Cho Aniki, Shienryu & Sonic Wings Special – The PS3 Attitude Review
For a while now, MonkeyPaw Games have been busy bringing Japanese PSone titles to the North American PlayStation Store. Last month, the company brought their import service to the European Store, beginning with the release of a trio of old-school arcade-style shooters: Cho Aniki, Shienryu, and Sonic Wings Special.
There’s a reason why you probably haven’t heard of these games, and that’s because two of them have never had a release in Europe. The titles appear on the PS Store unedited from their original form, and yes, that means some of the text is in Japanese. Don’t worry though; PS3 Attitude is here to give you our take on these three import titles.
Cho Aniki is the type of game that could only have ever been developed in Japan, as it is possibly the weirdest and most random game ever made; it’s genuinely almost worth a download simply to see how crazy it is. We even had to do some research into the game, just to establish what on earth it is actually about.
The game’s full title is Chō Aniki: Kyūkyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyō Otoko (catchy, right?), and it is just one of several games in the Cho Aniki series, which is well known for its references to homosexuality (such as an unhealthy fixation on muscular men). This undeniably gives Cho Aniki a certain kitsch value, which may explain its popularity in Japan.
So what’s the gameplay like? In a word; difficult – actually, make that very, very difficult, bordering on impossible (yes, we know that’s more than one word). Side-scrolling shooters are notorious for their harsh difficulty, but Cho Aniki takes things to a whole new level, as (it pains us to say) we couldn’t even make it past the first level!
The game’s visuals are as diverse as they are crazy. You play as a man wearing just some underpants, sandals and a Viking-style helmet, and come up against enemies as random as a pack of floating heads, some men riding desk chairs, and flamethrower-wielding male torsos; we weren’t lying when we said it could only have been made in Japan.
Despite its incessant wackiness, there is a strange charm to the game, and the soundtrack includes some surprisingly catchy tunes. However, Cho Aniki’s ridiculous level of difficulty means that it’s really only worth downloading if you are either a hardcore shoot ‘em up fan, or have a soft spot for kitschy Japanese game design.
Thankfully, Shienryu is a far more conventional shooter than Cho Aniki. Shienryu sees you play as a member of the Burn Dragoon defence team, and pilot a spacecraft in order to defeat invading aliens. These aliens are controlled by a mysterious creature known as Shienryu (literally translated as Purple Flame Dragon).
This game is also very friendly to Western gamers, because most of the game’s text is in English rather than Japanese, meaning that it’s easy to change the game’s settings, keep track of your score, etc. We have to say, after the randomness of Cho Aniki, it was nice to play a game that we could actually understand!
Shienryu’s gameplay is about as traditional as a shoot ‘em up can get; you control your spaceship with the d-pad, shoot down alien ships with square, and unleash a much stronger (but limited) attack with X. Predictably, you can also use a number of power-ups to take out your foes, such as lightning, which can easily dispatch even the largest of enemy ships.
Graphically, Shienryu still holds up very well today. In the first level, you fly straight over a cliff with a valley below, and the overall effect is actually pretty impressive (at least by PSone standards). The visuals are bright, colourful and, most importantly, actually interesting to look at. Everything has a cartoonish edge to it, which adds to the game’s charm.
Shienryu doesn’t really bring anything new to the vertical-scrolling shooter genre, although considering it was originally released on the PSone twelve years ago, we didn’t really expect it to. However, it does provide the player with a good few hours of solid arcade fun, and so fans of the genre should find a lot to like.
Sonic Wings Special
Let’s get something out of the way straight away; no, this game has nothing to do with Sonic the Hedgehog (we know – we were disappointed too). Sonic Wings Special is in fact an enhanced port of the arcade vertical-scrolling shooter, Sonic Wings Limited, and is the only game in this article that has already seen a release in Europe (way back in 2004).
Like Shienryu, Sonic Wings Special is a traditional vertical-scrolling shooter, and once again, most of the game’s text is in English, so Western gamers should feel at home straight away. There are ten playable characters, representing countries such as Japan, the USA, Russia and Sweden (erm… okay then), who each have their own unique aircraft to pilot.
The game plays in a very similar manner to Shienryu (and most other shoot ‘em ups, come to think of it); you move with the d-pad, shoot with square, use X for a powerful screen-clearing attack, and rapid fire with circle. Interestingly, certain stages are randomly chosen, or branch in different directions, so you won’t see everything in one playthrough.
Each stage has a unique look and a nice amount of detail, and there is also a decent variation of enemy types. As you play, your main focus should be on defeating the enemy aircraft, tanks and other vehicles, but you can also destroy anything else that happens to be in your way, such as cars or buildings, which rewards you with a satisfying explosion.
Of the three imports we’ve discussed in this review, we’d recommend Sonic Wings Special over the other two titles. With branching stages, unlockable secret characters, and a Time Attack boss-rush mode, there’s a decent amount of replay value here for completionists, so shoot ‘em up fans shouldn’t think twice about giving Sonic Wings Special a try.