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Retro Game Master
aka: Game Center CX
"GameCenter CX! Kacho ON!"

Retro Game Master, known in Japan as GameCenter CX, is a TV series starring Shinya Arino, one half of the Japanese comedy duo Yoiko, who attempts to play through some of the most beloved (and most challenging) retro video games ever made, all to document their endings.

Arino, who is presented as a kachō (section chief) of the fictional GameCenter CX company, is given a time limit within which he must complete the game, but he isn't the most skilled player around. When he gets stuck or needs advice, he can ask his fellow "staff" to help him out (usually in the form of playing through a level he needs to complete, additional time or offering a strategy for beating an enemy). Arino doesn't always complete his challenge, but he still manages to stay positive even when he's losing badly.

The first season's episodes profiled a particular company or game series and featured Arino's game challlenge as a side feature. From the second season on, the game challenge became the main focus, although the show would still cut away to show Arino doing things like visiting game arcades, interviewing developers, and so on.

A few DVD box sets have been released in Japan; these are collections of selected episodes rather than season sets. In 2011, the Arino's Challenge segments from twelve episodes were once available for US viewers to watch on gaming blog Kotaku.com, but they since lost the rights and have taken them down. The episodes were then re-released with new subtitles from zari-gani of the SA-GCCX Team and English and Japanese language tracks for the announcer.

The show also has spawned two video games for the Nintendo DS and, the first of which was released in North America as Retro Game Challenge. A third game has been released for the 3DS, but due it having a different developer and changed gameplay structure, most people don't seem to like it as much as the previous 2.

Some of the games that have been featured on the show include:


This show provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorkable: ADs Inoue, a.k.a. Inoko MAX, and Urakawa, arguably.
  • A.I. Breaker: Arino calls these situations "trapped in a pattern", and can apply to bosses and himself.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Small off-topic segments like visits to arcades, fairs and reviews of contemporary games related to the one being reviewed, averaging two of these segments per episode.
  • Apologetic Attacker: "Curse you, Chief Arino!", screams Ganondorf. "Hey, I'm sorry!", replies Arino.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Arino ranks up (and down) the corporate tree according to his performance in the games he plays.
    • Probably the most dramatic one when he got demoted from Chief to Section Chief, after failing ActRaiser (the 4th loss on a row that season), then getting demoted again to Senior Staff after failing a second go at the final boss given as a double-or-nothing.
    • Nowadays, however, his being promoted/demoted based on his victories and losses is The Artifact, and he's stayed as a chief for a while now.
  • Awesome by Analysis / Determinator: Arino falls somewhere in between both, being best at puzzle games. Naturally, the puzzle games he plays on the show tend to be high-paced action-puzzle games. Even then, episodes that feature them tend to cut a lot of stages out, as he can regularly clear many stages in a row without problems.
    • The former is subverted in the episode on Tower of Babel. Arino enters a difficult-looking puzzle with no clear path to the exit, and after examining the field for a few moments (having spent upwards of an hour on previous stages), he declares he has the answer. The voiceover quips, "He quickly gets an idea. In other words, failure is inevitable." Sure enough, he dies quickly, but clears it a few lives later.
    • In Detective Saburo Jinguuji, he not only correctly predicts the culprit and motive well before the end of the game, but also how the murder was done not too long after.
  • Badass Boast: Upon hearing a quote from Golgo 13 about what is needed for a successful mission, Arino shares his thoughts on the matter:
  • Badass Grandma: As F-Zero doesn't show the pilots of the racing machines ingame, Arino imagines that a reckless old lady is driving Samurai Goroh's Fire Stingray, constantly messing with him.
  • Bonus Boss: Arino challenges his staff after finishing Street Fighter II. He fails and the whole playthrough is considered a failure.
    • In the Fatal Fury Special episode, Arino spends so much time failing with every character that the staff decides to take him to the secret Ryo fight and make beating him Arino's new goal.
  • Book Ends: The search for the southernmost arcade game in Japan begins with a curious custom-made crane game controlled with levers and ends with another crane game which played Sonic the Hedgehog songs for some reason.
  • Boring, but Practical: Clearing levels in Dig Dug II by exploding each enemy instead of sinking them all spectacularly. Arino gets very annoyed at having to do it to save time.
    • In Mito Koumon, where continuing after game over (as the character does not have multiple lives) is only possible by buying an expensive, one-use item, he spends 90 minutes grinding for cash to buy 99 of them, just so he doesn't have to restart from the beginning.
