Sexy Parodius (Saturn) review

Do you have a grudge against penguins? Have you ever suspected them of evil but not had any proof? Well, then, Sexy Parodius is the game for you: finally documented evidence of penguins engaging in all manner of filth and perversion. Human trafficking, wealthy decadence, wielding a tommy gun, illegal mining operations, plus assorted general evil toilet-wearing mastermind antics. As well as nefarious penguins, you can also play pest control to a cute mice infestation in a haunted castle, fight raccoons with oversized testicles, crush ears of baby sweetcorn and corn-on-the-cobs that fire popcorn, and destroy deviant Dreamcast logos. And that’s just for starters.

Let the insanity begin...

Let the insanity begin…

It was several moons ago in one of my first posts on this here blog thingamajig when I last wrote about Sexy Parodius, the side scrolling shooter from Konami. This is a Japan-only arcade conversion for Saturn. There is also a Playstation 1 port too which I’ve not played, but the consensus online seems to be that the Saturn version is superior, although I don’t know precisely how the two versions compare/differ.

Here are my short impressions that I wrote the very fateful day Sexy Parodius came in the post:

Bizarre bizarre bizarre. And then some. This is a cosmetically very strange and funny game, but the gameplay doesn’t strike me as odd the way the original Cho Aniki does. There is something a touch clunky and repetitive in the TurboGraphx-16 Cho Aniki levels, where it feels like you repeat the same level several times over before you abruptly hit a mini-boss or boss, which are of course always the best and most disturbing elements of the game. Sexy Parodius is very well-crafted and executed by comparison.

The game has a clever method of increasing replayability too, by giving you an objective in each level (these objectives are always the same unfortunately), which, depending on whether you succeed or fail, may result in you taking a different branch through the game. The branches are not as in-depth say as Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64, but they do offer some variety to playthroughs. Plus they help to keep the total length of the game short without making the player feel short-changed on content. As a result a single playthrough isn’t likely to last more than 30 minutes, if you allow yourself the maximum 9 lives. I should add too that the objectives are much tougher to complete if you’re playing singleplayer. They pose a good challenge even on the easiest difficulty level. Two-player mode is very fun and makes the objectives easier, with plenty of scope for failure though.

sexy parodius14

Since that time, long long ago (I recall rumours concerning global warming were circulating in the news, but thankfully that whole phenomenon has completely passed now) Sexy Parodius has consistently remained in my on-the-go pile of games. In this regard it has surpassed G-Darius, another excellent shmup on PS1, which on the face of things has better longevity since it has a total of around 15 stages with branching paths often within those stages. Sexy Parodius lacks a branching structure to that extent and contains a paltry 9 stages by comparison, but it is a marginally better shooter in my opinion. What I love about it most – besides the sheer invention of the level design, the cute graphics, the attention to detail, catchy music and silly sense of humour – is how customisable the difficulty is, and the number of different play styles the game accommodates. It’s a highly accessible game, but repeated plays reveal an enormous amount of depth of strategy and some serious challenge, if you want it.

sexy parodius16

Depth, strategy, and a playable bunny girl riding a missile. Shooting down ears of corn and cows.

First though let’s talk about the humour in this game. The themes are highly immature, and therefore great (if you’re immature like me). To shoot the raccoon’s balls or not to shoot the raccoon’s balls? That is the question. Is that a nipple?! Oh no, it’s a seashell. The “sexy” theme here amounts to a Carry On-esque interest in girls engaging in semi-nude pillow-fighting. There’s nothing especially racy, and it’s exclusively used for humour. The storyline, as far as I can make out, concerns a penguin-run detective agency hired for various odd jobs while their unexplained main opponent is a money-grubbing evil octopus. Not strange at all then. Each level is introduced with a brief image of a client explaining to the detective penguin what has happened. My favourites are the old man openly weeping as he begs you to rescue geishas, and a young lady whose cleavage causes our penguin’s eyes to bulge out. Similarly, the end of each level shows a different image depending on whether you completed the objective or not. The bath-tub stage, whose final boss is an evil penguin with a toilet on his head (this game really has it in for penguins), ends with the image of the detective team being flushed down the toilet if you fail the objective.

sexy parodius30

Mwahahaha.

