Game Center CX Season 14 – Back to Contents
A Swerving?! "Paris-Dakar Rally Special"
Arino has played good games; he’s played bad games; he’s played weird games. Today’s challenge, Paris-Dakar Rally Special, is considered a bad one. It’s low-quality all-around, from a Famicom-era publisher (CBS Sony) that was never known for quality in the first place. It’s a racing game, of course — taking place in the real-life Paris-Dakar Rally — but calling it a racing game is not entirely accurate. You’ll see.
After entering his name (well, "Kacho"), Arino is given an introduction to the story, and then is ready to race. Except that the next screen is an overhead town map. Yes, rather than race from the get-go, Arino has to play this little adventure sequence in order to find a sponsor, get a car, and then eventually enter the rally. Part of this involves chasing down businessmen running around the town and try to convince them to aid in sponsorship.
Arino gets a sponsor, and is ready to get a car, but now he has to find a co-pilot for the thing. By now, it’s been 30 minutes without actually getting to race yet. He walks into the nearest Car Mania Club headquarters and tries to recruit someone, but they make him take a test first, which involves pressing the A or B button when they light up on a grid of tire icons. The better he does, the better rank he gets, and therefore gets a better co-pilot, too. The first couple of tries (and guys) don’t satisfy Arino, so he keeps trying until he gets better rank. He ends up with a "C" rank, which is actually good, and recruits a Mr. Tamekichi as his partner.
Amazingly, it’s now time to race! Arino flies to Europe and the competition starts! The cars zoom off at the starting line… except Arino, who is having trouble accelerating. After tapping the buttons for several seconds, he discovers he actually has to push "up" on the D-pad to hit the gas (and down to brake). Brilliant.
The race part of the game is pretty simple: Just make it to the goal while avoiding all the other cars on the road. The thing is, there are a lot of other cars. Arino does OK for a couple of minutes, but then, out of nowhere, a green truck jets up from behind and destroys Arino in a split second! He respawns, then is rear-ended again. And again, until Game Over. And that’s what makes Paris-Dakar Rally so irritating — jerkass cars that surprise you from behind.
Arino chooses to continue after the Game Over, and it fortunately restarts him at the race. He does way better at dodging cars, but most of his crashing is due to running into barrels, and when the track narrows, he crashes in a second, and gets another Game Over.
Subsequent attempts are just as difficult, and Arino’s taken off his jacket before this first stage is even done! He tries his best to keep concentration and decelerate at the appropriate moments, but the opposing cars continue to get the better of him. He just barely gets past the halfway point before crashing towards another Game Over. Things are looking dire so early into the game. Once again, a car crashes into him from behind, and on the next attempt, another comes up and hits him again.
It’s been three hours already, and Arino’s still hardly within striking distance of the finish line. On what must have been the billionth attempt, he does reach that striking distance, and among many yelps of fear, Arino finally makes it to the finish line. Only six more stages to go! After a brief results screen, the game shifts to a bonus screen, but Arino has no idea what to do, so he watches his racer bounce off the top of the car and then into a pit. Whoops.
The second stage is a marked change from the first: The track is now a mazelike form, much like a town, or in game terms, a bit like Rally-X. It’s short, but Arino has four minutes to get to the end without being hit by the other cars arbirtarily driving down the lanes. As before, he gets a Game Over in record time. Oftem times, cars just pinch him in a corner, or worse, more rogue cars zoom in from the rear.
It’s not until a few tries later that Arino discovers that he can drop oil puddles on the road that immediately "bounce" enemy cars back in the other direction. Now we’re in business: Arino expertly places the puddles to divert the enemies… well, most of the time he does. There’s still one or two moments where he’s pinched in a corner. But soon after, he breezes to the end.
Stage 3 takes another weird turn: The game has transformed into a car-based platformer. And not only that, the car can fire bullets. Enemies such as sewer rats and lizards (?) crawl up in Arino’s path, and later, he must avoid a casvade of giant logs. When Arino hits a roadblock, he finds out he can get out of the car and jump down a hole to a mazelike sewer. Inside, giant boulders pour from holes in the walls, and when Arino escapes, he hits the switch that lowers the roadblock.
The Arinomobile pushes forward, where now, giant birds rain their poop on our hero, further throwing him off his game. Arino gets past those, and opens the gate to a tunnel where more boulders finish him off for yet another time. This whole stage has taken over 90 minutes by now. On the next attempt, however, Arino zooms through the tunnel, and the boulders fall without ever hitting him. Could it be an exploit? Well, who cares, he’s doing great — until he crashes into a lizard at the very end of the tunnel. He has one life left, though, so he takes it slow from here on, and finally reaches the goal.
The fourth stage opens with more platforming, but with some water added. Arino has to find a way to across a pool to activate another switch, but instead, he gets out of the car and falls in. He can’t get out, but after some mad mashing of the buttons, the co-pilot gets out and lowers a ladder, thank goodness. Arino tries again, and extends a bridge across the gap.
The road dips straight into the water, where we discover the Arinomobile can also freely swim. There was supposed to be some racing in this game, right? Anyway, Arino must now dodge sharks and other dangerous sea life, plus depth charges dropped from helicopters above the surface. He makes it past an underwater volcano spitting out boulders, but then is struck by a torpedo.
