Game Center CX Season 4 – Back to Contents
"Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami" – I’ll Be Back
When Arino walks into the room for this challenge, he’s greeted by Tojima decked out in a black suit. It is a special occasion, after all — the final episode of the season, and maybe forever! And the game Arino will be playing is Palutena no Kagami (Kid Icarus), a game whose music has been used in the royal family interstitials on the show. Plus, with that 4-4 record, it’s time to see if Arino can prevail, or bow out in failure.
Arino starts well in the first area until he jumps right off a platform and into death when trying to collect some mallets. He restarts, but then catches the eye of the first Reaper, who sends a wave of enemies towards him. Another group of Reapers give him a hard time, causing him to die once or twice. He eventually figures out that you’re supposed to hit them in the back, and even though he doesn’t get by them perfectly, he still manages to get through to the rest of the level.
He heads into stage 2, but all he does is rack up more deaths. AD Urakawa eventually steps in and tells Arino about the level-up system: to reach a new level, you must attain a certain total score in the ten-thousands (later, hundred-thousands). That way the life gauge keeps extending and making death approach much less commonly. With that knowledge, Arino begrudgingly starts over. He writes each stage’s end score on the whiteboard behind him.
Arino starts shooting down all the enemies he can and collecting all the hearts, and when he makes it to the exit he has over 21,000 points: an easy gain. When he enters the next stage, his life bar is expectedly extended — just not filled. Arino repeats his actions here, and breaks through the next score ceiling. After that, Arino gets a new arrow weapon and continues to the third area. He enters a door, which leads to what seems like a shop, but turns out to be a room filled with randomly-appearing panels that swoop in towards him. Arino panics a little, but he manages to survive and gets a speed upgrade afterward. He finishes the level by a hair’s length, and just barely levels up, as well.
The next stage is decidedly different, taking on the form of a Metroid-like maze. Here Arino meets the Eggplant wizard, and quickly dies from the eggplant curse. He keeps trying, but can’t seem to dodge the eggplants. Eventually he plants himself in a corner and just starts firing at the wizards, clearing them out for good. Though as he continues, he gets turned into an eggplant again! Arino runs away into another room, which just has a healing pool. "Ah, an eggplant hot spring!" It doesn’t reverse the curse, but it fills his life bar, which is a great help. Soon after, Arino stumbles into the first boss room, which holds the Twinbellows!
Worst of all, he has to fight it as an eggplant. Oh, except he can’t. He has no choice but to die. Right around now is when the sun starts beaming down hardcore again, just like with Ninja Gaiden last time. Tojima steps in and instead of blocking the sun with his body, offers Arino a cap. "Whose is this?" "It’s Urakawa’s." Arino puts it on, but all anybody can do is laugh. He politely hands it back and has Tojima stand in front of the window again. Back to the boss. He faces it in a normal state this time, and traps Twinbellows in a corner, pumping arrows into it until it’s finally dead. Onto the next stage, where Arino steps into another shop.
AD Urakawa steps in before Arino buys anything and offers this tip: you can lower the price in the shop by speaking into the mic on controller 2. Arino yells into it, but it doesn’t seem to work right now. Oh well, food for thought. Arino enters another room with another arrow upgrade, and then another shop, where the microphone trick works!
Arino quickly gets to the exit, but doesn’t get enough points to level up this time. No matter; onto the next one. Arino finds another bath, which grants the power of flame to his arrows! Arino blows through the area, until he gets into a pinch with a group of enemies and dies. He restarts, only to get caught and die again. The difficulty seems to have officially ramped up. Can Arino handle it? Apparently. He manages to get through, and breaks 200,000 points for another level up! After that is another maze-y level to traipse through. Arino frees some of the citizens with the mallets he’s collected, then ventures forth and stumbles upon another boss, the Hydra. Its HP is 200, so this may be a while. The freed citizens join Arino and float around him, but before long he’s lost them all to the Hydra.
After 7 minutes, Arino gets its HP down in the 70s, but he’s almost dead himself! The tension mounts as Arino gets its HP down to 9, but ends up getting hit right after! Finally, three more careful shots later, the boss is toast. Arino grips his chest after that one. The next area begins with a much-needed health bath. But the area after that is a nasty vertical climb. A reaper stands on a lone column as a platform moves towards it, with a nasty plant blocking the way. He tries jumping over it and shooting, but keeps falling to his death. Soon he gets a few shots in, then finishes when the platform moves to the other side of the screen. He’s glad it’s Nov– oh shit, another one!
Luckily that goes much faster, and Arino continues on to another shop. He tries the mic trick, but this time he fails and the prices are raised! Unless his strength level is one above the current stage number, the trick won’t work. he leaves, and ends up falling to his death again soon after. The 13-hour mark passes, and Tojima gives Arino the heads up. He won’t give up, but it’s time to turn in for the day. Day 2 begins much like the last, except Tojima’s in a t-shirt this time. Arino puts on a cold pad and gets back to the game. Unfortunately the Reaper crap still throws him off.
