Living in Japan for the past few years, I have seen some really “interesting” television shows. Some of them have have been fun, some almost painfully boring, and others just down-right strange. Among these various programming options, my favorite TV show is without a doubt GameCenter CX. GameCenter CX has aired on Fuji TV since 2003, and it follows comedian Arino Shinya as he attempts to play through some of the best and worst retro games of the late 80s and early 90s. The show is really popular here in Japan, and it even had two retro-styled game collections for the DS released based on it (one of which was released in the US as “Retro Game Challenge”).
It may seem strange that a show where you watch someone else play video games can actually be entertaining, but it really is. Arino's lack of skill (although he does get much better as the seasons go on) is made up for by his sheer determination to finish the game he is playing, which makes the show enjoyable. Arino always takes his mis-steps, resets, and failures in stride, and his friendly, humorous, down-to-earth attitude really shines through after watching the man repeatedly die over and over again. His personality and plight really suck you in, and soon you find yourself crying out in sadness over his failures and cheering for joy at his successes. He's had multiple episodes where through one way or another he has had to start the game over, losing his by now eight or so hours worth of straight play-time. The fact that he hasn't picked up his entire NES system and chucked it at the camera crew by now is astounding.
Additionally, the show also offers smaller segments (inter-cut between the game challenge) that have Arino going to various arcades and game shops around Japan. His trips to these shops are actually my favorite part of the show, as Arino's “inner-child” comes out as he goes from game to game, enjoying himself and interacting with the people around him, including the staff. Other mini-segments over the years have had Arino interview various current and retro game makers, looks back at lesser known game systems, playing cult-hit games, looks at video game themed comics, and even a Buddhist monk reading excerpts from strategy guides and sermonizing on how the lessons within can be applied to our daily lives (Yes, this is as amazingly awesome as it sounds). All of these mini-segments really add something to the show, and the variety makes it even more interesting and enjoyable than it already is.
The show has actually seen a little exposure already in the US, as Kotaku aired 12 heavily-edited episodes under the title of “Retro Game Master” (the episodes had all other content besides the main game challenge edited-out, and only certain things were translated while others were not). The 12 Kotaku episodes, along with 2 bonus episodes, will be released on DVD later this month.
You may be wondering what's the point of writing about this show if you aren't able to watch it in its intended manner? Well folks, all you have to do is go to YouTube and simply search for “GameCenter CX”, and you too can enjoy all of this wonderful show (there are even a large amount of sub-titled episodes available). I HIGHLY recommend you take some time and experience this wonderful and unique show for yourself, and if you like it,maybe you can pick up the DVDs and give some royalty support to the people behind the show. So why not watch the episode below and give the show a try? You never know... maybe it will end up being your favorite show as well.