Note: This review was made running Parasol Stars on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation.
What is this!? It is Parasol Stars. Is this a hidden classic from the past? Does it stand the test of time? And most important of all, does it earn the Malstrom Award?
Above: Gameplay footage of Parasol Stars
All you need to know about this game is its subtitle: The Story of Bubble Bobble III.
First, there was Bubble Bobble.
At the end of the Cave of Monsters, the two dragons turn back into their human form. Then, they have another adventure.
Rainbow Islands was the Story of Bubble Bobble II.
At the end of Rainbow Islands, the heroes were awarded the gift of parasols which brings them to this adventure.
This is actually the FOURTH game in the Bubble Bobble series. It was made due to demand that people wanted the little bubble dragons back. Bubble Bobble Part 2 was made in 1993. Parasol Stars, Bubble Bobble III, was made in 1991.
There are FIVE versions of Parasol Stars: Gameboy, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Turbografx 16.
Above: There is no debate that PC-Engine version of Parasol Stars is easily the best.
There is no arcade version of Parasol Stars. Parasol Stars was developed for the PC-Engine. The other four versions are ports of the PC-Engine version of Parasol Stars. This Parasol Stars game on the PC-Engine is the default version… and it has never been ported to any system afterward. The main reason why is because the code’s disk and the back-up were destroyed in a drunken rage by the programmer’s wife. There will never be another true port of this glorious game.
And it is glorious.
Above: Like Bubble Bobble, Parasol Stars will keep repeating a catchy song. However, it does vary it up with a more sinister song at the final stage: the Bubble Bobble stage!
The game is similar to Bubble Bobble in that the levels are single screen (though they will scroll left to right as they get bigger). You clear the enemies and go to the next screen. And you get fruit. Your tool is the parasol. You can glide with it from jumps. You can use it as a shield. But most important of all, you can place enemies on it and throw them around. Stunning and throwing enemies is the best way to defeat them. You can also hold up elemental droplets onto your parasol and unleash them as single items or entirely built up in a large blast.
Above: You can sense Mark’s awe of the game.
The music is as catchy as the original Bubble Bobble. There is a two player simultaneous cooperative mode just like the original Bubble Bobble. The game hits the sweet spot between not being too easy or too hard. The game will become quite challenging later on, but the challenge builds up gradually.
Parasol Stars has a world variety as rich as Super Mario Brothers 3. Behold:
World 1: Music Star
World 2: Woods Star
World 3: Ocean Star
World 4: Toy Star
World 5: Casino Star
World 6: Cloud Star
World 7: Giant Star
World 8: Rainbow Star
World 9: Bubble Bobble Star (with enemies from original Bubble Bobble)
World 10: Hidden Star (Need two people to do it. I do not see any youtube footage of this level. What could it be!???)
Above: Parasol Stars is a meaty game with much variety. Reviewer keeps saying the game is ‘cute’ but “I always have fun”.
When I first played Parasol Stars, I was in a state of shock by the cuteness and absolutely in dismay about what was going on. I had no idea what was going on. Yet, I kept playing because I was having fun. I thought it was cuteness-overload, but it was really creativity overload. I didn’t stop to think that I was in Music World which I do not think any video game has ever had before. The worlds and enemies are quite unique. I love how there are so many ways to defeat a level… though sometimes a single way is obvious.
My first impression of the game was to be blindsided by the ‘cuteness’ and cease to try to get into it. Everyone online knows this game is the true spiritual successor to Bubble Bobble, not Rainbow Islands, and buy the game because they know it is ‘classic’.
Yet, the true magnitude of this game hasn’t hit people yet. Bubble Bobble is a classic, yes? As I write this, the NES Mini is sold out nation-wide, and Bubble Bobble is one of those thirty games hanging out with classic legends such as Super Mario Brothers 1,2, 3, Zelda 1, 2, Metroid, Gradius, and the rest. Parasol Stars is better than Bubble Bobble. It has better more fun gameplay. Much more interesting worlds including the Bubble Bobble World. Bubble Bobble is to Super Mario Brothers what Parasol Stars is to Super Mario World.
Above: Parasol Stars gets a Malstrom Award. Great single player and multiplayer also makes it a perfect game.
Do not be fooled by your first impressions (which will not grasp this game and recoil from the firehose-in-the-face creativity). This game is an unknown hidden legend. You will keep coming back to it… forever. It may be emulated on future consoles, but it will never be ported. This is the last time you can get this game under $100 in a non-emulated form on the system it was originally developed.
This game is an example of why I am doing these reviews. This game is rightly considered a classic, but I do not think people realize just how legendary it is. I believe the gamers’ initial sense of confusion or being overwhelmed is identical to the first time you played Bubble Bobble or Super Mario Brothers. Nothing makes sense… yet the game is amazing. Play this game, and feel the magic of gaming that is completely gone today.
Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-
Malstrom Awards: (Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)
Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)
Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)
Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)
Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)
(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)
(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)
(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)
(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)
(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)
Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)
(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)
(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)
(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)
(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)
(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)
(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)
(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)
(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)