The game features your standard difficulty setting in the form of a scale of 1-8 from easiest to balls-to-the-wall tough. My pick of difficulty will change depending on how I want to play the game (I am not great at shooters though so obviously we’re talking low but I’m too embarrassed to get specific). That brings us to the second difficulty setting, which comes when you pick your character. At this stage, the game asks you whether you want to play in “Auto”, “Semi-Auto” or “Manual” mode. At first glance these options simply seem to affect how your ships handles firing, but in fact there are a number of minor differences besides these which affect the difficulty. Check out this professional spreadsheet I made earlier. I take my blog seriously. No, really.

Auto

Semi-Auto

Manual

– Instant respawn, with free bells

– Checkpoints, no bells

– Checkpoints, no bells

– Weapons automatically upgrade, ship speed fixed – Weapons automatically upgrade, can manually increase ship speed and customise weapons – Weapons and speed don’t upgrade automatically, “roulette” system means you can lose all your upgrades
– Bells automatically used – Bells automatically used – Can store bells for use at your leisure
sexy parodius24

Loving the spelling on the bathtubs – Stefamy? They even threw in a Cho Aniki reference, which should be mandatory for every game.

A few quick points on these: whichever mode you choose, you have unlimited continues. Checkpoints are numerous so you’ll never go back too far, but your ship/animal character can take one-hit only, so boss fights are challenging (though never impossible) to beat without getting hit, particularly if you’ve died already and so are inevitably underpowered. The game gives you the option of swapping your character and Auto-Semi-Manual setting at any stage if you lose all of your lives, which is great if you’re stuck. The 2-player cooperative mode automatically uses the Auto instant respawn rule, even if both players opt for Semi- or Manual. This is a really cool touch which keeps the game moving quickly and prevents you getting bogged down. The minor variations between Auto, Semi- and Manual are interesting and worth exploring to find what suits your taste. For me, Semi-Auto is best because of the ability to customise weapons without the downsides of micromanagement. Some characters have complex possibilities, which allow customisation of two or more weapons at the same time.

Here are images of a few choice bosses:

sexy parodius28

Nice portable toilet, bizarre background. There is so much wacky detail in this game.

There's nothing

There’s nothing I can say here to make this look any better.

sexy parodius35

This mad-eared lady moans (really moans) when injured.

Let’s talk levels. Every level has an objective which requires a unique style of play. The bath-tub speed running level which forces you to grab coins feels almost like a Micro Machines racer at times, while a later coin collecting level runs at a far slower pace as you traverse maze-like structures inspired by Pac-Man, picking up coins and shooting spawning ghosts… and kidney beans, too, of all things?? Why? Each of these levels scroll both up and down as well as left to right, whereas other levels constrain you to tight corridors peppered with bullets. The level design (and the weapon system, obviously) regularly parodies and references the Gradius series, so if you’re a fan of Gradius you’ll recognise many of the setpieces and likely enjoy the game all the more for it.

An umbrella.

An umbrella. An umbrella. This game is amazing.

One final thing I have to mention is the Pac-Man lookalike Alex, who you can get by picking up the correct colour bell power-up. Alex attacks enemies and absorbs bullets. He even has a health bar which be refilled with additional bells, plus he can be leveled up, which increases his stats RPG-style. He can be invaluable during storms of bullets, so you have to be careful about giving him the correct bells to make him power-up. Finally then you have the level objective to worry about too. What’s genius is that these elements are entirely optional, and you don’t feel penalised for not taking advantage of them, however if you want to stand a chance of survival on higher difficulty levels and settings then a level of mastery over each element is essential, and in this way Sexy Parodius encourages strategic thinking.

sexy parodius63

Vic Viper and Alex in India. Just look at it! There are so many small details going on, all of them animated by the way: the smooching penguins (centre right), the penguin couple saying goodnight (bottom right), the pillow fight (bottom left), the sleeping penguin with a net hovering over the bed (? top right). And it’s all set to a wacky arrangement of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. What’s there not to love?

