Game Center CX Season 5 – Back to Contents
So How is "Umihara Kawase?" – The Kacho Returns
Six months later, everyone’s favorite section chief arrives back on the scene. Due to Arino’s family commitments, season 5 is only a scant six episodes long, but it promises to be as entertaining as ever. Arino returns to the usual conference room and sits down, pointing out that the cleaners’ left the tag in his uniform! He also makes a crack at his brand new ergonomic chair, likening it to a Star Wars droid.
Then, it’s time to get down to business with everyone’s favorite cult game, Umihara Kawase. Its crazy rappelling physics and outright evil level designs are sure to throw Arino for a loop. The game starts at Field 0, and naturally Arino has to come to grips with the controls. He climbs up some walls, stuns some kooked-out fish, and eventually finds the exit that leads to Field 1. He uses some fancy moves to fling himself over an edge or two, and then moves on to Field 2.
Field 2 and 3 are cleared rather swiftly (or so we’re led to believe), but Field 4 is the first real hurdle. Arino starts by looking at the exit across a gap, but getting there is the hard part. He tries swinging over, but for some reason his timing falters and he falls often. He tries an alternate route, but by then the time starts getting in the danger zone. With 10 seconds left, Arino tries once again to swing over to the exit, but slips up and ends up falling to his death rather than have the clock run out on him. It’s early yet, so all he can do is laugh. The next attempts are just dumb as he throws himself straight into enemies. But later, a streak of luck causes him to finally clear the gap and exit the stage. Field 5 is daunting yet not. In Field 6, Arino gets squashed by a moving platform, much to his and the staff’s amusement. He dies a couple more times, and finally gets the Game Over screen.
Arino tries the Replay option on the title screen, and notices a lone replay file called "Akieria." It only goes as far as Field 1. He watches as the player begins the game and then stupidly falls and dies soon after. After laughing at that spectacle, Arino goes ahead and starts over from Field 0. When he gets back to Field 1, he notices a second exit across from the first. He makes his way over, and enters the door. It’s Field 10! It’s a jump in progress, but also a jump in difficulty. Luckily Arino gets through with 6 lives remaining and heads to Field 11. But here, the exit is just above a platform that dips whenever Arino steps on it. After a few tries, he just hops over the platforms and finds another door. In we go!
…Probably should’ve went with the first door. Arino’s sent backwards to Field 8! He climbs up to the door, but it’s boarded up! He stands there confused for a while, until, from the end of the screen comes A GIANT TADPOLE OH GOD! He runs to the other end of the platform, but he’s pushed off in an attempt to hide. On the next attempt he manages to hang off the side of the platform until the tadpole turns and starts hopping the other way. He climbs back up, but then the boss starts birthing smaller tadpoles! And then it charges toward the other side, forcing Arino off once again. Repeat until Game Over.
Arino restarts from Field 1, and makes it back to the boss, only to repeat the string of failure. Just then. AD Urakawa comes in and has a message. It turns out the illustrator for Umihara Kawase, Toshinobu Kondo, is a big fan of the show, and as a token of his appreciation has sent Arino an original Kawase drawing! Along with this, Urakawa tells Arino that the game apparently has 57 Fields in total, so this is just scratching the surface. Yoiks! Arino tries the boss again: he hangs off the edge and waits for the tadpole to come back over. After it lets all of its babies loose, it leaps off the side into the water! Arino then gets back up, gets rid of the little froggies and finally is able to exit.
This exit takes him all the way to Field 28! And it’s a doozy, starting off with spiked platforms that only go down, and then open up on a huge gap. Arino hooks on to one of the platforms and rides it down, and tries swinging over to grab the ceiling, but it’s no use. Again, repeat until death. Getting a bit stressed, he breaks out the cold pad. This one’s a bit smaller and flimsier, and it falls right in his face. Will nothing go right today?!
On the next two tries, Arino shoots the fishing line across from him so that the platform pushes down on the line and sends him up against the wall. From there he tries lowering himself down manually, hopefully hooking onto the corner of the wall and then getting across from there. It takes a lot of trial and error, to put it lightly. Arino gets down to the corner, but misses the ceiling after that! And just by a hair, too! More deaths follow after that. Urakawa comes back in and gives Arino another Kondo drawing. This one is a much less happy Kawase. Apparently Arino’s performance isn’t winning any fans. The drawing is pasted on the whiteboard with the other, and the game continues.
The next try is just nuts. Arino manages to grab the ceiling, not once, but twice! He touches the next platform, but only briefly. He starts freaking out, and he’s holding on to the Y button for dear life! He lands on the ice platform ahead. It’s another two jumps to the other side, but the ice is sloped. He takes a flying leap over and manages to safely get to the other side. But then there are spiked platforms going up here. Arino latches onto the underside of one and starts reeling in the line, but he’s not fast enough and he bounces right onto the spikes.
More attempts come and go. Eventually he gets back to where he was and successfully rides one of the platforms up to the upper level. The exit is across another big gap. Enemies appear just as Arino latches up onto the ceiling, and he starts yelling once they graze his feet. After another stressful swinging session, he makes it to the door.
But then…! The screen dims, and the credits start rolling! Heyy, not bad! Arino throws his hands up in the air and indulges in a snack. But then Urakawa comes by. In Umihara Kawase, if you spend 30 minutes or more getting through the Fields, the exits will take you to "ending Fields" more often. Unfortunately, 28 wasn’t a real one; he has to get to number 57 for the true ending. And even if he does better than 30 minutes, the path to 57 is so twisted that it requires a route map (there aren’t actually 57 total Fields). Urakawa draws up a crude chart on the whiteboard. Arino must clear 12 Fields leading from 0 to 57.