  • Brick Joke: During the Quest of Ki live challenge, Arino takes a break from the game to play Spelunker, until a fan orders him by fax to "DO KI". Arino then beat the game and replied "I did Ki. I DID IT!". This trope came in effect later on the Takeshi's Challenge live challenge, in which another fan orders Arino to DO KI. Arino loudly refuses, but praises the joke.
    • In both times Arino cleared a Famicom game that required a Power Pad, a staff member somehow stole his thunder.
    • Arino's 2014 April Fools joke was his confirmation as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. He does actually make an appearance in the japanese version of the trailer regarding the customization possibilities of the 3 Mii characters.
  • Butt Monkey: Nakayama, particularly during the 24-hour live special. Cameraman Abe forcibly stays overnight at his house, then makes him pay for the pricey ingredients for Arino's lunch. On top of that, he is mocked for a minor error during the previous live special.
    • A Day in the Limelight: The Fatal Fury Special is this for Nakayama. Admittedly, FFS is Nakayama's favorite game, but the episode allows him to show off while he gets Arino to the Ryo Sakazaki fight.
    • How about Watanabe? Seems like she can't go one episode without Arino poking fun at her weight, not that she doesn't usually bring it upon herself.
    • MA Tanii, who is so uncharismatic that the show picks on him for his poor bowling skills and how his merchandise never sells, despite efforts from the staff. That his shirts are only available in size XL doesn't help.
  • Call Back: Arino's fondness for Dhalsim and his Yoga Fire is often mentioned when Street Fighter and other fighting games appear. In the Atomic Runner episode, Arino notes that the SEGA logo screen doesn't have the "SEGAAAA" shout that tormented him in Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • Catch Phrase: "Game Center CX! Kachou, On!"
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The original Assistant Director. AD Yamada was only in the very first episode and never appeared again. In fact, Toujima is referred to by the show as the first AD.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Continue limitations are one of the biggest problems Arino might face in games.
  • Cool Old Lady: Arino plays Metal Slug with one during the Umihara Kawase and Rocky Rodent episodes.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Arino's comments about the darker side of his youth. It's often played for laughs, but Arino tends to sound regretful about it.
    "I played this when I was living alone. I never even drank in those days. Back then, games were my only friends. *laughs* I played this game during a dark period in my life."
  • Death Glare: Producer Kan tends to peek out of his room with a powerful glare whenever Arino is playing really badly. Amusingly enough, at one point it was because Arino was loudly scolding a horse he had named after Kan.
    • While going to an arcade during the USA trip, Arino keeps stopping to look at electronic stores, causing Kan to get visibly angry at him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Arino usually remains cheerful in the face of extreme difficulty and often laughs while discussing disturbing subjects. Also, whenever he fails a challenge the screen goes depressed and monochrone... while he wears an ear-to-ear smile.
    "The timer's a scary thing. The concept of time itself is scary." *laughs*
  • Down to the Last Play: Arino often conquers games on his last few lives, when he's run out of time to play. They even named a song "Last Continue" because of this.
  • Epic Fail: The cartridge of Umihara Kawase Arino plays has an replay file of an early level by an person named Aki Eria, who fails miserably in a second of gameplay. Watching it makes Arino feel better after a game over.
  • Exact Words: The objective of the challenges is almost always "get to the ending". This usually involves beating the game normally (if not going the extra mile for the True Ending), but this was subverted on several occasions:
    • In SOS, Arino manages to get the bad ending early on by clearing the final area with no other survivors. He's made to restart immediately to get the True Ending by rescuing as many passengers as possible, but he ultimately fails. At the end of the episode, he's asked to make a judgment as to whether he cleared the game or not. He invokes his authority as Chief to declare the game cleared, as he still got an ending.
    • In Splatterhouse, the objective was "Find Jennifer, the kidnapped girlfriend." As with all Virtual Console challenges, he has a hard time limit of five hours. Arino gets as far as the boss battle with Jennifer where she transforms into a monster, but dies immediately after starting. At the same time, the time limit runs out, but the producer and Arino agree that although he couldn't beat Jennifer, he did at least find her per the challenge stipulation. Whether this constitutes clearing the challenge is left to the viewer.
    • In the Fire Emblem Virtual Console challenges, he's made to clear up to a certain chapter without losing any allied units. This includes units that must be recruited from enemy forces, and so when he kills one without realizing it, he's forced to reset.