And that about wraps it up. This is a damn fine-looking, -sounding and -playing game, and one of the best shmups I’ve played. It’s also highly addictive, extremely well-balanced, and challenging (if you want it to be). The game is fun just to blast through if you want to experience the crazy on offer, but it’s fun too if you’re a masochist like myself after a hardcore shoot-’em-and-dodge-’em challenge, as well as many other positions that fall somewhere between these two extremes. Plus the sheer weirdness will demand you play through ad infinatum. Check out more pics in the gallery below, if you dare.

You will be impressed by these screenshots. You will be impressed with these screenshots. You will get this game. You will get this game.

You will be impressed by these screenshots. You will be impressed with these screenshots. You will get this game. You will get this game.

[Post-script: There were two other Parodius games released on the Saturn. One is a compilation called Parodius Da! Deluxe Pack, containing ports of the first two Parodius games, which surprisingly was released in the US and Europe too, under the moniker Parodius. The second Saturn Parodius game, and the more interesting one in my opinion, is called Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius. This one is unique among Parodius games on the 32-bit consoles since it is a console game from the ground up as opposed to an arcade port.]

Good Bye!!

Good Bye!!

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11 comments

  1. Reset Tears

    I feel like I’m going to have to pick up a sh’mup or two at some point for my Japanese Saturn, seeing how there’s like 100 such games for it (many of which are apparently highly-acclaimed). Might have to look into this one if I decide to go for something… different. XP
    There were certainly more than a few “different” games on Saturn as well, I’m noticing.

    • veryverygaming

      Ha ha, there’s plenty of weird stuff out there. The Saturn was the first console (along with maybe the Neo-Geo…OK, the first popular console) that could handle arcade-quality 2D graphics, hence the steady stream of arcade ports, both of then-new stuff like Sexy Parodius and old re-releases or compilations (Sega Ages, Capcom Generations, the Gradius, Parodius, Twinbee AND Salamander collections…I could go on).

      And yeah, of course tons of shmups. A lot of these were released for the Playstation too, but the Saturn versions are in most cases superior, and there seem to be a lot more copies around, so the Playstation versions are considered rare and therefore expensive.

      I would definitely recommend looking into Sexy Parodius. It’s cheap compared to many of the shmups on the system (unfortunately compared with any other genres shmups tend to be much more expensive, even for bad ones), it’s a uniquely insane experience and an excellent game in its own right. I know a while back you said you were considered getting Pu Li Ru La on the basis of strangeness, but as cool as it is I’m sad to say that I haven’t felt compelled to return to it since my initial few playthroughs.

      Probably the biggest problem is the cost of shmups on the system – most of the critically acclaimed ones will really sting your wallet. The exceptions, at least the few that I’m aware of, are the Konami collections I mentioned above, Gradius, Parodius, Twinbee, although the Salander one is more expensive. The Parodius series in general is fairly inexpensive. There’s also Kingdom Grand Prix (a racer shooter hybrid apparently?!), Game Paradise (another twee parody-type game) and Darius Gaiden. Cheaper still is a Taito game called Layer Section (in Japan), Galactic Attack in America and something else still in Europe. It’s critically acclaimed and easily the most widely available Saturn shmup – so naturally my copy is in the post as we speak – so it can be had on ebay for as little as £10 including postage to the UK, which is SERIOUSLY NOT BAD as far as Saturn imports go. But I will be able to speak more about that when it arrives and I’ve tried it obviously 😉

      There’s also, although technically not on Saturn, the Taito Legends compilations on PS2…in Japan they’re called Taito Memories I believe. They have some of the Taito shmups on them including Layer Section, Layer Section 2, Darius Gaiden and G-Darius (which I’ve played and can confirm is really good). They also contain some non-shmup arcade games that are expensive to get hold of on the Saturn including Elevator Action Returns.

      Phew, that was a long answer. I’ve been getting way too much into the research mentality with Saturn lately. There’s so much in the library to explore!

