Game Center CX Season 8 – Back to Contents
Let’s Go to Edo! It’s Hopeless…? "Tokaido Gojuusan Tsugi"
Sunsoft wasn’t always that cool. In the beginning, their 8-bit games were pretty awful — and if you’ve seen the Atlantis no Nazo and Ikki challenges on the show, you already know that. But there was another infamous game they released in 1986: Tokaido Gojuusan Tsugi, or "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido." The title refers to a real-life road in the 17th century that linked Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto (and inspired a series of well-known paintings). The game is less based in reality, of course; a cartoony adventure of a fireworks maker, Kantaro, trying to make it to Edo, assaulted by all manner of enemies along the way.
Arino’s in a new, more spacious room for this challenge, and as usual, he’s visibly ignorant of what the game is all about. There’s a whopping 21 stages, and Kantaro’s only weapons are little bombs that he throws in an arc, so this might not go too smoothly. Arino reads the introductory text when the game starts, but it goes away after a couple of seconds, thrusting him into the game. Gee, even the intro is hard to complete.
Stage 1 is cleared quickly, since all Arino had to worry about is a ninja or two chasing after him. Soon after, AD Tsuruoka comes in with a snack. He’s gonig to be giving Arino a series of "motivation" snacks of foods from the areas of the Tokaido stations. He’s also mapped out the Tokaido on the whiteboard, which Arino can use to track his progress. After that little break, stage 2 begins. Here, Arino starts losing lives, thanks to a red ninja crawling underneath a bridge, and the unpredictable regular ninjas that leap towards him. He makes it past them, but then is soon shot down by another Tokaido thug. Game Over!
Back to stage 1, after losing just three lives. Yes indeed, Arino has at least three chances to beat the game before being kicked back to the start, and there is absolutely no way to continue. Gulp. Well, for now it’s not bad. Arino gets back to stage 2, and this time finds an onigiri item that makes Kantaro roll along the ground like a ball, but he can lose momentum quickly. It pushes Arino forward just enough to get to the end, though. Tsuruoka delivers another snack, and then it’s on to stage 3, where Arino quickly earns another Game Over.
When he gets back, he’s tormented by a helmeted enemy with a sword. He can’t hit it with bombs, but then he tries laying one. It works, killing the enemy, but a ninja lands at the same moment, killing Arino simultaneously. Eventually, he makes it through without incident, and even grabs a mysterious key along the way. In stage 4, the music changes halfway through, to something a little more sinister. Is a boss coming up? Arino creeps forward to see a strange black-clothed character, who then stands up and runs towrads him. But he doesn’t attack; instead, he steals Arino’s key.
Later, a new enemy pops up: a knife-throwing ninja perched atop a house. Naturally, he dies. "I need a continue," Arino whimpers. The knife ninja continues to take a couple more lives from Arino, but soon, he tosses a bomb just at the right moment and kills the ninja, finally letting him clear stage 4. And then of course, Tsuruoka is back with another delicacy: a pastry that Arino thinks looks like a compact.
Stage 5 introduces a ghost that Arino can’t defeat, so he’s chased through the entire stage by it — and another enemy, and soon he gets to the end where another knife ninja kills him. Game Over. Arino gets back to stage 5, clears it, and then struggles with stage 6. A new enemy shoots a beam unpredictably, killing Arino several times.
AD Tsuruoka then comes back, not with food, but with a sheet of paper. He says that the game’s strategy guide has lyrics for the game’s annoying music, and encourages Arino to do some karaoke. Tsuruoka plays as Arino sings along. He’s not really putting himself into it, though.
Tsuruoka offers to try. He sings it well, but it’s kinda high — he’s trying too hard to go for that enka vibe, and Arino has to stop him since it’s just too hilarious. "JYUUri!" Then they sing it together, and Arino still can’t stop laughing. Tsuruoka leaves, letting Arino continue.
He gets close to the end of stage 6, but is assaulted again by knife ninjas and fish-tossin enemies. Another Game Over. He just keeps making it back, then dying aain. Two and a half hours are wasted this way. On the 13th attempt, Arino finally makes it past the fisherman and clears the stage. Jeeez.
