By Kurt Kalata

Video games, in general, take themselves way too seriously. As evolved as they've become since their inception, I'm still surprised that comedy video games are, for all intents and purposes, pretty rare. Maybe the designers are afraid people won't get the jokes. Maybe they think humor comes at the expense of gameplay. But Konami felt differently, and created one of the wackiest game series out there: Parodius.

The title - "parody" + "Gradius" = "Parodius" - is approximately as goofy as it sounds. The usual mechanical spaceships are replaced by bees, cows, a battleship with a cat for a head - and penguins. Lots and lots of penguins. Many situations are based on levels from Gradius (hence the parody part, more on that later.)

Sexy Parodius

The game plays exactly like Gradius - you pick up capsules that advance your power meter bar, where you can choose whatever upgrades you wish. Also stealing from Konami's other popular shooter, Twinbee, you can shoot clouds and pick up a variety of colored bells, which give you even crazier power-ups, like quadrupling your size or exploding a nuclear bomb. When you die, you're sent back to a checkpoint, so there's a lot of the same memorization.

The graphics are noteworthy for their overt brightness, but it's really the sound design that takes the spotlight. Using the Looney Tunes philosophy that classical music is funny, much of the songs are directly based off of real music, and given a wacky spin. You have to admire any game which includes boss battle themes based off of "The Bumblebee Song" and "The Can Can". It's all gloriously ridiculous.

A big part of the series are the wacky characters you get to play as, so here's a quick rundown:

Parodius SFC

Gokujou Parodius Arcade

Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius SFC



Popolon
Popolon is the Greek knight from Konami's overhead MSX shooter Knightmare, and its MSX/Famicom action/adventure sequel Maze of Galious. He's only in the MSX Parodius, as he faded into obscurity shortly thereafter.

Knightmare


Octopus/Takosuke/Takohiko & Belial
Takosuke is a flying octopus that wears Japanese headbands (although in some pictures, he's wearing panties on his head.) Earlier games simply call him "Octopus". Many Japanese males names end with "suke" - i.e. Kensuke, Ryunosuke, etc. Combining this with the word for octopus - "tako" - you get Takosuke. His son Takohiko is also playable in Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius, and Takosuke himself appears as an old lecher in Sexy Parodius. His companion is the yellow female octopus Belial. These ocotopi appear in all of the Parodius games.

Sexy Parodius


Pentarou & Hanako
Pentarou is this silly penguin that originated from Konami's Antarctic Adventure and Penguin Adventure games, and later starred in Yume Penguin Monogatari for the Famicom. "Tarou" is a very common boys name oftentimes used in folk tales - so combining it with "penguin" yields "Pentarou". His mate is Hanako, meaning "little flower", which is another common girl's name. Pentarou is in all of the games, except for Sexy.

Penguin Adventure


Vic Viper & Lord British
Vic Viper is from the Gradius series. Lord British appeared as the second ship in Salamander/Life Force, a side-story to Gradius, and ended up being in Gradius Gaiden. They appear here in dwarf form with the regular Gradius 1 arsenal. They appear in all of the Parodius games.

Salamander


Twinbee & Winbee
Twinbee and his partner Winbee are from the overhead Konami shooter of the same name. Their games are also quite light-hearted, and are good choices if you like the wackiness of Parodius. They're in the original game, Gokujou and Jikkyou Oshaberi.

Twinbee Yahho


Goemon & Ebisumaru
Goemon, from the Mystical Ninja series set in ancient Japan, only shows up in the original MSX game and in the Super Famicom version of Gokujyo Parodius. Ebisumaru, his ninja-ish friend, is his second player.

Legend of the Mystical Ninja


Michael & Gabriel
Michael and Gabriel are badass angelic pigs with a stern look and bandages (??) over their crotches. They also have amazingly cool Japanese voices. They're named after famous Christian saints. They've also got some awesome wave weapons. Originating as bad guys in original Parodius, they became playable in Gokujou and Sexy Parodius.

Sexy Parodius


Hikaru & Akane
Hikaru and Akane are the bunny girls that ride on bullets and are the requisite sex symbols of the series. They're in Gokujou and Sexy Parodius, and are also a boss in Jikkyou Oshaberi.

Sexy Parodius


Mambo & Samba
Mambo and Samba are goofy-looking tropical fish who can shoot lots and lots of lasers. They're in Gokujou and Sexy Parodius.

Sexy Parodius


Koitsu, Aitsu, Soitsu & Doitsu
Funny little stick figure men who ride paper airplanes, talk in a weird scribbly language and increase their firepower by creating duplicates of themselves. Variations of them are in Gokujou, Jikkyou and Sexy Parodius. Their shield is also a condom. Their names are based off of Japanese pronouns (Koitsu: this guy, Soitsu: that guy, Aitsu: that guy over there, Doitsu: which guy?)

Gokujou Parodius


Mike & Ran
Mike and Ran are flying cats, and their bullets seem to be yarnballs. They're one of the lamer designs, despite being kinda cute, and only appear in Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius. According to the manual, they're friends of Twinbee and Winbee. Nothing more to be said, really.

Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius


Upa & Rupa
Upa and Rupa are heroic babies from Konami's Famicom platformer "Biomiracle! Boku tte Upa". They're in the SFC version of Gokujou, and all versionf of Jikkyou Oshaberi. He also shows up as a playable character in Wai Wai World 2 for the Famicom.

Bio Miracle Boku tte Upa


Dracula & Kid D
Kid Dracula is...well, the Son of Dracula, originating from the playful offshoot of the Castlevania series - known as "Boku Dracula-kun" in Japan and Kid Dracula in America. He's only in the Super Famicom Gokujyou Parodius, and hidden in Oshaberi Parodius.

Boku Dracula-kun


Memim & Sue
Cute little fairy girls that take the place of Hikaru and Akane in Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius. They shoot fruit.

Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius


Ivan & Toby
Since Pentarou sits around on a typewriter all through Sexy Parodius, the Penguin role is taken up by these commandos. Their name is a pun in the Iwatobi penguins, which are the type with the enormous eyebrows.

Sexy Parodius


Option & Multiple
Usually resolved to do nothing but follow your ship in the Gradius games, the Option gets a mind of its own in Sexy Parodius. Multiple is its partner, which is what they were called in Salamander/Life Force. Its main ability is to morph into versions of Michael, Koitsu, or the ship from Konami's arcade shooter Thunder Cross. Being that turnabout is fair play, Option uses little Vic Vipers as its options.

Sexy Parodius


Shooting Star & Black Viper
The Shooting Star is piloted by Ace, a character from Twinbee Yahho! Its counterpart, the Black Viper, seems to be entirely original and actually has a slightly different weaponry set.

Twinbee Yahho

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