Game Center CX Season 14 – Back to Contents
The First ‘Kacho’s Choice!!’ "The Tower of Babel"
As we watched Arino finish up Rockman 4 in the last episode, we also saw that his job wasn’t over for that day. Since it had only been a few hours, AD Katayama came by with the next challenge game for Arino to get started on: Namco’s The Tower of Babel, which Arino decided would be the last challenge of the season a while back during the New Year’s live show.
The Tower of Babel is an action-puzzle game where you guide the big-nosed hero up the eponymous tower. Each level is filled with L-shaped blocks that must be placed so that Arino can reach the exit door. The first stage lets him learn by doing. For starters, each time he turns in the other direction, so does the block, so if he wants to pick one up, turn around and put it on the other end of the room, he has to make sure he’s picking it up from the correct side. And another wrinkle: a "Power" counter indicates the number of pick-ups Arino can perform before he dies and fails the stage, so there’s a lot of thinking to be done already.
The L-shapes are naturally used to build staircases, and Arino further discovers that as long as the blocks are touching the corner of another block, they won’t fall. In stage 2, Arino uses this to build a staircase, pull out one blck halfway, and watch the second half fall into a second staircase that takes him right up to the exit. On stage 3, he sees a stockpile of blocks away from the door, but as he starts taking them back out, he always dies from losing too much power.
Arino gets up to stage 6, but eventually loses his last life. But as he restarts the game, he discovers the stage select that’s available from the start, and even lets him select the 64th and final stage! But for now, he plays by the rules, and returns to stage 6.
Stage 8 is a mysterious chamber. AD Katayama comes by to inform Arino that the room, and subsequent ones like it, can reveal a symbol that’s part of a "big password." Entering the pasword at the end of the game will reveal the best ending. Some finagling has to be done to reveal the symbols, though, so Katayama has a stack of hint cards that tell Arino which directions to walk in, or where to put a block.
On stage 9, enemies start appearing; little wizards that make a beeline right for Arino. Luckily, they can be squashed with blocks, but they continously respawn, too. After stage 11, the stages start getting more and more vertically-oriented, and on stage 15, a natural staircase is formed, but enemies are coming down towards Arino. His only option is to lift up a block and squash the enemy before the other blocks fall and destroy the stairs. But then, at the top is a block in front of the door that will point in the wrong direction if Arino grabs it.
After a few deaths, Arino finally manages to take the block back down to the bottom, where he can reorient it and run up to the door without getting killed. Stage 16 is another password stage, and the symbol this time is a viking ship. Stage 17 marks more deaths, as Arino tries to navigate the tricky design of the large heart the blocks have been done up like. It all depends on escaping the enemies, but eventually he finds his way though.
Stage 18 forces him to carry a lone block up to the door by navigating moving platforms, but when he finally gets within steps of the door, he realizes he picked it up wrong. Thankfully it only takes one more try to solve that. The next stage is a real killer; a giant skull shape that keeps Arino stumped for many attempts. Enough attempts to stretch this challenge day past 14 hours — oh yeah, he was playing Rockman before. AD Katayama informs Arino of the time limit, and plans are made for another challenge day.
Some time later, Arino arrives for the second day, and now all of that day can be dedicated to Babel. Good thing, too, because it’s starting to snow outside. Anyway, Arino continues at stage 22, but makes more than a few stupid mistakes that keep him from grabbing the orb that opens the exit door. Finally, after lots of trial and error, moving blocks and distracting enemies, he makes it to the door.
We jump ahead to stage 24, which is another password room. After picking up a block and running into a wall for a while, up pops the visage of Pac-Man. It’s relatively smooth sailing through the next couple of stages, but Arino trips up tremendously on stage 28 when he accidentally walks right off the edge of a long staircase.
Stage 29 once again demands careful block removing in order to collapse a staircase just enough so that Arino can clearly reach the exit. He needs to take some time, of course — a lot of grabbing and flipping is needed. After several minutes, Arino finally gets to the exit. And now it’s snowing a little harder. A bad omen?