Stage 7 isn’t much of an improvement, as Arino dies early and often. Tsuruoka reappears and says that while they may not be continues, Arino can earn some extra 1UPs that can make things a tiny bit easier. He goes back to stage 4, and hops on a cloud that has a secret invisible spot that racks up points for him, which in turn net a couple of extra lives. He continues to die trying to get through the stage, but that just leaves more opportunities to loop 1UPs. Eventually, Arino gets up to nine lives and stops there.
Back to stage 7. He manages to retain his 9 lives, and even kills that pesky knife ninja, but then dies right after that. Predictably, all the other lives dwindle down on the same stage. It’s not until he’s on his final life that Arino actually makes it to the end. Snack time! This time it’s a couple of chicken wings. Arino bites into one, but it’s cold! Jeez, Tsuruoka. And then, obviously, Arino lasts 5 seconds in stage 8 before getting another Game Over.
After however long it was to get more 1UPs and retry previous stages, Arino gets through stage 8, thankfully. But in stage 9, he gets caught by a village woman looking for love, and her pulling on him ends up getting him killed by projectiles. He tries again, and after some artful dodges, he makes it through. Stage 10, wow! Only… 11 more to go! And guess what, another Game Over!
How’s about two more?! Arino’s handed the clock; it’s just past 10:00 PM, and he’s only within arm’s reach of the halfway point. Tsuruoka comes back yet again with better news: there’s a warp! First, Arino has to collect 10 hidden coins, and then a door to a "warp stage" will appear. First he has to get the coins, but he keeps getting Game Overs on the quest.
Finally, on stage 5, Arino gets 10 coins and finds the warp door. He enters the warp stage. Tsuruoka comes in and explains: there are two different warp stages, chosen at random whenever Arino enters the door. One will warp him three stages ahead, the other six. All he has to do is make it to the end, and then he’ll find himself ahead. The good news is he’s in the six-stage area! Arino starts the stage, and the tension rises. He’s careful, but is eventually pinched and killed. He still has a few lives, though, so he just tries again.
But he’s not improving, and before long, he’s down to his last life again. It’s no use; he gets another Game Over. And then, it’s another long trek back. He manages to luck into the same six-stage warp, but continues to be thrown off by knife-throwing ninjas and disgruntled fishermen. Manager Noda comes in this time, holding the clock. It’s past midnight now. This will have to be his last attempt at glory.With five lives left, he tries the warp stage again.
Another few quick deaths occur. And then, on his last life, he destroys an enemy, only to gain another 1UP due to the points he got. Nice! He dies, though. OK, now it’s the last try: He does it! On to stage 12! It’s a snowy area with another ghost that chases Arino. Unfortunately, it’s a knife ninja that kills him. That’s it.
Or is it? Arino can come back in a few days, but he’ll still be busy with other things. Producer Kan recites Arino’s schedule: there’s a break at around 8:00 PM where he can return to continue the challenge, but he only has two hours before having to appear on another show. He goes for it. We rejoin Arino four days later. Tsuruoka has put Arino back in stage 12, so that’s good. He’s been working hard to crack this game, but it’s up to Arino now.
In stage 12, he grabs the rarely-seen onigiri and uses it to push through. After one death, though, he actually clears the stage. And then he gets through stage 13! On stage 14, Arino sees he has 9 coins, so he goes and collects a 10th for the warp door to appear. He continues through the stage until… oh dear… the warp door is falling down from the sky! He’ll have to enter it in midair. Timing is important, but Arino hesitates, and then is killed by a jumping enemy. On the next try, he forgoes the warp and instead uncovers another. This one’s a three-stage warp, but it’s better than nothing. He gets through it easily, and then warps to stage 17.
