses make Parodius one of the most graphically impressive HuCard games. The aural section holds up its end of the bargain with quality frantic tracks that occasionally give way to nostalgia-evoking tunes from Gradius episodes gone by.

Parodius stands on its own in a rough-and-tumble genre with fantastically intense action and contains mass-market appeal thanks to endearing superficials. Still, with success already in tow, Konami put in the effort to make the game ascend to yet another level via minor augmentations. From tiny penguins wiping their brows with handkerchiefs after maneuvering a particularly hefty piece of equipment to a gigantic goddess unleashing streams of tears when her army of pig toddlers has been torn to shreds, extra details abound that evoke smiles and force one to give the journey another go to see what else can be discovered in the many nooks and crannies.

Easily one of the greatest chip titles ever released.

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