Gokujou Parodius is a horizontal 2D Shoot Em Up where you take control of one of the various playable characters and fly off to fight penguins. Well penguins and various other strange enemies like giant mermaids and kitten submarines to name a few. It is never made clear why or what you are fighting, though it does have an undeniable charm in its absurdity. This is a very strange game and you will be thinking “wtf is going on” throughout it all. Contrary to its cute graphics this game is quite difficult and the environments will be as dangerous to you as fighting enemies will be, maybe even more so. Starting off the game and going into the options menu you will be able to choose how many credits you want to have and the game’s difficulty level that ranges from 1-7. You will also be able to toggle “revival” on or off which allows you to respawn right after you die instead of being sent back to a check point. After that you will be able to pick any of the 11 playable characters that range from a flying baby, Dracula and the Viper Vic from the Gradius series.
When you actually get into the game you realize how similar it is to Gradius, right down to the power up meter at the bottom of the screen, charged by collecting red orbs from enemies. Soon thereafter you will be shooting down cranes holding stuffed dolls, dancing penguins and fight a boss that is a panda in a tutu. Somehow it manages to get much weirder the further in you go and you can’t help but want to keep playing to be able to see what other crazy stuff is in this game. Even stranger still is that this ends up working very well as you have a game that escapes the space setting of most shmups, has the unique features of Konami’s Gradius series and is just so full of energy and charm. The different characters have slightly different moves like one will shoot missiles straight forward while another drops them down below when you pick the “missile” upgrade. Some have different names like F-Shield or Aura but they work the same, they just have different looks to them like the penguin characters shield is a bubble while the other has a bunny shield. They function exactly the same but it gives the characters their own unique feel and each even have their own death animations.
The “option” power will grant you a small ally vessel that will fire when you fire, effectively doubling your firepower. Be warned though, if you die all your power ups will be gone and it’s very difficult to gather up more as you will be slow as sin. I’ve never been a fan of this feature, it’s understandable that they take away all your weapons that you powered up and leave you with your stock peashooter but making you so slow that you may not always be able to dodge bullets you see coming is annoying. It usually ends up in a vicious cycle of deaths, due to not being equipped for the situation at hand. Collecting a single red orb from a destroyed enemy will allow you to upgrade your speed however, so it is nothing game-breaking, just a feature I really dislike. Other than the speed thing it is a very fun upgrade system that makes you freak out when you nearly get killed and it is a ton of fun being rewarded for being good at the game in a rich get richer sort of scheme. One shot is all it takes for you to die so it is easy to get a bit too confident and end up making a costly mistake. That is unless you have the shield power up that soaks up three bullets before disappearing. Not all power ups are good however, the “Oh!” power-up will get rid of all your power ups and reset you back to your original slow as sin speed.
Environments are all filled with plenty of color and cool quirky things happening in the background. They have no real consistency between each level and even if you played the last level first and went backwards through the levels you wouldn’t know. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just due to the insane nature of this game and all the weird stuff it throws at you out of nowhere. Music on the other hand is mostly a strange mixture of famous compositions. Well known songs like Yankee Doodle and The William Tell Overture play throughout levels adding more of a sense of “wtf” to the game. There are a few original tracks but none are really memorable. This game never came out to the West so it is in Japanese, though there are very few instances where there is a language barrier. One of those instances happen after you select a character and are given the choice between “auto” and “manual”. What auto does is it automatically picks the power-ups for you and so you can focus on only shooting. It is more of a liability to you and is bound to pick awful choices for the situation at hand. I suggest picking manual to be able to pick whatever power-up you want. The other thing affected if you don’t know Japanese is the ending. It’s all in Japanese so you will understand none of it. Not that it really matters as I doubt it has a riveting narrative to tell all of a sudden.
Throughout the game you will encounter bells that will grant you 500 points if you pick up. If you shoot them however they will change colors and give you useful items when picked up. The silver bell gives you a megaphone that dishes out tons of damage when you shoot, blue bell gives you a screen clearing bomb and the green bell turns your character into an invulnerable giant but will destroy your shield if it is active. Bells are a cool feature that have no indications that you are you are supposed to shoot them and I discovered by accident. Starting off you shoot three projectiles with a single button press so it is pretty difficult and time consuming to shoot the bells until they change color while enemies are trying to kill you the whole time. If you have revival turned on in the options menu you will drop multiple bells upon death, allowing you a chance to catch them when you respawn. It does make the game much easier but there is still plenty of challenge and is a nice feature that allows you to learn the game. The game should last you about 40 minutes but with tons of playable characters and multiple difficulty modes it is very tempting to replay and improve.
Bosses in this game start off easy enough but they gradually increase the challenge they pose. All bosses are large screen filling giants and while the first few make ‘sense’, a lot of the later bosses I have no idea what they are. They are all great fun to fight even if it looks like you are fighting a giant flying tool cabinet. All have their own patterns and attacks. While one attacks you with giant neon bunnies another one throws what I think is toothpaste at you and charges across the screen. Every boss feels unique and are memorable. If you don’t have enough firepower you may not be able to destroy the bosses as they will get bored with you if you take too long and wander off letting you go on your merry way. After getting past a boss there is no load screen or anything of that nature, instead the background will turn black and stars will appear. That grants the illusion that you are traveling to the next level and there are enemies to fight here too. It is a really neat way to keep you in the game while allowing the next level to load up and it is so seamless that the space sections nearly appear to be part of the level. The insanity, the lack of load screens and the solid gameplay really make this game feel great. Outside of your speed being far too slow until upgraded, there is very little wrong with this game. Gokujou Parodius had me grinning from start to finish as I learned to stop questioning the madness that is this game and is backed up with great gameplay. Highly recommended to fans of the genre and a must play if you love Gradius.