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 Special – Back to Contents
Arino’s Final Live Challenge of His Thirties!

Last time, a GCCX live show bridged 2010 and 2011, but nothing else for the rest of 2011. It seemed pretty unlikely that another 24-hour special would be in the cards, if any special at all, but sure enough, the team pulled through and gave us another live show, and for a special occasion: the night before Arino turned 40 years old, and with another game that Arino nearly completed in the past, but now must challenge again. This particular show was set for eight hours, but sometimes, with GCCX, things don’t always go according to plan.

But first, two five-minute pre-shows.


In part one, we see former AD Tojima against a black background, who will give us a brief look at the show through the years, with assistance by former AD Nakayama. We begin with Arino at 31, when GCCX began, and his first assistant, Tojima. We continue flipping through the years, with Nakayama and Tojima becoming more hurried as time moves on. Our final shot is of producer Kan looking confused.

In the next pre-show, we find Tojima in the big Fuji dome studio (see last year’s live show), next to a table with all sorts of birthday party goodies. It’s quite a spread they got, no doubt soon to be reduced to nothing as the night goes on. And in true Japanese TV fashion, Tojima samples the eats. For some reason, there’s a miniature bingo game on the table, too.

With mouth still full, Tojima takes us on a walk backstage, observing all the technical junk for the show, with a peek inside the control room, with some of the GCCX staff having a quick dinner. And then of course, the fax hall, with two fax machines ready to go for the incoming flood of messages. With a minute to go, we enter the challenge room, where cameraman Abe is setting up (and greets us with a hearty "buongiorno!").

Tojima sits at the table where Arino will be, and a Super Famicom sits there, signifying what system tonight’s challenge will be on. That’s it for now, and– wait, why is Kan out on the street?

Hour 2 | Hour 3 | Hour 4 | Hour 5 | Hour 6
Hour 7 | Hour 8 | Hour 9 | Hour 10 | Hour 11 | Hour 12


We begin with Nakayama entering the office and setting down a small birthday cake for Arino. Arino sneaks up behind him, and then we have another awkward improv moment. Then, a short recap of Arino’s comedy appearances and his history at GCCX. And then, the man greets us himself! And on his desk is a Super Famicom… we don’t yet know what the challenge game is, but soon enough. Is it more Lemmings, he says?!? Oh, let’s hope not.

After continuing musing about the show, Arino shows us the schedule for the show, then jokes around a little more. Producer Kan chimes in and gives Arino the setup. Since this is all for his birthday, Kan asks Arino how the last 10 years have been. Then it’s time to meet AP Tojima, our trusty on-location reporter, in the big Fuji dome studio. Tojima calls in Tani, wearing a special GCCX shirt. Then, we’re introduced to a pile of nondescript, numbered boxes nearby, each one with a different birthday present. When Arino beats a stage in the challenge game, he gets to have one present of his choice opened.

Finally, we go back to the challenge room, and Kan presents Arino with the challenge game. The flashback says it’s… Pilotwings! The season 12 challenge that Arino mostly completed, but failed to fully wrap up. Arino picks up the box as imposing music plays. But before starting, we go to Kibe in the fax room, who of course gives us the fax number and all that jazz. And then it’s time to begin! Kacho o–

JUST as Arino is about to put in the cartridge, in walks AD Takahashi. He puts up a sheet giving Arino the predicitions (requirements?) for the clearing of each stage and at what time. Fair enough, though. The game begins, and Arino starts from the beginning, with the opening Light Plane stage. He lands the plane fine, but when he hits the tarmac, he fails to hit the brakes even though the game keeps prompting him. Apparently he was pushing the wrong button? (Or was faking?) Either way, he tries the next challenge, Skydiving. Thankfully, that goes much better — he beats the required point total on the first try. But his cumulative total thanks to the plane failure kicks him back to the start.This time, he completes the plane challenge just fine, then looks at the manual to double-check how the Skydiving controls work. Once he’s satisfied, the plays the challenge and nails it once more. That’s it for stage 1!

