Game Center CX Season 8 – Back to Contents
Stick With It, Haguruman! "Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru"
"The Masked Ninja Hanamaru" is a slightly-obscure Famicom game from Capcom. However, it was released outside Japan, in a manner of speaking — it was heavily reworked and turned into the NES game Yo! Noid. So if it looks familiar, now you know.
Arino has to complete 14 stages before he sees the ending. He pops in the game, watches the intro, and then the adventure begins. The first level is an island floating up and down in the water, so it’s easier for Arino to fall in. However, he loses his first life from just running into an enemy. But it’s not long before he reaches the end of the stage, and the first boss.
Boss battles in Hanamaru are simple card games, so all Arino has to do is flip out enough high-numbered cards to defeat the enemy. Unfortunately, he’s still a bit slow to get it, so he loses when the timer runs out. He then has to restart the first level and return to the boss.During the run, he grabs the "II" item, which doubles the number on a card in the battle. He uses that on a "3" card to double it to a 6, knocking out the enemy. Within a minute, he deals the final blow.
Stage 2 is an ice level. Really? So soon? Arino’s surprised, but he has to press on. Running on the ice is bad enough, but when it comes to jumping across two small moving ice platforms, Arino fails. He does get across, but then he dies right after when trying to avoid an ice cube-kicking enemy. He uses ninja magic to destroy it on the next try, then continues.
Stage 3’s gimmick is a skateboard, which Arino instantly dreads, as it means he’ll have to act even faster. And indeed, he ends up dying by trying to jump over a pair of fish-shaped death balloons. He tries and tries but can’t quite make it. He’s going to waste all of his three continues this way! But in a stroke of luck, Arino manages to destroy the balloons by hitting them with the rear wheels of the skateboard, and then he finally makes it through. He dies again after running into an enemy, though, losing his last life.
He quickly pushes Start, and then up comes stage 1 again. The continues are out. Can Arino possibly beat the entire game with just 3 continues to go on? He makes it back to stage 3, but just repeats the process.
On the third run through stage 1, Arino gets an extra continue from bonus points after the boss fight. And then, in stage 2, he stumbles upon a secret warp. It takes him to a bonus game; a Whac-A-Mole style challenge, but with penguins instead of moles. Arino whacks just enough penguins to clear the goal, and gets another extra continue in return.
This time, Arino blazes through stage 3 and meets the next boss at the end. He stocked up on multiplier cards, so he uses them immediately and defeats the boss in two hits! And, naturally, gets another bonus continue. The scenery gets a little weird in stage 4, as the level is made up of Lego-ish building blocks. Here, Arino finds a new tool: the pogo stick. He does well with it, until he jumps right off a cliff at the second the pogo power wears off.
Arino makes it through on the second try and continues to stage 5. Here has to ride multiple tiny mine carts across lava, while bird enemies pop up unpredictably and fly towards him. Amazingly, he only dies a couple of times, and miraculously hits one of the birds at just the right time. He safely makes it to the end to face the third boss. Another easy win, but he uses up too many multiplier cards, so he doesn’t get a continue.
Like stage 5, stage 6 uses an automatically-moving platform to send Arino through. In this case it’s a raft, and fish enemies that leap out of the water become his chief annoyance. After a few deaths (including a Game Over), he makes it through to the next part of the stage: a battleship! With lots of cannons firing at him! It’s just like that old dreaded Mario 3 challenge. He makes it through without death, though.
Stage 7 scrolls automatically, which already spells doom. And it’s compounded by another section of having to jump across too-tiny platforms and springboards. Amazingly, it only takes Arino two tries to get through and then face the next boss. As usual, he wipes out the enemy in a flash and gets another bonus continue.
Stage 8 begins… and Arino falls straight down to his death. Arino pauses on the next try and checks the manual: ah, yes, Hanamaru is hanging onto his bird buddy, so you have to fly through this stage. Unfortunately, a gauntlet of spikes early on keeps tripping Arino up. He ends up wasting a continue. Eventually he gets past that section, but the deaths keep racking up. Arino then remembers his ninjutsu magic, and the lightning power gets rid of the moving spikes and other enemies.
It’s still not enough, though, and Arino ends up going through another continue… his last one! It’s back to stage 1! And so soon after crossing the halfway point! Back to stage 1, then… we’re spared most of the replaying, though, of course. Unfortunately Arino hasn’t learned much upon returning to stage 8, as he still grazes enemies and spikes just enough to kill him again and again. Finally, with one life left, he manages to get a hang of things, using the ninjutsu and just plain being careful enough to make it to the end.
Stage 9 is a haunted house, but Arino gets through it much faster than the last one, and faces another boss at the end. Another perfect win! Stage 10 is another uncharacteristic level; a wild west town. He dies a couple of times, but he lucks into an invincibility powerup that takes him through the rest of the area.
He gets another invincibility item early in stage 11, but it wears off without warning, and Arino lands on an enemy, losing a life. That was definitely inevitable, as Arino continues to struggle with more narrow stone platforms and precariously-placed enemies in the stage. When he gets close to the end, he dies once again… for the last time. Yes, it’s back once again to stage 1. As Arino begrudgingly restarts, AD Tsuruoka comes in and gives Arino a snack: a crispy bar that resembles the rocky ground of stage 1.
