Retro Game Of The Week: Gokujō Parodius (Super Famicom)

Gokujō Parodius

Gokujō Parodius isn’t a serious game — and that’s seriously the point, even though this flippant entry in the Parodius series is seriously good fun.

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

Comedy in games is hard.

Comedy itself is a difficult art form, but making something funny in a game that might be played dozens or even hundreds of times over is supremely difficult.

Clever wordplay in RPGs can work just fine to make you chortle once, but after a few dozen iterations of the same joke, you’re often left just hammering the buttons to skip through the text sequences.

Gokujō Parodius Vic Viper

You can play as Vic Viper from Gradius in this week’s game.
I don’t know why you would… but you could.

As such, while there are games that have had individual funny “moments” I’ve enjoyed over the years, few have made me laugh or even smile on a consistent basis. This week’s game of the week is one such title.

I noted last week in my writeup of Choplifter for the Sega Master System that while I enjoy shoot-em-ups of the classic style, I cannot claim to be particularly good at them. If your skillset revolves around being astonishingly good at bullet hell shooters, I have all the respect in the world for you — but you’re clearly not me.

That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with a good old fashion shmup; just that I know my limits and tend to gravitate to games that aren’t quite as brutally hard or absolutely reliant on learning patterns or the very precise size of hit boxes.

Gokujō Parodius Pentarou

It’s scientific fact that you can improve ANY game with the addition of penguin protagonists.
Don’t argue with me, that’s just science.

Parodius is such a game; a deliberate parody of Konami’s Gradius series — hence the name — that first saw light of day on the MSX, but I honestly first hit in via the English language version of Parodius Da!, released here simply as Parodius.

Parodius Da (SNES, PAL) Photo: Alex Kidman
Yep, that’s my OG copy. A little worn around the edges, but I own games to PLAY them,
not to seal them in slabs. Games are meant to be PLAYED. Ahem.

I’m just going to divert for a second to point out just how absolutely AWFUL that front cover text is in selling you the game it contains:

The Great Octopus has threatened Earth.
To help Parodius save the planet, you and his friends must begin your search for the truth.
As you search the whole world over, you must find the enemy and you must destroy him.

I guess it’s not technically wrong — this isn’t an ancient man playing a banjo or anything — but it’s not enticing in any real way, and they could have left that blank and probably sold more copies outside of Japan.

Gokujō Parodius Mambo

Oh… really? OK, if I must.
A little bit of Monica in my life
A little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita’s all I need…
I don’t see how this is helping!


It was only much later on that I became aware that Parodius wasn’t the first in the series — or the last. The next game in the series is this week’s pick, Gokujō Parodius, or technically Gokujō Parodius ~Kako no Eikō o Motomete~, usually translated either as “Pursuing The Past Glory” or “Fantastic Journey”.

Gokujō Parodius

I’m no population-decline expert, but I suspect Japan’s population woes could be eased a little if they simply stopped sending all the babies into space to fight aliens. Got to be worth a try…

It takes the core Gradius-parodying concept, flying through levels not only as Vic Viper, but also as Twinbee, Pentarou The Penguin, Takosuke the Octopus, Hikaru The Bunny Girl, Goemon, Kid Dracula… and quite a few more.

It’s essentially Parodius but with more, because each character really does have a different weapon set and as a result playthrough style. Some levels with some characters are quite easy, while the power ups available to others can make them considerably more challenging.

Gokujō Parodius

Just your everyday croupier Octopus fighting a drug-induced nightmare. As you do.

This is a feature I truly appreciate, because while it’s not the trickiest of shoot-em-ups (see above for why I prefer this), it does give it a lot of simple pick-up-and-play replayability. Had enough blasting as Vic Viper? Let’s have a go as Kid Dracula, or a flying penguin, or a killer octopus, or a baby… oh, yeah, this is one of those titles that does live up to the “weird Japan” cliche, and then some.

Gokujō Parodius

Turns out the cake was NOT a lie. It’s just that Kid Dracula shot it all.

There truly are few other games that mix in hybrids of Gradius parody, cute animal enemies, gigantic Mochi-thumping hammers, Easter Island bubble blowing statues, deadly cake… it just goes on and on on.

Gokujō Parodius

Rumour* has it the design document was written up after the lead narrative writer ate way too much cheese before going to bed.
(*I have just started this rumour, but hey, the evidence for it is quite compelling)

It’s a game I return to frequently when I’m feeling sad — hey, Tech Journalists have feelings too! — because without fail, it’s simple but deliberately bizarre style always makes me smile.

How can I play Gokujō Parodius today?

Gokujō Parodius

While it started life on the Super Famicom, Gokujō Parodius did see some porting action, with PlayStation, Saturn and PlayStation Portable compilation titles coming later on, though I’ve personally never owned any of them. Hmm. I should do something about that.

Mind you, Konami, YOU should do something about this. There’s enough games in the Parodius series to warrant a compilation, no? Feels like easy money to me!

That being said, if you want to score yourself a Super Famicom copy, it’s not terribly expensive (certainly not compared to the later Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius or (ahem) Sexy Parodius. Yeah, it’s a thing.

Anyway, loose cart copies of Gokujō Parodius like mine go for about $50 or so, while boxed copies sit somewhere between $100-$150, depending on condition.

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