Arino speeds through the first few levels until he reaches Field 11 again — the one with the annoying dipping platforms. He almost figures it out, but continues to fail. Urakawa rushes in and tries drawing out the situation. He advises Arino to try very light hops. And so he does, and fails. "That’s not it!" he says. Urakawa clarifies, but it still doesn’t work. After that, Arino hops on the blue platform, then stays on the white ones while waiting for the other blue platform to raise, and then immediately hops up and barely manages to catch the door and exit. Whew!
Field 12 is new, and therefore Arino goes through the cycle of adjustment, including one heartstopping sequence of him grabbing on to the shifting pistons in the latter half of the level. Other than that, everything goes fine! Honest! OK, so he dies once or twice and gets a Game Over. Then it’s through the exit to Field 36. Here’s a toughie: a vast expanse of water, and the only things to grapple onto are levitating seahorses. He leaps over to grab one, but dies and Game Overs again. Arino goes back through the motions, dies a few times on Field 12 again, and gets back to 36.
More failure. He can’t seem to shoot the lure diagonally. When he finally does grab onto a seahorse, he’s instantly whipped forward into the water. Another Game Over! He and staff both groan. He tries a few more times, but only gets incrementally farther. Urakawa comes back in and informs him that since AP Tojima and director Sasano have left the show for greener pastures, it’s time for some new blood. After a brief interlude on those men’s parting thoughts, Urakawa has news: the new AD will be helping Arino with the game! And in walks AD Inoue.
Inoue gets a chair and sits down next to Arino to try his hand at this Field. He carefully swings from the seahorse, and eventually lets go. … and lands right in the water. Arino slaps the wall. "Urakawa! Urakawa!" Urakawa runs in. Arino politely (but loudly) asks for someone else. Urakawa laughs, and Inoue asks for another chance. Arino asks him if he’s always liked to play games… nope. Baseball? Sure. How about… curling?
OK, enough fun — back to work. Inoue tries again, and remarkably gets up to the platform where the door is… and then he proceeds to jump off the left side and make his way back to the start. "Pause! Pause!" Arino insists. Inoue pauses. Arino wonders what’s wrong with him, but Inoue says that wasn’t the real exit. It’s higher up, near the giant seahorse miniboss. Inoue goes for it again, this time taking the back way up to the exit. He gets up and hooks onto the final ledge. But something’s not right. He starts to whinny in pain as tiny seahorses start to come his way. He panics and lets go of the hook, eventually dropping back down to the start.
The poor kid is just nervous as hell. He continues to fail until he finally gets a Game Over. He starts to squint as if he’s lost in thought, and Arino teases him. But on the next try, Inoue does his best and finally whips himself up to the door and exits! He goes wild, high fiving Arino and covering his mouth from the excitement! You can even see him shaking. Arino and the staff just laugh at the spectacle. After Inoue calms down, he tells Arino that 30 minutes have just about passed. The next door now leads to the end: Field 57. Inoue leaves to let Arino handle it.
He dies pretty quickly, though. Over and over again. In the middle of it all, Urakawa comes in and tells Arino he has another drawing from Kondo — a subdued Kawase, but still cute. But time is up, and Arino has to give up here. Inoue and Urakawa end up finishing the game. The two blast through the levels in just under 29 minutes, but the ending is the same as the "fake" one was. Hmmm.
In Yanaka there’s a small little store called the Tanigawa Stationery Shop. On the inside, it’s just as advertised, but on the outside are two squat arcade machines!
Arino inspects them, but they seem to be out of order. He steps inside the shop to ask for help, and out steps a very tiny old woman. Turns out the machines just weren’t plugged in. The lady bends down to get the extension cord, but Arino offers to do it for her. The tarp on the overhang has to be lowered too, so he can see the screen. The old woman teaches Arino how to grab the hook for the tarp with a pole and turn it. Arino plays dumb to tease her, but she just brushes it off. Eventually, Arino sits down with the first machine.
The first one contains Data East’s Diet Go Go, a Bubble Bobble-ish action game. He dies pretty quickly. He calls out the old woman again. She says it will be 50 yen for the game. Arino asks if she’d like to play with him. She laughs as if he’s asking the world of her, but he coaxes her outside to join him in a game of Metal Slug.
Arino’s player 2, and tells the woman which button does what before starting. She doesn’t do too badly, either. Before long she hops in the Metal Slug tank and starts tearing shit up. Arino dies before she does, but once she reaches the boss, he reaches over and starts hammering the fire button for her as she moves around. Eventually she turns the wrong way and dies, but ah, it was fun while it lasted!
Arino shakes hands with her and jokingly asks for his 50 yen back. After that, he unplugs the machines and rolls the tarp back up. It’s so nice to have a helpful young man around!
Hard no Ace ga Detekonai
It’s time for a new segment up in the ol’ "attic" set. Here Arino is introduced to "minor hardware" from gaming’s past. He’s handed a large cardboard box with today’s system. And it is… the Sega Mark III!
Unfortunately, he can’t figure out how to hook it up, so he calls over engineer Suda to do it for him. He gets things situated, and then Arino stares at the games that came in the box. He decides to start with High School! Kimengumi, based on the old ’80s anime. Before he actually starts, he calls over Kibe-kun for some gameplay tips. Kibe walks over and takes a seat on the cushions. Arino comments on the game and asks what to do, and Kibe is there to tell him. One unexpected Game Over later and Arino moves on to something else.
He briefly tries Space Harrier, then asks Kibe what else is good. Ah yes, Alex Kidd in Miracle World; Sega’s original answer to Mario. Arino has trouble believing that, but nonetheless he starts the game. He dies in the first level. OK then, that’ll about do it. Arino opens up the floorboards and sticks the Mark III inside, never to be seen again.
Game Collections: 1987: August-September