Following the popularity of their own Gradius franchise, Konami took the basic concepts from those games, but added a healthy dose of weird to the characters, environments, and enemies. Parodius is a side-scrolling shooter at its heart. Players use their ships to blast wave after wave of enemies, collecting powerups that range from shields to missles to, in the case of Parodius, heat-seaking octopi. A lot of characters in the game come from various Konami franchises, as well as popular characters in Japanese culture and history. It is a very deliberate send-up of Gradius, with menu options including "One Player", "Two Player" and "Lollipop", but is a very accomplished version of the series at its heart which, despite the candy-coated visuals, zany characters and far out enemies, is a great game in its own right.
While the only playable character in the Gradius series is the Vic Viper fighter, Parodius' selectable characters offer a bit more variety.
A small blue plane with two big fists on the front, Twinbee is the eponymous main character in its own series of games, the first of which was ported to the US and renamed as Stinger. In its games, Twinbee's powerups were granted by shooting bells that appear on the screen. The bells also appear in Parodius, supplying the player with a limited set of power-ups that work independently from the standard weapon powerups gained from blowing up enemy ships. Twinbee's powerups include rocket fists, which fly across the screen and slowly return to the plane, a forwards and backwards shot, a three-way shot, shadowed out copies of twinbee that fire and cannot be damaged, and a radial shield that offers a wide area of protection.
The Vic Viper is just about the only normal thing about Parodius. Its powerups match those found in Gradius. Included are missles that travel along the ground and ceiling, a double-shot, a laser beam, small glowing options which absorb bullets and fire when the Vic Viper fires, and a shield which blocks shots in front.
Takosuke is a space-faring, headband-wearing octopus. He was created specifically for this game, and in a weird way fits into the game better because of it. His powerups include missles that fire straight up and down, a forwards and backwards shot, a wide-area ripple laser, little octopi that follow Takosuke around and fire when he does, and a jellyfish-shaped shield.
Pentarou is a penguin, a penguin that travels through space and shoots out of his mouth and other places. His upgrades are missles that travel along the ground and ceiling, a double-shot, an exploding shot, small penguins that travel close to Pentarou and shoot when he does, and a bubble shield.