      • Reset Tears

        “Phew, that was a long answer. I’ve been getting way too much into the research mentality with Saturn lately. There’s so much in the library to explore!”
        I know what you mean; I spent more time than I anticipated to try deciding on some games to pick up in the upcoming months. Ended up making a spreadsheet to try whittling down which ones look most interesting to me, and which ones I don’t mind holding off on a bit more indefinitely than the rest. Not too many are the sort of AAA system sellers the average gamer looks for, but there’s a pretty huge library available if you’re into unique gameplay experiences. And though the Saturn may not have been the best for 3D graphics at the time, it seems a lot of game developers were willing to go all out with it on the 2D front.
        In regard to sh’mups at the moment I’m thinking of picking up Gunbird and Darius Gaiden (they’re much more affordable than, say, Radiant Silvergun and Cotton [though now that I check prices again, it seems Cotton 2 isn’t too bad…]). They look like good ones, though really it seems the general theme with these games is that it’s hard to go wrong with almost any of them. And I’ll die on level 2 or 3 for every single one anyways, am I right? ;P
        Some of the games you mentioned were new to me, so I took a look at some videos for them. Kingdom Grand Prix seems like an interesting spin on things, and Game Tengoku certainly appears amusing. (And what’s this… the game came with a VHS??? Lol, I wonder what the chances are of picking up the game with *that* still part of the package.)
        One other game in the genre I’ll throw out that I’ve noticed is Sengoku Blade, which seems to have that traditional Japanese element to it (albeit in over-the-top/insane fashion, as sh’mups are wont to do).
        And speaking of arcade ports, I happened to discover that none other than Fantasy Zone is on the Saturn. I have to admit I’m quite attached to that goofy game and its Opa-Opa; I’m going to have to pick that one up at some point.

  2. veryverygaming

    A VHS with Game Tengoku? Wow. If you ever find a second hand copy you’d better hope no one actually watched it and degraded the tape. Perhaps the publisher should’ve gone with video CD format, after all Saturns can play those 😛

    All of the stuff you mentioned for the most part I’m interested by too, Sengoku Blade is a popular one I think. I like Fantasy Zone too, I think?! My only experience is from the remake on the Sega Classics Collection… I thought (foolishly), based on the title, that it would be a compilation of good games! Oh no, shortly after sitting down with it I was questioning how anyone could consider Golden Axe, Space Harrier or Outrun good or even decent games. And in this context, the remake of Fantasy Zone didn’t seem terrible compared to Sega’s other god-awful remakes.

    A spreadsheet for Saturn stuff sounds like a fantastic idea, there’s a retro game fair coming up in March in the UK and with so much interesting stuff out there I can’t keep it all in my head at once, especially too when it comes to price. I wouldn’t want to accidentally spend a month’s income on some game you can pick up cheaply….actually wait, what am I talking about, there are no cheap games on Saturn.

    The only game you mentioned I do have experience with is Gunbird, which isn’t without merit but I wouldn’t recommend it. I did a short review of it a while back (back when my reviews were short… now seems like a great time to revive that concept): https://veryverygaming.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/gunbird-special-edition-ps2-review/

    Also a fellow blogger whose opinion I trust has coincidentally just today(!) posted a short review of a few Saturn shmups including Kingdom Grand Prix:
    http://culturalfragments.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/three-saturn-shoot-em-ups-donpachi-strikers-1945-and-kingdom-grandprix/

  3. moresleepneeded

    Thanks for commenting on my post, I’ll try to make them shorter in future. This game seems strange, I never knew this sort of game was available on the Sega Saturn. I like your jokes as well.

    • veryverygaming

      Ha ha, glad to hear it. Thank you for the kind words. I’ll be sure to check back and see what new stuff you’ve posted. Are you planning to do more game reviews?

      Sexy Parodius is just one of many bizarre games on the Saturn, if you can believe it! Check out Cho Aniki: Kyuukyoku Otoko no Gyakushuu, and don’t say I didn’t warn you 😀

      • moresleepneeded

        Yes, I hope to do more game reviews in the future, but I might put in some film reviews as well, depending on what I think of.
        I will check out some of these strange Saturn Games, they sound fun.

  4. Pingback: Breaking the space-time continuum in Gradius V (PS2) | Very Very Gaming
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