  • Fatal Flaw: Arino is straight up bad at shoot 'em ups, and no matter how many times it happens, he never grasps the concept of final bosses having multiple forms, celebrates too early and gets killed by them before he figures out what happened. He also tends to forget to use the continue codes in older games that require them or forgets to press Start in the case they're timed, forcing him to start over from the beginning.
    • He once even manages to end the game instead of continuing even when the game has infinite continues, doesn't need a code for it and has no countdown on the continue screen: to his defense, the game in question is a very...unique racing game that often requires him to brake and even reverse to get past all the ridiculous obstacles and the time from losing the last life to the continue screen popping up is less than a second, meaning that holding down to brake/reverse when losing your last life will easily end up with the cursor placed on the "quit" option before you even notice it. Luckily for him, selecting "quit" gives him a password, even if it doesn't work the first time around.
  • Filler: Arino ends up clearing Ninja Spirit in two hours. One of the producers gives him a phone call telling him they don't have enough footage for a whole episode and that he should occupy the audience for a few more minutes. So we get a scene of the cast having lunch.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The show lampshades the infrequent tendency of retro games to glitch the player into a hopeless situation, which is doubly bad for television.
    • A barrier near the end of Bonks Adventure during a Boss Rush fails to raise itself, and since there's no way to kill yourself at that point nor a time limit, Arino is forced to reset the game and play through it from the beginning again.
    • The staff's attempt to give Arino a chance to finish Mr Gimmick's hidden last level that requires collecting a secret item from each of the preceeding levels without getting a Game Over, a feat far beyond Arino's skills or the time allotted for the episode, also fails due to the cartridge being bumped when they switch the console to the TV Arino plays his games on, causing the game to freeze.
    • On two occasions, Arino causes this himself by nudging the cartridges for Super Mario World and The Quest Of Ki, causing them to freeze. Thankfully, they manage to recover from those situations and keep the challenge going.
    • It's played straight in Famicom Detective Club, where the game freezes during a loading screen. A few days later, the staff replaces the Famicom Disk System copy he was playing with the Wii Virtual Console version and manually get him back to the point in the game he left off, most likely because the Disk Systems are notoriously fragile and they didn't want to risk having the game freeze again.
    • This was subverted in Kid Dracula, where after many hours of gaming, the continue screen was suddenly filled with glitchy graphics, giving the entire room a Jump Scare. It turned out to be only a visual fluke, as the game continued normally even with the continue message being a full-screen mess, which they thought was due to the Famicom overheating; they claimed to have replaced it by the next episode.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Arino is asked about his love life during the Tokimeki Memorial episode, he tells his staff that he has only been in three serious relationships (including his wife), but that he has "hugged" way more women than that. Arino then wonders whether they should be talking about such topics in a show "seen by kids."
  • Gratuitous English: The "Barcode Gambler" segment uses correct English in the title cards for each step. It becomes deliberately gratuitous as each player declares they "Scan the Barcode", replete with a dramatic pose as they do so.
  • Have a Nice Death: Played with in the Oishinbo episode, where Arino gets a large number of game overs from seemingly random actions, most notably in a part where he has to prepare a monkfish; each step has many possible actions, and all but one of them ends the game immediately. As many of the bad ends are totally arbitrary, sudden, and humorous, he finds that all these "deaths" are actually part of the game's appeal. He manages to finish the game early, and is made to find the ones he missed as a reward. The staff even prepared passwords at the points just before every game over just so Arino can see them for himself in case there was time for it.
  • Hello, Insert Name Here: Arino has fun with this a few times, notably in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where he named his character "Deadbeat", resulting in a deadbeat being the savior of Princess Zelda, and eventually the world.
  • Hidden Depths: Cameraman Abe is an entire font for this. Former rebel biker turned cameraman, can also cook, is a father AND an impressively good artist, contributing his designs into the official Game Center CX Nintendo DS game. He's also the most solid reliable teammate for knowledge during quiz games, though largely centering on bikes and cars obviously.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: In the Mega Man 1 episode, Arino says that Dr. Wily seems like an alright guy.
  • Infinite 1-Ups: Arino uses a trick to get the maximum of 99 lives in the beginning of Super Mario Bros. 3. He loses all 99 repeating the same two stages in World 8.
    • Used in Donkey Kong Country. Due to the display cap, the AD who discovered the trick thought it was really infinite lives. In reality, the counter stops at 99, and the AD finished game before he used up enough lives for the counter to start going down.
  • Lemony Narrator: At times, mocking Arino's incompetence at certain games.
  • Let's Play: Think of this as a sort of "Let's Play: The TV Series" crossed with a humiliating Japanese game show.
