Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get high while playing Gradius? Do you desire to fly a penguin spaceship through an evil army of red baloons to do battle with a giant kitty pirate ship? Does the thought of blasting happily bouncing octopi into bits of shimmering confetti thrill you to tears? If so, then Parodius is for you.

What first starts out as an obvious Gradius parody turns into quite a lot more: bright, colorful sprites, thumpin’ music, mult-scrolling shooting action, all with a decent selection of ships that have varying strengths and weaknesses. You can even select the regular spaceship from Gradius, instead of the octopus ship, penguin ship, etc.. Parodius is developed by Konami, the same people responsible for Gradius, so it’s no wonder there are so many similarities. The power-ups work the same way as Gradius; you capture capsules that can immediately be turned into the current effect, or you can save them up to cash in on more powerful effects. The danger in waiting is that you very well could die. However, finally obtaining the monster laser that cuts though the bubblegum of death may be just what you need to get yourself out of a sticky spot. You can manually upgrade your weapon or have the game do it for you in the order of weaker to stronger. This isn’t necessarily bad because you can have several power-ups going as well. Just because you want the mega-laser doesn’t mean you have to give up the missles or shield you’ve worked so hard to activate.

The action is frantic, but not overwhelming. The bosses are colorful and large and move in pretty predictible patterns. Parodius is only a one-player game (2-player alternating), but that is forgivable as it is a pretty tight shooter. Besides, it’s a parody of Gradius, not Life Force (or Salamander, as Life Force is known in PC Engine land). The levels are fairly long, but have a lot of checkpoints. So upon your ships’s obliteration you rarely have to return to the very beginning of the level. The game control is tight and the menus are either in English or very self-explanatory. No knowledge of the Japanese language is necessary to fully enjoy the game.

Because Parodius was a little bit later release for the PC Engine, it comes in a full jewel case with graphics on the back, unlike earlier PC Engine and US Turbografx hu-card games, both of which featured a boring solid grey box back. A good condition complete copy of this game can be had for around the $20 mark, and it’s well worth it to own and play this unique piece of Japanese video game history. Slide this piece of hu-card goodness into your PC Engine, and get ready to experience Gradius on crack.

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