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CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: Pre Stage PUBLISHER: Nippon Computer System
RELEASE DATE (JP): December 29, 1995 GENRE: Shmup
// review by SoyBomb

Long game name, short game fun.

*sigh* It begins...

It wasn't always this way. When the Cho Aniki series started way back in the days of the PC-Engine CD (or Turbo CD for those three Americans who actually bought one), it was not in the form we see today. The very first Cho Aniki game (whose name translates roughly to "Super Big Brother") starred Idaten, a young man with a heart of gold and a cape of flutter, and Benten, an angelic young lady with blue hair, as they battled against the muscle-bound galactic Bo Emperor Bill. It was a surreal shooter with plenty of off-the-wall moments, not unlike the Parodius series, but it was of decent quality and added to the PC Engine CD's reputation as the place to be for shmups in your living room.

For some reason, subsequent games in the series gradually put less focus on the game itself and more emphasis on the imagery, specifically that of muscly bodybuilders wearing tiny thongs and nothing else. I know that sex sells, but this is a bizarre method of taking that route. The Cho Aniki series ended up with a cult following, but its popularity eventually dwindled. Only one Cho Aniki game has been made in the last decade.

But the worst of the worst came out in 1995, the possibly now legendary Cho Aniki: Kyuukyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyou Otoko for the PlayStation. (It was also available on the Sega Saturn under the slightly shorter title "Cho Aniki: Kyuukyoku Otoko no Gyakushuu".) I may even go so far as to call this the worst shooter I've ever played.

Actually, I will say it: Cho Aniki for PlayStation is the worst shooter I've ever played.

Let's start with the graphics. Cho Aniki games before this used sprites to convey their varying degrees of homoeroticism. With the PlayStation edition, the developer opted to switch to digitized sprites made by photo capture of actual bodybuilders wearing next to nothing. Don't be surprised to see those character then morphed into strange creatures and bosses. Just the first stage alone is filled with torsos connected to jetpacks, buff men using other green buff men as a pogo stick, and a giant relaxing man collected to a cyberball who possesses a long male genitalia...made out of another stretchable shirtless male. Don't bring this game home to Mama!

Yet nothing compares... nothing compares to the introductory sequence. Either they're trying to be ironic, or this is the worst thing to happen to entertainment media. The entire introduction, which basically illustrates how many Spandex-wielding men are actually floating in space (a high number, surprisingly), seems to be an end product from MS Paint. Everything is literally pasted together. The series' mascot, some blue fellow with pointy limbs, just dances around, flips around, and multiplies until the screen is filled with dozens of him. All the while, muscly men are floating by, giving me seductive glances. No thanks. The scene switches to a sunflower with a face, followed by much ado in space where the real story is told. I can't read Japanese, so the available text doesn't help enough. It doesn't really matter; no storyline could ever meet the expectations of these visuals.

Who—where—why—how—WHAT IN THE HECK IS THIS?!

And the audio is very strange indeed. Being a disc-based game, we get the highest quality of music pulled straight from the brain of a madman. No two songs will be alike, and all of them will sound as strange as the rest of the game looks. And that's not even mentioning all the strange shouts from random men (and the occasional toddler girl angel). You can't miss those.

But not even the glamour of campy overmachismo can save Cho Aniki from the wrath of its horrible gameplay. It is an extremely unforgiving shmup, capable of making even the most hardened of veterans weep openly into their Speedos. To start, every enemy takes way too many hits. In many cases, it's just easier to try and dodge enemies and their projectiles, rather than actually shooting them down. Perhaps this is exacerbated by the fact that your weapons are dangerously underpowered. It's like bringing a paintbrush to a paintball war. You can power up by collecting what appear to be weird flapjacks in the sky, but that won't save your hide. As a result, boss battles in particular are painfully long-winded; ten straight minutes of dodging things while your bullets do barely anything is not my idea of a good time.

You're not alone, however: as in other shooters, you get two options that are always nearby to lend a hand (or a body). Idaten gets a couple of body builders, while Benten leads the way for two little angel girls. They initially can fire along with you, adding to your overall firepower and helping out somewhat. They are decent protectors, too, taking damage so you don't have to bear the brunt of a flying bicep. If they take too much damage, they're pretty much there for decoration and do nothing to help you out. Oh, and I said they're always nearby? Lies. In boss battles, they sometimes decide to leave you and float around the boss itself instead, declaring them to be more interesting. Isn't that just a kick in the teeth?

I can't stand it anymore. I just can't. This game was the death of me, many times over. I can't believe how long it took me just to get past the second level. And that was on Easy mode with the number of extra lives maxed out. I believe I will never complete this game within my lifetime. And I can live with that. May these statuesque musclemen be forever relegated to the dark side of the moon from whence they apparently came.

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