Consider my mind blown.
What blew it, you ask? The video below, which showcases the "secret" levels in Parasol Stars that only can be accessed after meeting certain conditions (i.e., grabbing three star icons in world eight) before defeating the almost-final boss, who I believe answers to "Dark Shadow."
I didn't know about these extra stages until recently because, well, I've yet to beat this über-saccharine PC Engine game. I've made great strides toward doing just that in the last week, though, due in large part to discovering--finally!--how beneficial it can be to match the "miracle icons" that pop up in pretty much every level. (Before, I grabbed them willy-nilly.)
Anyway, back to why Parasol Star's bonus worlds blew me away (well, besides the fact that they exist): For starters, world nine pays homage to this game's forebear, Bubble Bobble--with stage 9-1's layout aping that of Bubble Bobble's first level. Along the same lines, world 10 harkens back to another of Taito's classic quarter-munchers, Chack'n Pop. (Unsurprisingly, stage 10-1 is a dead ringer for Chack'n Pop's opening salvo.)
Also partially responsible for blowing me away: The new background tunes--one bright and boppy, the other rather haunting--that accompany players through the aforementioned stages and the surprise appearance, at the business end of world nine, of Hyper Drunk.
Sadly, despite my improved Parasol Stars performance--I now routinely get to the sixth world before using up all of my continues, whereas I used to flame out in the third--I doubt I'll be racing through these extra levels anytime soon. Hell, at this point I'd be ecstatic if I could experience this game's "bad ending"--shown in the video above--which actually looks pretty darn good to these eyes. (Granted, I'm a sucker for end credits that spotlight a game's cast.)
Related aside: Those of you who are now as enamored with Parasol Stars as I am may enjoy watching this complete playthrough of the game many consider to be Taito's greatest PC Engine release.