Game Center CX Season 15 – Back to Contents
The Kacho’s Throaty Roar!! "F-Zero"
Naturally, we pick up where we left off on the same day as the last episode: After narrowly completing F-Zero’s Queen League, Arino moves ahead to the King League, the final group of courses that will determine his fate. The first course is Mute City III, and though he continues to fight a war of attrition with his computer-controlled rival Samurai Goroh (Auntie), he does manage to place 1st in just one try. We’re off to a good start!
Well, that is until the next course, Death Wind II. Like the first Death Wind, a strong gust pushes Arino to the right, which can rub him up against the track border if he’s not careful. Unfortunately he’s bounced around like a pinball early on, and frequently blows up either by scraping the track or crashing into nearly-exploded rival crafts.
Arino gets a Game Over, but we jump right back to Death Wind, where he continues to struggle through many more attempts. He frequently dies just before hitting the pit zones, too, which adds to the pain. Beyond the 17th attempt, Arino finally lessens the damage frequency, and luckily (or skillfully) zooms past opponents and ends up finishing in 3rd, which qualifies.
Onward to Port Town II, which brings back the dreaded magnet strips that pull Arino to the left or right, into the track edge. Unfortunately, that contributes to his eventual loss. Arino can only chuckle at it at this point. On the next try, he notices that Samurai Goroh tends to fling himself off the track after an early jump ramp, but after going further up the track, it turned out to be a feint — Goroh’s on his tail soon after.
Every attempt is nervewracking, and Arino’s killing his fingers with all the stress. But both the emotional and physical pain is lessened when AD Takahashi returns to the scene. Rather than just give advice, he offers to be Arino’s navigator as he races through the track. This amounts to him calling out "L" or "R" when Arino reaches the magnet strips, encouraging him to lean the craft in the opposite direction of the pull. Soon after, Takahashi mumbles something, and Arino follows by stopping dead in the middle of the track until he’s bumped and killed. Arino: "I thought you said ‘stop’ [tomarimashou]…" Takahashi: "I said ‘keep it up’ [ganbarimashou]…" Oh, hilarity!
After another loss, Takahashi offers to play half of the race for Arino, switching between them after each lap, and ensuring that Arino plays on the final lap in the event he wins. Takahashi does just that — he expertly clears the first lap, then pauses at the second, giving the controller to Arino. Takahashi continues to navigate, then switches again on lap 3.
Unfortunately, Arino gets killed in the middle of the race, surprising Takahashi. That was Game Over, but Takahashi generously plays through the first two courses for Arino as the kacho leans back and gives his eyes a rest with a comfort pad.
Takahashi gets back to Port Town and takes care of the first lap, and then Arino does even worse than before on the next lap. Luckily, he makes great strides when he plays on the fourth, and Takahashi finishes things up on the fifth… but still doesn’t win. It happens again on the next try, but then, through sheer determination, Takahashi finishes the course in 3rd place, and triumphantly leaves Arino to tackle the next.
Red Canyon II is the penultimate course, and despite a late-game overtaking by Goroh, Arino manages to bump him back in the home stretch, earning him 1st place. And then, finally, Fire Field, the final course in F-Zero. It’s easy going for the first couple of turns, and then quickly turns nasty with hairpin turns and a giant fork in the road just before the finish line.
Shattered, Arino pulls out the manual, because he wants to know which button is the brake. Yes, he hasn’t used it until now, but now it seems imperative. But after a few more attempts, he’s handed the clock. He can keep going, but he’s forced to wear a different one of AD Takahashi’s cardigans each time he gets a Game Over. After a few deaths on the course, he pauses and reaches out for the cardigan as it’s tossed towards him.
Takahashi, now cardigan-less, comes by at the same time to do the whole trade-off thing again. Arino takes the first lap this time, since it’s the final course and all. Takahashi kicks ass on the next lap, but then Arino gets bumped and swung around in the other direction, and ends up killing himself. As punishment, he’s given another cardigan — this one green. Takahashi puts on the red one, and they both look like Mario brothers, that is, if Luigi were the short one.
The two men get Arino to the fourth lap, and he continues on to the fifth. He’s just within one rank of winning it, but is then bumped to 5th, and killed just as he gains 4th again, halfway through the track.
Arino is given one more chance, in the form of a yellow cardigan. It works for him! But now, he and Takahashi are given 30 minutes to finish the course. It seems that Arino is finally getting the hang of the track, as he enters the final lap in 2nd place, and with no immediate threat from Auntie. He enters the tricky corkscrew section, makes it through to the home stretch, but then enters in a small bumper-cars section. Amazingly, Auntie is bumped and destroyed, and Arino hits the boost just as the last straightaway opens, clearing the course in 3rd place by a nose!
Finally, F-Zero is cleared, but the game’s ending is nonexistent. This is because Arino was playing on Standard — for the real ending, he needs to finish on Expert (which he wanted to do at the beginning of all of this). But rather than play next week, Arino thinks he might go out and buy some cardigans. Takahashi is left behind to finish the game on Expert, which earns the real ending scene.
Yokohama is where Arino is this time, checking out another kid-friendly shop, the Ogasawara Stationery Store, which was name-dropped in a song by the band Yuzu, who grew up in the area. Unsurprisingly, there’s a couple of video games out front, and even more unsurprisingly, they’re both Metal Slug games — 4 and X, respectively. And to think that Arino just played MS4 in the last episode.
Arino calls over AD Katayama to play Metal Slug 4 for with him, though Katayama has to keep holding the camera light, so he tries his best to play with one hand. Eventually another staff member takes the light over for him. Arino doesn’t last too long into the second stage of the game, anyway.
Another game cabinet has Capcom’s Battle Circuit, a lesser-known beat-em-up with a goofy cast of intergalactic superheroes. Arino manages to make it all the way past the first boss, but then assigns Katayama to take over for him while he enters the store.
Inside, a group of young girls are browsing "lottery cards" of celebrities. Arino spots the AKB48 packs, and calls over AD Takahashi, who we learned in episode 117 is a big fan of "Korisu," one of the girls in the group. There’s a lot of packs to choose from, but Takahashi points Arino to the bigger poster sets, where you can get a mystery poster for 100 yen. The AD carefully pulls off one of the posters, and the adjacent girls are dying to know who it is (they like Korisu the best, too). Unfortunately, it’s a poster of Mayuyu.
Arino picks a poster, but it’s a group shot. Nice, but not ideal. They want one of just Korisu! Arino and Takahashi continue picking off posters one after the other, but still not getting any closer to Korisu. After getting about a half dozen posters, Arino goes for another one, declaring it the last for today. Takahashi does the honor of pulling it out, and.. it’s Korisu! He cries out victoriously, and Arino and the girls join him in cheers.
Behind the lottery cards, Arino spots autographs from the Yuzu guys, and one from pro wrestler Shinobu Kandori, who’s also from Yokohama. We end with Arino having a chat with the old lady who owns the store, and the time Kandori visited.
This time, Arino and Nishiyama read from Dragon Quest III. And not one of the more dramatic parts, but the "puff-puff" scene, where the hero is goaded into some "special service" by a nice young lass. Just a little creepy. Tani makes a cameo as the guy who pulls the bait-and-switch. Nishiyama doesn’t quit get it until Arino explains the humor of it.
Game Collections: 1991: October – November