Ladies and Gentlemen, my new obsession. The Game Center CX DVD set arrived last week and I devoured it, finishing it up in about 4 days. You ever finish a DVD set and felt actively depressed that it was done? A few days ago I would have answered a resounding no. But I’m certain a single tear rolled down my check when I was kicked back to the menu at the end of the last disc. I have now started my quest to find and watch every single episode I can get my hands on, and there are a lot! You don’t even need to read my review, just buy this! Actually wait stop! Read my review! Get on in here!
Explanation! Game Center CX is a Japanese show that I understand features a variety of different segments on video games. However this DVD set only contains one aspect of them - the challenge. Here the host, Chief Arino, confines himself to a room with a table of supplies and a camera crew, as he spends hours on end trying to beat some of the most challenging retro games that have ever been released. That’s about all there is to it and it sounds like it should be dull, and when I initially read about it I made that very assumption. But goddamn man, they make it work.
I went in expecting to, at best, be reasonably entertained. When the first episode began, featuring the original Ninja Gaiden, I saw it was an hour long and decided to at least watch half of it since there’s no way I can watch someone play Ninja Gaiden for an hour. 60 minutes later the second episode began and I kept right on going. I was in.
So why does this idea work so well here? Well the primary reason is Arino himself. He’s part of a comedy duo so the guy knows how to entertain. His comments during the videos (which are subtitled) are often very funny, as are his reactions, both in victory and defeat. He’s a very easy guy to root for, which makes getting invested far easier as well. You want this guy to win, so when you’ve watched him spend 12 hours getting his ass kicked at the same game, you sympathize. You want him to pull through. I won’t lie, there was a moment during the near two hour long Mighty Bomb Jack episode, where I found myself actually sitting on the edge of my seat. There are times where he completely gives up too, so you’re never quite certain if the episode will end with him beating the game he’s playing. He’s a very fun guy to watch and without him, the show completely wouldn’t work. Then you’re just watching some asshole play video games for hours on end, and we have Youtube for that.
It’s also fun to watch him sort out strategies to progress. There’s a whiteboard nearby which is often used to draw out maps (some of which are ridiculously detailed) and plans. Also on occasion (usually when no progress has been made for several hours) one of the crew members will step in and offer assistance. This can be in the form of a code, perhaps a 1-up trick, and quite often it means they are going to step in and play some of the game. This crew is insanely committed, spending hours off camera practicing and playing. It’s a fun group of people to watch.
Another reason the show works for me is that it’s very positive. I guess I’m just used to the whole “bwah shitty old games! What a pile of donkey fucking fart butts!” style of video but there’s none of that here. Even when a game clearly does not look like it’s a good time, they never talk shit about it. Arino himself never even gets pissed at the games, despite sometimes losing hours of progress because of a simple mistake. He looks bummed out, but never gets mad. Another reason he’s so damn easy to root for.
I’ve seen a few comments about this DVD set, saying that it’s unfortunate a handful of the games featured have not actually been released outside of Japan. I disagree. I liked that there was a good balance between games I was familiar with, and ones where I wasn’t. That way there are episodes like Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, or Golden Axe, where I’ve played the game and know exactly what he is in for. Then there are others such as Shiren the Wanderer or 53 Stations of the Taikado where I had no idea what was going to happen or what the game was going to bust out next. There are also a good number of references to Japanese movies, music, etc that are given no context so they won’t mean anything to most people, but I was a fan of those too. It’s this quick glimpse into another culture and I always found them oddly fascinating.
There are 14 episodes here, which range from 30 minutes to almost two hours. There’s 800 minutes of content according to the box so plenty to get through, though personally I could have used at least 40 more episodes, which I think is a pretty reasonable request. No bonus content to speak of, and although it would have been nice to perhaps include some additional segments from Game Center CX as extra content, there is still a lot here.
If the idea of the show still doesn’t sound interesting, check out an episode or 2 online and see what you think. Once you realize how wrong you were and how great this show is, buy yourself a copy because if it doesn’t sell well enough for a second, third and at least 15 more volumes after that......I’m coming for ya.