From 1988 to 1996, Konami did something never before seen in video games: They released five games that were nothing but parodies of their older arcade and console titles. None of these games would make it to America, but some of them did reach the shores of Europe. This is most unfortunate for America, because this might be the most entertaining and unique series of shooters ever created. Gamers were hopeful the Gradius collection might include some of the titles, but when it didn't hope for seeing the series again (which hasn't shown itself for nine years) was all but lost. Then, along came Parodius Portable, All the games in one cheap UMD package. Hell yeah!
How exactly does one parody a bunch of old shooters with minimal story? Through the use of absolutely absurd comical redesigning of levels for Gradius and one level that actually appears to be homage to the Irem classic, R-Type. We see caves reimagined as high school gymnasiums and space ships as bakeries, things you'd never think of and would lead you to suspect the developers of being under influence in the best possible way. In fact, I'm not sure if some of the environments could even be remotely related to anything real. All you need to know is that they are colorful, cartoony and far more organic then their Gradius counterparts.
While the re-imagined environments are goofy and completely awesome, the games really hit their stride with the new enemies. These enemies are located in the same places as their Gradius companions and generally following the same patterns in an obvious fashion (two lines of enemies twirling around each other? Gradius fans know that means kill them all for a power up). The games throw out the mechanical theme; all the enemies are at least partly animals. You are now faced with the most insane army of all time. Examples of the new foes include copious use of penguins, sea creatures and various cute birds just to scratch the surface. The Moai can not be kept from appearing in all sorts of absurd manners: As card board cut outs that are actually little people, in school girl out fits, in drag, as the front of space ships. I always found them odd and out of place in Gradius, but here, they seem like a perfect fit.
I haven't even touched the re-imagined boss fights. They might be the craziest thing here. The fact that the Spider boss from Gradius 2 has been replaced with a Vegas Showgirl in the first Gradius seems completely reasonable once you get later in the collection and find that "Sexy Parodius" is appropriately named, that title and Gokujou Parodius feature massive (as in tall) women in various stages of undress (included naked) as the bosses. Sexy Parodius also has various other toilet humor bosses, such as a toilet on a penguin and a tanuki with a very prominent scrotum. Do NOT shoot its scrotum, it goes appropriately crazy. Some of the bosses aren't dirty jokes though, like Gradius 3's level three boss re-imagined as some sort of pastry laser shooting robot.
Oh, there is more, yes, there is much more. Your ever present Vic Viper has a multitude of co-stars this time around. Friends joining you from forgotten Konami titles include: Pentarou & Hanako from Antarctic Adventure, Lord British from Life Force/Salamander, Upa and Rupa from Biomiracle! Boku tte Upa and our friend Twin Bee. Several characters are created for the series: Memim & Sue who are fruit shooting fairies (doesn't get more masculine then that), Hikaru & Akane, girls in Playboy bunny outfits that ride long bullets, two fish that are ridiculously powerful, Mike & Ran, who are flying cats that shoot yarn, Koitsu, Aitsu, Soitsu & Doitsu who are little stick dudes that multiply themselves to make bombs, and their shield? An inflated condom. My personal favorite is that you are allowed to play as the options from the main Gradius series, they have one awesome twist: Instead of getting powered up by more options, you get little tiny Vic Vipers that follow you around. There are several other colorful characters for you to discover.
Before you let my review convince you that the Parodius titles are primarily a visual experience, let me tell you that while yes, you will be focusing on the sights; there is a very deep shooter in there. In fact its better then most of the Konami shooters I've played, and though it uses mostly a Gradius game play system, bits and pieces of Twin Bee show up in the form of the bell system to a create an experience just different enough to seem like a unique game play experience. Sexy Parodius trying to create variation by adding side missions to each level, while a good idea on paper, it isn't well implemented. The side missions boil down to nothing more then killing so many of a select enemy or collecting coins. Not terribly inventive, but it does give the game some legs. They are optional anyway, so if you can't be bothered, you don't have to.
These days, a collection expected to come loaded with extras. Stuff like concept art and developer interviews are expected these days. The game does however offer a media player section that lets you listen to all the tracks in the game. The music is good, sure, but if you really want to listen to them while doing something else, fooling around with booting up a game isn't exactly convenient. Being able to save the tracks on your memory stick would have been cool. Other than that there are no bonuses, I really would have like to see some concept art and interviewers, an interesting series like Parodius surely has some interesting tales behind it the developers could have shared with us. There is a secret game however, the MSX version of Parodius is there for you to unlock, complete with Goemon as a playable character.
In general import shooters are vastly over priced, frequently running in the $60 - $100 range for the latest from Cave or G.Rev. Not here people, you can have all six of these games on your PSP, regardless of region, for $34 - $40 dollars depending on if you get the Japan release or the mainland Asia release. Worried about accessibility? No problem, the menus (at least in the Asia version) are all in English. Worried you can't beat a shooter in the short sessions you put in while traveling? The game lets you save in mid level and exit the game. The only knock against the actual games I could find was some occasional slowdown when the last couple titles get really intense. In short, this is one of the greatest collections ever, and I mean no hyperbole. It's that awesome.
Although the six games included in this package may be old, Parodius Portable is easily one of the greatest collections currently available on the PSP. All of the games in this compilation are worth playing, and since none of them showed up in the U.S. it's not hard to believe that this is a collection of games most people have never seen before. Regardless of whether you're a fan of shooters or not, Parodius Portable is a solid game that's worth checking out!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!