And that means it’s time to open a present! We go to Tojima to do the deed. Arino picks number 7, and Tojima picks it up and walks it alll the way over to the challenge room. Arino flips open the box, and it’s… a giant Dragon Quest king slime! It was a special item to go with the game’s 25th anniversary, and coincidentally, it’s called a "happy birthday slime." It was a gift from DQ creator Yuji Horii, who follows up with a recorded birthday greeting. After that, Tojima gives Arino another "present:" a Pilotwings password! It skips him right to stage 6, which is where he gave up last time, so, hey, at least he won’t have to play through the entire thing again.

Stage 6 introduces the Rocketbelt, but Arino goes with the plane first, and it’s a tough one: it’s going much faster, and he has to carefully slow down and land. Needless to say, he doesn’t. He moves on to Skydiving, which is also tricky since the landing pads are smaller and surrounded by water, but amazingly, he lands on one just when it looks like he wouldn’t! Onto the Rocketbelt, which, if you’ll recall, deals with flying through all the specified rings in the air before safely touching down. Arino is perhaps too careful, as he hovers around for several minutes, just grazing the ground when he shouldn’t be, but eventually he lands on the 70-point panel and passes.

That doesn’t mean he won the stage, though — Arino starts it over, and goes back to the rocketbelt. This time he’s not so lucky, as he lands in the water, and just for posterity, we get an instant replay. After another failure, he starts again, intending to go for the Rocketbelt, but accidentally selecting the plane, and then failing that one anyway. With a laugh, he restarts once more and goes back to the rocketbelt.


Arino continues carefully floating his way along the rocketbelt area, and tries oh-so hard to nail the big point panel, but lands on the edge of a smaller one instead, failing the challenge. He moves on to skydiving, which is relatively easier, but he ends up overshooting a ring or two, and then has to float all the way over to the target.

He fails that, then goes back to the rocketbelt, where producer Kan reminds him of the bonus chance that’s possible on that challenge. By landing right on the tiny, moving landing pad, he can be transported to the bonus birdman stage. After many more minutes of careful playing, he touches right down on it! We switch to the birdman stage, where Arino immediately fails from being put on the spot. But at least he completed the rocketbelt challenge. He then has to wrap things up with skydiving. He plays fine, but lands on the 50-point panel, and it’s not quite enough to win. He restarts the rocketbelt challenge, and this time lands on the very edge of the bonus pad, but it doesn’t register, so he tries to go up a little bit, but instead he falls off into the water. Painful

He goes for it again, and once again grazes the bonus panel before falling in the drink. When he goes on to try again, he’s interrupted after a few minutes to check in with Kibe for the first batch of faxes. It’s a big batch, of course, but he shares a few choice selections. Then it’s back to the game, where Arino continues floatin’ without much gloatin’. then, after about five more minutes, he finally hits the bonus panel again! And this time, he pauses before getting started. A replay of his first failure at the birdman stage is showed, and then AD Takahashi steps in to provide more advice. Basically, Arino has to launch himself from the big trampoline at the start, then land on one of the "P" panels up ahead. To control his flight, he flaps the bird wings to float carefully.

Arino stumbles a little, but manages to hit the trampoline and head way up. He lands on the "P" panels to gain a few points, and the stage ends with another "bullseye" in the water. He doesn’t land in the middle, but hits the outside bracket, and earns more than enough points to complete the whole challenge. Then it’s on to the light plane, where Arino misses all the arches he needs to fly through, lands on the runway, doesn’t brake in time, lifts up, then tries to land again, only to nosedive into the tarmac. Zero points.

Nevertheless, he moves on to skydiving. Feeling the bonus points earlier are good enough to win the stage, he skips all the rings in skydiving and simply tries to land on the panels.

Another pause, and though Arino hasn’t finished up here, producer Kan has a new "present:" the first in a hint video series from former ADs Emoto and Ito (remember their tutorial videos from the Lemmings special?). This time, they’re done up as flight staff and give Arino a point-by-point series of tips for landing the skydiving bonus panel. The general idea is to change the angle with which he approaches, and then carefully pull back to slow down and (hopefully) hit the panel. Arino gives it a go, but misses on this first attempt. On the next try, he gets closer as he matches the path the panel is moving, but, augh, still narrowly misses.

