Jikkyo Oshaberi Parodius
Review by Mike Finkelstein
As I noted in my review for Gokujo Parodius, I'm not normally a shooter fan. While the space shooter genre has had a number of games I've sampled over the years, I'm pretty bad at the games, and if I'm going to be bad at a game I'd rather it be a Castlevania game. Thus I've largely let that genre pass me by. However, for the sake of this site I have been working my way through the related entries in the Parodius series.
After the third game made the jump from Arcades to the Super Famicom in 1994, Konami then quickly started work on a sequel for home consoles as well. Although the first game, Parodius: The Octopus Saves the Earth was a home-only release, the second and third entries, Parodius Da! and Gokujo Parodius, both saw release in Arcades first before making the move to home consoles. Arcades were big business the space shooters, with the genre being a perfect fit for the "play for three minutes and then die" game play that kept players shoving the quarters into machines.
Oddly, though, this fourth entry skipped the Arcades, instead immediately debuting on the Super Famicom in 1995 before, a year later, making the jump to Sega Saturn and PlayStation. That's a fast turn-around for a game, and the title, frankly, shows it as Jikkyo Oshaberi Parodius feels like little more than a remix of elements from the third title, shuffled around and put back together, without anything really new added to the mix. It's basically an expansion pack for the original game, released a year later to sate fans while the next "real" game in the series was developed.
Like its predecessor, there isn't really any story to Jikkyo Oshaberi Parodius. Instead it's just a random collection of levels -- from a disco to school, a candy level and a strange city boss-rush -- where you characters shoot their way through waves of enemies until the gave eventually just ends. There isn't anything really specific you're trying to do beyond "shoot things that are shooting you back", and the odd-ball levels, while fun, fail to feel like there's any connective tissue between them.
That's probably the point, of course, as Konami really seems to have just wanted to have fun here and any kind of connective tissue would have gotten in the way of the game being as strange as it could. Sometimes this does lead to fun and weird moments of brilliance, such as the shooting stage where you're literally flaying your way through a shooting arcade as two light guns aim their reticules around the stage and try to shoot you. The back half of the school stage is also pretty amusing, with school girls floating past in bubbles before leading to a giant school girl (with a missile) that acts as a boss. In these moments the game finds is strange and fun side and really lets loose.
Other times, though, the game really just feels like its iterating on itself, reusing ideas from the third title just with a slightly different spin. The third game had a cat-submarine that meowed as it shot cannonballs at you, while this game has a cat-train that meows while it shoots cannonballs at you. The previous game had a giant dancing girl who crab-walked her way across the screen, while this game has a giant dancing girl who crab-walks her way across the screen upside down. Over all, as weird as the game is it doesn't feel nearly as fresh as before.
The game finds more variety in its characters, with a few new creations -- Sue and Memim (faerie girls) and Mike and Ran (neutered cats) -- joining previously appearing characters Vic Viper and Lord British, TwinBee and WinBee, Pentaro and Hanako, Upa and Rupa, and Dracula-kun and Kid Dracula. The new characters add variety but the returning characters haven't really changed. As an example, Kid Drac has the exact same weapon load-out and bell selection from the previous game. He's a solid character, make no mistake, but the fact that the game didn't change him up at all makes me less inclined to play him over some of the other, new characters included. There are cats! How can I not try them out?
Of course, whoever you choose you're going to want to ensure you're judicious in your upgrades because this game is absolutely brutal in its difficulty. I noted in my review of Gokujo Parodius how that game felt like a fair and balanced title that eased you into the difficulty curve. That's not the case here as the game starts out pretty rough and only increases its difficulty from there. And, of course, if you get blasted out of the sky you re-spawn with just your basic pea-shooter, leaving you ill-equipped to be able to handle the dangers of the levels, let alone the bosses.
Punishing is the exact term I'd use for the difficulty level of this game. It reminded me, honestly, of the Japanese sequel to Super Mario Bros., a game designed for players that had experienced everything the original NES platformer had to offer and started its difficulty from where it left off at the end of the first game. That feels like the difficulty curve here in Jikkyo Oshaberi Parodius: you get about 30 seconds to get your bearings and then you start getting pelted from all sides as if you're in one of the last couple of stages of Gokujo Parodius!. It is absolutely unforgiving.
And hey, maybe that's what shooter fans were looking for. Perhaps the third entry was too easy for them and Konami went back to the drawing board for this title and cranked out Gokujo Parodius 2: For Super Players!. That certainly explains the remixed elements and reused assets without major changes to the game play. For me, though, I liked the steady style of the previous title and enjoyed the quirkiness once. But a retread that punishes me just wasn't my cup of tea.
If this game had been included as a bonus mode on the third title, especially in a re-release on Saturn or PlayStation, I think this would have been interesting, at least for hardcore pros. But as a separate game, pushed out back-to-back a year later from the previous Super Famicom entry, Jikkyo Oshaberi Parodius is missing something. It's too similar in style and scope to the third title with its only real "innovation" being "let's make it harder". The game itself plays well, looks good, and sounds great, but it just doesn't so enough to justify itself. In the end it's more frustrating than fun without any big rewards to keep me playing. Thanks, but no thanks.