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 9 – Back to Contents
#64
第9シーズン ハロー はりねずみ課長「ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ」
The 9th Season – Hello, Hedgehog Kacho – "Sonic the Hedgehog"

Chousen

In the few months in between seasons 8 and 9, a lot was still going on in GCCX land. In fact, before this episode even aired, Arino was hospitalized due to a lung abscess, and wouldn’t be getting out before a month-long treatment.

But a couple of episodes did get in the can before that, and so the six-episode season 9 begins on schedule with Sonic the Hedgehog. This one has been a long time coming, what with Arino already playing the Mario games, Bonk’s Adventure, and all the other favorites that surrounded them. Now it’s time to finally challenge the game that changed Sega… forever.

After Arino introduces himself, he begins the game. The "Se-GAA" sound elicits a few laughs, and then it’s onto the game. Holding the controller under the table, Arino dashes, he jumps, he sprints through the stage expertly! And then halfway through, the screen fades. He wasn’t playing, he was watching the demonstration. After a hearty laugh at the staff and audience’s expense, Arino properly starts the game, and we can see the controller this time.

If you’ve played Sonic, it may come as no surprise that Arino has trouble getting used to moving the little blue guy. He steps Sonic forward, then fails to retain control when he starts speeding up. He even wings back to the start of the first Act. But soon, he starts moving forward again, yet remains cautious. When he does take a risk, Arino ends up falling on a set of spikes, which bounces him over to another set of spikes, killing him for the first time. On the next life, Arino mimics the demonstration a little better and gets to the finish line this time.

In Green Hill Act 2, Arino gets an invincibility power-up, then leaps straight into the bottomless pit below. Twice, in fact! The first Game Over appears. Arino lets the sad music play out and the "Se-GAA" come back, too.

The same thing happens again when he gets back to Act 2, and then immediately after that, he runs into an enemy and instantly dies. Here, Arino finally realizes Sonic’s health system, where the hedgehog must have at least 1 ring to absorb an enemy hit. He makes it to the end of Act 2, then leaps into a large ring next to the goalpost.

The ring takes him to the Special Stage, a constantly-rotating obstacle course. Arino doesn’t last long. But he does speed through Act 3, soon encountering Dr. Eggman/Robotnik in the first boss fight. Aside from taking a few hits, Arino impressively manages to stay alive. He loses all his rings, but still deals the final blow. Shocking!

Onto the Marble Zone next. The underground purple maze confuses Arino on more than a few occasions. It’s not too bad getting out, but when he’s hit from a fireball outside, Arino dashes back to get the ring.. and is squashed in between the celing and a spike platform. An unfortunate Game Over. And of course, he’s bumped back to the very start of the game. Even when he does get back to Marble Zone, the cycle continues at a faster pace. Eventually Arino gets fed up and looks to the instruction manual to find out how to get continues.

Just get into the Special Stage again and get 50 rings in it to earn a continue. Of course, it requires 50 rings just to get into the Special Stage, so Arino carefully starts collecting them in Green Hill, and then goes into the Special Stage, acting even more carefully. Eventually he gets enough rings to trigger some sort of "bonus" sound effect, signifying that he got 50. He exits the stage, and, yep, up pops the continue.

Arino pushes on to Marble Zone Act 2, where the lava’s a little more prominent. He falls in at one point, losing rings, trying to get rings back, and being hit again, while easy-to-reach swinging platforms are above him. He clears the Act with nary a ring to his name.

Act 3 brings another Game Over due to Arino not acting fast enough, but at least he has that continue this time. He jumps back to Act 3, stumbles along a few more times, but somehow makes it to the next boss — but again, with no rings. Eggman’s ship drops fireballs that create extra flames when touching down, meaning Arino has to leap to the other side to avoid them. Does he? At first, no, of course not. Game Over again.

And this time it’s a real one. Back again to the first zone. We’re spared the tired journey; Arino is shown beating Eggman the right way, and then it’s onto the Spring Yard Zone. Despite grabbing a bunch of rings and running straight into spikes afterward, he speeds through the Zone like a champ. The third boss fight involves Eggman grabbing the blocks that compose the floor, making it harder for Arino to navigate the area. He’s careful, though, and does indeed destroy Eggman on the first try. He almost falls through a hole right after, but everything’s fine. It’s not nighttime yet! It has, however, been six hours, and there are three more zones to go.