Oh, and it’s snack time! This time it’s tamaboko; processed cakes of fish paste. Then it’s back to the game, where Arino faces another knife-throwing ninja on a ladder, and when he tries running past it, the ninja swoops down and hits him. But it’s only a couple of tries before he makes it through. Stage 18. Arino quickly dies, and then restarts. That clingy woman does more than slow him down — she ends up stealing half of Arino’s coins! So much for a warp.
He has to push on through the mess of stage 18, though. And before long, his life count goes down from weird symbols back to the original 9. But he makes it through. Three stages to go, now with only eight lives left. Naturally, they’re rapidly used up — in the same damn spot! Game Over. Tsuruoka returns and says that Arino has one last chance, but the AD will be next to him for support as he restarts and goes for more extra lives. Arino has less than one hour left. He makes it back to stage 18 with 13 lives. This is going to have to be it.
The first life is wasted within seconds, but after that, Arino gets a little farther than before. With 10 lives left, he exits the stage. Whew! Two to go. Unfortunately, the birdman at the start of stage 20 throws Arino off. More lives are lost. With five lives, Arino bypasses the birdman, but then is killed by a knife ninja.
Now the pressure’s really on. He’s then killed by one of the magic beam-shooting enemies. He has to get through this gauntlet, but he keeps slipping up one way or another. Soon he’s down to one more life.
An enemy catches him off guard, and then it’s the end of that. With more pressing matters to take care of, Arino gives up.
It’s up to Tsuruoka to take over and show us the ending. The poor guy works all through the night (and morning) to get through the last few stages. After 11 hours, he finally reaches stage 21 and gets through. As expected, the ending screen is beyond lame, but them’s the breaks.
Arino is in Kisarazu again to check out Kisarazu Central, a pretty big amusement center with an old-fashioned bowling alley as the main attraction.
The game center is first (for once), and the first thing Arino sees is an Alpine Racer 2 machine. He puts his hands down to grasp the handles, but instead, gumball machines are blocking the front. Out of order, eh? Around the corner is a quiz game featuring a cartoon Lou Oshiba, an old variety show regular and actor. Arino picks the "game" category (apparently), and is first hit with a question about Final Fantasy IV. He looks around for help, and then manager Noda yells out the correct answer. Arino does a little bit better on the next few, but loses overall. Cartoon Oshiba taunts him.
Across the way is Namco’s Lucky & Wild, a driving/light-gun game that’s a favorite with arcade game fans. Arino sits down and tries to play with both controls, but it’s a bit too overwhelming for him.
Next to that is OutRunners. Arino plays an entire course from beginning to end, narrowly making it over the finish line. That’s a TamaGe first! From there it’s on to the table tennis corner. AP Tojima is called over to challenge Arino, but they can barely get a rally going between the two of them.
Let’s close things out at the bowling alley — oh, but a couple more games are at the entrance. Arino gets Kibe-kun to play him in Puyo Puyo, which turns out to be a bad idea: Kibe actually knows how to play, and his chains wipe Arino out immediately. OK, now let’s go bowling.
Arino’s not too bad; Kibe gets a strike, of course, and then the secret weapon is brought in: Tojima! He winds up, and lets go… and immediately gutters it. In the end, Tojima continues bowling by himself while Arino and Kibe sit at another video game.
Arino resumes Championship Lode Runner at stage 4. This one has multiple tiers, with only a couple of treasures in the middle with ladders. He starts by killing a couple of robot enemies, then carefully making his way up. And then it’s just a series of stupid deaths.
Arino resorts to the phone, and picks a card from a teenage girl, "Buri." He gets through to Buri, who’s a bit excited to have been chosen. But she does have a nice bit of advice for the stage. Arino goes for it: he clears a path for the robots to take a ladder down, then he climbs back up when they fall from the ladder, slowing them down as they try to get out. A-ha!
He does the same thing with the last couple of robots up top, and then grabs the last treasure. But doing so links the middle ladders together, giving the robots the ability to get close to Arino! What now!? Ah, it’s no big deal: Arino gets up on a shimmy bar, makes sure all the robots are on there with him, then he drops down and gets back on the ladder, shimmying his way to freedom after the robots stupidly drop down after him.