Monday, June 15, 2009

VC Look: Cho-Aniki

One of the most important aspects of this blog is that no games can be judged for their graphics and sounds. Beautiful games with excellent music mean nothing at all here. If that's all that mattered there are plenty of avenues for watching videos of the games as well as listening to their music. I try to run a tight ship here and when met with a game that relies on audiovisuals to make a sale there's nothing I can do in terms of recommending a purchase let alone a playthrough. If there's one thing I've noticed that with older games that cost a pittance time is much more valuable. 

Cho-Aniki was developed by NCS/Masaya. You may remember them from Wings of Wor, which I looked at earlier this month. Over the years Cho-Aniki has gotten a reputation for being many things. One thing is for certain however this is not your typical shootemup. The most powerful being in the universe is lacking the energy needed to win the ultimate muscle-men contest so he's resorted to capturing everything in sight for fuel. Needless to say a couple of people took offense to that and it's up to you to guide either a man or a woman through five vivid levels to take out the bad guys. 

Our heroes are capable enough as they start with a regular pea shooter but can upgrade their strength by collecting protein(yeah I don't know either). To supplement this they can access a special weapon by letting go of the fire button. The male lets off his trademark manbeam(their words not mine) which is basically a giant laser while the female sprays bullets diagonally. Both of these can only done for a little bit before they have to charge up again. Options come to the aid of our heroes usually by the form of two half-naked musclemen. These guys stay to the sides of your hero and fire away and can access manbeams of their own. Sometimes the player might come across a cherub or a..well something else. Anyway like the hero these options can be powered up a bit as long as they're the ones that collect the protein. They can act as shields but direct contact with enemies is usually fatal(which is why I find it odd you can press a button to send them flying into enemies). For you direct contact with anything(except walls and floors) is fatal. The player's speed can be adjusted at any time though usually it isn't necessary(unless there's a particular setting you prefer). Oh and I almost forgot you get a handful of bombs for doing immense damage.

The five stages of this game are broken up into multiple parts. At first waves of enemies will assault your character. Typically you'll see everything the stage has to offer here and the rest of the stage follows suit with similar waves, though all of the enemies remain exclusive to the stage they appear in. Before long a mini-boss will attack. After destroying it the stage will resume until the player arrives at another mid-boss, and then another wave and boss will follow after that. At the end of the stage there will be the end-boss. With three mini-bosses and one end-boss for each stage that's quite a few for a 2D shooter.

The level design in this game is very barren. Unlike Wings of Wor which mixed it up by including traps and objects to look out for throughout the stage, the stages in Choaniki are mostly just one long corridor filled with enemies. Sometimes the direction the player moves in changes but that doesn't affect the gameplay. There's little in the way of formation or design to the placement of enemies either. Pretty much every regular enemy you fight has little in the way of variation and all they do is move forward while firing bullets. At least the enemies have different bullet-patterns but other than that there's not much else to differentiate stage 1 from stage 2 through 5. Towards the end of stage 5 the designers get the bright idea to throw some walls in that affect movement and can crush the player if they don't move. 

The bosses on the other hand are quite good. Some of them provide a large variety of attacks, others have multiple forms, and some show a lot of personality in coming up with interesting ways of killing you. The biggest problem with these guys however is that they fall much too quickly. While I admit to hating shooters where bosses take forever to kill I also feel that many of the bosses in this game can die off before they even get their feet off the ground.

The mechanics in this game are pretty sound. Despite your "ship" being a rather odd shape the hit-box is a good size and it takes almost a direct hit to put him or her down. Unfortunately it's not always clear what can kill you. Projectiles and direct contact with enemies are expected but there's certain parts that the player can freely go through if they know where they are. Some of the bosses are also so large that they leave the player very little room for moving around. I guess this doesn't matter much since they die so quickly but it's far from the optimal solution here.

The biggest problem with Cho-Aniki is that it's far too least on anything below the Hard setting. Looking past once the player is able to complete this game without dying they don't have much else to challenge themselves with. I guess someone could always choose to play without options, bombs, or so on but that would require a very well-designed game in order to consider putting forth that kind of effort. With Cho-aniki I just don't see it as the weak level design and quick-dying bosses don't provide enough entertainment to create new challenges.

While Cho-aniki isn't a spectacular failure and it has all of the necessary ingredients to make a good 2D shooter it's very clear that it relies more on its whimsical art direction and wonderful soundtrack rather than more important elements like good level design or a reasonable level of challenge.  If I weren't held to the restricctions set by this blog I'd recommend this game just for how it looks and sounds but otherwise it's just not something I'd consider if I wanted a good 2D shooter. Since the Virtual Console release clocks in at 900 points I'd say consider looking at Gleylancer. I know I will soon enough.

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