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Cho Aniki
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Otoko no Tamafuda
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by Kurt Kalata - updated 2009

You may have heard things about Cho Aniki (sometimes spelled "Choaniki" or "Chouaniki"), the infamous series of shooters created by Masaya. While first introduced for the PC Engine Super CD in 1992, where it enjoyed some popularity Japan, Cho Aniki was granted cult pop status amongst Americans when an issue of the magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly featured screenshots of the later PlayStation game. Side-scroller shooters were a dime a dozen back in the days, but this one was a wee-bit different - instead of shooting spaceships, you fought against legions of huge, muscular, bald men. The game was quickly labeled "homosexual," seeing as two of the primary characters were body builders wearing skimpy thongs and sporting overly happy grins. As a result, Cho Aniki quickly became known as "that gay Japanese game."

This is something of a misinterpretation. Cho Aniki isn't exactly gay, per se - it's not like you're fighting gigantic penises or have to deal with floating sperm, and there certainly aren't any graphic displays of mano-a-mano action. Rather, the games are just really, really messed up. Don't believe me? Here, take The Cho Aniki Test:

Did that turn you on? No? It's not supposed to - it's just really, really weird. That picture, that of two buff guys involved in some good old fashioned cranial gardening, is about as homoerotic as Cho Aniki gets, for the most part. Yes, there are lots of scantily clad muscular men - a Japanese gay stereotype if there ever was one, and not exactly politically correct according to American society - but it's played for laughs. There are the occasional bad guys locked in some horribly suggestive poses, there is a weapon called the "Men's Beam," and yes, the holes on the heads of the main guys do like slightly phallic.

Like Konami's Parodius series, Cho Aniki's claim to fame is in its sense of humor. While they're garden variety shooters, this unique take on the male form is what separates it from the masses. Those into bizarre Japanese games will have a field day with these, if only to decipher the incredibly cryptic designs, and try to imagine just what kind of childhood trauma must have inspired these creations. Other than the four primary shmups, there's also a fighting game for the Super Famicom and an RPG (!!) for the Wonderswan. Cho Aniki means "Super Big Brother," or perhaps "Super Bro," in a more slangy term.

While the series was confined to Japan for the longest time, various digital distribution services have allowed gamers worldwide to give the games a shot. The PC Engine original is available for the Wii Virtual Console, the PlayStation Cho Aniki is on the PSN courtesy of Monkey Paw Games, and the recent PSP game is also on the PSN courtesy of Aksys.

Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)


Cho Aniki (超兄貴) - PC Engine CD, Wii Virtual Console (1992)

Cover

There's an intro to Cho Aniki, but it's hard to tell exactly what it's about. It involves a body building contest and mad alien overloads with gigantic nose rings. Your two playable characters are the cape-wearing hero Idaten and sexy blue-haired maiden Benten. They are accompanied by some friends - primarily, two heroes named Adon and Samson, both huge muscle men with holes on their heads that can apparently shoot lasers. Also part of the cast are flying baby angels and a strange blue humanoid with a rather creepy grin. These characters act as "Options" during gameplay, and will occasionally kamikaze into bad guys.

For the most part, the gameplay is your normal side-scrolling 16-bit shooter. You only have one primary weapon, which can be stregthened through powers-ups. Each character also has a special attack which is unleashed when releasing the fire trigger - Idaten has a powerful laser while Benten has a spread attack. Both are armed with the usual screen clearing bombs as well. While Cho Aniki is not an overly difficult game, getting killed will send you back to a checkpoint.

Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

So if this is such standard stuff, what really sets Cho Aniki apart? While the levels themselves are pretty spartan, Cho Aniki has some of the most bizarre, messed up sprites ever seen in a shooter. This is before the series got too obsessed with scantily clad macho men - what you fight here are mostly strange mechanical creations melded with human features. The Zombie Elvis spaceship (known as "Sabu") raises so many questions by itself. The soundtrack just adds to the surrealistic nature, featuring strange, synth choir voices and calming melodies over the weirdness - it's completely inappropriate at all times, and it's what adds to the game's charm. Apparently, it was one of the things that led to the game's popularity - according to composer Koji Hayama's homepage, at one point the soundtrack was outselling the game. Cho Aniki can be downloaded in North American and European territories on the Wii Virtual Console, making it now easily accessible to non-Japanese games

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Producer:

  • Toshirō Tsuchida

Character Design:

  • Kazushige Nagai

Genre:

Themes:


Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)


Additional Screenshots


Ai Cho Aniki (愛・超兄貴) - PC Engine CD, Wii Virtual Console (1995)

Cover

Apparently Adon and Samson, the muscle builders who were secondary characters in the original game, were popular enough to warrant their own title. And thus sprung the obsession with bodybuilders that the series has been known for ever since. Filled with much improved, cartoonish graphics, the second PC Engine game, Ai Cho Aniki ("Super Big Brother of Love") expands the series into new realms of absurdity.

While the original game was your typical shooter, Ai Cho Aniki switches things up a little bit. You attack by inputting various controller and button combinations, sort of like a fighting game. Simply pressing the fire button shoots out a weak homing shot. Pressing Back then Forward and a fire button will fire a long range attack. There aren't very many combinations, but it's certainly unique. Unfortunately, this means it's all too easy to accidentally input commands wrong, and this leads to some clunky gameplay. Additionally, your character is oriented horizontally, making it very hard to dodge shots. There is a button to make Adon spin, making him temporarily invulnerable, but there's only so much this can protect you from.

The entire game runs on a time limit. Adon can take three hits before getting killed, which reduces the timer even more. While Benten (the heroine from the first game) occasionally flies out to deliver health and time extenders, once you run out of hourglasses, it's Game Over. With no continues to be found, it can make the gameplay a little frustrating. But the bosses are so over-the-top and strange that it's really worth playing through to see them all. Remember Boticelli's The Birth of Venus - you know, the goddess riding a clam? Picture that, except it's a guy, and it attacks by raining eggplants. And that's saying nothing of gigantic snowmen or undead Shakespearean actors with psychic powers.

The soundtrack has improved over the first game, featuring songs that are not only bizarre but frighteningly catchy (such as the circus-like song with the seal barks, or the Japanese-esque song that has notes reminiscent of "In the Navy," or a techno beat laden with Gregorian chants.) It wraps up a package that, while having faults, is just too weird to pass up. Like the first game, Ai Cho Aniki was released on the Virtual Console, but unfortunately only in Japan.

Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Director:

  • Hiroaki Horia

Designer:

  • Koji Matsuda

Genre:

Themes:


Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)

Ai Cho Aniki (PC Engine CD)


Additional Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Cho Aniki
Ai Cho Aniki

Page 2:
Bakuretsu Rantouden
Kyuukyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyou Otoko

Page 3:
Otoko no Tamafuda
Seinaru Protein Densetsu
Zero Cho Aniki

Back to the Index