Game Center CX: The Movie - 1986 Mighty Bomb Jack AKA Retro Game Master: The Movie AKA Gêmusentâ CX [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Japan - Happinet
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (15th September 2015).
The Film

Game Center CX: The Movie - 1986 Mighty Bomb Jack (2014)

“Game Center CX” (also known in the US as “Retro Game Master”) is a variety-gaming TV program that was first broadcast in 2003 on cable TV in Japan, starring comedian Shinya Arino, in which he challenges retro video games. “Chief” Arino is not necessarily a master gamer, but he is above average. Sometimes clearing the game, and sometimes failing. The program has showcased many classic games of the past including the “Super Mario Brothers” series, “The Legend of Zelda” series, “Street Fighter 2”, “Megaman”, and “Contra” for example, while the show has also showcased some lesser known titles like “Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom”, “Atomic Runner Chelnov” and “Kickle Cubicle”. For the show’s 10th anniversary, “Game Center CX: The Movie” was announced.

“Game Center CX: The Movie” introduces the 39th episode of “Game Center CX” broadcast in 2006, in which Arino plays the game “Mighty Bomb Jack”. Released in 1986 for the Famicom (the Japanese NES), the 16 level action game was notorious for its one-hit-death gameplay and the incredible difficulty towards the latter half of the game. Arino and his helpful staff members play the game for more than 10 hours, but they are unable to finish the game, even with the secret warps. Arino unusually requests to re-challenge the game, as he feels he can actually beat it with a bit more time (and lives). At a special “Game Center CX” Q&A event, they decide to have Arino try and beat “Mighty Bomb Jack” live in front of a few hundred people in which the audience expresses their admiration by screaming, yelling, clapping, and laughing like no other episode prio. He takes audience suggestions like “warp or save?” and also having one young audience member to play a level with him on stage, making the event more of an interactive showcase. This two-part episode is one of the best and most exciting episodes ever produced by the show, which is the basis for the fictional part of “The Movie”:

1986, on a Sunday, junior high school student Daisuke (played by Hajime Yoshii) plays “Mighty Bomb Jack” on the Famicom in his living room, reads Shonen Jump magazine, and watches the anime series “Tatchi”, while dreading going to school on Monday. At school during the principal’s speech, Daisuke notices that the cute girl Kumiko (played by Yuna Taira) keeps looking at him and smiling, or at least he thinks she is smiling at him. In the classroom while Daisuke is reading an issue of Famitsu magazine, Kumiko notices and she says she also loves Famicom games, especially one with that involves bombs and such. Daisuke says that must be “Mighty Bomb Jack” and offers to lend it to her some time, in which he imagines how amazing things would become: she would call him and talk about the game, the conversations would continue over time, and they would run along the beach on a date, holding hands…. And then Daisuke wakes up from his daydream.

When Daisuke brings the cartridge of “Mighty Bomb Jack” to school, the class bully Kato (played by Kakeru Yoshida) surrounded by his gang says he wants to play that game, so he wants to borrow it. Reluctantly Daisuke lends the game to Kato, and sees Kumiko looking in utter disappointment. Daisuke’s best friends and gamers Makoto and Keita (played by Takamasa Abe and Kaito Matsushima respectively) talk about “kari-paku”, meaning lending something to someone who then never gives it back, and how it happened to one of them with a video game. Daisuke realizes that Kato has done a “kari-paku” with "Mighty Bomb Jack", and Kato has no immediate intention to return the game. Will Daisuke be able to get the game back? Will he be able to win Kumiko’s heart? Or is it game over for him?

“Game Center CX: The Movie” is an unusual hybrid of a variety show and a dramatic film put together: There are the scenes of the double TV episode from 2006, then there are the dramatic portions taking place in 1986 with the kids. The structure of the film is a little bothersome. It starts with about 10 minutes or so of the 2006 TV episode, then it cuts to the movie’s dramatic scenes of 1986, and it goes back and forth, back and forth. This doesn’t seem to work well for the narrative pacing or structure. The TV episode footage does not complement or serve much purpose to mirror the 1986 narrative, and unlike a film such as “Cloud Atlas” which often jumps in time with the parallel stories complementing each other frequently. In the TV episodes there are some variety segments that are intercut between the gameplay portions, with Arino visiting forgotten arcades, to mini-challenges, and more.