It takes another two hours to get back to stage 11, and Arino finally makes it through to face the next boss. Guess what, another perfect clear. We move from the outer-space environment of stage 11 into the enemy spaceship of stage 12. Amazingly, Arino makes it through once without dying!
Stage 13 starts with a vertical climb up a tall cliff. And again, it’s fish that end up killing Arino the most. He continues to get killed by the same fish jumping from the same stream of water, yet when he gets past it, it’s bubble-shooting enemies that do him in. The stage has barely started and he keeps dying the exact same ways! He really pays for it when he runs out of continues for the billionth time. Back to stage 1… again.
It takes another two hours to return to stage 13. At this point, Arino has just two continues left, for a total of nine lives. He continues to rack up deaths in the stage, and loses the first continue. After that, though, he makes it past the bubble blower and continues up the cliff. He exercises caution as he faces an enemy pushing boulders down a slope, but there’s no obvious way to destroy it! Arino’s stuck down in the corner, and the game’s timer is ticking. He tries a leap of faith, but it’s no use. He’s handed the wall clock — 12:19. As expected, this is Arino’s last chance.
For the next little while, we’re shown only the game screen, with minimal cuts back to Arino. He again tries to climb the cliff. He makes it past the bubbles and back up to the boulders. He makes it up the first slope, then jumps towards the culprit, who runs forward! Arino quickly hits the enemy, destroying it! The next section is up a huge waterfall, using falling logs as leverage. Arino makes crazyjump after crazy jump as he just barely touches down on the logs. His thumbs are hurting! There’s a midpoint, but then it’s back to more climbing! He makes it to the top of the waterfall, and then up two more platforms to reach the exit door! Holy crap!
Time for the next card battle. This boss has cards with sixes on them, meaning Arino will have to be less zealous, just in case. Still, he makes it with nary a scratch, and luckily, gets one more continue at the end, too.
The final stage, at las– oh, dear, Arino plummets to his death again. It’s another flying stage! And that was his last life! Well, thank goodness for that bonus continue. The layout isn’t as bad as the last flying stage, but it’s made harder due to larger bubbles that break off into smaller ones. And then, at the midway point, Arino runs into some sort of flying dude shooting leaves at him. With no way to attack, he just has to dodge… and does it well!
Seconds later, a second flying dude appears. Arino just laughs, joking that it’s the one guy from The Alfee. Amazingly, Arino doesn’t have to do much dodging, and the Alfee guy floats up and away, leaving Arino to safely drift to the end, and the final boss battle.
Plenty of "II" cards are stocked up, so Arino uses one first. Unfortunately the boss has plenty of "5" and "6" cards, so it’s hard for Arino to get a more damaging attack in. He whittles down the boss to just one hit, and in a huge stroke of luck, the boss deals a 2 as his final card. It’s in the bag — Arino deals a 6 and ends the fight. But it’s so anticlimactic. Is it really the end?
Yep! Peace is restored, yadda yadda yadda. And yet this challenge was only 13 and a half hours? It felt like forever.
Event Documentary – Arino Kacho’s Long Day
On November 17, Arino was set to make appearances to promote the GCCX DS game, Arino no Chousenjou. Three events in three separate cities… in one day. This mini-documentary follows the progress of Arino and the GCCX crew.
We start at 8:00 AM in Tokyo, where Arino makes his first appearance at the big AsoBitCity store. He notices a line of fans outside the building, and is told some of them have been there since 4 AM.
At 9:00, the event begins. Flanked by Kibe-kun and AD Urakawa, Arino does the usual talking and announcements, and then it’s time for the fans to come up and get an autograph or give gifts.
At 10:45, the festivities are over. Arino gets back into his civilian clothes and hops in a car to the train station to make it to the next event in Nagoya. He gets there close to noon. But then, two and a half hours later, the rest of crew is in Nagoya. Arino’s not around. Producer Kan breaks the news: Arino fell asleep on the train and missed the stop, so he isn’t going to arrive in time for the event.
Suspense! Kan assigns Kibe, Urakawa and Tani to go in Arino’s stead and keep the crowd happy until the kacho arrives.
The rest of the crew hangs back and keeps their eye on the train schedule as the men on point drive off to the event. As expected, a large group of people are waiting inside the "Imagine" bookstore. At 3:00, Kibe and others come out to the center and begin the presentation. Two minutes later, back at the train station, Arino arrives and desperately runs to the van.
Arino makes to the store at 3:30, rushes through the back and finally out to the crowd. Success! He’s just in time to meet the fans.
Afterward, it’s time to get back in the van. We jump ahead to Osaka for the third and final event.
Arino arrives at the Disc Pier store just after 7:00 and hey, at least he’s on time now. During the fan meet, Arino receives a giant Dragon Quest slime. One boy (via his dad) has Arino do the Hottokenai Yo dance, even.
At the end, Arino has everyone pose for a picture, holding up their fist just like the kacho.
For the epilogue, we see the entire crew having a nice dinner that night. Arino gets a congratulatory phone call from Bandai Namco’s president Ishikawa.