Project A-ko in Video Games

It was right in the middle of the 16 bit console wars that I first saw Project A-ko, and oh, how I longed for an A-ko video game. Given the amazing set pieces like the Arashiyama Five battle and the missile-hopping spaceship approach, it would seem to have been made with games in mind. You could have slapped a couple mini-games based on scenes like those on top of a standard beat ’em up and it would have been manna from heaven for me. But, I was watching it almost 10 years after release and it wasn’t the hot thing anymore when developers were making 16-bit games. I still make A-ko create-a-characters in every game that supports it, my gnawing passion yet denied.

But, there were a couple of real A-ko games for the PC-88. And a few people, God bless ’em, tried to make games that just didn’t gel. There are also some pretty impressive fan-made characters for the MUGEN customizable fighting game.

I decided to seek out the PC-88 games after seeing them in online auctions. After a lot of sleuthing I found them and an emulator on some obscure Japanese site. The game based on the first movie is in the style of a board game.

C-ko rolls the dice for you as A-ko (Player 1) and B-ko (Player 2 or the CPU) try to race to school. Landing on certain spots can award you with an item (not sure exactly how you acquire or use them) or cause you to go back a few spaces.

Sometimes, a battle between A-ko and B-ko will be triggered, with the loser having to go back a number of spaces. I’m not quite sure how to win one of these dustups, the only buttons that seem to do anything in-game are the Space Bar, F3 and F4. Feel free to pass along anything you learn. :)

Each roll is bookended by a vibrantly rendered 8-bit still from the movie. Isn’t that adorable? And A-ko’s history!

Depending on what scene it is, you might move forward or backward- the scene above makes you go allllll the way back to the beginning. This game has no sound, by the way. It’s really unfortunate, I’d have loved midi versions of songs from the movie.

Project A-ko 2 still features the pixelized frames from the movie, with some screens requiring multiple choice so if you don’t know Japanese, it’s going to be trial and error.

On this screen, if you pick option 1 you eat C-ko’s bento and it’s Game Over.

The game mechanic has changed to casino from board game, with Blackjack and Slots. Presumably this takes place at Spaceship Land, where they got hot water, in their spaceship bathtubs.

I’m not sure if this is all the game consists of. These kind of games don’t really hold my attention and if the idea is that you need to break the bank, Captain Napolipolita has a ridiculous amount of chips. I don’t have that kind of patience.

These screens are great though. I did discover that you can open a shop with Mr. Daitokuji by pressing F1, so there may be more modes. And this game does have music, although it is not recognizable from the movie. I’ve made a small pack with both games and an emulator so you can try them out for yourself. I’m pretty sure this is abandonware but I’ll take them down if I get any complaints.

Project A-ko PC-88 pack

Just searching “Project A-ko” on Google one day led me to the site of Sunteam, a UK software developer. They made an aborted attempt at a Street Fighter style A-ko game for the Amiga. Their version of the one-sheet artwork is stunning!

Vanguard Media was at one point working with Central Park Media to produce a Project A-ko computer game. One of my CPM promo flyers mentions a CD-Rom game from “Media Vision” that was due to release in 1994. This is probably the same game, it was never completed but this prototype runthrough was posted to Youtube. It’s a bit corny but still looks fun, I like the scene where B-ko chases you with a bazooka.

MUGEN, for the uninitiated, is a PC-based fighting game that allows new characters to be imported. Creators either draw their own sprites or rip them from other games to create new characters for dream matches- Scorpion vs Ryu, Goku vs Superman, you get the idea. A creator called Majere made A-ko and B-ko characters from some SFA sprites, and shockingly they are still available for download from his original site, over 20 years later.

These are his pics, by the way. I was going to reinstall MUGEN to take some screens of my own but then I’d have to find and install some relevant backgrounds too… Anyway, I had a lot of fun with these personally and they are clearly a labor of love. There are a lot of sound clips from the movies and the A-ko even has a little C-ko cheering her on in the background. I am not sure if they work with the current version of MUGEN.

Majere MUGEN characters

In 2009, a talented Japanese creator called OGGY released his own version of A-ko. This one is breathtaking. It is all original art, and the animation is fluid. Just look at this sample gif.


All of A-ko’s moves are recognizable from the movies. She does her concrete-ripping shockwave, throws tanks, and summons Mari, B-ko and the Arashiyama Five. Her hard punch and kick attacks knock you clear across the screen and she also has a sliding move, something that’s always a plus in a fighting game character for me, and an evading roll like Ken in SFA. On the down side, like a Final Fantasy game, the summon animations get irritating to watch after you’ve seen them a time or two. A-ko is also severely overpowered, which is true to the character and fun when you’re using her, not so much when you fight the cheap AI controlled version. I haven’t played the newer version he has up now yet, but apparently he made improvements to the AI. Still not the beat-em up of my dreams but maybe as close as we get. I would love to see this sprite sheet, imagine if you could plug A-ko into something like a Beats of Rage fan game?

This video shows a human player vs A-ko and she shows off almost all her moves except Mari, and really steamrolls this guy despite his skill. Still, this video uses the version from before the AI update, so it should be better now. If you want to try these characters and MUGEN out, first you’ll need the base game. The parent company Elecbyte went under and disappeared from the internet, only to re-emerge with version 1.1 and then fade away once more. This is one of the more reliable places to get a vanilla version, although I had to turn off my VPN to access this site.

MUGEN Archive MUGEN 1.1 beta

I’ll quickly go through how to add new characters, as it’s the most important thing to know and can be frustrating to figure out. First, put your character’s folder (in this case, A-ko-OGGY) in the directory mugen/chars. Then go to the folder mugen/data and use Notepad to open the file “select.def”. Scroll down to where it says,

;Insert your characters below.

and simply type A-ko-OGGY , close and save changes. If you want to add more characters, you just have to type the name of whatever that character’s .def file is on a new line. You can also put in custom stages and soundtracks, to match your characters.

So, that’s about all I know about Project A-ko video games. I hope there is more out there I’m not aware of, let me know of anything I missed!