Game Center CX Season 11 – Back to Contents
A Crisis in Kamakura! "Genpei Touma Den"
Arino’s back in the saddle, and this time he’s tackling the PC Engine game Genpei Touma Den, a Namco action game from the arcades (renamed "The Genji and the Heike Clans" in Namco Museum Vol. 4, and its sequel came to America as the TurboGrafx game "Samurai Ghost"). In it, the undead samurai Kagekiyo traverses a very bizarre-looking Japan as he defeats creatures from the underworld. With a not-so-linear progression, Arino will have to stay sharp in his journey to get to the end.
The game begins in the first "Hell" level. Arino runs through, mowing down enemies until he enters a torii (shrine gate), and suddenly the game changes to "Big" mode, where the view zooms in and Arino can slash bad guys up close. Arino meets an animated skeleton midboss, but just as he deals the final blow, he’s killed too, and it’s an Game Over already. On the second try, he gets past the skeleton, and reaches another torii, which serves as the exit.
The next level is in an overhead view, and it’s a little more sparse, so Arino manages to make it to the end in one go. There are three torii, but he goes right for the first one. Just then, his name is called. ADs Emoto and Ito walk over, and Emoto explains to Arino that there are multiple paths through the levels in the game, and the torii he walked through took him through the upper path. Arino asks if he’s screwed himself over, but no, there are a few more forks in the path, so to speak. The ADs leave, but not before Ito just says "bottom!," in reference to the path she recommends Arino take.
At any rate, Arino continues to the next level, another Big stage. Once more he runs through, wildly swinging his sword, and meets another midboss. Arino crouches and continues swinging, and sure enough, the boss is gone, and Arino gets a sword power upgrade as well. Arino enters the next platforming stage, Izumo, and as he tries to reach another torii, he’s pushed and hit by enemies and falls into a bottomless pit. He doesn’t lose though; he just lands in another overhead level, but at the end is Enma Daioh (Emma-o), the god of the underworld, who presents Arino with a circle of chests — if he picks the right one, he can return to the surface. Arino goes for the one right in front of him, but unfortunately he dies instantly.
Fast forward back to that stage, where Arino reaches the torii this time and continues down to the next Big mode level. The boss there is Benkei, a humongous monk who tosses bombs at Arino. But once again, the kacho just crouches and slashes, and Benkei stands there taking it.
In the next stage, the amount of enemies seems to increase, and Arino takes a beating as he runs through. He’s attacked from all angles, and dies multiple times. He lucks into getting a power-up that helps him defeat some of the stronger enemies, but things come to a head when from the background pops up Yoritomo, the legendary Shogun founder, larger than life and ready to pound Arino with his huge paddle. Luckily, though, Arino gets pushed into a torii, and heads into another Big mode stage.
There, he meets a Biwa Hoshi, a "lute priest" whose creepy chants follow Arino through the whole stage. As do his projectiles, which end up Killing Arino. On the second try though, he makes it to the exit. The next stage has one of Arino’s least favorite game enemies: a dragon. He tries to hit it, but the big reptile is too fast, and kills Arino one more time — few more, in fact, but Arino eventually just makes a run for it and heads to the next exit.
After another couple of stages, Arino reaches the Kyoto overhead stage. This time, he knows to look for the bottom-most torii, but when he does spot it, it’s blocked due to his wrong choice of path in the mazelike town. He’s forced to take the torii in front of him, which doesn’t really take him too far anyway. After dying again, he reaches the underworld, and gets another Game Over.
What’s worse is that after this, he’s taken back to Kyoto. From here on, this is where he’ll continue if he dies again. AD Emoto returns, and further explains that AD Ito’s suggested route will also take Arino to bonus stages, where he can get more power-ups to help him. And this time, Emoto has a map that shows Arino the paths to take.
Arino starts all over at the first stage, following the map as best he can. He blows through the first set of stages taking himself down along the lower coast, and even lucks into a bonus stage where the sun goddess Amaterasu rains power-ups from above.
Fully powered, Arino continues on, though he soon reaches a stage with another dragon and racks up more deaths. The damn dragon is just too speedy, and Arino rarely hits its weak spots. After falling into the underworld, Arino considers just resetting the game, but he fortunately opens up the chest that keeps him going.
He gets back to the dragon, and after a few more deaths, Arino finally manages to swipe at the dragon’s head and destroy it once and for all. But immediately after that, he sees a sword powerup above some tricky shifting blocks. He attempts to jump up the blocks, but they push him right into the bottomless pit below. And in the underworld, he is destroyed by Emma-o once more.
