Parodius is a spin-off series from Konami‘s classic Gradius/Nemesis series. It’s a parody of Gradius, thus “Parodius“, and “Sexy Parodius” is the arcade version of it.
The arcade version first came out in 1996 and it contains mild sexual references, innuendo, and partial nudity, although – to be honest – it’s all very subtle and not at all creepy. Konami wouldn’t have have allowed that. No… Parodius is ribald and silly but not particularly adult, to be honest. Just mildly adult. Certainly not “perverted” or anything stupid like that…
Sexy Parodius is special for two reasons. Firstly, the graphics are gorgeous. The sprites and backgrounds are beautifully-drawn, amazingly colourful and full of character. They’re a masterpiece of 2D pixel art. Secondly, Sexy Parodius is also an amazingly fun shooter either one or two-player. The game allows you to progress if you complete enough special stages, and the manner in which you played the game will result in one of two different endings, should you manage to get that far.
There are eight different ships to pilot: 1. the Vic Viper from Gradius/Nemesis; 2. Hikaru (a bunny girl on a rocket); 3. a blue stick man on a paper airplane, called Koitsu; 4. a penguin called Ivan; 5. a sunfish called Mambo; 6. a pig called Michael; 7. a blob called Option, and 8. The Shooting Star (a weird-looking pink spaceship). And I’m sure I saw another craft during a selection screen, so there are probably more than those eight…
The bells from TwinBee play a significant role in Parodius. They move across the screen and give you bonuses depending on their colour when you pick them up. Shooting bells repeatedly changes their colour and pushes them back up the screen, so in theory you can keep shooting them to cycle through them if you want one of a specific colour. If you lose a life your bells get sprayed back onto the playing area, giving you an opportunity to pick them back up again. Some bells have unique destructive effects, like a bomb that zaps everything on-screen; or one that turns your craft into a huge and invulnerable battering ram for sixty seconds.
The scrolling stages are varied and hectic and as long as you keep putting money into the machine you can keep playing. Boss battles are reasonably straightforward as there’s usually a big arrow pointing to where you’ve got to shoot them (which is obviously part of the parody), but they come up quite regularly.
Konami took a risk with Parodius and it paid-off, resulting in a long-running series of humorous shoot ’em ups that have spanned many formats. Sexy Parodius is probably the pinnacle of them all and the one that all later versions of Parodius looked up to for inspiration.