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Stretched Muscle- Cho Aniki Zero Review

For years, outlets such as EGM and Edge have tantalized players with screenshots from the Cho Aniki (Japanese for “Super Big Brother”) series of games. Deemed too bizarre for American audiences, I became intrigued by the game’s outlandish amalgamation of muscle-bound men with Gradius-like horizontal shooting, as I monitored the series from distant shores. Occasionally, rumors of a stateside localization would surface, suggesting that U.S. gamers would be able to enjoy the franchise’s oiled up enemies and laser-spewing Mona Lisa bosses.

After years of vicarious admiration, Aksys Games has brought Cho Aniki Zero: Muscle Brothers into the palms of PSP owners, marking the first time the series has seen readily available to American players. The initiative is to be commended- it’s not often we get to see a title as absurdly wacky as Cho Aniki Zero. Yet beyond a bit of homoerotic humor, the game woefully offers little to most gamers.

What’s the favorite beer of this mini-boss? Rolling Rock, of course!

Those who found hilarity within last summer’s Brüno, will probably derive a few snickers from Cho Aniki’s perpetual stream of toned Adonises, phallic innuendo, and a boss named Balzac the Second. There’s little doubt that the title pushes the limits of the ESRB’s Teen rating, especially when the game over screen displays two protagonist possibly sharing what might be more than a hearty hug. The jokes even spill out onto the options screen, where players choose from the amount of ‘gallons of man juice’ (lives) and ‘number of eruptions’ (screen-clearing bombs) given at the start of the game.

Yet, a stout serving of bawdiness isn’t enough to raise Cho Aniki above mediocrity. As delightfully salacious as the title is, a game needs more than humor to seize the attention of shmup fans. Each of the Cho Aniki’s stages (three are presented on the Easy setting, while five are accessible on Normal) are composed of two alternating elements: waves of reoccurring regular enemies, and a succession of bullet-spewing bosses, whose difficulty often seems disproportionately challenging. Each eliminated foe leaves behind power-ups which gradually augment the power of you offensive weaponry. Don’t expect to see the type of screen-filling arsenals displayed by most contemporary shooters until you use your stream shot; which is initiated by a short quick-time button combo.

What, you never seen a blue-haired angel’s belly button before?

Cho Aniki Zero does have a few variations that help offset tedium; players may choose from two main characters- Idaten, who discharges a triple round salvo, and Benten, who extends a spread-shot. Players that choose the former character are offered a choice of two partners with varying offensive artillery, with the latter offers two sidekicks armed with homing missiles. Regardless of which assistant is chosen, successful players will learn to use the subordinate to block incoming flak fields.

Visually, Cho Aniki Zero is competent, recalling the graphical fidelity of an early Playstation One game. While the title’s sprites lack the campy digital photorealism of Cho Aniki: Kyukyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyo Otoko, few lack imagination- from locomotives with arms to monstrous temples with human heads, the game’s antagonists are nearly universally inventive.

Cho Aniki has no shortage of men in bathtubs.

Cho Aniki Zero: Muscle Brothers is likely to please rapid otaku, who should be able to revel in the title’s unabashed obscurity. More mainstream shmup fans will probably regard the game as an interesting curio, but one that ultimately doesn’t offer enough innovation or polish to warrant its $20 USD price tag. Cho Aniki shows that humor alone isn’t powerful enough to compel a title into proficiency.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I heard about this series too. I heard it was always awful.

  2. Is this a late April Fools joke or soemthing?

  3. $20 is a bit high. I’ll bite for $10.

  4. I heard the game likes to suck. HAHAHAHA

  5. How many gallons of man juice did you start with?

  6. Primal Ice Cream

    I always though there was something funny about that Deagle character.

  7. Aren’t these supposed to be bad on purpose?

    Not that I understand that notion.

  8. Strange, really strange.

  9. Deagle, you ever play the Parodius Collection? How does it compare?

  10. No nudes is good nudes, especially when it comes to men.

  11. Good review for a game that only a few people will probably ever care about.

  12. Why cant they use hand drawn art instead of textured polygons?!?!

  13. a C+ seems too kind for this crap.

  14. I’ll pass on this one.

  15. I played a little bit of this. Its not great but kind of fun in a dumb way. I got to check out the options now.

  16. Pretty crazy game.

  17. I gotta play it and experience teh Balzac.

  18. SpoiledRottenGamer

    Take down those flying penises with glory!

  19. I heard this was one of the worst games ever…

  20. I guess you guys and IGN are the only one who reviewed this. Thank for the info.

  21. A C+ seems fair for a game a nitchy as this one.

  22. It got a T rating cause it is all implied.

  23. I bought the game last week, and I think it deserves a “C”; it’s not a great shooter, and like the review said, you have to collect a million power ups to get your guns to a decent level.

  24. Are they are cheat code for extra lives for this?

  25. How hard is the game? I like shooter, but no ones that are insanely hard!

  26. Man, this sounds weird. Maybe it will drop in price.

  27. Is that a quote from the game?

  28. I thought Cho might have another meaning…

  29. I’m glad to see games like this in the US, even if I won’t get this one.

  30. I really wish they offered a demo. I like done bad shmups sometimes.

  31. I don’t know about the whole gay theme on this one.

  32. I liked Karnov’s news section.

  33. I downloaded it, and its (pun intended) BALLS HARD. The underwater level is kicking my ass.