Shinya Arino, one half of the comedy duo Yoiko, stars in the variety show GameCenter CX (Fuji TV ONE) where he takes on various video game challenges. The show, which debuted 16 years ago, centers around a fictional game development company where Arino, the manager (“Arino Kacho”), plays through retro video games. We were approached by the show to make a Custom Edition Hobonichi Techo Weeks, and just as it was released Arino played through Shigesato Itoi’s game Mother 2 (released in North America as EarthBound). Itoi came to visit Arino Kacho in the Challenge Room while he made his way through the game. They talked about their memories of the game on the 30th anniversary of the original Mother title.
Arino KachoHad you made any other games before Mother?
ItoiYou’re playing Mother 2 for the Super Famicom, but Mother for the Famicom was the first game I ever made.
Arino KachoDid you go to Nintendo and tell them you want to make a game?
ItoiYes, that’s a true story.
Arino KachoI see. So out of all the game companies, why Nintendo?
ItoiI owe a lot to Mario. I have asthma, and I start coughing when I lay down. I’ve always had a hard time sleeping, and for a while I had to sit up at all times or else I just couldn’t stop coughing. The only things I could really do while sitting up at night were read a book or play a game. So I’d wake up and grab a controller, and Mario would see me through my asthma at night.
Arino KachoAnd you can’t call on anyone in the middle of the night, so it was you and Mario. Did that make you want to work with Nintendo?
ItoiIt’s more like I felt indebted to Nintendo.
Arino KachoBut feeling indebted to Nintendo doesn’t equate to “I want to make a game,” right?
ItoiWell, one day I finally started playing a copy of Dragon Quest that someone had given me. It’d been sitting around for a while, but it was raining and I had nothing better to do.
Arino KachoWhat an awful way to put it. (Laughs)
ItoiThat’s how I felt about it before ever playing it. I started it with pretty low expectations, and before I knew it, I was having a great time.
Arino KachoWas that the original Dragon Quest?
ItoiYeah. I diligently made my way through it until I beat the game, and then I saw why everyone liked it so much. By then Dragon Quest 2 was already out and there was a copy at the office. I drove straight to work to grab it, rushed home, and huffed my way over to the TV to throw the cartridge into the console and queue it up.
Arino KachoWow, so as soon as you beat 1 you jumped into 2.
ItoiIt was fun. At first I was simply enjoying the game, but then it occurred to me that there’s someone out there who’s entertaining me through this game.
Arino KachoThe creator of Dragon Quest.
ItoiYeah, it’s like laughing at a comedian’s joke and realizing, “Hey, that person on stage is the one making me laugh!” After a while I found myself thinking about what kind of things I’d do if I made the same sort of game. I wondered why all the role-playing games that were popular at the time had swords and magic.
Arino KachoAh, yes. And there was this requirement that main characters were brave, strong heroes.
ItoiI wanted a weak hero. The main character in Mother has asthma, and his dad is never around. That was the setup I had in mind when wondering what kind of adventure story I could make.
Arino KachoSo that’s what you went to tell Nintendo about?
ItoiI just made a note about it. The first time I went to Nintendo was actually for another reason entirely. They had a game they were working on and just wanted my input.
Arino KachoEven though you’d never worked with games before?
ItoiI hadn’t worked on games, but the president, (Hiroshi) Yamauchi, happened to see me talking about games on a TV show.
Arino KachoOh, what were you talking about?
ItoiGames were more unpopular back then. I was defending them on TV, saying something like, “Manga used to be taboo — you’d be scorned for having manga as a college student. Video games are in the same position today, and although it sounds a little extreme, I think games will eventually be an even bigger part of our culture than manga.”
Arino KachoSo the President of Nintendo spotted you saying that on TV.
ItoiYeah. People at Nintendo wondered who I was after that, and Yamauchi said he wanted to meet me. They invited me to their office to ask me what I thought of a game, and after that, we chatted for a while. That’s when (Shigeru) Miyamoto came in.
Arino KachoThe creator of Mario! Was that the first time you two met?
Arino KachoWere you excited to meet the man who made Mario?
ItoiYeah, I was so happy. We ended up becoming really close — we got along quite well from the start. I told him I actually had an idea of my own, and pulled out some copies of the notes I’d taken, asking him if he thought it would work as a game.
Arino KachoSo you suggested making an RPG that starred a kid and didn’t have swords in it.
ItoiI pictured them jumping up from their chairs, saying, “Wow, what an idea! We must try it!” It was a dream of mine that they’d make a game using that idea, but instead the conversation just kind of stopped at Miyamoto asking me how serious I was about it. He said, “Itoi, how involved do you plan on being in it? Being totally involved in a project can be very demanding.” He sounded very solemn.
Arino KachoSo the mood changed a little.
ItoiHe probably assumed I wasn’t interested in being involved. Plus the extent to which he warned me ended up being on a totally different level than the extent to which I assumed it would be demanding.
Arino KachoYou didn’t even know anything about the industry yet. You were still at the stage of making vague suggestions.
ItoiI was also surprised that no one was remotely surprised by any of the ideas I presented.
Arino KachoYou were probably thinking, “Isn’t this innovative?” while Miyamoto was thinking, “How ready is he?”
Arino KachoSo what happened after that? Did you tell him you’d keep your hands off?
ItoiNo, I couldn’t say a thing like that to him.
Introducing the GameCenter CX Hobonichi Techo!
—Arino, I must tell you. We put something together for the show. It’s a GameCenter CX Hobonichi Techo!
Arino KachoOh my gosh, no way! Wow, it matches my work uniform. (Laughs)
ItoiNintendo employees used to wear this uniform over their suits.
Arino KachoThat’s right. Except for the game creators.
ItoiEveryone hated it. (Laughs)
Arino KachoThey complained about how tacky it looked, but I wear this one because they used to.
ItoiOh, I see.
—16 years ago, when GameCenter CX first aired, we wondered how people at game companies dressed. We figured this was as close as we could get, so we got Arino this uniform.
ItoiNintendo was the only one making people wear this uniform, you know.
Arino KachoWe interviewed creators from lots of companies, and no one was wearing it. (Laughs) Nintendo was our last stop, and at last we saw them.
ItoiDid you know there’s actually a work uniform like this one designed to look like a suit? I have one — at a glance it really does look like a suit.
Arino KachoThere’s a business suit version? Is it made with the same material?
ItoiYeah, it’s the same material, but it looks just like a suit.
Arino KachoAw man, we should have bought that one! I was working with an orchestra recently, and I wore this uniform with a little bowtie. It looked weird. I wish I’d had the suit version for that.
ItoiThey’re pretty interesting.
We’ve created a Custom Version Hobonichi Techo Weeks by request of GameCenter CX. The book is illustrated on the front and back with pixel-art versions of Arino Kacho and other characters against a background color that matches the work uniform he dons to play classic games. Bonus content in the back of the book includes a list of terminology written by Producer Kan to help follow along with the show. The book also comes with an Arino Kacho Business Card (Hobonichi Techo version). The book was available at the GCCX show booth at Tokyo Game Show for early sales on September 12–15, 2019. Standard sales begin October 1st at HMV and HMV&BOOKS stores across Japan, HMV&BOOKS online, and Loppi.
*Not for sale through the Hobonichi Techo Official Store.