On stage 30, Arino discovers a new trick: the ability to carry enemies by picking up blocks when they’re walking over them. It’s not entirely useful for this stage, but it does make sneaking around a lot easier. From there, Arino blazes to stage 32 and picks up another password symbol: a Penrose triangle. Humorously, Arino tries his best to copy it down on the whiteboard, but gives up halfway through.
Stage 34 starts easy, but Arino soon finds he has to go all the way back down and around just to drop one block in a gap that will let him reach the exit. He goes through the ordeal, carefully squashing enemies when they come by, and finally gets the block to the door, drops it, and makes it through while an enemy nips at his heels the entire time.
On stage 36, Arino gets halfway through without incident, which surprises even him. At that point, the stage gets a little wrinkly. Two piles of blocks are on both ends of the room, so he has to make two sets of stairs that will take him to the exit smoothly. However, he only has 17 Power left, so every lift of a block has to count. He creates the stairs fine, but then he’s down to 3 Power, and two more blocks are below the exit. He tries, but doesn’t quite get them placed well enough, and dies. Next time, though, he makes both staircases with 16 Power left, so it’s a much easier time getting to the exit.
Arino speeds ahead to stage 40, another password room, and this time reveals a scorpion symbol. He continues to make good time after that, blowing ahead to stage 44. The stage designs are getting increasingly complex, with large mixes of blocks, enemies, and vines all over. Stage 45 is the worst so far, with a stage full of blocks done up in a diamond chain pattern. It looks simple, but he still has to watch out for enemies. Nevertheless, he’s careful and gets through it in a respectable amount of time.
Stage 47 really flips the script, though — it’s nothing but free-falling blocks that will crush Arino if he doesn’t move to the sides as he climbs the tall vine. He stays at the beginning and nudges himself out of the way as best he can, but it takes far more attempts than you might think; well over 20. In fact, on attempt 31, he finally survives long enough for all the blocks to pass behind him, and then it’s an easy climb to the exit.
He reaches stage 50 easily, but on this one, there’s more vine-climbing to be had as enemies constantly fall from the top. Again, he has to build a perfect set of staircases so he can reach the vines with which he can reach the goal, and after several deaths, he nails it — it’s not fundamentally hard, but unpredictable enemies make it so.
As Arino tries to figure out stage 55, he’s handed the clock — he has nine stages to go, but that’s just not going to be enough time. However, he is given a chance to see the good ending. He doesn’t have every password symbol, but has almost all of them.
AD Katayama has Arino go to stage 64 to enter the entire big password. Only two slots remain, each with their own symbol. If Arino guesses the right pattern for those two, he gets the good ending. He enters the symbols, and hits the button. The hero character floats to the right, ready to fly to victory… but instead his balloon snaps and dies. Arino fails. An imperfect, but no less enjoyable end to the 14th season.
To Catch a Catch Copy
The final round begins. Arino and Nakayama are tied, so who will win? The first ad declares it was the "number one arcade game now on Famicom!" Could be anything. Tojima is first, and picks Xevious. Good guess, but it’s wrong. Arino immediately grabs Yie-Ar Kung Fu, but he’s no more correct. Nakayama picks Fantasy Zone, which seems like a risky choice… but he’s right!
Next, a game that promised it would bring real terror into one’s home. Arino goes for Kamaitachi no Yoru, but he’s wrong. Tojima goes with Clock Tower, and he’s also wrong. Nakayama picks Otogirisou, the predecessor to Kamaitachi. He wins that one.
And now, the final ad: one that said if you can solve it in three months, you’re already a genius. Kibe makes this one a 100-point gain for anyone who gets it, meaning, of course, they’ll automatically win. Arino takes a beat, and then grabs Sokoban Special, a Famicom Disk System version of the oft-cloned box-pushing game. And can you believe it, he’s right!
The final tallies: Tojima with 4 points, Nakyama with 8, and Arino with 106! Talk about a comeback.