April 10th, 2007 | Feature
The Game Center CX Episode Guide
The front-to-back tribute to the Japanese TV show that flies in the face of Nintendo's epilepsy warnings.


Game Center CX Season 2 – Back to Contents
A Challenger for "Challenger"


One of the few early Hudson games to not make it out of Japan, Challenger is a by-the-book action game. You take control of a movie serial-like adventurer in his quest to save a princess. Arino starts the game at the opening train stage, but dies more than a couple times. Wondering what’s wrong with him, he glances down at the controller and realizes that the A button is for attacking and B is for jumping. Eventually he gets inside the train, but panics when the boss starts pushing him out. But that’s actually the proper end to the stage, so it’s on to number 2.

Arino makes it through much of stage 2 before time runs out and he dies. It’s Game Over, naturally, so he’s forced to start over. This time he gets farther and reaches a dancing skeleton that’s keeping him from getting inside a cave. He keeps attacking it, but it’s not working.

Arino pulls out the manual again to see if there’s any hints. And there is: the key item to get is the Power Sword, which temporarily boosts your attack, but appears as a random drop from the surrounding enemies. Arino tries one more time, gets the sword after a few minutes and runs up to the skeleton. But another enemy kills him before he gets a chance to attack. On the second try, Arino succeeds and heads through the cave to the next stage.

More platforming, this time starting off with a series of precarious geysers! Arino walks right off the first cliff — since the last stage was top-down, he forgot the reversed button layout. He starts again in stage 2, repeats his success and tries stage 3 again. He starts hopping across, but like Donkey Kong, if he jumps from too high a point, he instantly dies. He makes it across much more carefully on the next try, gets the item and hops back out to stage 2.

Arino checks the manual again and learns that stage 2 is actually the game’s overworld map, and that there are more caves he must enter and more items to collect before proceeding. As he reaches the rocky portion of the map, he has trouble getting past the fireball enemies. Eventually he grabs the Power Sword again and blasts through into the next cave. From there it’s a short trip to get the next couple items.

Arino soon reaches the next cave that has the coveted key. He jumps over the first geyser, but a fireball jumps and hits him in midair. Arino growls and tries again. He gets it on the second try, and then heads west on the map. There, he falls into a "trap cave." Getting back turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth, and the stress finally starts to mount after 6 hours. Will Arino give up this one?

It seems he has no choice but to not. AD Sasano steps in the room and hands Arino the Challenger guidebook, which has a fold-out map. Arino now has the tools he needs to speed up the completion of the game, so he starts over and tries out all the little tricks and 1UP locations. Eventually he makes it down south where the fourth and final stage is. He’s very careful, but he falls off a cliff again! The button layout is apparently too much for him. He’s forced to start outside again.

Just then, Sasano steps in and asks to play. Arino decides to give the new blood a shot. He lasts about 5 seconds. Arino moans. Sasano, never missing a beat, asks for just one more try. This time he does much better, and Arino takes back the controller for stage 4 again. He gets within two jumps of the goal, but dies again! The staff hollers. He calls Sasano back in to get him where he was. This time Arino does a little better, but still dies within inches from the end. Fast forward to one more try and he finally kills the boss and saves the princess! It’s all over.

Wait, no it’s not. The game loops from the start. Arino tries it again, but still gets hampered by the buttons. Rather than repeat painful history, Arino decides to end it here.


Hankyu Daily Shoppers
The visit to Hankyu Daily Shoppers continues from the last episode. Arino heads up to the roof to find more machines. He starts with a loud ball-toss game called Oni Taiji, where you must throw a ball at a taunting red demon.

A couple more games later and Arino finally decides to track down Hang On. He gets the help of the manager, and she walks him over to the machine. It’s the sit-down version, which is nice, but it’s tucked away in a far corner of the area. Arino begins playing, but has trouble navigating the game’s sharp turns — in other words, there’s lots of exploding.

Arino turns to the cameraman, Abe, and asks if he wants to try. Abe passes the camera to Arino and sits down at the cabinet. With Abe’s bike experience, he has no problem with it. Arino lets go of the camera and sidles up behind Abe, pretending to ride with him. All in all, a mission well done.

TRY Amusement Tower
This Akihabara game center is filled with floors of game machines, and it’s Arino’s next target. As usual, he starts off with the prize machines. He notices one of them is offering Nintendo business card holders, and decides he must have one. The speed of the prize carousel is a little daunting to him, but he bravely gives it a shot.

He manages a few dangerously close calls, but no luck. He calls over an operator for advice, and finally gets something: a dinky figure. But it’s not what he wants, so he calls over the operator again and asks to trade it for the card holder. The operator obliges, and Arino gets his coveted Famicom controller case, which would be attached to him for the rest of the series.

He moves up to the sixth floor, which is filled with shooting games. He doesn’t know where to start, so he settles on the familiar Raiden. He places seventh on the leaderboard, then goes over to watch other people play. He’s mighty impressed with the skilled shooter players, but eventually moves on to play Sega’s Crack Down, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, R-Type, Area 88, Ninja-kun and Syvalion.

After that, Arino goes up to the next floor, the retro game floor! There he spots someone at the Xevious machine, who seems to be kicking complete ass: 19 lives stocked up and a score in the three-million range. Arino asks the man at the controls if he can try a game, but he gets a cold response in return.

I’d Like to Meet This Man: KUBOKEN

Rather than a famous game designer, Arino visits a man known only as KUBOKEN, a well-known Famicom fan who has a remarkably complete collection of games. Arino steps into KUBOKEN’s small apartment and sees bin after bin filled with carts. Numerous hardware boxes are stacked adjacent to them. He even owns several modified Famicoms, one of which has Super Famicom controller ports.

Arino asks KUBOKEN to show him some of his rarest games. He starts with Kyorochan Land, the Japanese version of Castlelian starring the chocoball mascot. Following that is Spartan X (Kung Fu) 2, one of Irem’s later Famicom releases (and almost released in the US), but Arino and the staff have more fun giggling at the cinema scenes than playing the game.

KUBOKEN then shows one of his most expensive items: Metal Slader Glory, a HAL graphic adventure from 1991 (later remade for SNES). Arino then sees he has two different versions of Gradius. One is a hacked version made to look more like the original arcade game — and it seems to be so scandalous that the show censors the television screen!

Another favorite of KUBOKEN’s is Sunsoft’s Battle Formula, released here as Super Spy Hunter. Arino watches him play through a couple of levels, cheering him on.

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