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While preparing for this article, the following was spoken in on IRC:
There's not really any defense to this. I don't believe the game is overtly homosexual, but I'm not a teenaged boy in a chatroom questioning my own sexuality and trying to impress my peers with my manliness. That really seems to sum up the two types of people who have heard of this game: Those who, after playing it for only seconds, denounce it viciously as 'gay' and those who give it time and are merely confused.
There's a sub-group of game fans in Japan devoted to Kuso-ge, or kuso games, which translates into "shitty games". In a recently published book about this genre Ai Cho Aniki featured on the cover. It would seem then that the Japanese consider it a crappy game, but for what reason I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps it's the off-the-scale camp value, in the same vein as a girls-in-prison movie. Maybe they also consider it a game that, as mentioned in another IRC discussion, "promotes an alternative lifestyle". I don't know that this question has ever been answered satisfactorily, but one thing's for sure: It's damned strange.
My initial exposure to the game was in 1995 when it was first released. I saw an ad for it in a PC Engine magazine, and I knew I simply had to pick it up. It was too strange, and too bizarre to let it pass me by. I paid full price for it immediately after it hit the shelves, and I totally loved it. It's wacky in ways other strange games can't even begin to be. The graphics are incredibly colourful and detailed, with multi-level parallax backgrounds and well animated enemies and bosses. The music is top notch as well, featuring a healthy range of styles with excellent production values, making good use of the CD format. The gameplay is a real stunner though, and deserves a paragraph of its own.
As you might imagine the gameplay is as weird as the rest of the game. Seemingly marrying a Street Fighter control scheme to a shoot-em-up, you have to perform 'moves' to shoot your weapons to any appreciable effect. Merely pressing the shoot button launches a slow tracking shot. The real power comes when, for example, you move left then right and then shoot. Or right then left. Or up then down. You get the idea - the game isn't a frenetic blaster like other shmups can be, but when you're constantly maneuvering around bullets and baddies while trying to pull off shot moves the pace picks up quickly indeed.
The artwork is done by the same artist who did Gynoug for the MegaDrive (Wings of Wor on the Genesis). Where AiChoAniki features burly men, angels, machines with faces and strange underwater levels, Gynoug has a muscular angel, floating heads and... machines with faces. He's very fond of putting faces on machines it seems, and the Locomotive + Head theme is prominent in both games. There's a definite consistancy to his style, even though this game runs the fantastical path and Gynoug was darker and a little more realistic, if angels, aliens and anthropomorphism can be called 'realistic'.
Yeah, ok, maybe this one's a bit gay...
The presentation is kind of a mixed bag. The main title screen is functional, with only an invitation to 'push run'. There's no option screen or anything to complicate the matter. If you don't push run you're treated to a brief introduction that touches on the story from the first game in the series, Cho Aniki, which was a much more straight-forward blaster. That's about it for the storyline, once the game starts there's no more mention of it, and it's just level after level of absurdity and, on the part of the player, incredulousness.
The game starts as many do, in space above some clouds with ... floating heads, swords and a strange guy on a half-moon who throws babies at you. Then it's a descent through the open skies where floating heads, falling angels and missiles come after you. Scoot across a city loaded with more floating heads (different, larger heads than before) and robots, and you face the first boss: A locomotive with a diving board and trampoline. Little men climb to the diving board, jump off the trampoline, and try to rebound into you. If you beat him he swaps the diving board for a cannon, which blasts the same little guys rapid-fire into the sky so they can rain down on you. That's level one down.
Level 2 starts off over the ocean, with more floating heads, a few torsos, the occasional nautical baddy with little men flinging bullets at you, and a mid-boss that tries to blow you into the ocean where tentacles grab you. Next up, the beautiful forest stage, where you'll meet a scarecrow, some weird floating heads, the occasional torso, and laser-sprouting flowers that walk around. Oh, and butterfly men. There's a huge wodden-man kind of mini-boss to defeat, then there's a trip through a flower garden where the man with a pylon for a hat can occasionally be found hindering your progress. Also some floating heads, heads on vines, venus fly traps... Then there's a descent into the ocean where, after meeting torsos on anchors, more missiles, strange punching fish and other deep-sea oddities, you confront the dreaded silhouetted Venus on a Half Shell. Except it's a guy, and he rains large eggplants at you while you blast him with your street-fighter powers.
It's all very strange, but homosexual?
I haven't got a clue.
You thought I was kidding about the diving board?
Lovely parallax forest
This guy sums up the game
Level 2 Forest mid-boss
From the intro: She was in the first game
From the intro
Level 2 boss. It doesn't get saner from here
It's.. I mean... It's just ODD
Diving Board Boss
End of Stage