Game Center CX Season 15 – Back to Contents
So Powerful, That Konami Code!! – "Gradius"
As has been typical, Arino and shoot-em-ups don’t exactly mix, so they haven’t been featured on the show often. But when it comes to truly classic shooters, there’s no ignoring Gradius, which Konami made into a bigger hit thanks to the Famicom version. And that’s just what Arino is playing today.
He did sample it on the show once before, though — way back in season 1’s Konami episode, when he was tasked with finding some of the game’s secret tricks. That was a failure, though, mostly because the game isn’t all that easy. But now he has to complete the whole thing, which may be a taller order than expected. Kacho on!
The first stage begins, and Arino flies the little Vic Viper ship up and down. It’s here he gets his first power-up, too, and uses it to activate the first power-up selection, Speed Up. That only helps him lose his first life, though, when he flies right into a bullet. When the stage reaches its second half with the forested area, he’s killed over and over, practically in the same spot, and receives a Game Over.
Arino may not remember much about old games, but he does remember one thing about Gradius: the Konami Code; Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. As soon as he restarts the game, he pauses and puts the code in. And voila — he now has the laser, the barrier, missiles, and a few "option" satellites to do extra shooting for him. As expected, this helps him tear through the second part of the stage, but this time he dies from flying right into the top of a small mountain. A few more missteps, and it’s Game Over again.
He finally makes it to the apex of the stage, where the "midboss" is a pair of rock-spewing volcanoes. They can throw off a first-timer, but Arino just stays in one spot below and avoids the rocks. The first real Big Core boss is right after that, though he manages to die from its fast lasers. He tries again, dies a few more times in the stage, and then challenges the boss again. This time he stays on his toes and manages to defeat the boss!
Stage 2 has lots of tight spaces and turrets within them, so Arino will have to stay attentive here. Even so, he bangs into a ledge here and eventually gets another Game Over. This time, when he gets to the first boss, he expertly dodges its lasers just by staying in the center. He beats the boss, and then the next stage is… a gauntlet of moai heads?
AD Takahashi appears to explain this. Arino activated a warp! You see, if you destroy four of the enemy-dispersing capsules earlier and the stage while the thousands digit of your score is an even number, you’ll warp to stage 3 after beating the boss. Arino lucked into that, and so he he gets a free ride to the third stage.
This stage isn’t too different from stage 2 in structure, but now there’s a lot more things shooting at Arino, including giant moai heads. Their ring lasers are fast and hard to dodge, so Arino dies early and often. He makes only incremental progress before another Game Over. Takahashi returns to say that the Konami Code can only be used sparingly in one playthrough, but adds that the game has a continue code! All Arino has to do is quickly press Down, Up, B, A, B, A, B, A, B, A right when the screen says "Game Over." This seems like it’s going to be a repeat of the Alex Kidd continue nonsense.
Arino continues to head through the game, getting to stage 2, and keeping his power-ups in check (Takahashi makes sure he recharges the Barrier when he gets an item capsule). He gets farther in stage 2 than before, but then gets hit by the cubes that fly in later in the stage. He retries and makes it back to that spot, getting to the pre-boss screen where more cubes flood in from all over. He stays alive and encounters the next Big Core boss. Arino again camps right near it and avoids all its lasers.
Back to stage 3, except once again he gets a Game Over. But hey, the continue! He very nearly forgets, and has to quickly glance at the whiteboard, but by then it’s too late. Back to stage 1, then…
He makes it back to stage 3, dies a few more times, and tries once more to input the continue code. But this time he misses it from pressing B & A more than enough times. Once more he slogs through to stage 3, though manages to stay alive a little longer. Not long enough, because the moai lasers overwhelm him eventually. He puts in the code one more time, then lets go of the controller. It works! He then pauses to put in the Konami Code, but he’s out of chances there.
He dies super early on in stage 3 repeatedly, but now has got the continue code down. But without the powers of the Konami Code, he constantly dies at the same spot at the beginning. Fed up, Arino resets the game and goes back through. With cold pad affixed to his head, he’s ready to get back to it. He makes it to stage 3, but loses the Barrier halfway through. He makes it to the pre-boss part, but dies from the sneaky pods.
Stage 3 continues to be a gauntlet of hurt for Arino until the sun goes down. Those pods just before the boss continue to be impassable for him. He pauses after one attempt and tries to strategize, deciding to approach the pods with the Barrier on and shooting them down before they reach the other end of the screen. He shoots down five… then is killed by a sixth, which he wasn’t expecting.
AD Takahashi returns to finally offer up some hands-on help. He goes to the whiteboard and draws out a diagram of the movement pattern Arino could take to avoid the pods better. Basically, as long as he stays in the middle of the screen, then arcs back as the pod approaches, he can probably destroy them before they get too close. He gives it a go, and sure enough, he manages to shoot (almost) all of them down, and the screen continues to scroll towards the boss.
The Big Core is a little faster this time and tends to pause as a bluff, but Arino is keen to its maneuvers and destroys it. Stage 3 is finally done! And then, of course, he dies early in stage 4. Visually, stage 4 is similar to the first, but apparently upside-down. He even reaches the same volcanoes, except they’re on the ceiling now! Unfortunately, Arino is hit by a rock that sneaks through his defenses, making for a surprising death.
