Cho Aniki Cover image['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Masaya’s 1992 Shooter: Cho Aniki]

Not Homosexual

If you know of Cho Aniki, you probably know of it as that bizarre “flaming homosexual” shooter. While the bizarre part is correct, the gay part is at best something that you proclaimed on your own, or that you heard someone else say. Nothing in the game is directly homosexual in nature, although Freud might find your assumption intersing.

The title of the game translates roughly into Super Big Brother (no relation to 1984), referring to Sampson and Adon, who are only support characters for the first title. The playable characters are the celestial Edaten and Benten of Hindu and Japanese mythology. What the two sets of characters have in common is beyond me and my very limited Japanese knowledge. I don’t think that really matters because the unique atmosphere of the game still comes across even if the message doesn’t.

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The game plays like just about every side scrolling shooter available at the time. The two characters are only slightly different in their charge attack, and both have a screen clearing bomb. The level design is fairly empty and the colors are mostly dark. Despite all of this the standard design and gameplay elements are well put-together, even if they don’t really offer anything that you haven’t already seen a dozens times. So then, why play it?

Giant chess pieces in space. Elvis space ships. Two muscle-bound brothers pruning flowers from their heads. Those are the biggest reasons. The sprites and graphics defy the imagination. Each level is broken up into three or four sections, each with unique bosses in them, and even the tamest are still challenging. This game, which has you soaring through a cityscape or into outer space with original and hilarious enemies at every turn, is the epitome of imaginative thinking in a stale genre.

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The music also separates this game from the pack. Written by Koji Hayama, the soundtrack is perfectly haunting, and at times beautiful. The juxtaposition of the exceptionally strange characters with phantasmagorical choral music just adds to the feeling of unease that the game creates. The flat-out gorgeous music itself was so popular the soundtrack actually outsold the game.

Cho Aniki is hard to properly evaluate outside of our knee-jerk reactions to it. The controls are somewhat clunky by today’s standards, and the bullet patterns are pretty tame. But you can’t find this type of experience anywhere else. And if you think that large men in Speedos, posing with oiled up bodies and rippling muscles is gay, well I know a governor who has a bone to pick with you.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]