Parasol Stars

Parasol Stars Boss Battle

Parasol Stars is to a large extent the Bubble Bobble game that history forgot.  Never released in North America and sent straight to home systems in Japan and Europe, Taito themselves seem to have forgotten its existence, effectively retconning it away with the release of Bubble Memories in 1995.  Nonetheless, it remains a worthy successor to the much beloved Rainbow Islands.

The game, like the first two in the series, was constructed around a unique play mechanic; both original yet a natural evolution of its predecessors.  Bubbles flood the screen and can be collected on your parasol, then thrown at enemies to either stun or eliminate them.  Gather five bubbles of the same type, for instance water or fire, and you can unleash a special attack.  Your parasol can also stun smaller enemies directly, which may then be thrown at each other or even used as a parachute to slow your decent when falling.  It's an orginal concept, but totally intuitive; capturing the essence of the classic platform game while feeling fresh and offering something new.

Taito's hallmark throughout the 1980s and early 1990s were instantly addictive games, with deceptive simplicity masking hidden depths.  Parasol Stars is no exception, replete with the secret levels, false endings, and endless special items that brought such replay value to the earlier games.  The sheer variety (and in some cases scarcity) of the special items alone are a reason to keep playing, with new things to discover even months after you first play the game.  This ongoing journey of discovery is an experience that only becomes richer when you realise that nothing is truly random.  Whether it's your score, your kills, your speed at clearing levels, or the number of times you've jumped, every item appears for a reason, and a truly adept player can learn to manipulate the game for the right item at the right time.

Bright and colourful cutesy graphics, incessantly cheerful music and a surreal collection of end level bosses round out the experience.  Parasol Stars is how an arcade platformer should be done.

Parasol Stars

James Curry, May 10, 2011