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.

 

Game Center CX Season 7 – Back to Contents
#50
ゲームセンターCX 50回記念 たまゲーin韓国 byエコノミークラス
Game Center CX 50th Episode Commemoration: TamaGe in South Korea – by Economy Class

While big on games and, er, the playing of them, GCCX has always had a big part devoted to game culture, too. In 2004, it was the Onsen Game Travelogue: a trip with old games and soothing baths. In 2006, it was the Far North Game Travelogue: an exploration of arcades in the coldest parts of Japan. And now, in celebration of the 50th episode of the second incarnation of the show, Arino is leaving home and heading to South Korea!

The journey takes place in Seoul and starts at a huge electronics market/warehouse — like a miniature indoor Akihabara, with crap stacked up on every wall. Arino starts to walk in when the producer stops him and has the staff hand him a Korean "survival kit:" phrase cards, 100,000 won in cash (13,000 yen; $106) and a new set of business cards with a Hangul translation on the back side! Now it’s time to check out the store.

Arino enters and checks out the next-gen consoles along the wall, then, with the help of Kibe-kun, goes through the retro game side of the store. A shoebox of bare Game Boy games lays below Arino. They all seem to be pirate carts, though. The second one he picks up doesn’t even have a label, and another has "GAME BAY" imprinted on it. Arino offers 5,000 won for the two of them ($5). The clerk accepts! Not bad for the first try.

Arino then spots an unmarked box on the floor filled with used Super Famicom and Super NES games. Everything in the box is 3,000 won ($3). The first game Arino picks up is Enix’s Elnard (The 7th Saga). He talks the clerk down to 2,000 won.

He then walks down a little more and finds another box of Super Famicom carts, and guess what’s on top but another copy of Elnard. Arino asks another clerk how much it is. "3,000!" Furthermore, you can get 10 games out of the box for 10,000. So Arino and the staff start pawing through the box. Arino picks up an odd looking pirate Famicom game, that seems to be a copy of Pro Wrestling. Another pirate game has cute cartoon squirrels on the box, but the cart has a big skull on it. Arino hands a stack to the clerk, who lets it go for 8,000. Arino offers 6,000 — nope. 7, then! "OK."

The gang continues to explore the building, where Kibe points out a selection of more Korean games behind one counter. Arino asks to step over and see them, and the older clerk agrees. On top is a… hair brush? Oh, it’s the old man’s; of course. The first game Arino picks out has a picture of a fat nerd drawn on it. Arino asks the clerk what the heck it is. He replies (via the interpreter) that it’s a Go game. A-ha. Arino opens up the box and sees it’s a Famicom game. It’s so lame, the clerk lets him have it for free.

A second game seems to come in a makeshift lunchbox case. It’s a karaoke game — Arino pops it open and the cart and little microphone are intact, bringing a big "ooooh" from the crew. Again, Arino asks how much it is. Amazingly, the old man decides that he can have it for no charge, too! Guess it wasn’t going anywhere, anyway. In exchange, Arino gives the clerk… a Fuji TV pen.

Moving on, Arino finds a figure shop. On the counter are bags of smaller figures, from Gundams to Teletubbies to Doraemon knock-offs. Arino asks the woman behind the counter what those are: "Doraemon!" Uh-huh. She pulls the string on one of them to make it dance.

Arino and Kibe then sit on a staircase and go over their haul. The Game Bay, the karaoke (which leaves dirt on Arino’s hands), the Elnards, and so on. No better way to start a trip than with a goofy shopping experience.

The next stop on the map is Insadong, with its famous shopping street. Arino walks by a little dance performance, then continues to the shops. More racks of Japanese toys are around. One man has a pile of incredibly old notebooks. A more recent one he offers to Arino for more than 6 bucks! Not worth it.

After checking an indoor store with funky masks and souvenirs, he finds another counter on the street selling a stockpile of "massage sticks. Arino throws some phrases at the woman running the stand (even "I love you") in an attempt to talk down the price below the 10,000 won, but his charm isn’t working.

Arino continues down the street and finds some fans that don’t have any designs on them. He buys one and autographs it as a prize for the viewers. Then, after walking by another storefront, Arino’s frightened by a statue of a creepy-looking little girl! He walks over to another merchant selling some weird toy rubber pig balls. He buys one and tries offering it to the statue to cheer it up.

Time for some food. Arino buys some little round things that are apparently pretty good. He feeds one to cameraman Abe, who quickly agrees. Further down the street, Arino runs into a group of Japanese women who instantly recognize him. He greets them, then takes a sip of one of the womens’ juice cups. He asks them where they got it, then goes over and tries it himself, sitting down and taking a break afterward.

Arino then heads way down southeast, across the river and to a place called the Sonpa Batting Center. Like the visit to the Ayase Batting Center last season, this visit looks a little depressing, too. Arino starts with a Whac-a-Mole clone called simply Stress Killer. He hammers the nondescript rubber things as they pop up, but he notices the one in the middle isn’t coming up!