He gets a Game Over and fails to continue, so Takahashi comes back to offer to play up to stage 4 for him, since he was doing so badly before. As he plays, Takahashi says to Arino that this will be the final episode for him, and Arino jokingly celebrates by saying "yesss!" The cardigan will live on in our hearts, for sure.
Arino takes over in stage 4 as Takahashi stays by to advise him. He says that the Double gun is more effective than the laser, since it fires a diagonal shot that can take care of the ceiling enemies. Indeed it does, and Arino goes ahead to the stage 4 boss and destroys it in a (relative) flash.
Stage 5 crawls along, and soon the game slows down to accomodate a new fleet of enemies: some sort of biological tentacle-y things. They fire tons of tiny bullets, and Arino does his best to dodge them, but when he destroys one of the enemies, the game speed returns to normal, and he flies right into one because of that.
Arino perseveres, and reaches the pre-boss point, though it’s filled with just more of those same enemies. He ahs to survive, and with luck, he does. The sixth Big Core is no different from the others, but Arino is without the Barrier, so he starts panicking. He keeps moving, though, and soon enough, the Core is destroyed! Two stages left.
Stage 7 begins, and Arino loses the rest of his lives right at the beginning — on the last one, he pauses just as the tip of the Vic Viper touches an enemy, so of course he dies right after unpausing. He continues through the stage, but eventually dies again and gets a Game Over. Takahashi once again takes over and gets him back to stage 7.
This is not a particularly breezy stage, though. It’s dotted with blue grids that narrow Arino’s path, and amoebic enemies that make a beeline right for him. They do, however, yield lots of item capsules, so Arino is at full power before he knows it. Sadly, he flies too fast through one bottleneck and dies from a stray bullet. He’s out of Konami Code tries, so he doesn’t last long on his next life. Back through the game we go…
But just as Arino starts stage 7 again, he’s handed the clock. This will have to be his last attempt. Fortunately, he makes it to the boss — not a Big Core, but an alien hive mind of some sort — but it fires so many bullets that Arino is overpowered. On the next try, Takahashi just yells at Arino to keep hitting the button to stay in the game, but nope, still overpowered.
On the next try, they both start yelling to keep up the pattern, and through sheer force of will, the boss is defeated! Arino heads to the next stage, which heads inside a large mechanical base, but Arino dies and is down to his last life. He’s full-powered but it’s not enough to dodge bullets, and he loses his final life. But he’s told by producer Kan that he can continue for another day, so we end there.
We come back a week later, and Takhashi greets Arino, telling him that he’s ready to go on stage 7, with six Konami Code uses stocked up, a Barrier active, and all that good stuff. But of course, this will be Takahashi’s last big gesture as AD, so it’s all up to Arino now.
Maybe the week off helped, because Arino stays alive longer than he did before in that stage. Though of course, he ends up in a death loop before long. But he just keeps playing, and soon he reaches the boss point — when a shutter closes in front of him, forcing him to die by running into it.
Another Game Over causes Takahashi to come back to get Arino to stage 7, but Arino is just as bad as before. And he misses the chance to fly through the shutter door again! On the next attempt, he finally understands what to do, and the final boss fight begins!
Or… does it? The brain that sits in the chamber doesn’t do anything, and then the screen flips to the ending sequence. The game restarts, and Takahashi tells Arino that all Gradius games restart themselves in "loops" like this. So, technically, Arino finished the game! And with season 15 wrapped up, it’s time to say goodbye to Takahashi as well. What further adventures in gaming await Arino? Well, you’ll just have to find out on your own.
Game Center CX News
The show recaps the recent live broadcast that was in recognition of Arino’s birthday. The Pilotwings insanity can be read about here.
We end this segment with a great example of failure: the Nintendo Super Scope, the bazooka-sized light gun for the Super NES. It was indeed released in Japan, and with very little changed. Perhaps you’ll recall the time Arino saw one for 100 yen at Chiba Kanteidan in the show’s early years. Well, now it’s finally time to try it.
The infrared receiver on top of the TV helps the Super Scope fire more accurately than an older light gun, hence the scope attachment. Arino starts up Super Scope 6, the included game cartridge, and give LazerBlazer a try. It’s a simple arcade shooting gallery-type game, and Arino tries the Engage mode, where you shoot down oncoming missiles. In Intercept, it’s the same concept, but from the side, shooting down missiles. He easily clears one stage, then tries something else.
Blastris has a match-three puzzle game where you rotate the blocks by shooting them. It’s neat, but Super Scope 6 is just kind of blah, so we stop that excitement for now.
After that, though, Kibe has one more item to show Arino, though it’s not really an accessory. It’s the Aiwa Mega Drive boombox, a stereo that accepts Mega Drive cartridges and of course plays CDs and tapes. They load up Sonic the Hedgehog to show just what it can do, and yep, it’s a Mega Drive. One caveat: it plays the audio through the unit’s speakers, not the TV. (Unless they hooked it up wrong).
Kibe has a funny idea: what if they play a CD of Nintendo music over the game? He starts playing Mario music, then Arino flips the switch to the Mega Drive mode, but that shuts off the CD, and vice-versa. Guess Arino will have to hum the music himself as he plays.