Rather than continue the pain, the game itself decides to crap out, getting a bit glitchy, though it seems to be a video cable probem. Arino turns off the system and pulls out the game, but now it’s not displaying correctly at all. Now’s a good time for some more greeting messages! The include Kimoto Takehiro from fellow comedy group TKO, Hirai from America Zarigani, and babyish talent Chiaki. The entire time, Arino blows on the Pilotwings cartridge to try and get it running.

But that doesn’t kill enough time to fix the problem, so how about an old TamaGe visit? Indeed, we next view his visit to the Ayase Batting Center from season 6.


We come back from the TamaGe segment, and everything’s back to normal. Arino once again starts the skydiving challenge, and though he doesn’t hit the bonus panel, he at least finishes it on par.

Back to the rocketbelt, where Arino once more feels the urge to go for the bonus panel, but he’s right under a 70-pointer, so he just settles for that. Then it’s time to finish with the plane, and for once, he completes it just fine… except not perfectly, because he finishes with less than one point needed to clear the stage.. The staff lets out a loud moan, because it’s just so close.

Arino is determined to finish skydiving perfectly, and after just a few tries, he gets a wonderful 148 points. Then, the rocketbelt again! And he nails that one too! With the plane event left, so far his weakest link, AD Takahashi comes in to advise him on the approach; his speed at the beginning, middle, end, and so on. It doesn’t really take at first; Arino keeps missing arches and at one point skids way off the runway, so he’s doing even worse! He restarts and goes with skydiving the next time, only to land in the water.

He restarts with the plane — hey, why not, it’s been a nice short break — and manages to clear two of three arches, but still crashes on the runway. He goes back to skydiving, and after another tense descent, he lands on the center panel and clears it! But with a failed plane challenge, he now has to make the rocketbelt run count. Buuut he doesn’t — too many little fumbles put him out of the qualifying state, so it’s back to the start, where he retries the plane challenge. This time, believe it or not, he hits all the arches and lands safely, earning over 60 points.

He doesn’t do well on skydiving, though, so he restarts the whole thing again. It’s another painful cycle, but he does, finally, wrap up with the rocketbelt at par, and completes the entire stage. And that’s at 44 minutes into the hour.

Present time! Arino picks number 14, which is prefaced by another birthday message, this time from Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai, who just recently entered his 40s himself (well, 41; close enough). But the big present is a new song for Arino: "Tatakae! Kacho Fighter," a song like an old superhero show that celebrates Arino the man and his many abilities (like missing continues and such!), with chorus by the "Cardigans."

Back to the game, where stage 7 begins. We start with the light plane, where Arino must start from a dead stop this time, then fly through a series of rings before turning around and landing back at the runway. Arino floors it and zooms through the rings, but that makes landing dangerous. He touches down fine, but at an angle, so he skids off the runway and loses.

He goes ahead with the rocketbelt challenge, though. This time he must fly into small poles before heading back to the goal, but he falls in the water early on and loses that, too. Call it a practice run. He moves on to the hang glider challenge, where he must reach a certain altitude before landing. He floats into the thermal gusts that push him up, and more or less gets the hang of it, though it still takes a while, and he still doesn’t pass.


After taking a commercial break, we return to the show where AD Emoto and Ito have another tip video for the hang glider challenge. Arino should make sure his altitude is around 170 feet before approaching the goal pad, at the very least. He gives it a go, and after a few minutes, stops just short of the goal. At that point, Kan offers AD Takahashi to step in and help, and Arino allows it. Takahashi gives more hints, then lets Arino back at it.

He fails the next try, and on the one after that, he pauses just as he turns to face the runway. Making sure to breathe, Arino unpauses and heads for the goal. And after half a minute of tension… he makes it! Not so bad, after all. On to the light plane, and Arino completes that safely, but not excellently. Nevertheless, he’s on the way to winning the stage; he just has to beat the rocketbelt.

