Game Center CX Season 12 – Back to Contents
The Kacho Konductor – "Densha de GO!"
Arino walks into the challenge room, and the first thing he sees is AD Emoto dressed in a train conductor’s uniform. What’s the occasion? Well, since this is the last episode of GCCX for 2009, and Tokyo’s famous Yamanote train line is celebrating its 100th year, it seemed fitting to close out the year with Densha de GO!, the original version of Taito’s train simulation for the PlayStation (originally arcade). Arino talked to one of the creators of the game back in the very first episode of GCCX when he visited Taito, too, so there’s a couple of callbacks to history here.
In Densha de GO!, you play a train conductor who must trace the real-life line of your choosing, and make stops at every station with the perfect precision of a real-life professor operator. A fancy controller performs the basic functions of a train brake and gearbox, and Arino’s challenge today will be to do his best in the game’s first three courses, and then complete the Yamanote line course (which isn’t the full Yamanote line, but still). He gets ready to start the game, but first, Emoto makes sure that both sides of the "train" are clear, and then, "all aboard!" He also bequeaths his hat to Arino.
Finally, the game begins with the first course, the relatively pokey Yamakage Honsen, which goes to Kyoto. Unfortunately, Arino jumps the gun a bit early, and is told to put the brake back on right after the "all aboard." He keeps the train around 60 km/h, and as the next station comes into view, he’s told to start applying the brake. At that point, he has 30 seconds to complete the approach and come to the proper, aligned stop. Unfortunately, he hits the brake a little too hard, and is penalized 10 seconds. And then, as he tries to repair his mistake, he runs out of time. Game Over, but he does have a chance to continue.
Upon continuing, Arino starts at the stop he failed at, and then tries to make it to the next. This time he accelerates slowly, as instructed, and runs through a couple of tunnels before reaching the next station. As he slows down, a simple diagram shows the train approaching the designated stopping line — Arino must make sure not to go too far over that line. He stops about one meter over, but that’s not bad enough to dock him any seconds for the next approach, so he makes it through unscathed.
A penalty halfway to the next stop knocks Arino down to one approach second, so when the station comes into view, that second ticks down, and he’s basically already lost. And this time, sadly, continuing knocks him all the way back to the beginning of the line. And again, when he reaches the next station, he stops way too short of the end, and again times out in the rush to accelerate.
After another time out at the fourth station, AD Emoto comes back with some advice, and uses a model train to illustrate. He tells Arino that once he’s within 200 meters of a station, he should push the brake up to level 8, as shown onscreen. Before Emoto leaves, he offers to trade jackets with Arino, so that the kacho completely looks the part.
Having had his fill of the Yamakage course, Arino moves over to the Keihin-Touhoku line, which is a little harder, but whatever gets Arino prepared for the Yamanote. This one goes over 100 km/h, and Arino speeds to the first stop. The station platform is pretty long, though, so Arino does some accidental stop-and-gos, resulting in another time out.
Still, Arino continues, and pushes ahead to the Omori station. This time he’s ready for it, and hits the brake at what he thinks is the right time. Not perfectly, as he’s a meter over again, but not bad. Unfortunately, on the way to the next stop, he’s docked five seconds — why? Because he was blasting the horn too much. His horsing around costs him soon after that, too, when he play races another train, only to end up 50 meters past the platform. He’s docked 123 seconds, which is an instant fail.
At this point, Arino is allowed to attempt the Yamanote line. But he’s told that to get the real ending, he must make it through the entire course– from the Shibuya to Tokyo stops — without continuing after a loss. Challenging as it sounds, Arino goes ahead and chooses the Yamanote.
He shoves off toward the second Yamanote stop, Ebisu. The platform soon appears in the distance, and luckily, Arino is already at the suitable speed for approach. He takes it carefully, but still doesn’t quite have the timing down, and goes seven meters over the line. That’s enough for a Game Over.
Arino starts again, and approaches Ebisu a little faster than last time, but manages to only get one meter over this time. Not perfect, but no time lost! Onto Meguro, where Arino spots a bullet train passing by (noted to be the 251 Super View Odoriko). Meguro appears, but Arino brakes too soon, and stops too close. He manages to make it to the stop line with two seconds left, but his performance isn’t good enough, and is docked 10 seconds for another loss.
He restarts, and this time goes over the Meguro line by four meters. Failed again. On the sixth attempt, Arino takes a turn at the right speed and gets a couple of seconds as a bonus, and finally stops at Meguro at exactly zero meters. (He’s still docked 10 seconds, but it’s not as hurtful this time).
