Friday 10 December 2010

Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius

Sounds... chatting

Say what's better than Gokujō Parodius?.. I'm not too sure. Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius, or "Chatting Parodius Live" is the fourth game in the series and gives it a go. This one has a running commentary... in Japanese. Perhaps you can see why I'm not as thrilled with this one.

Parodius Da! was intended for a worldwide audience. Gokujō Parodius was set to get a limited release in the west. Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius was never due to escape Japan, and sadly that means Konami went in and robbed it of its western-ness. It's a sensible decision to do this if you're only planning to target one market, but questions need to be raised as to why you'd limit your audience so much.

Jikkyō didn't bother with an arcade release. Instead focus was put onto the aging Super Famicom before being updated for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. I have the misfortune of working with Nintendo's version, and this misfortune must be stressed because the SFC really does struggle with the genre. It can do RPGs just fine, but introduce hundreds of bullets and it will stutter along at a snail's pace. This is obvious from the first level (possibly even before you get to the first level), so it's not a good start.

It is not my Sega-based history clouding my judgement on this one. Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius on the Super Famicom is a big step back from Gokujō Parodius in the arcades and no amount of second-rate characters can cover this up. The fifth-gen versions are significantly better but emulation is awkward, and even then it doesn't quite reach the expected standard. Something is missing. Something quite important.

Gameplay wise, things have never been better. But gameplay isn't everything and Nintendo fans adopting this policy are fundamentally wrong. Jikkyō adopts a Japanese man as a commentator, and part of the running joke is that he comments on everything, including the menus. Innovative? maybe. Annoying? most certainly.

He has only one use in the game - to talk over the 32-bit versions of the second level, assuming you input the code that changes its theme into a JPop song. But why on earth anyone would do that is a mystery. He could be talking more than he does and I suspect steps were taken to silence him after developers realised he hadn't got that much to say, but to me, he's an unneeded addition and puts me off the game from the get go.

Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius strikes me as being a bit of a lazy release. Of course, a lot of effort was put into the sound and graphics but on a design perspective, it's no longer top of its game. To put it simply, they'd simply run out of things in Gradius to parody, so rather than bring out a new Gradius game they started to dig up other franchises such as Twinbee, Lethal Enforcers and Mystical Ninja. New characters were added at the expense of good ones, and as I've mentioned, the selling point was this git with the microphone.

I should love it, but I don't. It's not a Parodius game, it's a Konami fan service. Making tributes to Konami is no bad thing, but the whole game is a tribute, having only a couple of levels in which the game is allowed to define itself as completely original. This isn't how you parody Gradius. Only the core gameplay resembles Gradius and we all know the engine was probably lifted off earlier releases in the series and it's paired with lag on the SFC.

It's just a competition to see how much of Konami's back catelog could be parodied and though this is all well and good, you could argue it's a giant advertisment for other games. It's clever to see the mechanical bosses of Gradius be given a cute makeover, but there's not much of that here.

They also got rid of Mambo the fish. Now granted, now every character in game has their own set of powerups and the likes of Winbee isn't restricted to the second player, but the cats are no substitute for the fish (even if Ran is amazing), and nobody really cares about Bio Miracle Upa.

The other downer is that we've gone a step backwards in the Super Famicom version, and players will no longer respawn when killed. There's a few layers of tedium generated by this game's design choices, and although they're all fairly trivial, I can't help but think it creates a far lesser product than it should be.

I feel Jikkyō suffers because it's really difficult to justify its existence. Gokujō Parodius ran on Konami GX arcade hardware, a big step up from its predecessor and the results were amazing. Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius isn't as big of a step up, so I suppose it's difficult to see what the game's trying to prove. It's almost the same game as Gokujō Parodius but in new clothes, and it doesn't really do anything better other than offering us more characters to play as. And even then, the Super Famicom version can't cope with these guys on screen, and many seem unusually weak.

The music is less classy too. Previous games resorted to classical music, or famous ballroom tunes from the 60s. This one brings things to a more modern age, and again I don't feel it contributes to the feel of the series.

Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius is nice enough and probably loved by some, but if I were to recommend the series to an outsider, this entry would be a fairly low priority. An even if I were to try and plug it to a new audience, it would be a constant uphill struggle trying to get your average joe to look past its commentator.

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