April 10th, 2007 | Feature
The Game Center CX Episode Guide
The front-to-back tribute to the Japanese TV show that flies in the face of Nintendo's epilepsy warnings.

 

The Show

Game Center CX is a video game show airing on Fuji Television’s satellite channel "Fuji TV Two" (and if you’re wondering, the "CX" comes from Fuji’s call sign, JOCX). With a heavy emphasis on retro games, the show appeals mainly to the game otaku set, but can be easily enjoyed by anyone who’s into old games and game culture.

In its first season, Game Center CX was more of an interview and history show, as host Shinya Arino (in a seafoam suit typical of Japan’s bubble-era workforce) visited legendary Japanese game companies and interviewed key creators. What turned out to be more entertaining were the "chousen" (challenge) segments, where Arino laid his unskilled hands at one of the companies’ classic games.

By the next season, Game Center CX had made the challenges the centerpiece of each episode, turning the show into something more like the stereotypical Japanese variety/reality show: a little bit louder, intense and ball-bustingly cruel.

And it worked. As the seasons went on, the show started to grow in popularity, becoming a "miracle hit" (if you believe the front of the DVD boxes) and climbing to the top of TV Two’s ratings. From a simple description, it’s easy to call GCCX something lame and dismissive like "Iron Chef with video games," but a viewing or two is all it takes to see it’s very different, and arguably more awesome.

The Host

Shinya Arino

Game Center CX
Kacho (Section Chief)

Born: 2/25/1972
Height: 5’9"
Weight: 132 lbs.
B/W/H: 80/79/87
Blood Type: B
Interests: Video games

Shinya Arino is one-half of the prominent comic duo Yoiko. Like a lot of comedians, Arino was a nerd as a kid and, well, the soul still burns. As the sole figurehead of Game Center CX, it’s Arino’s job to provide humor to the viewers as well as hoping that he doesn’t let them down.

The Segments

Creator Interview / "I’d Like to Meet This Man"

(Seasons 1 – 2) Arino visits well-known game creators and producers at their workplace to discuss their pasts and possible futures. Luminaries such as Yu Suzuki and Hideo Kojima have chatted with Arino, as well as creators from lesser-known games (outside Japan) such as Derby Stallion and Sakura Taisen.

Arino no Chousen
Arino’s Challenge

The bulk of every episode of Game Center CX since Season 2. Arino sits down in a nondescript office with a small TV and a classic video game. He marathons the game, his goal being to reach the ending screen by any means possible. Codes, warps, hint books and maps are all much appreciated when they’re available, but often used only in really tight spots.

It sounds like cheating, but while Arino likes games, he’s not the best at them. The man consistently fails sections of some games that some of us have passed multiple times in our lives, and is playing them for the first time, after all. But more often than not he’s given a game most people haven’t seen the end of due to their being too difficult and/or awful. The result is pure comedy: Arino yells, moans and massages his head throughout every journey. He’s well-stocked with a pile of snacks and a box of portable cold compresses, and the off-camera staff applauds every milestone and yells at every close call.

And, comedian that he is, Arino remains shockingly good-humored no matter how badly he screws up (maybe the paycheck helps), often cracking jokes at the game or the staff that gives him a hand. Sometimes he takes longer than usual, needing to stop for the day so everybody can safely get on the last train home. The music is epic, the segment breaks are painful, the narrator is intense, and the entertainment value is high.

Tama ni Ikunara Konna Game Center ("TamaGe")
You Should Visit this Game Center Sometime

(Season 2 – ) Based on write-in suggestions from viewers, Arino visits various game centers, shops and other such amusement centers all over Japan that have old (and some new!) arcade games. The places are often tiny and modest, making them diamonds in the rough. TamaGe provides a sort of "gamer’s travelogue," guided by Arino’s wit.

Game Collections

Interstitials with brief release date timelines of Famicom games (or other titles based on the episode’s theme), with a short description and gameplay footage.

Arino’s Operation Moshi-Moshi

(Season 3) A segment that ran throughout Season 3 as a sort of secondary Arino’s Challenge. The game here was VAP’s Ganso Saiyuki: Super Monkey Daibouken — no doubt one of the worst Famicom games ever. The "Moshi-Moshi" part comes from the fact that Arino had a telephone next to the TV and would call viewers who sent in their numbers. They would then provide advice or, at worst, general encouragement.

