Game Center CX Season 1 – Back to Contents
This 90-minute special features a rare interview with Pokemon creator and Game Freak chief Satoshi Tajiri. Arino sits down with Tajiri in the Game Freak offices and starts by discussing Tajiri’s entrance into the game industry. It all began with his obsession with the arcade and the subsequent creation of his gaming fanzine, also called Game Freak. The zine featured lots of tips and tricks for the arcade games of the time, mostly culled from Tajiri’s own knowledge. He sold the zine for 200 yen; enough to properly fuel his gaming habit if he broke even. A particular love of Xevious led to a separate handmade "how to score a million points" strategy guide for the game, which sold in droves.
In 1981, Tajiri entered a game-idea contest from Sega. His submission, an action game called Spring Stranger, got him on the list of finalists. The interview moves on to Quinty (Mendel Palace), Game Freak’s debut as a developer. Tajiri talks about working with Quinty’s publisher, the fickle Namco, but also the honor of working with the company Tajiri had idolized for so long. From there Arino moves up to Yoshi, Game Freak’s first collaboration with Nintendo. And then the two discuss Pokemon, mainly the ideas behind it. Arino then reads questions from viewers for Tajiri to answer.
Next, Arino and Tajiri engage in a Pokemon battle. Arino shows off his collection first — 150! — and then the fight begins. The battle is pretty even, as Arino and Tajiri keep trading KOs with one another. But eventually Tajiri lands 3 KOs in a row and ends the match. Finally, back in the interview room, Arino asks about Tajiri’s current favorite game and manga are, and also what it means to be a game designer.
Later on, Arino visits the "Pokemon League Triple Beat" event at the Panasonic Center, with his own Pokemon in tow. He challenges the little kids, loses badly and gently berates them. He then goes over and trades a few Pokemon with a little girl, and unofficially challenges some other kids outside. A thick boy gives Arino (and the audience) some battle advice, as well. Finally, one more real battle against a 6 year-old girl. Arino gets an early advantage, but is quickly pummeled. Maybe 32 isn’t the best age to debut in the Pokemon League.
Arino returns to the dreaded Super Mario Bros. 2. Why, you may ask? Revenge! Arino starts from the beginning to make it past world 8-2 one more time. He gets back there, but continues to fail. AD Tojima steps in. A young viewer sent in a videotape with a perfect clear of the game, making Arino’s time spent on 8-2 look like a waste in comparison. Arino views the tape a couple of times, and tries to duplicate what’s on it, until there’s a knock on the door. The viewer, a junior high student by the name of Kazuki Akita, steps in, along with his dad and little brother! Dad and Arino trade business cards, and Arino asks Kazuki if he was the one who did the tape. He’s duly impressed.
The show continues to refer to the kid as "tensai shonen" (genius boy) from then on. He sits down at the Famicom and gives Arino a live demonstration of his SMB2 mastery. Arino asks him, "did you see Game Center CX?" "Yes." "How was my playing?" "…Nnn, so-so."
But as soon as he gets to 8-4, Kazuki resets the game. Arino is flabbergasted, but for a perfect clear, of course, you must beat Super Mario 2 without warping. In the next segment, Arino and the family sit down as Akita starts from the beginning of the game. Arino butts in and tries his hand at the game again after a few worlds. Of course, he’s just not quite the same as the genius boy.
But when he scrapes by 7-4, Dad and the little brother politely applaud him. And then we get to 8-2. Arino amazingly gets by the tough point, but hands the controller back to Kazuki for the next world. Arino tries playing again in 8-4, but fails a little too much. He hands it back to the boy. His speed is impressive, but Arino asks to have the final moment with Bowser. He’s scared, but has no trouble with it. More applause!
The family has to leave to catch the train home, so Arino shows them out. But just as he stands up, he notices something new on the screen: the message introducing World 9! The family leaves, and Arino sighs heavily on his way back to the desk. He gives World 9 a try, but dies on the first level. The game only gives you 1 life to try it, so Arino just sighs once more.
Onsen Game Travelogue – A Visit to Hakone
The show heads to the lush town of Hakone in search of fancy hot springs and classic games. Can you believe that they often go together? Sure, it’s Japan! Arino starts off by checking out an outdoor market, and then heads to the Seihou Kaku Terumoto resort. Armed with 5,000 yen in coins, he heads into the resort’s game room. A few well-worn machines line the walls. He spots a pair of half-size cabinets with Gaplus and Time Pilot, and decides to start with Gaplus. The fire button seems to be broken, however, so all he can do is move around aimlessly in space. He dies with a score of 0. It was probably best to start with Time Pilot instead, as he moves over to that game next. He ends up getting the #2 score, and inputs his initials as "SEX." Oh, what a card! Afterward he heads to the hot spring to relax his joints after hunching over those awkward cocktail cabinet controls.
Part 2 features Kin-Tou-En, another hot spring hotel. Arino walks up the darkened stairs to the game corner (making an allusion to Resident Evil on his way up) and faces a smaller but cleaner game center than the last place. He scores 1st on Galaga and gets another chance to inscribe SEX on the leaderboard. He then moves over to a mechanical game, Happy Pierro, by NMK. The goal is to score 300 points, but Arino only gets within a hair of that each time. He curses NMK and moves on.
The next visit: the Hotel Okada. Arino takes the train there while playing Pokemon on his Famicom GBA. Once at the hotel, he walks into the downstairs game center. There are more mechanical games here than the other locations, but there’s a fair share of video games as well. Arino spots a Prop Cycle machine tucked in the corner, and gives it a go. The game seems to have a disastrous problem with its texture mapping, though. He moves on to the other mechanical games, and gets foiled by a crane game. Who’s responsible for it? "Ah! NMK!!" The day ends with another hot bath and a lavish dinner with the rest of the staff.
Part 3 is Senkyou-rou, in a very foggy part of the area. The first game Arino spots and settles on is Capcom’s 1943. It’s a short visit, however. He takes the cable car over to "Mitake," a more rustic-looking place. The game room is a little homely, as well. Inside are two coin-operated boxes with Super Famicoms inside. Arino starts with a pachinko game instead, and then tries the old Invader clone, Phoenix.
In the final segment, Arino visits the Yamatoya Hotel. A gondola takes him down there, and once he arrives, he jogs up the steps to the game corner, which only has Dig Dug and Popeye. He tries out Popeye, and then gets flustered by another nefarious mechanical novelty.
The journey ends with another bath, and then to a landmark very close to Mt. Fuji, where Arino reflects on the trip. He spots another NMK machine inside, however, and runs up to give it a go.