It’s not golden — Arino hits the poles, but touches the ground a couple of times, deducting points. He goes ahead with the hang glider, but just barely makes good on that one. It’s not enough to win, and neither are the next couple of tries. He just keeps coming short of enough points for the hang glider.

With all this sadness, we go to the fax room for a little break. As expected, the walls keep filling up, and this time, there’s enough faxes coming in from America and other countries — Greece and Sweden, to name a couple — that they get their own section!

Back to the game, and Arino finally passes the hang glider with flying colors… only to fail on the plane challenge, so he goes right back to the hang glider to make sure he gets everything right. It’s another long, uneventful, quiet process, true to the tradition of GCCX live shows. As he plays, he repeatedly pauses to make sure he’s where he needs to be in relation to the goal, and by turning and twisting he hopes to hit the panel at the right speed, but he either undershoots or overshoots it by too much. And he’s not technically losing the challenge — the in-game instructor passes him, but he wants to make sure it’s perfect.

But after all that, Arino decides to switch gears (relatively) and try to do better at the rocketbelt challenge instead, and eventually he gets an acceptable score, and goes for the hang glider again.


As the clock ticks to the next hour, Arino is in the middle of the hang glider challenge, and as if on cue, he lands on the goal panel with a more than acceptable score just a minute or two past the hour. However, he’s still on the bubble, because the plane is up next, and those rings aren’t getting any easier to fly through.

Arino travels the plane course, and narrowly misses a couple of rings, eliciting yelps from the staff. He does make some, though, and brakes on the runway pretty well. He passes, but only gets a "good" statement, meaning he falls 26 points short of completing the stage. He restarts and begins with the plane, but still doesn’t touch all the rings, so he just nosedives and tries again.

And so, what was once the hang glider trial is now the plane trial, as Arino repeatedly plays the challenge to make sure he gets virtually every ring. After about 10 minutes of that, he switches to the hang glider, and then Kan chimes in to offer his own advice with the light plane challenge and such. This is also when Arino puts on a cold pad, so things are finally getting serious.

Arino begins playing the hang glider challenge… except he was asked to play the plane! He’s almost a minute in before he realizes his error, and has a hearty laugh about it while Kan is nonplussed. Arino finishes the hangglider, then joking hovers over the rocketbelt selection, but does go back to the plane challenge.

This time, Kan tells him when and how to accelerate, and that gets him through the challenge OK, since now he’s not zooming through everything and having to worry about unsafe landings. He proceeds to the rocketbelt, but falls in the water there, so it’s back to the plane, where Kan guides him through again. He gets a "good" on that one, but then we head to the hang glider.

After some extra-careful playing, Arino lands on the goal… and gets a perfect rating! His stage total is still a little short, though, so once again he must beat the rocketbelt. And once again, it ends in falling in the drink. And several more times, in fact. Arino is now ultra-determined to hit the super-speedy bonus panel in the rocketbelt challenge, which for all intents and purposes, will probably never happen.

And then the TV breaks. It apparently goes out on Arino as he’s playing — he must have tripped a cord. But it’s back to normal after a minute or two, and Arino manages to hit a goal panel on the rocketbelt. Onto the plane next, with Kan narrating again. He gets through that OK, then continues to the hang glider, where he gets a decent result, but not enough to get good progress. He retries.


On that try, he passes, then heads to the rocketbelt, where he again tries to land on… well, any panel, really. And he does! And gets a "great!" And that’s enough to head to the hang glider again with confidence. But after failing the light plane, he basically fails out of the whole thing, and starts over again.

Once again with the plane cycle, which continues well past half past the hour. He even bounces up and down a few times and totally spins out, making this whole thing rather futile. It seems Arino has finally broken down, and has now entered a feedback loop.


Yes, that was an entire hour of plane flying. And Arino has another present! One from director Inoue, which he counts down within 60 seconds. And that’s… Arino’s actual birthday! He just turned 40, and it’s time to sing about it. A voice far away starts singing happy birthday, and Arino is presented with quite the birthday cake, with super-tall candles. And the mysterious singer is former AD Tsuruoka! Together they sing their classic Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido song, and then just like that, he’s gone.

