Game Center CX Season 15 – Back to Contents
Thanks For Everything… "Tenka no Goikenban: Mito Koumon"
GCCX digs deep into the pile of obscurities with this challenge: Mito Koumon, a Famicom game sort of based on the long-running historical TV drama of the same name, featuring the old adventurer Mito Koumon and his band of followers, and the drama is ending this month (December 2011), so there’s no better time for Arino to give the game a go. It’s an action adventure a little bit like the Ganbare Goemon games, but with more "adventure" — in other words, figuring out what to do half the time. Arino has to get through seven stage, which sounds promising, but it is a Sunsoft game, after all.
Arino shoves the game in (after flipping up the dust cover he left closed), and then when the game starts, a huge noise from outside drowns out the audio. Is there a bike gang downstairs? Well, it’s brief, and Arino begins the game at the first stage, Hakone. He takes the little hero character, Kaku-san, around the village, and then runs into a lady looking for a help. After talking, he notices the "Clue" meter at the bottom of the screen go up a little. Turns out that as Arino pokes around town and fills up the Clue meter, he gets ever closer to beating the stage, which is when it will fill to capacity, of course. But then he gets killed by a random villager and is sent back to Mitsuemon (Koumon)’s dwelling. Game Over. Wait, really?! Yup, this game has zero tolerance for horsing around.
The game restarts, and Arino continues exploring the village. He buys some items from the nearby shop, including sandals that help him run faster. He dashes into a soba restaurant and enjoys a meal, then heads back to Koumon, who basically tells him he’s not done yet. Arino goes back to town, meets a guard who gives him another clue, but then carelessly gets killed again.
He dies again and gets a Game Over, so that encourages him to read the manual and read up on the items, and the fact that he can switch between the heroes if he has certain items, like the donburi bowl, and that’s a technique that’s kind of important in completing the game. Arino goes up to the shooting range, changes into the goofy Hachibe, and then pays for a game. He has to fire an arrow at the moving target and score a bullseye to earn more money. He keeps messing up, always hitting the same spot off-center, but after about 10 tries, he finally hits a bullseye — and repeatedly, now that he has the timing down.
Now with plenty of cash, Arino exits the shooting range. He picks up some more clues, and then turns into the ninja hero Yashichi to do some eavesdropping. The Clue meter is getting fuller and fuller, and the timer keeps ticking — yes, there’s a timer, and when it reaches 7:00, it’s Game Over. Arino quickly finds another house to eavesdrop in, and then stays as Yashichi due to his faster running speed. He dashes as fast as he can back to Koumon, and makes it at 6:30.
However, Koumon isn’t satisfied, so the stage isn’t done yet. He goes back, and without the right item, is forced to stay as Kaku-san, who walks much more slowly. As he putters along, the timer reaches 6:57! It’s almost lights out, but Arino makes it back to Koumon in time. Success! The closing cut-scene plays, and Koumon and his troupe head out to the next stage.
Onward to Osaka! This time Arino starts off as Suke-san, and gets the first clue he needs. But then he’s chased down by a crazy woman; the same kind that assaults Kantaro in Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido. She grabs on and doesn’t let go, draining Arino of his power and leading to a Game Over. At the title screen, he selects Continue, and up pops the "Travel Journal" screen. Arino pulls out the manual again, which explains that he can collect a bunch of journal items — continues, in other words — to stay in the game. Well, live and learn.
Arino works his way back to stage 2, and finds a shop that sells journals! He buys one for 50 yen, and that ensures at least one continue. Unfortunately he’s caught by the crazy woman again. He dies, but is kicked back to Koumon’s place to choose either to "continue" or to "look at the travel journal." By plain continuing, he starts the stage over with everything he collected so far, but by looking at the journal (i.e., getting the password), he can effectively save his progress for later.
He goes with just continuing, and begins the stage again. He’s soon killed by an enemy, though, and that means he has to start all over from stage 1. After another run back to stage 2, Arino buys another travel journal, and further explores the city. He heads to a pier, where a raft floats on the side. He attempts to walk over to it, but instead falls right in the gap between the pier and the raft! Game Over! Who’da thunk it? Arino continues, once again gets caught by the crazy lady, and almost dies, but decides to use an item to turn into Kaku-san, then back again. Somehow, the transformation was enough to get rid of the crazy lady, letting Arino move on.
The problem is he has a sliver of health left, so he’s killed by another enemy. Believe it or not, the challenge has taken five hours by now. Eventually, Arino is called from across the room, and then something strikes the whiteboard! It’s a message attached to a pinwheel, much like Yashichi would use. Arino unravels the message, which tells him to find a way to get money, since he’s at zero, but the noodle shop may have a solution. Indeed, Arino walks in and tries to buy a bowl, but the owner realizes he has no money, so he lets him pray to the gods for some extra money. What this leads to is a minigame where Arino must catch rice balls tossed from above by God. Apparently that’s as good as gold, because Arino ends it with 70 yen; quite a lot for this game. He heads to the nearby shooting range to get more money, buys another continue, then repeats the process.
