Game Center CX Season 3 – Back to Contents
The Fiery Chariot of "Phoenix"
Hi no Tori is a Konami platformer based on an Osamu Tezuka manga (Phoenix in the US), and follows the journey of the character Gao. In the game, Gao can create blocks out of thin air (as well as the things he hits with his projectiles) to help get through the levels. Arino begins and learns the block-making mechanic, figuring out the mini jump puzzles and such. Early on in the first stage he grabs a mirror item that allows him to run through walls and speed things along. But an enemy hits him right as it wears off.
Arino makes it to the first level’s boss, and he quickly figures out how to build a tower of blocks to get to the boss’ height. Unfortunately his final blow connects just as the boss touches him and kills him. On the second try he uses the blocks to push the boss back, and beats him much more easily this time. His reward is a piece of the portrait of the legendary phoenix. 15 more stages to go.
The second boss is a trio of enemies seemingly trapped in a stone maze. Arino can’t get in no matter what. He checks the game’s manual for any hints, and learns he can push the Select button to commit suicide and start over. And so he does. On the second try he discovers he can bust through the wall of the maze and get in that way. He wipes out the enemies in due time. In stage 3, he uses the mirror power-up to grab some goodies embedded in the wall, but he doesn’t get out in time and traps himself. He restarts and then makes his way to the boss. But the boss likes to roll into a ball and bound across the screen, not making it easy for Arino to know where it’s going to show up. So he dies. A lot.
On the seventh attempt, Arino builds a hill of blocks just inches before the boss "activates." Unfortunately it doesn’t block the boss from moving like he hoped, so he has to fight it normally. He does eventually trap it in the corner and, knowing his opportunity is short, rapidly fires at it until it’s destroyed. Stage 4 is dotted with a few deaths, but he carries on and reaches the boss. Luckily, he defeats it in one go this time. In stage 5, Arino stumbles upon a secret door that warps him to a new set of stages. The first one has giant stalactites that come down and break the platforms. Since the stage is so challenging on its own, there’s no boss, so he hops up and grabs the next portrait piece.
In another stage, he finds another warp and is sent to another new world. At the end of the first stage here is more large spikes, except they come in horizontally this time, and are breaking up the rock wall that surrounds the next portrait piece. Arino tries to grab it but dies in the process. On the eleventh try he succeeds. The next stage is practically the same thing, but this time it’s the vertical-falling spikes, so it’s much easier. He blows through the following three stages with minimal harm, and the phoenix portrait is looking pretty complete, with all but one row to go. But after he gets past those three stages, he ends up on a previous one. He’s confused, so AD Urakawa steps in to explain it.
The two go to the whiteboard to chart it out. There’s three "tiers" of stages, and the second tier has the most of them. Clearing the last stages of the first and third tiers causes one to warp back to the first stage of that tier, and then the player must find their way back to the second tier. Again, since there’s one row left in the portrait, those are the final four stages Arino needs to reach.
Arino starts hunting for new warp zones. He finds one, which sends him exactly where he needs to go: tier 2, stage 5. He clears 5 and 6 with ease. But when he reaches stage 7, he accidentally stumbles upon a warp and gets sent back to tier 1, stage 1. He’s forced to go through the stages again to get back to tier 2. He finds another warp and decides to go through it, which sends him to tier 2, stage 4. Clearing that brings him back to stage 7, where he defeats the boss and gets the next portrait piece. Just one left!
But clearing that last stage sent him back to the very first stage in the game (tier 2, stage 1). Arino marks it down on the chart on the board, but still doesn’t have a sense of what he’s doing. Urakawa comes back to help. Stage 8 is all that’s left, but the only way to get there is to warp. Arino starts going through every stage he can looking for warps. The music climbs as he busts down blocks, columns and walls looking for the secret doors. Eventually, on one stage in the first tier, he finally finds the door that takes him to stage 8.
Stage 8 is shakin’ and quakin’, making it hard to time jumps correctly. Arino falls into a pit the first time through, and again, and again until Game Over. He retries, and gets to the end of the stage, but dies again, just within reach of the portrait. The next try is much smoother. He grabs the portrait piece and completes the game! The ending is weak, but at least this was one of the quickest challenges in a while, at around six hours.
Nigiwai Plaza is a quaint place near the lake in Sagamiko-cho that’s home to a number of indoor amusement centers with traditional games of skill and, of course, a retro arcade. But first, Arino tries his hand at the shooting gallery, reaching over the table to try and shoot the figures that act as targets. Later he tries a vintage pinball machine, Apollo, which is so vintage one of the flippers is patched up with gum tape. Arino also tries a UFO candy catcher, and one of many "Smart Ball" machines; a pachinko variant.
As he moves on to the other centers, he tries some arcade games like Jaleco’s Arm Champs and reencounters Oshaberi Oomu, the cursed roulette game from the season 1 Hakone special. Soon after, he discovers a vintage flipper game. Unfortunately, his coin gets stuck in the slot as soon as it gets dropped in, so the manager is called over to open up the machine and fix it. Unfortunately the manager has one giant ring full of keys, and he tries most of them to see which one will open the machine.
Arino goes to play other games, and 10 minutes later the old man gets the machine open. He fixes the slot and Arino tries it again. …Still nothing. The old man left his keys on top of the machine, and the lock is still open, so Arino opens the machine and sees the coin got stuck a little farther in this time.
Arino finds another warp point, gets lost, warps again, fights what is believed to be an important dude, but isn’t, and finally gives up figuring it out and tries to call some people. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out.
Game Collections: 1986: January-March