To follow, Arino has a phone call from Yamachan from Nyankai Candies, and then, just because we need to get through some stuff, some more presents! Next is an amazing poster illustration from Nina Matsumoto (the fan/comic artist who made the poster for the USA visit), plus an extra fax illustration from her, and then the customary sushi extravaganza delivered by Bandai Namco’s Ms. Ito. Arino’s manager Noda immediately runs up to the spread and digs in.

And then, yet another birthday greeting video from Arino’s comedy partner Hamaguchi, but after that, it’s time to get back to the game, doing… you guessed it, more plane craziness.

Finally, at 40 minutes past the hour, AD Takahashi comes by and eases some of the pain by sitting down and playing the damn challenge. He passes it wonderfully (75 points!) and then gives Arino a fax with additional tips. But after he keeps going with another challenge, which he fails, then heads back for another plane gauntlet.

It’s not until five minutes before the hour is over when Arino finally lands the plane and gets a "very good" evaluation, which means he wins the challenge! And then it’s on to the rocketbelt, which Arino tries to get perfect again, but nonetheless heads for the goal. He pauses, which cues Takahashi to help out. He wants some whiteboard space, so Arino just rips down the now-useless "schedule." Takahashi draws up a diagram of the goal panels, and to try and get Arino to follow the guidelines. That brings Hour 7 to a close.


Arino goes through a few more plane attempts, and once more hits a "very good" (76!), so it’s back to the rocketbelt. After some intense hovering, Arino makes it to the goal pad, and lands right in the middle of the big one, netting him 70 points to pass.

Next is the hang glider, except Arino lands just short of the goal, screwing his chances. Another commercial break lets Arino relax, but then it’s right back to the hellride. It’s deja vu a hundred times over as Arino continues to play the plane challenge over and over again, and the hour’s not even half done. And this is supposed to be the final hour!

About 10 minutes later, producer Kan chimes in and presents Arino with the final option: Either pack it up now and party, or keep going through the end of the hour/show and maybe he can keep playing after the cameras are turned off. Arino tentatively decides to go ahead and keep playing.

More failed attempts go on for the next few minutes, but director Inoue drops in with a new fax with some hints on it. (I can’t imagine how many angry faxes have been coming through trying to help out.) It’s not much help, though, and pretty soon, Arino has less than 10 minutes to complete the entire thing.

At 1:54, Arino clears the plane challenge, and then it’s rocketbelt time. After 3 laborious minutes of trying to land on the middle of the big goal panel, he finally touches down and clears it. But in the middle of the hang glider play, Arino’s interrupted — 60 seconds ’till we end!

Or not! The producer gives Arino one last olive branch: he can play the rest of the hang glider challenge, but after that, it’s over for real. He continues to float along the island, but lands on his virtual butt right next to the goal.


The show then "technically" ends, as they go through the motions of the credits and everything, but Arino gets some more time, and during an extended break, the crew moves to the dome studio to continue the show.

Arino sits with Takahashi in the dome studio to look at some faxes and some more presents, including an awesome anime sequence from the maker of the "royal family" graphics for the show, but soon it’s time to get back to the game. His plane attempt that time ends in a total crash and burn, and so does the next one, even though Takahashi was coaching.

Failures continue until the half-hour mark, Arino gets another present: former AD Watanabe, who presents him with a face spritzing, like on the 24-hour special. Even Takahashi gets one! Arino also gets a special "access card" that lets him summon the power of Takahashi to get out of a jam. (He should use it now, man!) The next present is a pair of sunglasses — aviators, in fact! Get it?! Arino doesn’t really like them, and Takahashi looks better in them, anyway.

Back to the game… Arino, now with the shades on, moves ahead with the plane challenge, though he fails, so he takes the glasses off, which is probably a good idea. Not that it really helps, but it’s better than having them to some degree. But by now, failure is a constant, and Arino and Takahashi continue to live their lives one flight at a time.