  • Long Runner: With the 17th season celebrating the tenth anniversary.
  • Milestone Celebration: November 4, 2013 is the tenth anniversary, at which point it will be considered a Long Runner. The show's celebrating it throughout the whole year.
  • Mondegreen: When playing First Samurai, Arino interpreted "Oh no, my sword!" as "Mondo!" AD Nakayama pointed this out during a short break, but Arino still said "Mondo" out of force of habit.
  • MST3K Mantra: Invoked hilariously in the very first episode: After beating the incredibly obscure Takeshi's Challenge on the Famicom and waiting 5 minutes on the ending screen to see a post-mortem message from Takeshi himself, he finally gets one: "Why're ya taking this game so seriously?"
  • My Sister Is Off Limits: While playing Tokimeki Memorial, Arino finds out that he could romance his informant's sister, but respectfully mostly declines the possibility.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Arino's "Game Center CX! Kachou, on!" has gotten progressively more dramatic over the years.
    • The "Shocking Videos MAX" segment attempts to dress up common video game deaths into horrifying incidents caught on tape with scary music and gory sound effects.
    • Arcade trip segments are narrated by a female voiceover. In one instance, Arino and an AD play a ball-tossing game that involves throwing hollow balls at the screen to clear objectives. One of them involved destroying meteors headed to Earth, and when the action started to intensify, the show temporarily switched to the regular, dramatic male voiceover to describe the danger the Earth was in. The narration switched back at the end of the game.
  • Nintendo Hard: Many of the games Arino plays. However, part of the difficulty comes from Arino playing most of these video games for the first time.
    Satoru Iwata: Back in the NES generation... For example, let's say everyone debugs a game after it's finished. Everyone involved in its production would spend all night playing it. And because they make games, they become good at them. So these expert gamers make the games. Saying "this is too easy". That is why you are reduced to whining and complaining as you play.
  • No Ending: Arino is supposed to reach the ending of the games he plays, but some games turn out to not have one. In those cases he or the staff may draw their own idea of an ending.
    • Dig Dug II is an Endless Game which loops after level 72. The staff apologizes for making Arino play a game that doesn't end and then draw two endings: Taizo eating a banana and Taizo standing over an enemy, sword-drill in hand. Arino prefers the first one.
    • After finishing Umihara Kawase and finding out it only has a credits roll, Arino is told that the game forces an end-level after 30 minutes of play. If he quickly takes the fastest route to the last possible end-level, would he see a real ending? After he fails this (it is considered a draw), the staff eventually beats the route only to find out the game really doesn't have an ending at all.
  • No Fair Cheating: In-universe, the narrator and staff will often give Arino flack for using cheap methods to get ahead in games, even sometimes penalizing him for it.
    • This ended up costing him the challenge in Street Fighter II. After he won the Single Player campaign mostly by spamming Yoga Fire, the staff challenged him to VS mode with the stipulation that he would lose the challenge if he lost three matches. He lost.
    • Due to his age, this is sometimes averted in games that require constant button mashing, in which case he is given a turbo controller.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: While the Japanese staff pronounces Arino as "AH-ri-no", the English narration (as well as that in Retro Game Challenge) pronounce it "a-REE-no".
  • Oh Crap: Heaven to Hell. This is the name the staff gave to the rather frequent change in facial expression when Arino first celebrates beating the final boss, then hurries back to pick up the controller as the True Final Boss starts eating away at his last life.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with two ADs Takahashi, one male, one female.
  • Porn Parody: Yep. It exists. Arino even watched it. He said it was okay.
  • Power-Up Letdown: In the Comix Zone episode, Arino buys a NES accessory which claims to activate an slow motion mode in games. What it actually does is simulate slowmotion by repeatedly pausing the game. Unimpressed, he wishes he could return it.
    • From Ghouls N Ghosts:
    Narrator: The magic reveals hidden treasure chests.
    Arino: Is that all it does?
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Arino does not read the manual before starting a challenge and only does so when he gets stuck, usually because the manual contains information about the controls that he can't intuit on his own.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Abe wears a bright pink and white spotted apron while making Arino lunch for his 24-hour Lemmings episode. Said apron was then given away as a special prize for a "lucky" viewer.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The opening theme is a remix of Ode to Joy.
    • Some of the recurring segments are puns on Japanese pop songs.
  • Recurring Element: A game in the Metal Slug series appears in many arcade trip segments.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Scenes were Arino visits a game center often have music from Azumanga Daioh in the background.