There are 2 possible ways that the structure could have been improved:

1. First show the scenes of the 2006 episode cut together so the audience knows about the game, the challenge, and up to the live Q&A event. Then show the dramatic portions of the film entirely.

2. Instead, whenever there was a transition from 2006 to 1986 or vice versa, have the Game Center CX mascot appear on screen with the music cue, just like it happens on the TV episodes when they switch segments.

As for the 2006 scenes that are about half of the film, it seems like a wasted opportunity for the movie altogether. Considering half of the footage is stuff the average fan has already seen, it seems like a wasted opportunity and a cheat, like watching a film where half of the movie is recycled footage from a previous entry. The 10th Godzilla film “All Monsters Attack” was mostly made up of fight footage from previous Godzilla movies with a few new elements like an annoying kid spliced into the mix who only wakes up to find that it was all a dream. Audiences probably wished that they had a dream watching it instead so they wouldn’t feel bad about their money being taken. “The Game Center CX: The Movie” is nowhere near that level, but it seems the producers put in too much footage of the TV episode as opposed to concentrating on the 1986 portions.

For the 1986 portions, attention to 1986 detail was made to the sets: TV shows, magazines, and posters are all from 1986. The game store in which the characters go to have a Famicom Disk Writer, which was in game stores at the time but now is an extremely rare relic of gaming. But not much is really seen or felt as 1986. Shot on HD cameras, everything looks too crisp and too clean. It doesn’t look like 1986 but looks like a modern Japanese TV series which looks extremely flat and bland. It would have shot the budget up, but if they had shot on actual film stock, or just color corrected the footage to make it look a bit dated, it would have helped a lot more. It seems very strange that the 1986 portions look significantly newer than the 2006 footage shown in windowboxed from a weaker video source.

But as for ingenuity, the film has a “Back to the Future Part II” moment in which Daisuke jumps to the present time and his footage is both integrated into the 2006 episode footage as well as a few shots completely recreated and reshot. Although this part was very fun to see, it really made no logistical sense. Possibly he warped like the “Mighty Bomb Jack” character is able to do by collecting bombs in the right order? But we don’t see anything like that happen, so it’s just a deux ex machina, or should I say a deus ex Famicom machina.

Unlike the 2014 movie of “The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” in which the main character is prominently part of the narrative, the main character of Chief Arino only appears in the stock footage or in the very short recreated portions of the film. Instead of having “Daisuke” as the main character in 1986, if they had made the main character “Chief Kacho” as a kid, it would have made a better emotional draw. But failed opportunities aside, “Game Center CX: The Movie” is still a fun movie to watch and is filled with laughs, both in the TV episode portions and the 1986 portions. The silly dream sequences are funny, and the chase scene intercut with gameplay from “Mighty Bomb Jack” was hilarious. The child actors are actually fine in their roles and none of them seem to have the terrible overacting seen in many Japanese dramas on TV. But Kacho needs to be in the movie more! This is supposed to be his movie!

Note: This is a region ALL Blu-ray disc, playable in any Blu-ray disc player worldwide, but the bonus DVD is region 2 NTSC, playable in region 2 locked or region free Blu-ray/DVD players only.

Video

Happinet presents the movie in 1080p, in the 1.85:1 theatrical ratio in the AVC MPEG-4 codec.

As mentioned prior, the 1986 scenes were shot in HD, and transferred directly from the source. The image looks very flat and clean, looking closer to a home movie rather than a professionally shot theatrical film.

