Game Center CX Season 8 – Back to Contents
As for the Shooting, I Leave That to You! "Super Fantasy Zone"
Shoot-em-up games have not been a big part of Game Center CX. Star Force was a brief challenge in season 1, and Twinbee was a DVD-only episode, but nothing else has garnered attention. They’re difficult, sure, but generally short. Like RPGs, they’re a type of game that probably wouldn’t make a great episode.
But for whatever reason, this challenge is Super Fantasy Zone, the Mega Drive/Genesis sequel to Sega’s arcade hit. Honestly, though, it’s definitely the exception and not the rule — Fantasy Zone games are similar to Defender: each level a long, two-way-scrolling zoetrope where you simply have to destroy all the enemy pods while avoiding the little ones.
The game begins in Round 1, Picknica. Arino hovers around the center of the stage and slowly fires at anything coming towards him, but a rogue mushroom enemy hits him, and his first life is lost. He manages to shoot down a couple of enemy pods, but ends up losing more lives until he sees Game Over. After that, though, the Parts Shop balloon descends from the heavens and Arino flies inside. With his in-game Gold, he buys the Wide Beam and the Big Wings.
Upon exiting, the Wide Beam is already active, and the staff is impressed at its power. Arino uses it to blast through more enemies, but before long, the Wide Beam’s power runs out, leaving him with the regular shot again. Seems he didn’t really notice the power meter at the top of the screen. Another life is quickly lost. Arino enters the Shop a second time, and buys the Wide Beam again. With two pods left in the stage, he uses the Wide Beam to destroy the first, but then runs out of power again, and dies before destroying the final pod.
On the following life, he finally clears the screen, and the boss, Lantern, appears — almost killing Arino instantly, but he gets out of the way at the right moment! Er, but then Lantern runs right into him, killing him for real. Game Over!
Round 1 begins anew, but this time, Arino clears it without losing a life. The boss reappears, and the kacho is duly ready… but Lantern’s exploding projectile hits and kills him, again before he had a chance to strike. On the next attempt, Arino manages to stay alive longer, discovering that Lantern fades away into the background, only to reappear on a random part of the screen. He’s unable to do much except dodge more projectiles, but then one of the bits of shrapnel grazes his back, and he dies once again.
Progress continues to creep along incrementally. Arino then tries a different tactic: dropping bombs on Lantern after avoiding the projectiles. It works: Lantern gets redder and redder until the final bomb connects and destroys the sucker. Arino has no time to celebrate, though; he has to collect the gold that’s appeared! He almost gets all of it, but the screen fades and transitions to the next level.
Arino quickly enters the Shop on the next stage, Kazarne. He buys the Laser Beam first, and then with 7800 Gold remaining, he still has a lot to choose from. He goes for an extra life, then exits the shop. The Laser Beam is even more impressive than the Wide Beam, as it quickly mows down enemies. But all the power in the world doesn’t keep Arino from dying… and dying, and dying, right up to the next Game Over. Except there are no continues, so Arino is forced to go back to Round 1. This could be a problem.
Regardless, he makes it back to Round 2. After continuing to rely on the Laser Beam, Arino wipes out the enemies and prepares for the next boss: Zweek, a robotic Incan-looking thing with tiny turrets around it. Amazingly, using just bombs and the regular shot, Arino defeats it in one try. And he still doesn’t get all of the bonus money.
Round 3 is next, but Arino buys an extra life first. It only delays the inevitable, and he Game Overs again. When in the Round 2 Shop, he buys the Heavy Bomb; a megaton weight. The boss appears, and Arino activates the bomb. It falls straight down where he’s placed, not even touching the boss. Oops. His beginner’s luck from before has faded, and now it takes multiple attempts on the Round 2 boss. After 40 minutes, he makes it back to Round 3.
And then to the Round 3 boss, Pooka the giant fish. It has a vacuum attack that makes Arino face the other direction, causing him to die multiple times after failing to dodge the boss’ projectiles. On his last chance before another Game Over, Arino manages to dodge all of Pooka’s attacks, and eventually destroy it — at the expense of his precious thumbs.
Round 4 adds a new twist: limited visibility! It’s a cave, so Arino can only see a little bit around his ship. He buys the Super Light from the Shop, but it doesn’t last long, as he dies fairly soon, even with the extended visibility. Eventually, he gets another Game Over. Back through the motions… Arino takes a break to look at some of the gifts he got from his recent three-city tour, including a light blue headband that says "Moe~" on it. He knows he has to get back to the game, though.
