Monday, September 26, 2011



"That is what makes Bowser so fearsome"
"Whattaheck would you know about Bowser?!"
"Game Center CX"

I don't watch that many TV programs (and the few ones I do watch get cancelled or something like that), but Game Center CX has to be my favorite at the moment. Arino Shinya (of manzai duo Yoiko) here plays the character of the kachou ('section chief') of the fictional company Game Center CX and his task is to play old, retro games and show the ending to the viewers. He usually has a time limit of one day to beat the game and the program tracks his progress throughout the games. Arino is not particularly good in videogames (except for puzzle games) and you'll probably shout countless of times at Arino throughout his challenges, but his sheer tenacity makes the program a delight to watch. Anyone plays one single stage for over 7 hours trying to get to the ending deserves some praise, right? For anyone who likes games, this program is a must-see. It's just inspiring watching Arino taking on games like Ninja Gaiden and Ghost'n Goblins.

And yes, it's a program about games, so it is not weird there is a game based on Game Center CX. Two games actually (only the first one is available in English). Both the Nintendo DS games have the same concept: they are a collection of faux-retro games: games that invoke the old NES/Famicom spirit, in looks, audio and gameplay (but made now). These aren't just mini-games, they are full-fledged games that really feel like they could have been released in the late eighties. The games even come complete with illustrated manuals and there are in-game game magazines with cheats and walkthroughs for these games! And for fans of the show, there are A LOT of inside jokes, including guest appearances by the assistent directors/producers and references to some of Arino's challenges. Who for example is surprised by the appearance of super-fast-and-deadly birds in the Ninja Gaiden inspired Haguruman 3?

So what does this have to do with detective fiction? Well, the second Game Center CX game actually contains a wonderful detective adventure game: Kachou wa Meitantei ("The Section Chief is the Great Detective"). It of course invokes the spirit of games like Famicom Tantei Club, Tantei Jinbuuji Saburou and Sanma no Meitantei, being a command-style adventure. This particular genre never did gain popularity in the West for some reasons or another (with PC adventures going the way of point and click adventures), but practically every Famicom adventure looked like this. Heck, Kachou wa Meitantei, like the first Famicom Tantei Club, is even split over two floppies (yes, despite the game not actually existing outside the DS world and thus not actually needing two floppies).

The protagonist is a new employee at CX Industries, a company that makes the actual game cartridges used in videogame consoles. He is asked by the president to assist section chief Arino in his investigation of the Seven Mysteries of CX Industries, seven 'urban legends' concerning the factory that are making employees feel uneasy. As the factory is busy with the upcoming release of Final Question 3, the president wants the mysteries cleared so everyone can focus on his work. The mysteries start out pretty innocent, ranging from 'The Locked Conference Room", 'the Crying Machines' to the 'Changing Quotum Charts', but as the game progresses Arino discovers a sinister plot of the 'Love and Game' cult which is bent on not only destroying CX Industries, but the whole gaming world! It's up to the section chief to solve the mystery behind the 'Love and Game' cult!

As a detective-adventure, it is a pretty close take on the old Famicom command-style adventures. As a player, you don't have to deduce much (there are only two instances where you actually have to input words yourself instead of just selecting commands) and the story is pretty straight-forward. Kachou wa Meitantei is a really light-hearted take on the genre, so don't expect complex murder plots like the one in Famicom Tantei Club or something like a locked room mystery set in Shinjuku Central Park like in the first Tantei Jinguuji Saburou.

But is that a bad thing? No, 'cause his game is really hilarious! True, most of the comedy relies on inside jokes, but fans of the show should love this. Most of the staff of the show make a guest appearence in the game (including assistant directors/producers's who have left the program already). Inside jokes like AD Sasano's sweaty hands (when playing games) and AD Urakawa's sense of direction (referencing how Urakawa got lost on the way to the studio on his first day on work) are actually integrated in the story pretty well! The writers even included references to some of the more memorable quotations from the show ("That is what makes America so fearsome" - "Whattaheck would you know about America!"). This does make the game a bit harder to 'get' for people who don't know the program, though it seems unlikely one would actually buy this game without knowing Game Center CX.

Arino's character is also used pretty good; his commands include both tsukkomi (retort) and boke (play the fool), referencing his manzai roots. Arino's inventory includes his card and while Jinguuji smokes when he needs to think, Arino slaps one of his hiepita on his head. These commands make the game feel pretty unique, which is pretty interesting, as this is a game that actually tries to copy other adventures. It pretty much shows how strong and unique the character of 'section chief Arino' in the TV program is.

This is a rather narrow recommendation, but if you a) like Game Center CX and b) old command-style detective adventures, then you really need to play this game. If you don't know the program, it's not really worth it. True, Kachou wa Meitantei has some novelty value as it succeeds wonderfully in invoking the feeling of the old games,. As a detective game it's pretty standard-fare (if compared to actual Famicom command style detectives), but it is pretty amazing how a faux-retro game like Kachou wa Meitantei manages to recreate that old nostalgic feeling.

But the game is funny and entertaining and everything positive because it builds on the enormous mythos surrounding the Game Center CX TV show, using the actual persons from the show, using quotes from the show, referencing situations Arino faced in the show. If you are not familiar with that framework, the game is just not nearly as funny or interesting. Of all the games included the Game Center CX games, Kachou wa Meitantei refers to the TV show the most blatantly and that is both its strong and its weak point.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ゲームセンターCX 有野の挑戦状2』 「課長は名探偵 前編・後編」

No comments :

Post a Comment