Urawaza Jet Stream

(Season 4) Arino steps into a dimly lit sound booth, radio-DJ style, and reads fond recollections of favorite games. The segments end with a "request" for a well-known secret/cheat (urawaza) from the game, followed by footage of the trick.

Hard no Ace ga Detekonai
The Ace of My Hardware Won’t Appear

(Season 5) A play-on-words of an old Japanese pop song "Heart no Ace ga Detekonai." In this segment, Arino samples failed game systems throughout Japanese history. As you might guess, Sega got a lot of time here.

Romantic ga Tomaranai
The Romance Never Ends

(Season 6) A very tongue-in-cheek segment where Arino searches out salacious girly scenes in various Famicom games. He finishes by taking a picture of the girl on his phone. Again, the title is taken from (and uses) the pop song of the same name.

Game & Watch Hottokenai Yo
Game & Watch, I Can’t Leave You Alone

(Season 7) Arino’s back in the attic to sample one of Nintendo’s earliest video game successes — the Game & Watch games! Kibe-kun is also on hand to provide explanations, and just how much those old games are worth these days.

The Game Center CX Game-itization Project

(Season 7 – 8) This mini-documentary of sorts follows Arino as he meets and talks with various staff members from Bandai Namco Games and others who are working on the official GCCX video game. The segment gives little insights into the game development process and details on the GCCX game.

The Return of Operation Moshi-Moshi

(Season 8) The fan favorite from season 3 returns with a new game for Arino to try and conquer with the help of the viewers. The second operation is Championship Lode Runner, the expansion-slash-sequel to the Famicom hit, with more (and more challenging) levels. Can Arino figure all of them out, even with the help of his fans?

The Xevious Observation Diary

(Season 8) This tiny segment plays like a silent movie and begins with Arino putting in an invincibility code for Xevious, then fastening a clip onto the controller and leaving it there for days and days, simply to see what happens (easy, since the "stages" in Xevious loop indefinitely). Will it crash? Will it explode? Or will it simply count a gibberish score until the end of time?

Famicom Manga Café

(Season 9) Arino sits a cozy cafe and is brought his drink and a stack of ’80s manga based on the Famicom craze. There have been comics based on games themselves, but these are about original characters created from the idea of the Famicom itself. Arino reads through a chapter of the chosen series and makes his own comments.

Singing About Whatever the Hell You Want

(Season 10) Viewers provide a choice clip of music from a game, and also provide brief lyrics for Arino to sing with it. The lyrics are completely random, and the segment is basically another way Arino can embarrass himself. Fun for everyone!

The Game Center CX Game-itization Project 2

(Season 10) With the announcement of Arino no Chousenjou 2, the documentary segment returns, following Arino and the production teams at Bandai Namco and Indies Zero as they decide on and put together the elements for the sequel to the hit DS game.

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned From Strategy Guides

(Season 11) With GCCX staffers in attendance, a Japanese priest stands and recites "passages" from retro game strategy guides. They’re pearls of wisdom that shouldn’t be forgotten in your travels.

A Waste of Color

(Season 12) Arino’s known as somewhat of a cartoonist, so this segment lets him stretch his creative muscle as Kibe presents him with a bag full of Game Boy games. Arino chooses three, gives them a try, then decides which one he likes best to base a goofy picture on.

Crash Videos MAX

(Season 13) Inoko MAX invites Arino into his apartment to watch a series of videos of gruesome accidents… in video games, of course. Innocuous mistakes like crashing your bike in Excitebike are over-dramaticized with slow-mo, intense music, and countdowns to the carnage. Who knew Inoue was so morbid?

To Catch a Catch Copy

(Season 14) Arino and two former GCCX staffers, Tojima and Nakayama, convene in a traditional home with a table of games blanketed in front of them. The show’s female announcer, Ms. Takeda, reads a game’s catch copy (ad tagline), and the three men pick what game they think it is, and why, with the goal being to see who simply gets the most right.

Retro Read-Aloud

(Season 15) Arino and fill-in announcer Ms. Nishiyama do dramatic readings of key scenes from various games, such as the melodramatic Fire Emblem or adventures like Famicom Detective Club.

Project CX

(Season 15) Ostensibly a parody of the Japanese documentary show "Project X," Project CX is really just an excuse to get Arino to play with some beloved Famicom accessories and their associated games. If you wished you could see him play Duck Hunt or put on a Power Glove, wish no longer.