A special lightning attack helps speed up a repeat of the Zweek battle, and then before facing Pooka again, Arino notices the Back Fire weapon, which is literally a burst of flames from the rear. He can afford one shot of it, but it shaves off a lot of Pooka’s energy. He still dies, though. It’s been about three hours, now. Around then, AD Tsuruoka arrives, and gives Arino a secret code. Is it a continue? Infinite lives? No, it’s the code to play with the music from the original Fantasy Zone (hold A + B + C and press Start at the title screen). …Okie doke.
Back to Pooka, where Arino handles the Back Fire a little better, but he still ends up wasting the last shot and gets killed by a projectile again. And then it’s not long before another Game Over. After that, Tsuruoka returns, holding another controller. This time, he has the power: a code that instantly gives Arino maxed-out cash; $99,999,999. Tsuruoka does it, but Arino doesn’t even notice what happened, until the AD finally points it out. Ah-haaa!
Time to go shopping. Arino buys himself a few more extra lives, maxing out at nine, and then gets a bubble shield, Back Fire, and the Laser. However, it still doesn’t do a damn thing against Pooka. Arino continues to lose the rest of his lives. After those several deaths, he finally defeats Pooka again… with the regular gun.
Arino still has a pile of cash, so he uses it on Round 4 to buy more lives and upgrades. After another death he buys it all again, and then finally meets the Round 4 boss, Ashimingar. This boss shoots out two large blades from its sides, and wiggles them around while firing projectiles. Arino loses his lives as quickly as ever, and gets another Game Over. He starts over, and uses the money code again. Just before he gets back to the Round 4 boss, he buys a Heavy Bomb, likely thinking that it will work well, seeing as you need to stay above Ashimingar to stay safe. It happens to be true: Arino drops Heavy Bombs one after another, killing the boss in mere seconds.
The halfway mark has been passed. Round 5 is a cinch, until the boss appears. That is to say, bosses: two large blocks known as Doguu. They move around somewhat unpredictably, not to mention they’re fast at it. Arino gets two more Game Overs in record time.
AD Tsuruoka comes in again, and this time gives Arino a chance to relax, thanks to more viewer presents. First, a muscle-relaxing bath for his hands, and a frilly eye mask to rest and heal his peepers. Tsuruoka reads the eye mask box: it needs to be on for 5 to 10 minutes. In a scene out of a sitcom, Tsuruoka quickly leaves after that, leaving Arino alone for five minutes, looking like a fool with his hands a bucket and his face blinded by a pink mask.
The five minutes are over, Tsuruoka returns, and then it’s right back to the game. And right back to the death. After some time, Arino returns to Round 5 after buying Ultra Bombs, larger than the usual ones, that leaves an explosive ring. That’s more than enough to wipe out Doguu! Applause fills the room.
For Round 6, Arino stocks up on Smart Bombs, betting that they’ll work against the boss, Raiden. When he reaches the boss, he immediately fires off the Smart Bombs. He gets through all of them, but they don’t seem to have done anything. Yuh-oh. Arino’s left with regular bombs and bullets, and eventually dies by a rogue electric spark. We’re again spared Arino’s quest after he gets his billionth Game Over. When he gets back to Raiden, he uses the big bombs and seeker missiles to great success — the meter in the center of Raiden’s head acts as his health meter.
Two more stages remain. The boss of Round 7 is a big ol’ shellfish. Arino blasts it with the Laser, but then it starts multiplying into smaller shellfish as Arino keeps hitting them! When the littlest pieces turn red, they freeze. Arino uses the big bombs to hit the most of them at once, and there’s definitely some panic to be seen in his playing. But he manages not to trap himself, and get out of a big group of dead shells just in time to finish them off.
After another shopping trip, Arino begins Menone, the final stage. It’s not like the others, as it’s a gauntlet of the previous seven bosses! He wipes out the first two okay, but once again falls easily to Pooka. He buys more weapons and lives after that, and this time makes it up to the shellfish boss, and defeats it! The screen fades. The final boss approaches.
The final boss is Nexus Pa, a giant Opa-Opa ship! And it runs straight into Arino. He dies, but is disappointed to see he’s not back in a Shop. He’ll have to use his wits this time. Nexus fires big arcs of beams, and drops huge weights, too, which kill Arino more often than not. Game Over.
The journey back is still tough, as Arino slips up on Round 7, getting more Game Overs. Simply surviving is enough for him to get applause at this point. Soon, though, he re-challenges Nexus. Things go much more smoothly, as Arino stays close to the boss to avoid the megaton weights, and before long he’s destroyed it. But why should a game ever have just one final boss? Another boss appears, a weird robot. It fires a ring beam that slows Arino if he’s inside it, and then the boss transforms into a ball and bounces around the screen, which kills Arino extremely quickly.