Soon enough, the swimming is over, and Arino makes it to the goal just fine. And this time he plays the bonus stage correctly. The next stage is back to racing, but this time, Arino must make it through the desert avoiding cars and dessert creatures like scorpions. Oh, and the car can still shoot things, in case a camel gets in the way (until he discovers the camels merely make a beeline for him once they’re hit).
Once the desert ends, the stage switches to water, but this time, Arino has to get on a raft and stay on it as it travels across. Of course, the game isn’t very nice, so he drives right off the raft once he sees it, thinking it would stop him. On the next try, as the raft sails along, another raft comes into view, suggesting Arino get on it. He doesn’t, and the raft crashes against the first rock ahead of it, leaving Arino stranded on top of the rock. Nothing to do but die again.
Arino learns his lesson on the next try, but that doesn’t make it any easier to move over to the next rafts and stay on them, especially when they go in the opposite direction, and Arino has to move in reverse to keep his traction. At that point, AD Katayama finally arrives to give Arino some guidance. Using the whiteboard, Katayama shows Arino how and when to time his movements to the subsequent rafts. After careful consideration, Arino puts it into practice. He messes up at first, but nails it the second time — thankfully there were only three rafts.
But then, Arino reaches a more shallow stream. He dives in, but then veers to the right onto the shoreline… and gets stuck again. All he had to do was keep going forward. On the next try, he passes it, but then he dies by accidentally pitching himself off a cliff into a canyon, which had but a tiny bridge to the right of it. The tension rises as Arino tries again and carefully drives across a few more canyons. With 15 seconds left, he finally creeps to the finish line.
Stage six further proves the insanity of this game, as it’s now a top-down, auto-scrolling shooter as the Arinomobile faces off against tanks and fighter planes. Long story short, Arino is repeatedly killed, and stage six stretches way past an hour. He’s getting bleary-eyed. So bleary-eyed, in fact, that he accidentally chooses "End" at the Game Over screen! Is the game ruined? No, he’s given a password, so while he’s disappointed, he can still write the password down.
But when he enters the password in the game, it says it’s wrong! Uh… oh. Well, since this was being recorded, Arino can (begrudgingly) ask engineer Suda to go back on the tape, though he’s clearly not happy about it. Arino and the staff go over every digit in the password and check it against his whiteboard copy… and they match up! Could it be that Paris-Dakar Rally is such a bad game that its own password system doesn’t work!? And does this mean that Arino has been defeated?
He tries the password again. It works. Well, OK then! Everyone yells in amazement as the screen flashes back to stage 6, and Arino dutifully keeps playing. Of course, it’s still a bitch of a stage, but he continues to plug away at it, shooting down tanks and jets and copters as well as he can. But then the canyons come back, and he has to get across the tiny bridges while also not getting shot. It works well at least once, and then he keeps getting Game Overs.
Another hour passes. Arino finds relative safety by hugging the edge of the course, but then he has to quickly veer to the middle to cross the canyons, and even then, he’s shot from behind. But that wasn’t his last life, so he goes right back to hugging the wall, and before you know it, he’s completed the stage!
The seventh and final stage begins. It looks like a regular race, for once, but there’s still plenty of narrow ctracks and annoying opponent cars (plus a tune that sounds kind of like the Knight Rider theme). Oh, wait, there’s one added wrinkle: The track is apparently sloped on the sides a bit, so whenever Arino turns, it’s a deep power slide in either direction, making it super easy to crash.
Arino mindlessly keeps a high speed, though, which doesn’t help, but he’s eventually told to slow down. Even then, he gets overconfident on straightaways, and crashes several more times. But soon, the end is in sight! Arino keeps his speed steady, doesn’t turn too wildly, and in a flash, he crosses the finish line! Arino and Tamekichi watch the sunset as the race ends, but a subsequent result screen shows he finished in third place — which means it’s not the real ending.
Nevertheless, he finished it, and we see the good ending (complete with winner’s parade) from AD Katayama’s playthrough. And so ends one of the craziest challenges on Game Center CX.
Game Center CX News
Time for Arino to make his regular appearance at the Tokyo Game Show. His first order of business was co-presenting at an awards show (in civilian clothes), but after that, it was another appearance at the GCCX merchandise booth, where he poked fun at some the new items on display.
To Catch a Catch Copy
Arino and APs Tojima and Nakayama sit in front of a table covered in games, and when given the game’s ad tagline, they reach for the game they think it belongs to. First, what game touted itself as a "dream adventure game" taking place in the sea and sky? Tojima chooses Adventure Island; Arino chooses Dragon Ball, and Nakayama goes with Esper Boukentai. None of them are right — it’s Super Mario Bros.!
Next, what game promised cutting away the darkness in "dramatic action?" Arino is first up, and picks Ninja Gaiden. And he’s right!
Third, what game boasted it was new and interesting? Everybody guesses wrong again, and ironically, it’s a Nintendo game again — Doki Doki Panic, or our Super Mario Bros. 2.
Game Collections: 1990: December