Number four is the Labyrinth Zone, a strange palace half-submerged in water. If you know Sonic games, you know he can’t stay underwater very long without grabbing air bubbles. Yet it’s not that that kills Arino at the beginning; it’s just simple blunders, like running into things without rings. Needless to say, he gets another Game Over. And even after returning, he just keeps getting caught on spikes and enemies. On his last continue, Arino finds himself underwater, with the air about to run out. He goes slowly, eventually finds a spot where bubbles come up, but drowns just as the first bubble appears. Not the best luck!

His last few lives are wasted, and the decisive Game Over appears. Arino is feeling the heat now as he grudgingly starts all over again — and still flubs up. He elects to take a 30-minute break. Through some quick editing, Arino makes it up to Act 3 of the Labyrinth Zone.

At the start of this act are a series of long waterfalls that send Arino speeding down the labyrinth’s slopes. He jumps at one point, landing on a platform next to a shield power-up. Nice! He goes back down the waterfalls, jumps again… and ends up at the broken power-up monitor. It’s a loop! He does get past it (you have to jump across the waterfall from where you originally started), and then is soon shot through a water tunnel, with the air beginning to run out. This time, though, Arino grabs a bubble in time. That changes until a few minutes later, right after Arino hits the checkpoint.

On his next final continue, Arino reaches the boss, but he has to chase Eggman up a shaft with spikes and fireballs ready to hurt him. And the water is rapidly rising. Does anything else need to be said? It’s the fireballs that kill Arino more than anything. They’re tiny and fast, making them hard to see. The last of the lives are flushed away, and Arino is once more reminded that Sonic is made by "Se-GAA."

Before starting again, Arino is interrupted by AP Tojima, who returns with his "action reporter" microphone. He’s here to introduce the new AD, Nakayama. Nakayama shuffles in with his shaggy hair and constantly-bowing head, says hello, and all that. The two assistants leave shortly thereafter. Arino has but one word to describe Nakayama: "mysterious."

In the game, Arino makes it back to that watery shaft, but quickly gets another Game Over. He now decides to go for continues, resetting whenever he screws up. With a few built up, he returns once again to the Labryrinth boss. On his last life, he cautiously climbs up the shaft, waiting for fireballs to disappear, and just as the oxygen countdown begins, he makes it out! Even better, there’s no real boss fight — Eggman simply speeds away.

The next to last zone, Star Light, is like Spring Yard, in that it’s pretty speed-happy, and as such, Arino zips through. The see-saw platforms with spike balls slow him up a bit, but at least they’re easy to figure out. Those see-saws return for the boss fight, where Eggman drops those balls onto the platforms. And these ones explode! After losing a life, Arino gets the hang of it: fling the balls back up to Eggman before they blow up.

Even so, he loses all his lives and gets a Game Over, due to arriving without any rings. He spends his last continue…

Arino’s confident he’s nailed the pattern, and it’s true. Even without any rings, he assuredly defeats Eggman again. And then it’s on to the last big zone, Scrap Brain! Eggman awaits at the end, but Arino has to navigate this long, mechanical maze first.

He doesn’t. Scrap Brain is lined with tricks and traps, and another Game Over appears soon. Arino waits, hoping against hope that his math was wrong and he still has a continue left. A beat. SE-GAAA! Back through the gauntlet, collecting continues.

The challenge passes the 11-hour mark. Arino flashes back. What about that guy… the new one… Nakayama! Arino calls him over, and Nakayama shuffles in again, taking a seat next to the kacho. Maybe he can at least rack up some continues more efficiently. Unfortunately he falls straight down the Special Stage exit. And then he makes rookie mistakes in Green Hill!

Performance anxiety? Probably. Arino tries to ease the tension by talking to Nakayama, asking him if he has a girlfriend and things of that nature. After two hours, Nakayama gets to Scrap Brain, where Arino then takes over. All set!

Not really! Arino’s handed the clock. It’s been 13 hours now, with the minute hand just a bit past midnight. Once Arino goes through the rest of his continues, it’s not just Game Over, but Challenge Over! With Nakayama at his side, Arino bravely attempts the Scrap Brain Zone again.

He comes to a gauntlet of fast-moving pistons, and he almost gets through, but his timing slips and is squished. He’s squished earlier for two more attempts, and then… Game Over. Two continues are left. Arino takes the piston section a little slower, but that’s actually not the right thing to do. Nakayama offers to help Arino with his timing.

Starting again, Arino pauses and waits for Nakayama’s cue. And waits. After a few seconds, he pauses. "When!?" After some laughs are shared, the two men agree that Arino will move on Nakayama’s "go." It’s tense, but Arino does make it through with Nakayama’s help. Whew!