The Staff

When Arino hits a wall (certainly more often than not), it’s time for the younger Assistant Director to step in and lend a hand. The AD learns the games front-to-back before taping, allowing them to give advice and/or take the controls in order to get Arino past the troublesome parts. The only clear stipulation is that they don’t defeat bosses for Arino; he has to clear the game’s milestones himself. The AD also acts as a messenger, approaching Arino with a strategy guide, a turbo controller or to simply tell him when it gets too late in the day.

A long line of young, talented men (and one woman) have filled the AD role for Game Center CX, giving Arino plenty of sidekicks to thank and/or rag on. A number of supporting staff have also made appearances on the show, effectively filling out the GCCX "cast."

AD 1: Shinichiro Tojima

(Seasons 1, 4) Officially the founding AD (Naoki Yamada appeared briefly in episode #1), and fittingly the oldest. Tojima is best remembered for his hard work in helping Arino get through Super Mario Bros. 2. Tojima left the show early in Season 2 to pursue film studies in America, but found his way back to Japan, returning to Game Center CX as an AP (Assistant Producer), which kept him off-camera more often. By the end of Season 4 he had once again left the show, but stayed with the production company, only to return once again as AP.

AD 2: Hiroshi Sasano

(Seasons 2 – 3) Sasano debuted in Season 2, giving Arino the strength to get through Atlantis no Nazo and the other games that season. During Season 3 he graduated to Director. Sasano could be considered the thoughtful, creative type. He’s probably used the whiteboard the most on the show, charting out parts of games like Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Solomon’s Key and Prince of Persia.

AD 3: Shun Urakawa

(Seasons 3 – 6) Urakawa literally walked through the door at the start of Season 3. A friendly, focused guy, he almost always gets the job done when Arino is in a tight spot. Urakawa really made his mark when he stayed awake for 28 hours picking up the pieces as he tried to finish Adventure Island. It goes without saying that out of all the ADs, he’s the most skilled gamer of the bunch, earning the nickname "Ace."

AD 4: Yuya Inoue ("Inoko MAX")

(Seasons 5 – 6) Inoue was the new blood for Season 5, and his shy demeanor was but one deterrent in making a good impression — the fact that he quickly failed the first time he tried to help was the second. Since then, Arino was (jokingly) wary to enlist his help. In his college days, Inoue was heavily into the pro wrestling club and got involved in organized matches under the ring name "Inoko MAX." Once Arino found that out, it once again became Inoue’s new name. In season 13, Inoue returned to the show as an AD, but mainly as the star of his own segment.

AD 5: Sachi Takahashi

(Season 7) Like Inoue, Takahashi came in without a lot of game experience. Too bad, really, since she shares a name with Hudson’s famous game master, which naturally made Arino start calling her "Meijin" in one episode. She also used the whiteboard often to explain her tips, but when it comes to actually drawing a character, she’s quite, uh, interpretive. Sadly, the heavy responsibility that goes with being a Game Center CX AD led Takahashi to last for only half of the season, leaving the game-playing to Arino as she went on to pursue a career as a teacher (which is when Arino started calling her "sensei" instead).

AD 6: Takeshi Tsuruoka

(Season 8) Tsuruoka is the refined type — or, at least, that’s what was suggested when he entered to the sound of classical music. He’s friendly, a little soft-spoken, and willing to jump up and help Arino when he needs it. His Quest of Ki dioramas were impressive pieces of craftsmanship, but he really became memorable for his impromptu karaoke session at the tail end of season 8.

AD 7: Tomoaki Nakayama

(Season 9 – 12) GCCX has had its share of shy ADs, but Nakayama is just a man of few words in general. Instead, he just bows constantly. But he’s a good guy, and does actually know a lot about games, whether or not they’re on the show. Nakayama was promoted to AP for season 11, but stuck around until the end of season 12.

AD 8A: Hiroyuki Emoto

(Season 11 – 12) Emoto (nickname "Emoyan," as given by Arino) came on board for season 11, and quickly proved himself as another highly capable AD, deftly helping Arino with games like Genpei Touma Den. Highlights include Emoto offering to be Arino’s "second" in Punch-Out, but after being hammered on, it was Arino who had to be Mickey Goldmill.

AD 8B: Akane Ito

(Season 11) Joining Emoto for season 11 was Ms. Ito, the show’s second on-camera female AD. Well, in practice, she was on camera far less than Emoto. However, she was no less helpful, telling Arino hints from a distance, or, in the case of Punch-Out, actually drawing them out for him. Drawing is Ito’s specialty, actually, as she’s illustrated several handmade strategy guides for Arino.

