You kids today don't know how good you've got it. Back in the old days we didn't have no internet to look up (or download) any game we wanted. We had to go out and buy stupid gaming magazines and actually like, read about them and stuff. In the backs of these mags would be entire sections of Hong Kong importers, which would show pages upon pages of Japan/Asian exclusive games that would never be released stateside. It's a well proven fact that the cooler a Japanese shooter, RPG, or fighting game looks, the higher the likelihood it would never be ported to the USA. Some of these imports would be priced for hundreds of dollars. We didn't have no Ebay, this was the only way to get them. For many of us these ads were as close as any of us ever got to actually playing any of them.
Thankfully nowadays we have the glorious intertubes to remedy this situation, we in the west can now find and enjoy said games for a reasonable price (or just download the rom if you're cheap.)
Paradious is an example of a game that at the time was considered "too Japanese" for an American release. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but there was a time when Japanese pop-culture was not as popular in the states as it is today, and some people actually thought that games that looked too "ethnic" or had too much anime influence would not (gasp!) sell as well. How times have changed.
Paradious is a series which parodies Konami's own Gradious, as well as it's many games in general. The main character seems to be an Octopus (named simply "Takosuke," or Male Octopus) who wears a card dealer's hat. Also selectable is the ship from Twinbee, the Vic Viper from Gradious, and the Penguin from Antarctic Adventure.
The powerups follow the same design as in Gradious - collecting the red powerup-thingy advances the meter at the bottom, which allows for speed up, missiles, three-way shot, etc. Each character's weapons are minute variations on these themes, for instance Penataru and Takosuke attack with fish missiles while the Twinbee uses it's rocket punch attack. In addition to the standard powerups there is also the Bell powerup (from Twinbee) which will change colors when shot and do different things like allow you to leave one side of the screen and enter the other or destroy all on-screen enemies.
Speaking of which, the different enemy types and bosses are definitely the highlight of the game. You fight penguins, octopi, Moa heads (from Gradious) pieces of candy, fuzzy little animals, etc, each one well animated but pretty goofy looking. Bosses are large and detailed, and include pirate cats, machine-cannon fish, and the standard Paridous large, scantily clad women (which seems to be a running theme through this series.) Enemy sprites are lookin good all around.
Problems: The game is too easy. When your ship is fully powered up you're virtually unstoppable and are able to make short work of most of the bosses without much trouble. That being said some of the levels are designed in such a way as to make it virtually impossible to continue if you die in the wrong place - case in point, there's a wide, twisty section of the second level where one must maneuver through various golden caverns and shoot pathways through what looks like multicolored gumdrops. Piece of cake with the correct weapons and speed ups, however the checkpoint on this level puts you at a spot where it's nearly impossible to gain enough speed-ups to get around a backwards twisting portion (as in one must move forward, down, and backwards around through an auto scrolling corridor, while shooting through the candy with no speed or powerups.) I must have attempted this fifty times before giving up and restarting the level. Kinda frustrating to get stuck at points because of bad level design when one can beat the last boss on the first try.
Overall a solid (if easy) shooter for any fans of Gradious and Konami games in general. Hardcore shooter fans will breeze through it on the first try, however the game retains enough challenge for us moderates, and is pretty good looking to boot.
Good stuff: Clear and well animated graphics, which somehow even manages to impress some seventeen years later. Everything is well designed and extrudes oodles of personality.
Bad stuff: The game is too easy. You're not supposed to be able to get halfway through a shooter on one life. Checkpoints seem to be arbitrarily placed in certain levels without thought to level design. Bosses are large and look good but you can beat them blindfolded.
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