Wednesday 15 December 2010

Sexy Parodius

Sounds sexy

Say, what's better than Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius? Lots of things, actually, but you can count on Sexy Parodius being one of them. The last in the series worth caring about, Sexy Parodius goes that extra mile to make sure it could never be sold in the west by cramming the game full of women in swimsuits to extract your revenge against feminism on. But don't be put off by its title - this isn't filled with intensive bedroom fun. In fact... there's no nudity at all.

Sexy Parodius continues the trend of being another Parodius game that's unfairly ignored by the western world. Returning the series to its arcade roots, the game once again failed to drift out of Japan. But it did see ports to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, so someone got to enjoy it. Thankfully there are no gimped Super Famicom ports to stain the reputation of the series, and even better, the majority of Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius seems to have been ignored, focusing solely on what made Gokojōu Parodius great and attempting to make it even better.

I don't know if it succeeds in bettering Gokojōu Parodius but it's a valiant attempt to say the least. Everything has been noticably upgraded this time around. The good characters are back, some amazing characters have been thrown in (seriously, you can play as an OPTION from Gradius) and once again it beats the Gradius series it set out to parody in terms of raw entertainment value.

But the reason I like it is that it recognised problems with the previous game and fixed them. Sure we're now missing the likes of Twinbee or Pentarou as selectable characters (new character Shooting Star appears in Twinbee Yahoo! as a boss, but that doesn't count), but with a character roster that's only filled with Gradius and Parodius characters instead of every Konami game under the sun, at least there's a sense of focus. Unfortunately this was released in 1996, seven years after 1989's Gradius III with nothing in-between, meaning Sexy Parodius doesn't have much Gradius stuff left to parody.

Thankfully we're free from commentators which makes things far more pleasant. As we're not on the Super Famicom we can handle player respawning and yes, Mambo the fish is back and better than ever. We've got weapon tweaks, more fluid animations, and now all the characters speak, replacing the generic child voice used when picking up items.

To spice things up a bit, Sexy employs a mission system, as the Parodius gang are now dedicated to solving problems for the general public. Missions usually involve shooting x amount of things or collecting y amount of coins, though they're all completely optional. The outcome of the mission dictates which level you will travel to next, but as there are only eight levels in total (with six you're guaranteed to play through), you're not missing much, bar a special ending. 99% of arcade players would never be able to get this far anyway, because the game gets stupidly difficult by the second stage.

I can't praise Sexy Parodius enough but it's not a flawless product. There's a bit of a feeling that the game marks "the end" of the series from the get go. Octopus (or should I say an Octopus - I've lost track of who is who) is a bad guy, Pentarou isn't interested and as said, Twinbee is nowhere to be seen, leaving Vic Viper the only original character from Parodius Da! left (though a handful return from Gokojōu).

It also suffers from the same problems as Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius in that despite its name, there are no Gradius games left to parody, so there's very few moments where it lives up to its Parodius name. Arguably it's not very "sexy" either, because we're dealing with cartoons that mostly only appear at the end of the level.

But unlike Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius it's tolerable. It's a far more polished product and an obvious improvement over the likes of Gokojōu Parodius without needing to resort to cringe. But like Gokojōu Parodius before it, the game has been downsized, and it's a bit more noticeable this time around.

Both Parodius Da! and Gokojōu Parodius had their fair share of women to shoot in the face, but it's far more excessive here to the point where I honestly think it stops working to the game's advantage. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely something entertaining about knocking ladies out of bathtubs, but an octopus fantasising about human women dressed as rabbits is a bit werid.

Whereas I admire the improvements and can recommend this game wholeheartedly to any shoot-'em-up fan, I can't help but feel it's missing the core elements that made the first two arcade games so great. But like Jikkyō it's a victim of circumstance. It's impossible to parody a game four times using the same content without being repetitive, and to the series' credit, they do usually keep things fairly fresh, even if it does go off on a pretty large tangent in order to do so.

Also worth noting is that at the time of writing, Sexy Parodius isn't emulated fully in MAME. Yes the MAME dev team could make that argument for everything but here the glitched background tiles are more obvious. It doesn't hinder gameplay, but it's worth noting.

Either way, there's no denying Sexy Parodius is a great game. It might struggle to hold ground in today's market and it'll need some explaining for countries who aren't as relaxed about objectifying women as Japan, but it's a quality shoot-'em-up which deserves your attention.

And so ends our tour of this forgotten franchise. I'm not covering Paro Wars and I'm not interested in the Otomedius series, so the laughter ends here. Sadly I think it's unlikely we'll see another Parodius game in the near future, even though with the appearance of Gradius IV and V (and others) they'll have something to talk about. Needless to say though it's a series worth checking out, even if you couldn't care less about Gradius.

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