Digital downloads are a big deal these days. Old school gamers such as myself are hard-pressed to relinquish the physical aspect of gaming and collecting, but what if you could only get certain game digitally? Enter Cho Aniki Zero, the latest in a rather notorious series that has found a second US release on the PSP (the original title was released on the Virtual Console). Kudos to publisher Aksys for leveraging this newer medium to bring over smaller titles such as Cho Aniki, though its standard shooter gameplay doesn't offer the same level of creativity as its bizarre homoerotic muscelman themes and accompanying music. Playing Cho Aniki Zero is good for a chuckle and a raised eyebrow here and there, though its difficulty seems a bit steep for the curious shooter fan (there is a shorter easy mode though). You'll have to work to get that next level of oddness.
In order to trounce the hordes, players initially choose either super-juiced male Idaten or the lusciously hardened female Benten and an assist character who can launch rechargeable power attacks along with normal attacks. A standard powerup system and screen-clearing bombs are also available. Since enemies swarm from both sides, you'll have to switch direction with the triggers. Your simple goal is to destroy the arsenal of mostly naked or just-plain-weird enemies that come your way, collecting powerups and colorful little stick figures that pop out of defeated enemies.
Much of the beauty of the game is lost in its rather generic 3D visuals, but it's worth the journey at least once to destroy a juiced up Thomas the Tank Engine looking boss, two swimming guys in fishnet stockings, or a naked guy in a tub. Little touches such as the options menu allowing you to increase "Gallons of Man Juice" and "Number of Eruptions," or the continue menu showing two sweaty men embracing rather tightly in string bikinis are the main reason to give this a try. Wait, did I just write that? Seriously, this is a chance to speak with your wallet. Either you support odd Japanese efforts like this or you don't, but this is a great test of the medium to see if the physical aspect of niche titles is as important as the game itself.
While the gameplay is rather simple and difficult, the unique themes and fantastic music make this an interesting experience for fans of the series or those into odd Japanese games. Think of this as a great conversation piece among friends, and a break from the more vanilla titles catering to the mainstream.