Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ai Choaniki

Super CD-ROM

This is an atypical shooter, and I don't just mean in the most overt way. I'm sure everyone knows about Choaniki's bodybuilder element by this point, but if you're not acquainted with the series, take a look at this:

Now you've got the idea. But the thing here that will capture the serious shooter fan's attention is the control scheme. In order to pull off attacks that can dent the stronger enemies, you have to input Street Fighter-esque button combinations: back-forward-II, quarter-circle-II, and so on. Your bodybuilder flings stardust, deals spin-slaps, and blows enemies away with the devastating MEN'S BEAM. I didn't expect Ai to play very well, but performing the wacky techniques can feel pretty natural after just a short time, although few players ever reach a point where they're completely comfortable with the setup (pulling off a fighting-game move while you're flying around and dodging projectiles can prove to be a little tricky).

If the gameplay doesn't do it for you, the superficials probably will. In fact, this game has some of the most appealing visuals to be seen in a PC Engine shooter. You travel through typical environments like forests, oceans, and outer space, but they're jaw-droppingly beautiful here, and you get plenty of huge, well-drawn foes to deal with. And I won't even attempt to describe the music except by saying that it's eclectic and quite crazy (and definitely in a good way).

The disappointing thing about Ai is that it's incredibly easy. Once you have the moves down, you'll be smacking and stardusting your way right through the stages, and it takes only one look at any given boss (and its respective attack repertoire) to figure out exactly how to beat it. Also, there are only four stages to get through. Granted, all of them are split into sub-levels and contain multiple bosses, but they still constitute a very short trip.

And I guess the theme won't be for everyone, but you might be surprised at how much you end up enjoying the game. A buddy of mine was reluctant to purchase it, but when I finally persuaded him to and he powered it up, he yelled out "SEXY DYNAMITE!" within ten seconds and has been a big fan ever since. See, there's a euphoric feeling, a sense of both bewilderment and amusement, that goes along with experiencing Ai Choaniki's genius for the first time. This is a short, easy shooter, but if you'll be whipping it out every now and then to let friends experience the fun too, you'll find it to have pretty decent replay value. Otherwise, it'll probably be a one-day-and-out affair.

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