The Japanese are often accused of creating some seriously weird and wonderful videogames. While this reputation is often underserved (with games like Jet Set Willy, Western developers are just as guilty of producing bonkers titles), a few Eastern franchises do stick out as being especially strange, and Masaya’s Cho Aniki is undoubtedly one of them.
Coming from the same warped mind as the superb Megadrive/Genesis shooter Gynoug (also known as Wings of Wor in the US), Cho Aniki is a massive serving of weirdness the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced before. You control one of two characters – the male Idaten and female Benten. Both possess seriously ripped physiques, and the general theme that runs through the game appears to be that body-building is pretty wonderful.
Along the way you can recruit assistance from Adon and Samson, two similarly muscle-bound gentlemen who happen to fire lasers out of their heads. These guys are arguably the true stars of the game, and they even went on to be granted starring roles in the sequel. In this game however, they merely act as optional weapons, like those seen in Konami’s Gradius.
In terms of ordinance, you have a main weapon that can be enhanced by picking up the relevant power-ups (as was the case in Gynoug). However, you also possess a ‘charge’ shot, like the one seen in R-Type. A ‘smart bomb’ rounds off the offensive options quite neatly, but after the multiple weapon pickups seen in games like Soldier Blade, things do feel a little limited here.
In terms of gameplay Cho Aniki certainly won’t set your world alight; it’s fairly traditional side-scrolling stuff, albeit nicely executed and fun to play. However, the wacky visuals and astonishingly unhinged music will captivate you in ways you never thought possible. Some of the end-of-level bosses are so unsettling that you worry for the person that must have dreamt this stuff up. To call it ‘unique’ would be an understatement!
Cho Aniki is one of those games that is sure to divide opinion; if you feel uncomfortable about the idea of playing a game that features a large proportion of muscle-bound men flying around the screen, then you might want to look elsewhere. However, if you’re a little more open-minded and love the unorthodox side of Japanese gaming, then this is most definitely for you.