It’s not until 2:55 that, once again, Arino actually passes the plane challenge. Rocketbelt is next, but that ends in a crash within two minutes, so it’s back to the plane, which ends in another not-quite-good-enough finish.


The hour opens with another plane crash, which is becoming as regular as breathing now. After a decent pass, it’s onto the rocketbelt, which fails, and then back to the plane… yeah. Breathing.

13 minutes in, Takahashi takes over again to handle the hang glider, and by the way, everything that was behind them in the studio has now been removed. Meanwhile, Takahashi clears the hang glider by a hair, but it’s not enough points to make good, so he restarts. This time, he makes probably the best hang glider landing in the entire show, touching down just shy of the bullseye.

Takahashi continues to the rocketbelt, and absolutely destroys it. 100 perfect points, and makes the instructor loopy-eyed, to boot. Arino is now left to complete the plane challenge. He’s offered the controller, but hesitates, and continues to mull it over. He instead decides to invoke the power of his access card to sacrifice his turn and let Takahashi do the entire deed.

Takahashi lifts off as Arino presses his hands together in prayer the entire time. He glides through every single ring in the challenge — even the one at the end that Arino always skipped — and lands pretty much perfectly, too. He gets 82 points, which finally, once and for all, god be with us, finishes stage 7. Yes, really.

And now?… Well, let’s look at one more birthday message, once again from Hamaguchi, which is mostly just him riffing. After that, it’s time for stage 8, the final stage of the "normal" game. Arino starts with the plane, and in this challenge, he must take off from the runway and fly through a series of arches close to the ground. He takes ‘er high, then turns to head back, and faces one arch. He dives in, but since the arch is spinning slowly, he misses his chance to cross through it.

He decides to just "practice" with that, fail out, then move on to skydiving. This is a bit of a crazy course, and Arino lands right at the edge of the goal… and in the water. Takahashi decides to take his leave, and then Arino gets another tip video from Emoto and Ito, for the rocketbelt challenge.

But that’s not all! Takahashi comes in with a hand-made diorama of the area map, showing where the arches of the plane challenge lie. That’s nice and all, but Arino has to get past the rocketbelt first, and that challenge is no less devious, with bouncing balls that he needs to fly into before touching the goal this time. Luckily, he makes it through that safely, but the hang glider remains… and he promptly eats it.

Back to the plane, where Arino gracefully flies through one of the two arches, but misses the second. He doesn’t crash, though, but he does need to turn his bird around. He doesn’t quite make it, so he crashes and restarts. And crashes, and restarts. And crashes… up through this tenth hour.

And then, right at 3:59 AM, AD Takahashi shows up along with a familiar fake airline pilot and a familiar fake police officer…


Former ADs Emoto and Katayama appear to advise Arino directly, and together with Takahashi, offer to help him out by each playing one of the challenges, with Arino taking care of the fourth and final one. The three men take their chairs, and begin the assist.

Emoto starts with the plane challenge, and true to form (literally), he aces it… at least until it’s time to land, which he isn’t so great at. It happens about two times, which is enough for Arino, so he has Katayama take over to play his "specialty," the skydiving challenge. Well, he fares much better than Emoto did at first.

The points aren’t quite great, so he restarts, and this time gets 94 points! that’s good enough for a turn change, so Takahashi goes up next to tackle the hang glider. He gets 60 points, which isn’t great, but we’re halfway done, so Emoto comes back to handle the plane, but the pressure’s no lesser, so he crashes once more.

As Emoto tries again, Arino is told the show will now wrap up around 6:00, i.e., in another hour and a half. Emoto doesn’t succeed, so we go to Arino, who tries the rocketbelt. He lands safely, but messes up a few too many times to really get the points needed. He turns to Emoto, who looks… less than confident, but takes the controller anyway to try for the plane victory.

Amazingly, Emoto manages to land safely, but only gets 65 points in the end. Arino asks the other two if they’re up for it, and Katayama says he is. He goes for it, but in a moment of horror, he tries to land on the bonus and misses it just frames away from it hitting his feet! Such pain!