He gets past it, but then stupidly walks off an edge later on. The cycle repeats! Tojima eventually steps in and asks to play. He manages to jump through the Reaper and past it, but only when it’s going berserk. He gets up to a health bath, and then hands the controller back. Arino finishes up and heads to the next area. This one’s even worse! More nasty platform puzzles keep him on his toes, but those toes are usually falling down off the edge of the screen. He restarts, with one block of health left, as usual. A couple more deaths later, Arino just starts running up through the stage dodging whatever he can. He doesn’t level up, but it’s clear he doesn’t care. The final area is next, and with it the climax.
There’s a lot of protruding spikes in this maze, but what ends up killing Arino the most are plain enemies. He pushes on and finally finds a health spring to heal up. After that, he gets his health dropped past the halfway point, at which point he goes all the back to the spring… just in case, you know? Urakawa steps into frame and hands Arino a hand-drawn map of the area that draws a clear path from the start to the final boss. Arino follows it, but faces more Eggplant Wizards and gets cursed again. He goes back to find the in-game hospital, but ends up dying. He marks the eggplant room on the map and starts over.
He continues marking the eggplant rooms, but also continues to die. He happens upon one last shop, and hesitates before grabbing the second controller. Another fail. Arino runs off and keeps going, and encounters the miniboss, the gelatinous Pandora. Amazingly, even after a close call or two, Arino eradicates Pandora in just one try. The area is cleared, and Arino heads to the final stage. But before that, Tojima and the ADs break in with an early birthday cake, complete with song. It’s one last morale boost before Arino faces Medusa.
The last stage is a side-scrolling shooting level, and Arino takes a moment to adjust before going forward. Total game time has now passed 19 hours, and Arino enters the final room to face the humongous face of Medusa. Unfortunately, his sliver of health isn’t enough to keep himself alive for very long. He goes in for a second attempt, with a bit more health. More failure. Medusa’s hydra henchman isn’t helping things with its bounding across the screen. On attempt 10, Arino starts getting into a good dodging groove, but he dies just as he lands the final hit. For the good of the show, this has to end, and end well!
Finally, on the 11th attempt, after the music rises and the tension mounts again, Medusa finally disappears. Arino gets one screen as the ending. Urakawa walks in and informs him there are multiple endings, and that Arino got the worst one. But, an ending is an ending. He and the staff applaud the completion of the game. He slowly turns off the Famicom and slots the controller back in.
The scene then fades to Arino approaching the producer’s desk. He hands him a request for paternity leave. The producer is sad to see him go, but he asks Arino to return in six months. He hands him a stack of games as a going-away gift. Arino thanks him with a bow. We then see Arino in a sports jacket, games and uniform in tow, walking into a dry cleaner’s. Against the soothing sounds of Jesse McCartney (no joke), Arino submits his uniform for cleaning, and then leaves. We can only hope to see him in six months.
Arino returns to Chiba Kanteidan for the first time since season 2 for the last TamaGe of the season. Once again he heads straight for the Famicom section to check out the reams of carts. The first one he grabs is Nintendo’s 4-Player Mahjong, with the name Takeshi Honda written on it. Then he spots a copy of Golf, which on the back has "Otousan" (Dad) on it. Too cute. Arino then checks out the mystery prize bags again, but the one he peeks through doesn’t seem to be that interesting. What takes up most of the time here is a little game organized by the staff. AD Urakawa, Sasano, Tojima and writer Kibe all join Arino with a bag filled with all the games from this season.
The group goes outside to the trade counter and finds out what each game will net them in a buy-back. Arino hands over the first game, Ultraman. Its original price was 7800 yen (almost 80 bucks!). The cashier takes a moment and gives Arino the total: 50 yen. Eep. The fun continues in the second part. Arino brings out Adventure Island, the game that brought him to his knees and made Urakawa stay awake for 28 hours. It originally ran for 4900 yen, but now? Arino gets 100. "But look, it has the Meijin’s seal on it!" OK, OK — 120.
Next up: Doraemon. 5500 yen for that one, but now it’s 100 yen. Again! Next is Quiz Tonosama no Yabou. It’s a CD game; certainly it has to be worth a little bit more? The clerk checks the bottom of the disc for scratches. Perfect… 50 yen!! Good lord! So what about Actraiser? Another expensive Super Famicom launch game. The clerk barely looks at it and says it’s an even 10 yen. Barf.
Oh well, money is money, and the gang is ready to sell off the games. But not before they sign their names on the carts (or in some cases, add their names to the title), leaving them for some lucky shopper to find in the future. They share what they’ve done, have a good laugh, and then put their games on the table. Arino gets 330 yen in coins for the haul, and the group walks off into the overcast horizon.
Game Collections: 1987: July