Arino starts again, and the dragon is back, too, of course, continuing to be an immense pain in the butt. After enduring enough pain, Arino just turns the whole thing off. He starts again, following the route and savoring the bonus stage before coming upon another stage with a dragon. After dying there, he resets again, and jokes that this might be a better choice for the 24-hour live show.
After mowing down some more enemies, AD Emoto comes back and offers to play for Arino for a bit. Emoto takes the controls and goes for the dragon himself. He mashes on the controller, which somehow gets Kagekiyo to jump up and grab the scroll power-up, which allows beams to be fired from the sword, and then destroys the dragon in one hit. That’s that! Emoto offers back the controller and Arino continues by himself.
The next stage features a long stretch of moving blocks that are hard to jump across. Arino tries to be careful, but still falls down into the pit, accompanied by the scream of the staff. He makes it to the stage where the second dragon was, but once again he’s killed in short order. On the next try, he attempts to grab the scroll as Emoto did. He does, and kills the dragon in one hit!
The next half includes more moving blocks, including ones moving in circular patterns. Arino starts to panic, repeatedly going "what do I do? What do I do?!" as he stands on the blocks. He takes a leap of faith, landing on a faraway block, but then immediately slipping and falling off again.
These close-but-not-quite jumps continue to happen for several more tries. This whole stage has taken Arino more than three hours. Shortly after that amount of time, though, he makes a flying leap for the torii up ahead, but is struck by a bird enemy, panics, and then jumps way over the torii and ultimately down to his death.
On the next try, Arino notices a rock moving horizontally through the stage, and figures out that he can use it as a platform to save himself. It works! He uses the rock as leverage to jump across the moving blocks, and then over to the second torii. Finally, that tiny nightmare is over.
Setsu is the next stage, and Arino is constantly stopped by weird caricatures that impede his progress. But he escapes any real danger and moves on to the next stage. After a few more stages, he makes it back to Kyoto, where he must now find the upper torii to take the upper route through the country. Apparently, he succeeds, as he finds an exit that doesn’t take him any further down than he needs to be.
Following that is another overhead stage where he dies and is tragically returned to Kyoto. AD Emoto comes back once again, and tells Arino there is stage select code in the game. Arino resets and puts in the code at the title screen. From there, he selects the stage as directed by Emoto, and puts himself where he needs to be to get some more power-ups from the bonus stage.
Arino’s been at it for seven hours now, but still hasn’t really improved. He gets to the bonus stage, but once again falls to a dragon and decides to reset. He makes it to an overhead stage, and as he reaches one part of it, AD Ito says "Ah!" from the background. Apparently, there’s a secret here, so Arino hits one of the rocks in the area and comes upon a secret exit! It’s a warp that takes him back to the Setsu stage, but dies there from flying rocks.
Arino gets back to the stage, and Yoritomo appears once again, but that coupled with the mischievous caricatures just messes up Arino immensely, and he’s killed by Yoritomo’s paddle. After one more try, Arino manages to scrape by and reach a torii.
More moving blocks are in the next stage, but that’s not the hard part — that would be the three-headed dragon at the end. To be fair, though, the heads stay in one place, and Arino’s powered-up sword makes quick work of them. Unfortunately, he chokes on the third one, and dies. And dies. And dies. Arino wishes he had a Mega Man E-tank right about now.
Once again he engages the three heads, and after some careful jumping and slashing, he manages to kill the last two heads one after the other. Finally, he sees the exit. The next torii takes him to the base of Mt. Fuji in a Big mode level.
After slashing his way through that one, he reaches yet another stage with moving blocks, and of course, slips off and falls. He chooses the right chest in the underworld, but he’s taken back to Kyoto. If Arino’s devastated, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he pushes on and retraces his steps.
He returns to that last problematic block stage. He does better, but still has to be incredibly careful or risk having the bottom taken out from under him. It gets so tense that he pauses in mid-jump to take a breather while the staff raises their volume. A minute or two goes by as Arino tries to collect himself, then unpauses. He lands on the block below him, but takes a couple more jumps just to ensure he has footing. Still, he’s incredibly scared. After another pause, he finally messes up, and falls right down beside the block.
Another reset. After Arino gets past Mt. Fuji, he’s handed the clock — it’s about time to go. Arino is given one last chance to get past this block stage. He lasts about 10 seconds. He sits back and thinks, then raises his finger in shame. One more chance? Please?
Sure, and this time, AD Emoto comes by, offering to play through to the block stage again. Arino agrees, and after Emoto gets back to the stage, the pressure is higher than ever as Arino now attempts his final run. He jumps nimbly, but not nimbly enough… he falls for the last time.
But is it really? The staff offers Arino a chance to finish the game during the 24-hour live show after all. Arino agrees, meaning that we’ll have to see how he does during the live show in August. Until then…
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