Arino restarts and goes ahead with the rocketbelt, and just like always, tries so very hard to land on the bonus panel, or the bullseye, no, the bonus panel… he grazes the water over and over, causing all sorts of yelps from the staff. Ultimately, he hits the bullseye, and gets 78 points. Emoto’s next, who makes the best run of his yet, and gets 76 points! Halfway done again, and things are on track.

Takahashi is next, and tragically crashes just outside the goal, netting him 0 points. Thankfully he can still keep a smile on his face, but man… back to the rocketbelt we go. At least Arino knows how to kick ass around here. Emoto crashes again, but bounces back to score 88 points!

As the hour reaches its last minutes, Arino cleans up on the rocketbelt, and Takahashi gets a great 90 points on the hang glider. That leaves Katayama, who re-channels his skydiving prowess and lands safely. That means 76 points, and the stage is clear!!


Time for another present: we cut to cameraman Abe in the kitchen, making a pizza! Yes, that’s the present, and he’s not done yet, but maybe in half an hour. The next present is another boxed one, number 40 — Tojima walks in and presents the present (sorry): a box of art from Arino’s kids, wishing him good luck on the game. One of them is rather abstract, though, but his five o’clock shadow is clear. And one more present to go with that: a birthday card from Arino’s own wife, who wishes him luck despite his tendency to be away from home for live events such as this.

We return to Pilotwings, and now that stage 8 is down, it’s time to tackle the ninth stage: the special rescue mission with the attack chopper. Arino must navigate the chopper across the jungle while avoiding missiles from the enemy turrets below (or bombing them). He survives the first minute or two, but then he gets closer to the enemy base and is shot down immediately.

Hey, how about another present: that’s right, another hint video! Emoto and Ito are dressed in military garb for this one, but they still give Arino some key techniques for the mission. Emoto caps it off by yelling in English: "Do you understand me? Believe yourself!"

And hey, Abe has a pizza ready already! It’s topped with ramen and associated goodies. There’s little time to savor it, though, because it’s go time for the mission. Once again he cruises along fine until he’s shocked by a well-aimed missile. And one more time after that, of course.

This seems to be the final undoing, however. Despite coaching from the ADs, Arino still ends up clipped by a missile and has to start the whole thing over, even when he’s hugging the coastline instead of going straight over the land, as the ADs’ video instructed. One particularly painful miss happens right when Arino destroys a key turret only to be downed by its last missile.

Because of the pressure, the commotion really rises when Arino gets close to that same turret again and everybody starts yelling for Arino to pull way back. He inches forward and the missile become more frequent. Again Arino is commanded to pull way back and/or zigzag, and he more or less does just that, which helps him perform close call after close call, and slowly but surely get rid of the turrets. It’s getting so crazy that Arino has to pause the game to keep himself together.

But at least now, the enemy base is being secured. On the other hand, not one second that goes by isn’t horrifying, and eventually, it all ends — Arino is hit by a missile and falls to his death. The next attempt is much the same, although this time he destroys more turrets around the front of the base to be able to avoid missiles more easily. Until he’s shot down by another one off to the side. Once more on GCCX, the end is in sight, but every step taken feels like it’s on a treadmill. Some birthday.

Takahashi continues coaching Arino, telling him when to move, when things are all right, and when he does well. But he still ends up shot down. With 10 minutes left in the show (for real this time), Arino approaches the base one more time, and the yelling and panic is just like always. He loses again, and is told by Kan that this will be the last chance. One more he approaches the base and goes through the process. Bomb, bomb, zigzag, zigzag. Forward, back, forward… killed.

And with five minutes left… time is called. The second Pilotwings challenge is an unfortunate loss, but Arino lives. The rest of the presents are shown, from letters and photos to fancy chopsticks and gift baskets, all from friends, family, and companies. And finally, Arino is asked to deliver a final message, which largely deals with his disappointment in Emoto.

Well, as much as fun as it was to replay Pilotwings (aheh), it absolutely must end for now. Happy birthday, Arino, and maybe we’ll see you on another live show.

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