Behind that are two large trampolines that a couple of kids are jumping on. It’s about $1 for 20 minutes, so Arino climbs on. I wouldn’t trust a trampoline in a place like that, but oh well. The little girl almost tramples him, but he gets up and starts jumping. After a few minutes, though, he’s already incredibly worn out. Arino slows down and steps off the trampoline, and as he exhaustedly stumbles through the center, he finally finds some video games. He tries Strikers 1945 for a while, but then decides to look around some more.

Now here’s something that looks fun: a small swinging-boat ride called Mini Viking. Arino finds the operator, introduces himself, then asks if he can join the kids on the thing. The man physically grabs the carriage to slow it down, then lets Arino on. The small steps leading in are made for kids’ bodies, though, so it’s a struggle fitting Arino’s full-grown butt in there.

In the next segment it’s evening, and time for dinner. Arino and the crew stop at a restaurant called Debuchan for a bite to eat. Arino tries some crispy meat folded up in lettuce — looking like a small breadless burger, and mighty delicious.

The GCCX interview segment "I’d Like to Meet This Man" makes a brief return when Arino’s set to meet with a few of Korea’s pro gamers. He visits the headquarters of CJ Entus, one of the country’s best e-sports teams. The place is a totally inconscipuous little hacienda, with a pond in the front yard and everything. Arino enters the lobby very quietly and heads up the stairs to find the team’s apparent practice room.

He enters the room and meets Ma Jae-Yoon (sAviOr), the ace of the team. Arino asks how much money he makes, which is in the millions of dollars. Arino’s duly impressed, nudging the boy multiple times.

Arino also talks to Seo Ji-Hun. He tells Seo that he’s a pro gamer, too; he even has his own action figure, you know! Seo agrees that that’s pretty amazing.

Following that, Arino talks with the Entus coach, Kim Dong-Woo, discussing the nature of pro gaming in the country, and even the importance of StarCraft.

After visiting Entus, Arino moves north again to check out another amusement park/game center: the castle-shaped Dream Land. And what does he try out first? The bumper cars! And is quickly assaulted by a gang of boys. Poor guy.

Later, he finds a real arcade on the lot, the Fantasy Corner, and steps inside. He tries a dart-throwing gallery near the door, and after popping three balloons, all he wins is a plush Aristocat. After that he finds a small mechanical game featuring a cow jumping rope. Except the "rope" is a metal bar, and if the button isn’t pushed at the right time, the cow catches on the bar and you lose.

Next he plays a Korean sit-down tank game called Chameleon RX-1. He seems indifferent after playing that one, though. That changes once he keeps walking and finds Come On Baby, the ridiculous baby-olympics game. After failing the long-jump event, Arino steps away from that little gem.

After making fun of the vaguely-infringent ride-on animals and getting a single sucker from a crane game, Arino finds a mysterious booth in one of the corners. He only has to step inside to see that it’s a portable karaoke box! After some purposefully awful singing, he goes back outside… and hops right on the merry-go-round! And then onto a full-size Viking boat! Weeew!

Night falls again, and it’s time to end this trip with a bang. Arino and the crew visit the Paradise Walker-hill Casino for some real grown-up gaming. The game of choice: Roulette. Arino starts with 300 yen in chips and puts one on the black 8. It lands on 24, instead. The next chip is straight black, but lands on red. Needless to say, the next few spins don’t turn out too well, either.

Next is Dai-Shou, the dice game Arino kicked ass at in last episode’s Goemon challenge. Can he replicate his success in real life? First roll: no. Second roll: no. He’s just about to leave when the producer chimes in and suggests the rest of the staff pitch in a few bucks and help Arino do his best at the roulette table. He goes for it, and each of the crew put on a cold pad and toss in a big bill, ending up with more than $570. Is this on the company dime?

The woman at the table gives back a pile of chips in exchange. The producer hands Arino a secret weapon: a plastic roulette toy? It, uh, doesn’t seem to work as planned. The game begins. The gang advises that Arino chooses black. 30,000 yen on black, then. The spin.

Red! And it almost bounced into 00! Noo! Three stacks of chips go bye-bye. After studying the board, Arino thinks of going with black again. Show of hands: nobody agrees. Everybody places one chip on red. Arino sticks with black, though, pushing his whole pile onto it. It spills over, which is not exactly a good omen.

Arino prays for black again. Everything hinges on the little bearing falling into the right groove. Flashbacks of the trip run through until finally, the wheel slows. 25! Red! Oh goddd.

For the epilogue, we see the crew sitting on a curb outside, in the dead of night, reduced to eating cup noodles. They may not have the money, but like any trip, it’s the memories that are most valuable. Back to Japan we go…

Figure Arino-Kun ga Iku

A few short segments in between parts in this episode show Figure Arino-kun — an Arino figure on sticks with Arino himself providing the voice — checking out various places in the country, including game centers and an "e-stadium," though mostly he ogles the cute Korean girls. Go figure! Ha-ha, ha…

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