Four seconds are left, and amazingly, Arino makes it to the Gotanda stop perfectly, with one second left. Unfortunately, a speed penalty from earlier down the track docks him four seconds, which is yet another fail. By now the challenge has taken seven hours, and Arino piles on more penalties and failures. But since he’s not a real operator, Arino takes advantage of putting on a cool pad to relax his mind.
Apparently, it works, as he stops at Ebisu so wonderfully on the next attempt that he’s awarded five bonus seconds. He’s three over at Meguro, but still passes, due to having over 30 seconds left. Gotanda is a different story, as he stops short of three meters, then goes over by one. D’oh — that’s 19 seconds minus 10.
However, he still manages to pass, and can continue on to the Osaki stop (almost half done with the course). On the way there, he gets another couple of bonus seconds, but the Osaki platform is another tricky stretch, and Arino goes over by four meters. That taps his seconds, and it’s another loss.
On the next try, he goes over Osaki by two meters, which is just enough to keep him in the game. It’s another smooth approach to the next stop, Shinagawa, but the result is a different story, as Arino goes way too over and quickly drains his time.
Arino takes a breather, which is a good time for the staff to let him choose from a variety of eki-ben; train station lunch sets. A variety of delivious bento from a number of different stations are available! AD Watanabe comes over and shows Arino his choices. Watanabe recommends the one with steak. But besides all that, Arino is also offered five staff members who will try and do their best at stopping at Ebisu, then be the one to act as support for Arino later. First up is cameraman Abe, who looks just darling in the conductor’s hat.
Unfortunately, the motorcycle enthusiast in Abe probably contributes to his need for speed, as he heads to Ebisu a little too fast, going over 14 meters and apparently knocking over a passenger in the process. That’s a 13 second loss. Abe politely dismisses himself.
The next challenger is sound man Fukawa. He makes it to the platform slowly, then creeps meter by meter to the line, where he’s actually one under, but manages to preserve 14 seconds. Next up is AD Watanabe, who is a little too careful, stopping and starting almost entirely to the end of the line, and only saving six seconds.
Finally, AD Emoto gives it a try, and he might be the one to "win." He’s also a bit of a stop-and-starter though, and ends up with 13 seconds left — one less than Fukawa!
Arino takes the helm again and goes back to Ebisu. He nails it perfectly, making him the "winner!" His reward is first pick at the ebi-ben selection, but he goes with the one with sea urchin eggs. Emoto steals the steak one from Watanabe, but nevertheless, everybody has a nice dinner.
Back to the game, where Arino continues past Ebisu. He still manages to time out at Gotanda, though. On the next try, though, he makes it to Osaki and passes, but then, an unexpected turn of events — it starts raining! This random event will cause the braking to be a little less exact due to slippery tracks, and so, Arino goes 13 meters past Shinagawa.
More failed attempts pass, and by now, the challenge has gone over 12 hours. Arino goes for one more chance, perfecting the Meguro approach, but failing Gotanda again. At this point, producer Kan lets Arino use continues. Ironically, that’s when he finally perfectly stops at Shinagawa. Guess that’s what happens when the pressure’s off.
Fast forward through the rest of the course, and Arino finally stops at the Tokyo station, putting an end to the challenge once and for all. The "bad" ending is a little lame, but frankly, so is the good ending (as shown thanks to Fukawa’s post-show six-hour marathon).
The Nakano ward holds Arino’s next destination: Starlight Takayama, a tiny, homely game center, not too different from all the other tiny, homely game centers, but with a nice selection of games.
The first one that catches Arino’s eye is Space Invaders DX, a ’90s collection of varations of the original Invaders (similar to the Super NES version). Arino tries the "tabletop cellophane" version, and then remembers the trick to get a UFO — fire 23 perfect hits without dying, then shoot the UFO for 300 points. He dies just as the UFO appears.
Over in another corner is Detana!! TwinBee, the Konami cute-em-up. AD Emoto joins Arino for this one, but the kacho ends up peforming better — Emoto admits he’s not so good at shooters. The two make it to the first boss, though, and stay close to each other to double their firebpower. Despite Emoto dying again, they win!
Later, back by the Space Invaders machine, Arino spots Super Street Fighter II Turbo. AP Nakayama is called over for this one, since he’s the big fighting game fan. Arino chooses his go-to-guy Dhalsim, and Nakayama, M. Bison. Arino notices the "super" meter, and Nakayama explains that he can let loose a super move when it’s filled. Arino’s meter is filled first (because Nakayama was wailing on him), but it’s Nakayama that gets the first victory. For round 2, Arino wins by Time Over, but Nakayama wins next. Oh well.
Next, Arino sits down with Columns, Sega’s classic puzzle game. He doesn’t do too well, so he goes back to watch Nakayama play through SFII.
Game Collections: 1990: March