REVIEW: Cho Aniki 0 / Rei Cho Aniki

I do like shooters, but they have to be entertaining on some other level in order for me to like them enough to play over and over again. That’s not always the case (I loved Ketsui: Death Label), but my favorite series are always a little off. My absolute favorites are among the Parodius games, but the big fish in Darius and Metal Black and the strange bee theme in Donpachi also have a special place in my heart.

I’ve never played a Cho Aniki game before this one, but I figured a new PSP version was a good place to start. I’ve got the Japanese version (that’s the box above), but there’s also an English version coming out for PSN soon from our friends at Aksys games.

There is precious little info about this game online. It took me a long time to find out that it was a remake of the first game in the series, and I still don’t know how it compares to the rest (the only criticisms I’ve seen leveled at it are about how it repeats some of the same enemies, which is irrelevant to me). I do know that Cho Aniki is notoriously difficult in a bad way, that it generally suffers from poor controls and unfair enemies.

It’s hard, and it does seem unfair, but it doesn’t strike me as broken. There are five stages, each broken up into three sections. You have a standard shot, bomb, and “men’s beam,” and you can also use the shoulder buttons to change the orientation of your ship (it’s a hori side scroller most of the time, and you can face either way on the screen). I’m going to have a hard time explaining the difficulty… the enemies usually spawn in the same place, but sometimes the placement can be a little off, and not hitting the enemies with just the right bullet at just the right time can throw off your pattern and kill you instantly. There is no ranking system, just a lot of enemies with a lot of different ways of hurting you. Sometimes they’re thin and move fast, sometimes they fire bullets in a pattern, sometimes there’s no pattern, sometimes they blend into the background, sometimes they leave little mines around or something… there’s lots of variety, which is very refreshing and makes some of those random kills easier to take.

I’ll be honest, I can only get to the third level on normal difficulty. It’s very hard, and I frequently can’t get that far in a long play session. I’m sure there are people that can smoke me in this game, but I don’t think I’m bad at shooters, either. Take that as you will. One of the other unique things about this game is the scoring system, which uses little tiny men you collect out of each killed enemy as a multiplier (let up on the shot button to let them come to you). This makes for ridiculously high scores in the hundreds of billions, and again, I’m only on the third level.

There are a few different characters you can play as, but you only have Idaten (the boy) and Benten (the girl) available at first. Idaten has a much better gun, but Benten’s gun makes it easier to clear the screen of enemies and projectiles once it’s powered up. Benten’s options are also slightly more useful for blocking bullets and firing in general, since there’s two of them that stay in front of you, whereas Idaten only has a long horizontal option on either the top or bottom of him. The tricky thing is that it’s difficult to play the early levels with Benten since her gun’s so weak. Killing the boss of the first level is nearly impossible to pull off without dying, since her men’s beam sucks (possibly because she is a lady). But once you hit the second level, it’s hard to get through with Idaten, whose gun doesn’t clear the screen with its spread like Benten’s does. Idaten’s men’s beam fires for a long time and wipes everything out (good for bosses), Benten’s is more of a wave. Both have a useful screen-clearing bomb.

And I’m 500 words into a Cho Aniki review and have yet to mention its most prominent feature: the muscular men. The two most people associate with the series are Samson and Adon, who act as options for Idaten. The enemy types are also muscular enemy hybrids and good nightmare fuel – faces where they shouldn’t be, big beefy arms creeping out of the sides of machines, you know. Disturbing stuff. It’s yet another layer of fun added to the game, though this is far more normal than, say, the Saturn game with the digitized graphics that you usually see as the representative of the series.

Hard, but mostly fair and very fun. If you’re looking for funny, you should probably look elsewhere, but it is a very entertaining shooter for what it is. And there’s no reason not to pick it up on PSN if you are so inclined.

The first boss. Holy crap, there are NO IMAGES of this game online. Most of the images I found are actually from other games.

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