As for the 2006 portions, the footage of the show was in 1.33:1, with the game portions in fullframe 4:3, and the host segments in windowboxed 1.78:1, with black bars on the top and bottom of the frame, and in the theatrical release, black bars on all 4 sides. They decided not to go back to the originally shot raw footage to remaster it for 16:9, either that or that the original raw footage does not exist anymore. These portions look very weak and prove that converting dated video sources for high definition for film just doesn’t work well.

Audio

There is one audio track for the film: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
The 5.1 track rarely uses surrounds for music or ambient noise so it is a wonder why it as decided to make a 5.1 track, though the ending theme song by Dohatsuten is bombastic. Dialogue is always clear and the soundtrack does too.

The part that will upset non-Japanese fans is the fact that there are no subtitles included for the film.

Extras

Extras are all placed on a bonus DVD, and all the extras can be played with a “Play All” function, with all having a runtime of (126:25).
All extras are in anamorphic 1.78:1, in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

- Special Post-Film Episode: “Bomb Jack” (53:24)
Made especially for the Blu-ray and DVD release, Chief Arino challenges the 1984 arcade edition of “Bomb Jack”, the precursor to “Mighty Bomb Jack”, playing it on the Wii Virtual Console. During his gameplay he gets a few surprise visitors from the movie that both try to help him out with the game, though most of the time they end up talking about tidbits from the shoot.

- “Making Of” documentary (33:47)
Since Arino was not around during the filming of most of the movie, the producer hilariously hands him a VHS tape of the making of documentary. But the making of is not VHS quality, thankfully. Behind the scenes footage is shown, interviews with the cast and crew, and are the cameo appearances. Cameos include the creator of “Xevious” Masatoshi Endo as the principal, the founder of the game company indieszero Masanobu Suzui as the teacher, “Yakuza” series co-creator and current Sega Chief Creative Officer Toshihiro Nagoshi as the scary bike mechanic, as well as cameos by the staff members of “Game Center CX”.

- “Premiere Footage and Japan Tour” documentary (34:26)
Traveling all around Japan to various premieres, it also includes a hilarious story that Arino arrives in Nagoya 45 minutes late since he overslept on the bullet train and went all the way to Kyoto instead. Arino sometimes makes surprise appearances, and the kids are extremely nervous on stage talking to the audience for the first time.

- Teaser (0:32)
The first teaser shows Arino at a press conference announcing the film and concludes with the character of Daisuke walking with the “Mighty Bomb Jack” cart, although it is not clear what the story is or what the game is from the particular angle.

- Teaser 2 (1:03)
Teaser 2 shows gameplay of Arino playing “Mighty Bomb Jack” along with many scenes from the narrative portions.

- Trailer (0:58)
The trailer is quite similar to the second trailer in footage and tone.

- Staff and Cast Comments Photo Gallery
The photos are with written comments by various people who worked on the film.

A pretty nice set of extras to compliment the film, although it is strange that the full uncut episodes of "Mighty
Bomb Jack" from 2006 was not included, but that might have been overkill...

Note that the Blu-ray is region free, but the DVD is region 2 NTSC.

Packaging

The 2 discs are packaged in a deluxe DVD size keep case in a slipcase. In the case includes a "Kacho" business card, a 10-page booklet with the history of “Game Center CX”, film, cast, staff information, and a list of staff cameos. Also included in the case is a theatrical mini clear file and stickers.

Overall

Not entirely a failure, but not entirely successful, “Game Center CX: The Movie” is sometimes as frustrating as Arino’s gameplay in certain episodes. What is more highly recommended is to watch the full original 2-part episode of “Mighty Bomb Jack” which is available on DVD in the United States in the “Retro Game Master: Game Center CX Collection” 4 DVD set available from Discotek Media/Eastern Star, fully subtitled in English. Whether Discotek Media/Eastern Star is interested in releasing “Game Center CX: The Movie” is still up for grabs, as their recent acquisitions have been more with anime rather than live action. For now only the Japanese release is the lone option for the film on Blu-ray or DVD, which must be frustrating to the English fans wanting to check it out.

The Film: C Video: C+ Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B-

 


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