Retro Review: Harmful Park (Sony PlayStation)

Harmful-Park-ReviewAs everybody knows in the 32bit generation the Saturn’s where gamers went for quality shmups, and with titles like Radiant Silvergun, Soukyugurentai and Battle Garrega on there it’s easy to see why it’s still the go-to system for many genre fans even all these years later. But while the PlayStation never gained that “cred” as the hardcore system of choice it certainly didn’t stop it from having great exclusive shmups like Harmful Park.

The game came virtually out of no where – Sky Think System quietly turned out two puzzle games in ‘95 and ‘96, and then for whatever reason came up with this vibrant 2D horizontal shmup in 1997 completely out of the blue. This apparent lack of experience in the genre would quite rightly set alarm bells ringing in any gamer’s mind, but somehow Sky Think System got it right first time and created an excellent, and sadly often overlooked, cute ‘em up.

When it is mentioned it’s most often compared to Parodius, although the similarities between the two are entirely superficial. Harmful Park has only one ship type that’s equipped with four weapons that can be switched between at will. Those weapons are – “Jerry” (Jelly beans) – homing shot, “Ice” – ice cream lasers, “Potato” – spread shot, and lastly “Pie” – a powerful pie-throwing shot that fires in a slow arc. This unique approach to firepower extends to the bombs too, rather than having a single set bomb weapon it changes depending on the weapon equipped at the time the bomb’s set off; anything from giant exploding lips to protective jelly shields. Each weapon can be powered up independently (up to level 4) and in an un-shmup-like show of generosity if (or in my case, when) the player dies it’s only the currently equipped shot that resets back to level 1 rather than all of them so the player still has a fighting chance at making it through the level.

Harmful-Park-Screenshots

The first time through it won’t take long to battle through the game’s six stages thanks to unlimited continues and the strange decision to make the easiest difficulty the default setting. Brave souls that choose to crank it up will be rewarded with far more aggressive enemies and fire more bullets and much faster ones too. If that’s still not enough of a challenge there’s a separate score attack mode – an all new level that doesn’t allow continuing.

And if that’s still not enough, there’s a set of three minigames to play too! You’d expect them to be some reworked part of the main game – a boss rush mode or similar – but Sky Think System went above and beyond and instead created a little racing game (Sky Circuit), a Pong/Windjammers-ish clone (Punch Ball) and lastly a manic overhead battle game (Tank Battle) that supports up to four simultaneous players.

Harmful Park is clearly a game that the team put their all into; something that shows in every well animated sprite, every interesting background and unusual boss. But fantastic pixel work, as prized as it is, is nothing without a fun game to hold it all together and the game succeeds there as well; avoiding the all-too-common pitfalls of unfair boss attacks or completely neutering a player when they die. The only issue the game really has is the price; even in Japan it starts at around £80, so unless you’re very lucky any import gamer is likely to end up spending something in the region of £100 on a complete copy. But all’s not lost! Harmful Park’s readily available on Japan’s PSN store for a mere 600 Yen, an absolute bargain for a shmup that’s this much fun. Make sure you grab yourself a Japanese PSN store voucher and give it a go!

Harmful Park (PlayStation) Gameplay

Link: Find Harmful Park (PlayStation) on eBay


Last Updated ( 09 December 2013 )  

Comments 

(Link to this comment) nakamura 2013-12-10 17:53
Great review and the first one to make me take this game seriously. I never clicked with it in the past but it looks superb in these shots. Maybe every time I tried it, it was on a low difficulty or something. Pity it's so pricey on PS!
+1 (Link to this comment) Kimimi 2013-12-11 02:34
Thank you! Truth be told when I started it at first it was purely out of curiosity and I wasn't expecting much, but to my mind it's a legitimately good shmup and the amount of love and effort that permeates every aspect of the game is just phenomenal!
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