Game Center CX Season 11 – Back to Contents
It’s the end of summer in Japan; August 29th, 2009. Our story begins at 10:00 AM at the Fuji Television headquarters in Daiba. The Gas Coin staff sets up in preparation for the biggest TV event of the season: the Game Center CX 24-hour live special.
Fast forward to 7:00 PM — three hours to go until showtime. Arino arrives at the building, and is taken up to his dressing room, which has everything he needs, including five bento boxes. The woman holding the camera asks Arino how his health is doing. In response, Arino empties a bag of prescription drugs — he’ll be fine.
From the room, Arino watches the pre-show that aired a bit before the special. In it, AP Tojima takes the audience through the "command center" and the other rooms around the building where the staff will be working. After a break, Tojima goes off to find Arino, and a small comedy bit ensues where Arino’s manager, Noda, is carted off to make room for the star.
The clock strikes 8:00, and the staff goes through one last meeting, as well as a rehearsal. It’s also around this time when fans are sent into the Fuji Multi Theater — this fortunate group gets to watch the show on the big screen the entire time.
10:45 — 15 minutes to go until air. Staff members from the ADs on up share their confidence in what will happen. Arino is mostly dressed and ready to go, too. And then, at 11:00, showtime. Arino walks in on AP Nakayama, busy playing Virtual Boy. The opening titles roll, and then, we see Arino sitting pretty in his chair.
Despite teasing to the contrary, Arino will only be playing one game for this broadcast: Lemmings for Super Famicom, one he’s already challenged back in season 10. Back then, he started by playing the game’s "Taxing" levels, but they proved too hard for him. He moved down to the "Tricky" level, completed that, and considered his challenge successful. But now, he must attempt to complete Taxing once again… and he has 24 hours to do it.
The opening minutes of the show introduce Arino to not just the game, but also Tojima, representing the theater crowd; writer Kibe in the fax hall, and a giant board covered in 30 numbered sheets — when Arino beats a Taxing level, he just tears off the corresponding sheet.
11:22 is when Arino finally puts in Lemmings and flips the switch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it takes Arino a while to get acclimated to the game again, and he spends quite a while on the first level. Still, it’s early, and Arino already notices someone in the theater who’s already asleep.
Faxes come in that help Arino with the level, and then, finally, it’s over after 48 minutes. Arino peels off the first sheet to reveal what is apparently a blow-up of the Lemmings box art. At 1:15 AM, Arino reaches level 3, and cameraman-slash-cook Abe arrives with a late-night ramen dinner for Arino.
The game continues, and Arino once again runs into a snag. But not only are fans sending in helpful faxes, but a couple of guys in the theater are writing messages, too. Arino is also shown the debut of the live show’s "theme song," Last Continue, as sung by AP Nakayama.
It’s ten minutes to 3:00 AM, and Arino soon has to leave to do a special radio appearance. The breaking point comes when the members of comedy trio Yasuda Dai Circus burst in through the door and do a little act right behind Arino.
But then the clock strikes three, and Arino must now rush out of the building and get to the radio studio. IN his stead, AD Emoto and AP Nakayama continue to play the game. Two hours later, at 4:45, Arino’s radio appearance is over, and he exits the studio with the Yasuda Dai Circus guys — though he takes the taxi back on his own.
Arino gets back to Fuji as daylight breaks, but before getting back to the game, he stops at the theater to say hi to everyone there. There, he makes a lofty statement that he will complete 10 levels in the next 12 hours.
Level 6 begins, coindentally, at 6:00 AM. Arino takes over for the ADs, who were already getting pretty sleepy. Arino is kept awake by being spritzed in the face by AD Watanabe, while down in the kitchen, cameraman Abe is preparing breakfast. Level 6 moves on to level 7, and time continues on through level 10.
At ten minutes to 11:00, the show takes a quick break for some commercials and promos. After thinking on it for a while, Arino decides to get up and take a quick rest. He reclines on the adjacent sofa and gets some simple shut-eye. A few minutes later, he returns to the desk and the show resumes. Arino has now put multiple cold pads on his face, and he looks like the walking dead.
He resumes playing level 11, but still isn’t getting anywhere. AD Emoto comes in and gives him some hints for the level that will keep the lemmings safe while Arino concentrates on building a path for them. Arino tries out the advice while Emoto sits back and watches. It works, and Emoto is very thankful.
Level 12 is easy, so Arino speeds through it, but level 13 is rated at a four-out-of-five-lemming difficulty. The day continues to take its toll on him, but in the nick of time, Abe arrives with his curry udon, and videos of encouraging messages from Arino’s acquaintainces are shown, all of which hopefully energize him for the next chunk of time.
It’s well into the afternoon when Arino reaches level 15. At that time, Nakayama and Emoto return, offering Arino another two-hour break. We then follow Arino through the halls as he goes downstairs and receives a massage — and likely gets a long nap during it. Meanwhile, Emoto and Nakayama have been up for 16 hours so far, and look even worse than Arino. Even the viewers’ faxes poke fun at the zombified kacho.