AD 9: Yuuki Katayama

(Season 13 – 14) Seemingly shy at first, Katayama really just didn’t have a lot of opportunities to speak — Arino was handling games on his own pretty well for a while, there. He also seems to have a permanent smile on his face, so really, he can’t be that introverted. He’s good at helping Arino, too, of course.

AD 10: Junpei Takahashi

(Season 14 – ) Not to be confused with the previous AD Takahashi — this one is male, for starters. Somewhat mumbly, a lover of cardigans and AKB48 member Yuko Oshima, Takahashi 2 is nonetheless a big help to Arino when he appears.

Producer: Tsuyoshi Kan

Kan is the main producer of the show, and also pulls double-duty as the narrator. Other than describing scenes to the viewers, he’s also in the "challenge room," behind the camera, watching Arino with the rest of the staff. Occasionally he’ll break in and tell Arino when the end is near, usually followed by an ultimatum.

Broadcast Writer: Masayuki Kibe ("Kibe-kun")

Kibe-kun’s knowledge and collection of games cements him as the biggest game nerd on the staff. Therefore, he’s been brought on as Arino’s personal historian in some of the "attic" segments. He makes other appearances on TamaGe excursions, too, or any other time he may be needed when an AD isn’t around. His main job is to write the narration scripts.

Video Engineer: Yuichiro Suda

Suda made his first appearance during the Super Mario World episode, when he tried cleaning the cartridge contacts with a metal instrument, much to the panic of everyone in the room. During "Ace of My Hardware…" he was often called in to hook up the ancient game systems to the TV. He may look intimidating due to his measured silence, but he’s a family man at heart. And at least he’s handy.

Cameraman: Koichi Abe

Abe, usually silent for obvious reasons, is also the least dorkiest person on the show. He’s a motorcycle enthusiast with his hair styled to perfection and his arms slightly bulging. Abe’s probably played less games in his life than Arino, so he’s used as more of a decision-maker. But he’s the friendly "cool guy;" a multitalented sort who also dabbles in cooking and drawing.

The Royal Family

The otherworldly king, queen and prince of Game Center CX show up in between segments to introduce the segments or give Arino some encouragement (or at times, scold him). They look and act like they’re straight out of Dragon Quest, and as such, only communicate through text boxes.

Others
On- or Off-Camera

Muneaki Tanizawa ("Tani"): The guy behind the sound mixing board. Appeared during the Urawaza Jet Stream segments, and was also used as crowd control for GCCX’s TGS booth and Fan Appreciation Day.

Yuko Takeda: One of Fuji TV’s official announcers who narrates the TamaGe segments.

Yuko Watanabe: (Season 10 – 12) Another GCCX AD, but not the helping-with-games kind. She mostly helped with non-game-related stuff. On TamaGe trips, Arino often pokes fun at her size… but at least she always has a smile on her face.

The DVDs

Game Center CX is available on DVD as a series of box sets. Available to a point, anyway — each new set usually sells out within a couple of months. Though these are not season sets, they do feature the best selections from the series, as well as DVD-exclusive content and extra swag like stickers and Arino’s business card.




DVD BOX 1



DVD BOX 2



DVD BOX 3

  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Star Force / Super Mario Bros. 2 / Atlantis no Nazo / Ghosts ‘N Goblins / Prince of Persia / Super Mario Bros. 3
  • TamaGe:
    Hankyu Daily Shoppers
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Transformers: Convoy no Nazo / Arino’s Reactions
  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Super Mario World / Takahashi Meijin no Boukenjima / Takeshi no Chousenjou / Solomon’s Key / Rockman 2 / The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Director’s Cut)
  • TamaGe:
    Nigiwai Plaza / Nonbiri Onsen
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Ikki
  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Ninja Gaiden (Director’s Cut) / Milon’s Secret Castle / Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (Director’s Cut) / Quiz Tonosama no Yabou / Contra
  • Satoshi Tajiri Special Interview
  • Operation Moshi-Moshi
  • TamaGe:
    The Hot Spring Game Travelogue
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Twinbee