Another stretch involves fast-moving sawblades and then, a strange red platform. Nakayama tells Arino that it will fall out from under him. Arino steps onto it, and the platform actually pulls itself out from under him! He dies! Arino gets back to the same platform, and with a split-second jump, he makes it over. But there’s a second one, which he’s not so quick with. Game Over. This is it, the last continue. Nakayama asks for the next three lives to help. Three lives? The ADs usually just asks for one try.

Arino hands Nakayama the controller for this one time. It takes about seven seconds for him to screw up again. Nakayama asks for one more try. A yell from the back: "whoaa, is that all right!?" Nakayama leers at Arino. It is all right, trust me! Arino yelps, and firmly makes this Nakayama’s last attempt. The AD plays messily, but doesn’t die for quite a while. He slips by the pistons with close scrape after close scrape, and when he’s hit again, he chases after a ring and almost gets hit by a saw! Arino’s cracking up; he can’t believe this kid! And then, Nakayama falls from the platform he knew so well. This isn’t the best debut for him.

Arino takes the controller back, but is quickly killed by the pistons again. and then there’s that familiar logo. But Arino is left off the hook somewhat, being allowed to come back another day to finish up. So be it!

One week later, Arino returns to work. Nakayama is there to greet him, and the first thing out of his mouth is "sorry for last time." He’s forgiven, and besides that, he’s got Arino back to Scrap Brain with three continues and a glorious 25 lives. Nakayama kindly asks Arino to beat the game, and then leaves him to his station.

The resting period must have helped, as Arino deftly passes the two trick platforms and finally continues through the stage. But right after that are small platforms moving on tracks. It never seems to end until he finally passes the goal sign. Onto Act 2, at last.

Act 2 goes relatively okay, until Arino falls those little platforms again. They spin every second or so, making it hard to stay on them. Yet for some reason, they throw Arino for a loop for a couple of minutes. He calls for Nakayama to rescue him from this. But as soon as Nakayama sets down his chair, Arino gets out. "Stop," Nakayama explains. Arino pauses, laughs, and begs forgiveness. Nakayama steps away. After a couple more deaths, Arino makes it through Act 2.

Act 3 shifts the setting to a watery Labryinth Zone-like stage. Arino goes down to the water, but backs off. It’s purple, like grape juice, and he doesn’t trust it. But he has no choice, and the water’s harmless… except for that "drowning" thing. He starts losing air, but falls down to a bubble point. Yet on his last second, he hits the checkpoint gate before getting the bubble, in case he drowned. Smart! And he doesn’t drown anyway. But that’s the last miracle — Arino drowns multiple times after that.

But he makes it through the stage, reaching a room filled with springboards. He launches off one, and then, all of a sudden, it’s the Final Zone! The last boss!

With 13 lives left, Arino rushes in to Eggman’s chamber. Eggman hides himself in one of four large pistons that shoot out two at a time. Plus, there’s electric sparks raining down from the ceiling. It’s actually a pretty simple fight, but Arino manages to get squashed regardless.

On his next life, he’s more careful, but still slips. Without rings, the challenge is heightened, and Eggman’s unpredictability doesn’t help. But it’s only after a few more hits that Eggman finally goes down. Sonic/Arino chases him down, and then the screen fades to the ending screen.

But after the festivities, Eggman appears on a black screen juggling the Chaos Emeralds. "Try Again," huh? SE-GAAA

Nakayama appears. He tells Arino that he didn’t get the good ending. To do so, you need to collect all the Chaos Emeralds in the Special Stages. Arino had five of them thanks to Nakayama’s playthrough, but missed the final one in Scrap Brain. Ahem. Well then.

Arino hands the controller to Nakayama. Emerald overtime! Too bad the good ending is just some extra animation.

Game Center CX Museum Report

At the end of March 2008, A GCCX Museum went up in Tokyo’s Harumi Passenger Terminal Hall. Exhibits included the actual games featured on the show, the faxes from the Christmas live show, and various other trinkets and injoke-y things. Arino himself visited to take a private tour. Tani was there to hock T-shirts, and Abe and other staff members were around to sign merchandise. There was even a booth for the GCCX DS game.

And next to that booth, a Famicom was set up with Quest of Ki. Arino sampled it again, but couldn’t recapture his skills from Christmas. Even the kid who sent the key inspirational fax that fateful day was there.

The stage in the middle of the exhibit hosted a few events, including exclusive footage (Tojima on his own TamaGe adventure), a staff chat, and a selection of young comic duos with videogame-related acts. The Museum was definitely a success, with over 1,200 attendees over four days.

TamaGe

This is a short one: Arino’s at the train station to catch the Yamanote line, the trains of which had GCCX branding on the sides for a brief period in March.

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