After an hour and a half of grinding for money and continues, Arino maxes out at 99 travel journals! Perhaps now the game won’t be so painful. He moves on, inching the Clue meter further as he talks to more people and performs a mission or two (like killing a bad guy to retrieve a letter of some sort). He’s then led to another pier that has rafts laid out in a pattern leading to the end. Arino switches to Yashichi so that he can hop along the platforms. Some have enemies and NPCs on them, so he has to be careful, not to mention that he can’t see platforms up ahead due to the screen scroll.
Some risky jumping follows, and Arino dies a couple of times. When he reaches an apparent dead end, he goes back to the first pier, which was apparently the right way anyway — he leads Yashichi to a boat, which triggers a scene that brings the Clue meter to full, and that means it’s time to see Koumon! Arino heads back to the house and clears stage 2.
Kyoto is stage 3, as the challenge passes seven and a half hours. Arino uses Yashichi to invade another house and get some clues, and does the same with Hachibe. The intel gathering is pretty easy, and Arino gets the Clue meter to full in a flash. That means stage 4 is already upon us! The Clue meter is a little larger in Kanazawa than in the other stages, but somehow, Arino fills it in no time again. Has he finally hit his stride?
Maybe — he ends up dying in the next stage, and spends up to 90 minutes trying to suss out a solution throughout, but finally reaches the Clue limit after doing enough eavesdropping as Yashichi. Stage 6 is upon us, and that means Arino is just one stage away from the end. He’s quickly caught by another crazy lady, but escapes, and again gets Yashichi to do his intel gathering. Another quick end for this stage.
The final stage begins. The Clue meter is extended as far as it will go, too. Arino talks to people around town, and one mentions that "Takahashi" is a liar! I knew you couldn’t trust that cardigan! Nevertheless, Arino goes north, way north across a long bridge and into the next part of the stage. And this is no small part — the entire stage is the size of almost all the other stages, and the mazelike formation is no doubt going to make it difficult for Arino to get ahead.
He continues punching his way along and going through any door he can in the search for clues. Eventually he finds a slip of paper in a house that finally maxes the Clue meter, but he still has to head back to Koumon. The clock stretches past 8:30 as he tries to find Koumon in any house that doesn’t look real. He’s low on health, too! It’s hopeless!
The timer strikes 10:00, and that’s the limit — Game Over. Yes, all that work for naught, and Arino never got a password, either, so he can’t even continue the easy way. And all that work was wasted in more ways than one, too. Arino is then handed the clock, showing that he’s been here past midnight already.
With more than 14 hours gone, Arino decides to throw in the towel. AD Takahashi picks up the pieces and shows us the real ending, which is just another couple of cut-scenes.
Today’s postcard comes directly from cameraman Abe! He has a place for Arino to visit in Tsukudashima, a somewhat rural-looking fishing village right in the middle of not-so-rural Tokyo.
Arino heads down the road, and notices people gathered around a small stand, where the owner sells elegant chopsticks and accessories, and will even have your name etched on them. In fact, he’s had a couple of celebrity visitors — Korean actor Jang Keunsuk… and Lady Gaga, if his photos are to be believed.
Arino browses the chopsticks, and tests them out in a little bowl. He ends up buying a pair, and then continues down the road. He then visits a dry goods shop and has a little snack in between chatting with the ladies that run the place.
Finally, we reach the destination: Yamamoto Shoten. Like all the other little candy shops, Yamamoto has a couple of squat arcade games in front, and naturally, he has to plug it in himself (save the earth!). The cabinet switches on, and Arino peers inside at the monitor, which displays… Metal Slug X. Always Metal Slug.
Seeing as this was Abe’s idea, Arino invites him for some co-op. Arino plays Eri and Abe plays Tarma, and they both power through the stage… until they both die at the midboss. On the other side of the door is another arcade machine, and this one has… Metal Slug 3! Oh! Yay! Abe sits down next to Arino again, but they still don’t do well.
Arino enters the shop and checks out the goods, and decides to get a funny mask that makes him look like a balding old dude. As Arino himself implies,with the sunglasses attached, it’s kind of a Lady Gaga look.
A much more practical accessory is featured this time: the Hori Commander, a fairly standard Famicom controller that offered turbo controls and nothing else. Arino’s given Xevious to try it out with. First, he plays with the turbo off. Then on; yep, turbo fire is quite a help.
Kibe isn’t finished, though; he follows up with the Mini Commander, a smaller version of the Commander that came in its own pencil case. The case also fits two Famicom carts. But the Mini is basically the same controller.
Finally, the Hori Commander Alpha, a slightly wider, gray version of the commander that also has a microphone hole. It also extends the turbo feature to the Start button, enabling "slow motion." And so Arino tries the slow motion, both automatically and manually. Manual definitely isn’t the same.