DVD BOX 4




DVD BOX 5




DVD BOX 6


  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Umihara Kawase / Street Fighter II (Director’s Cut) / Mighty Bomb Jack / Septentrion (Dir. Cut) / Youkai Dochuuki
  • TamaGe:
    Hana Yashiki / Tanigawa Stationery Shop / Ayase Batting Center / Ishida / The Far North Game Travelogue
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Bomberman
  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (Dir. Cut) / The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido / The Quest of Ki / Rockman / Super Fantasy Zone
  • TamaGe:
    TamaGe in South Korea / Shibamata Haikara Yokochou / Unirose / Denkiya Hall / Azuma Garden Leisure Center / Autobahn
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: The Tower of Druaga
  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Wagyan Land / Ganbare Goemon / Clock Tower / Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru / The Wing of Madoola (Dir. Cut) / Chelnov / YuuYuu no Quiz de GO! GO! (Dir. Cut) / Fatal Fury Special
  • TamaGe:
    Daily Mart Imaya / Takasagoya / Hoon-Yee Super / Kisarazu Central / Omocha no Fukushima / Cannes Report
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Yie-Ar Kung Fu & Mystical Ninja Revenge


DVD BOX 7




DVD BOX 8

 
  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Super Mario 64 / Door Door / Doki Doki Panic / Castlevania III / Donkey Kong Country / Mega Man II / Battle Golfer Yui (Dir. Cut)
  • TamaGe:
    Daiba Icchome Shotengai / Kineya Suzuki / Inagaki Pastry Shop / Dazaifu Amusement Park / Starlanes Plaza / Tokyo Tower / 10-Yen Game Shop / Warehouse Kawasaki
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: Binary Land
 

  • Arino’s Challenge:
    Quinty / Densha de GO! / Paris-Dakar Rally Special / Genpei Touma Den / Kamaitachi no Yoru (Dir. Cut) / Rockman 4
  • TamaGe:Komaya Toy Store / Bunbuku / Chiba Young Bowl / Mikado / Kikuchi Shoten / Miracle In / Nico Nico Hompo / Ikebukuro Batting Center / Super Fishing Adachi / Eleven Shop
  • DVD Exclusive:
    Arino’s Challenge: City Connection
    Arino’s Challenge: Genpei Touma Den Revenge
 

 

The Books

There are four books based on Game Center CX; basically episode guides with much more breadth and info than the one you’re reading now. The first book covers the first season, while Book 2 chronicles the next three. Each page is filled with text commentary by Arino and the staff. Book 3 is more of a Game Center CX encyclopedia, featuring a full-length GCCX manga story in the back. The fourth book, called "Game Center CX COMPLETE," collects all the GCCX articles featured in the Japanese anime/game magazine Continue. (Click the links to go buy them at Amazon Japan.)

 

The Games

Every good TV show needs a video game, right, greedy corporations? Except, er, this is a show about video games. No matter: as you saw from the segment descriptions above, Bandai Namco figured it all out and gave us Game Center CX: Arino no Chousenjou. Check that link for an in-depth preview at 1UP. The game even made its way to America as Retro Game Challenge from XSEED Games. This is no cash-in; it’s a great game that stands on its own.

Released in 2009 was the much-improved sequel, Arino no Chousenjou 2, with more fake retro games from not just the 8-bit era, but also from the 16-bit generation and even handheld systems.

 

External Links

Official

http://www.fujitv.co.jp/otn/gamecenter/index.html
The Game Center CX official home page. Features an episode list, an official blog with updates from the staff, a BBS/guestbook, and more. Why, the only bad things about it are the piercing beeping sounds upon loading.

Gas Coin Company
The home page of Gas Coin, the production company and actual creators of GCCX. Staff profiles, mini-blogs and more are available to further assist fans in keeping up with the show.

Fans

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ゲームセンターCX
The Japanese Wikipedia entry for GCCX. Used in the gathering of basic info for this guide.

http://www16.atwiki.jp/gamecenter_cx/
Another wiki, this one a much more complete alphabetical "glossary" of everything GCCX: Episode summaries, staff profiles and every catchphrase and other reference in the show.

http://www.geocities.jp/gamecentercx_doumei/
A fan page with, among other things, a fanart gallery.

GCCX Fanatics

Media coverage

Kachou ON! Game Center CX Super Fandom
Ego-stroking time! Check out Otaku USA’s interview with me regarding GCCX fandom.

Japan’s Reality-TV Gamer Just Keeps Playing and Playing and Playing…
Brian Ashcraft spends a day on the "set" of GCCX to talk to the staff, and gives a brief overview of the show.

GameSpy – The Joy of CX
WARP Anime Podcast Episode 68
The Lee and Z Show Episode 9

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