    • This YouTube Playlist has most of the music, assuming things weren't taken down yet.
    • Music from Legend of Heroes VI: Dragon Slayer is used at the end of each show where the King reveals an incantation.
    • Jack's Theme from Headhunter was used quite often on the first few seasons in narrating segments, enough so it's seen as fans as Arino's theme.
    • The first riff from Reaching for the Stars which is used for a preview segment for various retro games.
  • Retool: The first season was primarily a documentary show in which Arino interviewed people from the game industry involved with certain companies or specific franchises. From Season 2 and onward, the "Arino's Challenge" segments that were originally meant to be a secondary portion of the show became the main feature instead.
  • Retraux: The King/Queen (and in season 6, Dark King) sequences, which resemble 16-bit RPG sprites most likely taken from Dragon Quest and serve as a Show Within a Show.
  • Retro Gaming
  • The Rival: For each series he does multiple games on. Most are simply the Big Bad of multiple games, such as Bowser, but some are enemies he has a lot of trouble with, most notably Red Arimer/Red Areemer/Firebrand and the birds.
  • Rousing Speech: Arino puts on his living shame mask to give up the Ghouls 'n Ghosts challenge, only to receive a letter from a boy which encourages him to keep fighting.
  • Running Gag: Inputting "SEX" on high-score tables. And when Arino visits places and shows things that have "nothing to do with videogames".
  • Sampling: Licensed games feature the original work's theme song in the eyecatches for Arino's Challenge.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Arino plays most of Super Mario 64 without Mario's hat, despite having low defense because of it. Too bad the staff orders him to get it back before fighting the Final Boss.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The eighth season featured a segment called Xevious Observation Log, where they turned on its God Mode cheat, taped both buttons down, and left it to run 24/7 for as long as possible to see what happens. Eventually, the score counter overran and began showing glitchy characters. At the end of the season, they kept it running by putting the setup under a cardboard box labeled "Keep Out". However, two seasons (more than five months) later, they return to it and find it shut off, due to a blackout that happened in the interim. Worse, the blackout was announced in advance and no one thought to check the Xevious game before then.
  • Shout-Out: In the Dragon Ball episode, the narrator imitates the voiceover from the corresponding anime going in and out of commercial breaks, complete with licensed theme music.
    • The DVD box set covers resemble the Famicom; the design is used with permission from Nintendo.
  • Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: Invoked in the ActRaiser episode, where Arino spends a disproportionate amount of time in the simulation mode, despite his title as Chief being at risk in that episode should he not complete the game in time.
    • He also insisted to try to access the bonus levels in Pilotwings. At least the two times he succeeded were quite cool.
  • Spam Attack: Arino brute-forces his way through Street Fighter II's single player mode relying almost entirely on Dhalsim's Yoga Fire attack. Leads to an Oh Crap moment when he discovers the four Grand Masters are far harder to take down this way.
  • Something Awful: Almost every translated episode was done by a team from SA, likewise the site is also where newly translated episodes are first posted. Eventually another group known as "Last Continue GCCX" took up translation duties, around the same time SA did. There have been multiple instances where LC actually got an episode done before SA did. Their blog can be seen at LCGCCX and streaming versions of their releases can be found at their Dailymotion page.
  • Special Guest: Occasionally, the show will have special guests for interviews or to assist in challenges.
  • Stop Helping Me!: In the Wing of Madoola episode, Arino forgets to continue multiple times even after writing a note to remind himself to do so, to the point that the staff resorts to telling him how to continue every time he dies.
  • The ADs are Lying Douches: When Arino is ordered to find Mario's hat before finishing Super Mario 64, Arino runs around the snowman who has claimed it, trying to figure out how to beat him. Urakawa then says the snowman can't be defeated... moments before Arino accidentally does it by making the snowman fall over from the spinning.
    Arino: Why did you just lie to me?
    Urakawa: Normally you can't defeat it, but...
    Arino: Hm.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Cameraman Abe is a motorcycle enthusiast, and so when it came to choosing the "motor" category in a quiz game, they breezed past it thanks to him.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: As Arino reads games' text and dialogue out loud, sometimes this trope ensues.
  • Victory Pose: Usually a raised fist. In the Street Fighter II episode he mimicks Dhalsim's dance.
  • Wham Episode: ActRaiser.
  • With Friends Like These...: Arino and some of the ADs.
  • You Are Fat: endless rather crass fat jokes coming from Arino every time AD Watanabe shows up.

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alternative title(s): Game Center CX
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