He slowly starts being able to avoid the slowdown beam better, but not good enough to prevent another Game Over. Arino makes it back to Nexus, and then is told that this is his last chance. Yup, it’s been 13 hours. Nexus continues to be a pain in the butt, and Arino loses half of his lives to it.
And then it’s back to the final-final boss. Arino drops enough bombs to change its color a few times, but after turning it yellow, he slips up and dies again. Having to get out of the slowdown beam as well as concentrate on the boss’ bouncing pattern seems to be just too much for him to deal with. He loses his last life just as easily.
It’s the Christmas special after this episode, but Arino decides not to bring Super Fantasy Zone along with him. This will have to be the first official give-up of season 8.
Today’s postcard is from former AD Sasano! And he tells Arino of a place in Osaka called Autobahn, filled with 200 retro games.
Arino walks in and starts with a simple candy-crane game from the ’80s. He manages to get one piece of candy by the tip of its wrapper, and another that’s… er, opened already. He then tries a game from 1980: TS Pyramid, a crazy-looking Breakout-slash-pinball clone.
Next is Pro Yakyuu Nyuudan Test Tryout, a baseball game with the "hook" of trying out for a pro team. Needless to say, Arino has to put some more practice in before being accepted.The baseball theme continues with Namco’s Batting Chance, a very long, very simple mechanical game where the point is to hit a button just as the "ball" travels from the lights at the end of the machine right to the "home run" point above your head.
Arino goes for the "pro" difficulty, then stares at the panel for a few seconds. Hits the button — nothing. Huh. The proprietor comes out from the back room and shows Arino the top of the machine, where you’re actually supposed to be watching the lights! Jeez! Arino starts again, and then more mysterious beeps and flashes occurs. Now what? The man comes back out: that was a home run!
Next game: the ancient SNK game Sasuke Vs. Commander, which is kind of a land-based, ninja-themed Space Invaders clone. Arino manages to get to the boss, who shoots a stream of fire down to the ground. He defeats the boss rather swiftly, though, but then takes his leave of the game.
Then it’s on to Taito’s Strike Bowling. The cocktail cabinet is shorter than others, so Arino’s forced to stretch out in order to get some space. He’s not doing too well at the game, but one of the kids in the place notices this and comes up to him, suggesting that he control the game’s trackball with two thumbs instead of one palm. We don’t get to see if it really works, but the idea is sound, anyway.
Arino walks over to Space Wars (another Invader clone, but competitive, and officially distributed by Taito), but just as he sits down, who walks over but Tani. He offers to play against Arino, and then the "war" begins! Tani wallops Arino, but only because he knows how to play the game already. The proprietor comes back and tells Arino that he needs to save up his energy according to the counter on the screen — once its full, he can shoot a laser that reaches across the screen, hence Tani’s easy wins. Well, then.
A staff member then lays a cardboard shade over the screen, letting Arino see the game better, but Tani can’t see at all! Hey, two free wins! "Yaaay!" Arino gets up and finds another shade, one with a hole in the bottom so a second player can see. The segment ends as the two men continue their space war.
Arino begins stage 3 of Championship Lode Runner. This time, the walls are made up of ladders and unbreakable blocks, making it extra easy for the enemies to come after him. He follows the winding path of the level down to the bottom, where he’s naturally trapped by a lone enemy.
The robots continue to outsmart him. After a few deaths, it’s time to call someone. Arino pulls out the card for "Eiji," and dials him up. A woman answers; presumably Eiji’s mother. Once Arino introduces himself, the lady gets a little too excited and won’t stop talking. Eventually he gets through to Eiji.
Eiji’s advice boils down to a fake-out trick: when a robot is too close, go up, then quickly back down and it won’t be able to catch up. Arino gets the bottom treasures without an immediate enemy threat, so that tip worked out well. He then lures the enemies over, then uses the up-down trick again to successfully slip past all three of them! The final treasure is captured, and stage 3 is clear. Thank you, Eiji!
Christmas Special "What to Do?" Meeting
Arino and other select staff members sit down on a couch to discuss just what to do for the upcoming GCCX live broadcast special over Christmas Eve. First off: what game will be played? The Quest of Ki? Another Mario game?
What kind of extra segments could they do? Abe wonders if he could cook some nabemono (a Japanese stew)? The others laugh at that one, but who knows…!
Guide continues with the Christmas Special. Click here to skip ahead to episode #60.