A review of Ai Cho Aniki (Masaya/PC-Engine, 1995)

I’ve finally gotten around to playing Ai Cho Aniki. It seems odd that it’s taken me this long, especially considering that in the eyes of every mainstream vid con website there is, Cho Aniki is the de facto title that gets thrown around when homosexuality in vid cons are concerned. And as a gay man who likes playing vid cons, I can see why this would be the case. Forget about all those awesome gay characters in Persona, or Nier, or Fallout: New Vegas or Deadly Premonition (the mainstream sites have), I want to see a couple of ugly, exaggerated body-builders shoot laser from holes on the top of their heads all phallic-like. That’s what’s hot! The fact that my sexuality is so closely tied to something that in its native Japan is labeled as “Kuso-Ge;” literally, “Shit Game,” is pretty cool and certainly not remotely offensive in the least and it is most bewildering why I haven’t gotten around to playing this sooner.

In case my heavily-sarcastic opener wasn’t enough to clue you in, Ai Cho Aniki is shit.

I went in expecting a homoerotic knock-off of Gradius. That actually would’ve been pretty fun, rather than this weird, poorly-controlling disaster that I got. The gimmick behind Ai Cho Aniki is that in order to shoot anything stronger than a tiny, pathetic projectile, you have to perform simplified Street Fighter-esque movements to actually make any headway. Of course, doing this sort of thing in a hectic, fast-paced shooter with enemies everywhere is as asinine as it sounds. I already have Street Fighter II on my PC-Engine, where it’s surprisingly faithful to the arcade version and quite a bit of fun; I don’t need a Street Fighter knock-off disguised as a terrible shooter that mocks me and people like me merely for existing.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that Cho Aniki looks like garbage, since I’m assuming that you have a pair of working eyes to tell you, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful soundtrack. This was released for the PC-Engine’s CD add-on. Yeah, the same add-on that the otherwise wonderful Rondo of Blood and the Ed Wood-esque Last Alert came out for. Would you believe me if I told you that in lieu of rocking guitars or YMO-inspired synthesizers (as was the style of early-mid 90s vid con music), Cho Aniki consists of porn-jazz and continuous “oohs” and “aahs.” Because when mocking a group of people whose stereotypes include being promiscuous as fuck, you’d better sex up that music! You’d be a fool to do otherwise.

To be fair to Cho Aniki, if it weren’t for its graphical window dressing, I would have waved it off like I would any other awful PC-Engine shooter like Hanii in the Sky or Psychosis. Of course, Hanii in the Sky and Psychosis weren’t designed with the mantra of “HOMOSEXUALS = WALKING PUNCHLINE” so I’m a little more okay with those than I am Cho Goddamn Aniki. Because, as fucked up as it sounds, if you’re going to make a video game designed to make fun of me, at least make it fun. God Hand did it. No More Heroes 2 did it. Streets of Rage 3 did it. It’s shouldn’t be that difficult to fuck up the concept of moving from left to right shooting at things, and yet here we are!

That should’ve been the end for Cho Aniki; a terrible piece of shit that someone would have purchased (and considering that this released was for the PC-Engine’s CD add-on, probably for a lot more money than they should have), played for about ten minutes, laughed at and never touched or looked at again. Of course that didn’t happen. This is, after all, the video game industry, where the only time the term “casual” is ever accepted is when using “casual” racism, “casual” misogyny and “casual” homophobia. Cho Aniki and it’s cult acceptability are just par for the course. The Nature of the Beast.

And, like many things in life, I’m in the minority with my hatred of the Cho Aniki series. I hate the stupid game. I hate the fact that Cho Aniki is the “gay game.” I hate, as I mentioned in the opening, the fact that this is what immediately jumps into people’s mind when the subject of homosexuality in games is brought up. Of all the amazing, well-developed gay characters there are: Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4, Emil from Nier, George Wood (bisexual) and Thomas MacLaine from Deadly Premonition, Arcade Gannon and Veronica Santangelo from Fallout: New Vegas, among others that I’m sure I’m forgetting (I’m not lumping in any Bioware characters; Bioware’s storylines might as well be written on rolls of toilet paper), these roided-up, poorly-drawn bodybuilders are always going to take priority and prestige over them. Bomb the Video Game Industry.

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