But they’re not the only ones busy. The rest of the staff takes stock of their progress, and it’s suggested by producer Kan that, for the final six hours, they move the show straight into the Multi Theater for an in-person show. The theater staff rigs up a desk, and then, it’s time for the last leg of the journey.
Ten minutes to 5:00 PM. Emoto finishes up level 18 just in time for Arino to stumble out of his dressing room, pick himself up, take a tour of the fax hall, and put on the jacket once again.
Arino walks back into the theater to great applause, and sits down on the stage. Arino begins level 19, which is quite tricky with its multiple, very thin platforms. With the audience now right in front of him, every yelp and groan can be heard, making for an exponentially more enjoyable show. After several tries, arino gets just enough lemmings in the hole to clear level 19. It’s only a little past 5:30 when he starts level 20.
Emoto sits backstage going over his notes on the game from before, then goes on to join Arino on the stage. However, even Emoto’s good advice can’t fix Arino’s timing, and it takes almost an hour to finally make good progress on level 20. The audience goes crazy when he finally nails it.
6:35 marks the start of level 21. Fire traps surrounding the exit can easily fry the lemmings, so Arino once again has to trigger a Builder lemming in exactly the right spot. At least it didn’t take too long, as it’s just a little after 7:00 when Arino moves on to level 22.
But then, something to take the wind out of Arino: a full five-point difficulty rating for 22. But to help with the last few levels, Emoto and AD Ito produced a series of tip videos for each level for Arino to look at. The videos show the exact points to place lemmings or do other actions. It only takes 15 minutes after that for Arino to figure it out and get the lemmings home safely. Not bad for what was supposed to be super hard.
Level 23 is next. Arino gets confused with how to place the Builders, but Emoto takes over and shows him an ingenious shortcut that finishes things up. Much applause for the AD.\
In three hours, seven levels have been completed, which isn’t too bad at all, all things considered. Arino almost beats level 24, but times out. On the second try, he nails it. Level 25 is next, just a little after 8:00. A crucial mistake leaves Arino short one lemming after failing to continue a bridge, and also makes him risk losing more than he is allowed. He has another lemming finish the bridge, but the others are right behind, and start falling to their deaths. Miraculously, Arino keeps the requisite number alive, and clears level 25 by a hair’s breadth.
It’s past 8:30. Outside, the rain soaks the streets of Daiba, but spirits are up inside. But now it’s getting crazy again. Level 26 has three lemming drop points, and a single exit in the middle. Careful management of the lemmings can ensure victory, but again, timing and placement is crucial.
Arino tries his best to mimic the ADs’ tip video for this level, little screw-ups cause fast failures. Time continues to tick by, and Arino is notified that there’s just 90 minutes left in the broadcast. The theater’s gone silent. Eventually, Arino checks in with Kibe at the fax hall, and someone sends in a helpful diagram telling Arino to put the Builders in the absolute far corners. More tips come in, and soon, the picture is becoming clearer.
Once again, Emoto offers to take over and give it a shot. He’s still not doing great, but then, an audience member begins yelling out suggestions to have the topmost lemmings dig down to the exit. Arino tries it himself, and… it works! A final path is made connecting the lower left corner, and all the lemmings are safe!
Finally, level 27. This one requires a daring technique involving Bombers moving upward, but Arino nails it like a master. Behind the scenes, producer Kan announces a contingency plan: if Arino’s close to the end by the end of the broadcast, they’ll move the show to Fuji TV One, their third cable channel, but they’ll decide that at 11:40. Right now, it’s 10:10, and Arino’s still failing on 28.
He does get past it, though, and clears the level to — once again — thunderous applause. Level 29 is reached at 10:15. This one’s a little more involved, though, and requires a couple of tries to get right. It’s not impossible, though, and Arino creates the path that gets 97% of the lemmings to the exit.
And then, amazingly, level 30, at 10:37. Level 30 is actually dead simple in execution, but Arino just has to work fast. Another audience member yells the solution: with only 60 Diggers, Arino has to turn every lemming into one and successfully dig into the elongated platform to save them from falling too far.
Arino does fine at first, but it’s going too slowly. Nakayama yells out that he should pick up the pace, i.e. the lemmings drop rate. With heightened excitement, Arino goes through several tries trying to to get every lemming properly turned into a Digger. Every failure is another shot of pain.
But soon, he does it. Every lemming falls to safety, and the audience already starts applauding. All that’s left is for them to enter the exit, and… success.
A standing ovation, and with just a little less than 15 minutes to spare. The game’s ending is anticlimactic, as the cute animation goes straight into the first level of the next difficulty, Mayhem.
After the broadcast, Arino sticks around in the theater, and plays DS with the audience for a little while.