You know, I love Konami, but they can be bastards sometimes, especially when it comes to their shooters. Like, the ending of Axelay, which totally promised us a sequel? Yeah, what happened to that? Several of their games never left the arcades - they never ported XEXEX or either Thunder Cross (up until 2006, over ten years after their releases), and Ajax never graced a console, it just had some computer ports. They stopped making Parodius games back in 1996. Which is sad, because there was nothing that really quite matched it in terms of both quality gameplay and flat-out lunacy.
Except for Harmful Park.
Harmful Park was only released on the PlayStation in Japan by a small company named Sky Think Systems. It's your standard 2D side-scrolling shooter, except set in a bizarre amusement park. As the (relatively lengthy) introduction tells you, an evil scientist has taken over Heartful Park and is using it for nefarious purposes. One of his colleagues aims to stop him, but she's old to do it herself. So, she commands her two slacker daughters to save the day, equipping them with some kind of flying motorcycle armed to the teeth with strange weapons.
At any time, you can switch between four weapons: Potato, Ice Cream, Pie and Jerry (should be Jelly, but since the Japanese don't distinguish betweens r's and 'l's, we'll forgive them.) The Potato gun is your standard rapid fire bullet weapon, while the Ice Cream is pretty similar to the Laser weapons from the Gradius games, firing a long, powerful stream of delicious destruction. The Pie weapons is slow, but travels at an arc and can cause great damage if they hit, while the Jerry weapon homes in on enemies on the screen, but it's rather weak.
Each weapon can be strengthened individually up to three times, although power-ups tend to be on the rare side. Getting killed will downgrade your current weapon by a level, but it's possible to keep a strong arsenal in backup if you spread your power-ups properly. You're also immediately resurrected after death, so you don't need to worry about check points. You can continue right where you left off, up until stage four, when it starts sending you back to the beginning of the level when you run out of lives. Each of the six stages are relatively lengthy, usually taking about five minutes to clear.
Each weapon also has a secondary function, which can be used a limited amount of times. The Potato gun creates a huge potato, which shatters and hits everything around it, and the Pie weapon sends out deadly cakes in every possible direction. The Jerry weapon creates an invincible Jell-O shield, while the Ice Cream will trigger a huge sundae that fires out a huge wave of delectable carnage.
As with Parodius, Harmful Park is really defined by all of the details, whether they be strange enemies, inventive bullet patterns, or just plain wacky situations. One bad guy has a Jiffy Pop embedded in his chest, which he then explodes, unleashing a torrent of popcorn. Another set of enemies drink down gasoline and then breath of fire. Yet another is a gumball machine which sends gumballs bouncing erratically around the screen. Paratroopers fall from the sky, into a vat of chocolate, which then splashes up to try to kill you. Many of the artillery encampments are merely coin operated rides. The bats carry baseball bats. Certain enemies leave behind notes that say "aho" (jerk). And then there's the giant robotic ape riding the cow train.
Harmful Park is full of these inventive elements, which really goes to show that each and every part of this game was crafted with loving care and attention. It also lends to replayability, as you begin to pick out more strange things as you return to each stage. While there isn't much in the way of fancy special effects, all of the graphics are bright, colorful, and some of the best 2D you'll find on the PlayStation. The soundtrack is pleasant and whimsical, even though only a few songs are really memorable. Your character's death scream is pretty amusing though, especially as you see their tiny, aggravated expression as their cycle explodes and they're tossed off-screen.
Below is a rundown of all of the levels, as well as some of the most amusing parts of the game.