One of gaming’s greatest false dawns was the advent of the CD-based game system in the early 90s. Faced with the prospect of a medium capable of holding 650MB of game data rather than the 8MB of a typical console cartridge or the 2MB of an average Amiga title, the industry worked itself into a proper froth. There were even magazines devoted solely to software published on CD (regardless of hardware format), and everywhere was full of the thrilling possibilities of the new medium. (Not least the dramatic fall in software prices that was promised as a result of ditching expensive chip-filled ROM carts in favour of dirt-cheap CDs. When will we learn, eh?)

Of course, when it actually happened, the CD revolution was rubbish. Consoles like the CD32 offered nothing but hasty shovelware ports of existing Amiga games, usually without even taking advantage of the extra controller buttons so that unfortunate gamers still had to use “up” to accelerate in racing games or jump in platformers. The Sega Mega CD, while it brought a few new hardware capabilities (most notably a SNES-style 3D scaling and rotation function), saw hardly any games make use of it – unsurprisingly, since the Mega CD cost £300 and nobody in their right mind bought one – setting a standard for hardware flops that would later sink Sega as a console maker altogether.

But one machine DID see a big benefit from the advent of the CD, and that machine was the PC Engine. The cult Japanese and US console had been overshadowed by the more powerful Mega Drive and SNES, but its CD drive brought it up to a par with its bigger brothers, and publishers (relatively speaking) flocked to take advantage, bringing a whole slew of original CD-only games to the platform (as well as updates like R-Type, giving the game a beautiful new soundtrack, extra sections and stylish between-level cutscenes explaining the plot for the first time).

Games like the Summer Carnival series of shmups (released for and named after a yearly competition event), FMV detective whodunnit JB Harold Murder Club, rock-hard Super Sprint clone Motoroader MC and the extremely rude manga shooter Steam Hearts all graced the Engine, and are now some of the rarest and most sought-after titles by hardcore game collectors.

Emu Zone has a particular soft spot for the wildly surreal shooting antics of games like God Panic and Star Parodia (a Parodius-style spoof on the legendary Star Soldier series), but it’s very hard to go wrong with PCE CD games, with the platform upholding perhaps the most consistent standards of release quality of any games console ever. Class-leading PCE emulator MagicEngine handles CD games beautifully either from the original disc or a ripped image, so you’ve got no excuse any more for missing out some of the most obscure, but finest, gaming ever created. 


A bonus section from R-Type Complete CD.

Arse attack: the seriously tonto God Panic.




Blimey. See below.



Cho Aniki (Super Big Brothers) PC Engine CD, 1992

This title led Emu Zone to uncover a whole little gaming subculture which had previously escaped its attention. The Cho Aniki brand covers several games - for example, there’s a fighting game on the SNES and an RPG on the Wonder Swan – though almost never two in the same genre. But this is the first, and the culture of which we talk is the culture which dare not speak its name – flagrantly homosexual videogaming. If you thought Soul Calibur was camp (and if not, you must reckon Graham Norton’s a rugby player), you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Cho Aniki is a gloriously over-the-top scrolling shooter, with the player represented as a muscular guy in tights and a cape, the various stages strewn with gigantic near-naked bodybuilders, and the music a charming mix of Japanese operatic and Latin carnival sambas. (You can also pick up Nemesis-style drone powerups which are Dolph-Lundgren-style spinning hunks in pale blue pants.) The best bit is the “Continue” sequence, where the countdown is illustrated by oiled dudes throwing some very Village People shapes, but all the way through the game exhibits a fantastic sense of joy, and throws in some pretty decent shooting action to match.



(Left) The least gay pic of Cho Aniki ever taken.


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