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.
ItoiThe Mother development team leased an apartment in Ichikawa City in Chiba Prefecture, rearranged every room into an office, and set it up so people could stay overnight there.
Arino KachoSo they could work on the game all day long and also have a place to sleep. If they had anything they wanted to ask you about, did you head right over?
ItoiMy other work wrapped up around 9 PM, so I took the highway to Ichikawa after that.
Arino KachoThat’s really late! You went all that way after work?
ItoiI would drive all the way to that apartment in Ichikawa and think up weapon names.
Arino KachoEven the weapon names?
ItoiYeah, like the Good Bat and stuff (Aluminum Bat in EarthBound Beginnings). I had to come up with the concept for everything.
ItoiI figured that coming up with everything, right down to the weapon names, would make my game mean something, and also take some of the burden off the development team. I didn’t want to make them worry by asking too much of them, but once they knew I was going to be more involved than they thought, and we’d met two or three times, they were really motivated to make me happy.
Arino KachoSo they did their best to give you something new to check out when you stopped by again.
ItoiI was the same way — I just wanted to make the team happy. That’s part of what made it so fun to make a game.
Arino KachoSo you went to that apartment in Ichikawa a lot.
ItoiI was completely a part of the staff, then. I can’t even count how many times I commuted there.
ItoiOne of the things I remember the most was laying print-outs all over the floor to build the map for the game.
Arino KachoThe map?!
ItoiOne of the rooms was just covered in maps.
Arino KachoWas it set up so you could see what happens in each town?
ItoiRPGs at the time had a world-map characters would walk through, and when they hit a town icon it would expand to take them into that town. But I had the entire map connected and laid out.
Arino KachoNow that you mention it, the character does walk between all the towns.
ItoiI wanted the world to feel vast.
Arino KachoAnd you added buses and bicycles in case walking around such a large place felt too slow.
ItoiThat’s right. I also allowed for walking diagonally.
Arino KachoOh, so there wasn’t diagonal walking yet.
ItoiThe art was also more fun to make when the towns were connected.
Arino KachoSo that’s why you laid out all the maps once you created them. I don’t think an apartment room would offer enough floor space for that. (Laughs)
ItoiGotta build an entire complex for it. (Laughs)
Arino KachoDid you end up helping out with the team as much as you’d expected at the beginning?
ItoiIt was exactly what I’d pictured. Since I’m a novice, I just made sure to listen to other people who knew what they were talking about.
Arino KachoBut you weren’t put off by how much work you did coming up with all the scripts and characters?
ItoiNot at all. It had always been my intention to do all that, so I was careful not to overload myself with other work during the development.
Arino KachoSaving it all for Mother. (Laughs) Was it hard making a game?
ItoiIt was, but I was never told, “No, we can’t do this.” So it wasn’t that bad. That’s why I wanted to make 2 so badly after we finished 1.
Arino KachoWow, you wanted to make the next one that soon!
ItoiThere was a team who stepped up and said they wanted to make Mother 2. That’s the same team that makes Pokémon today.
Arino KachoSo it was a different team than 1?
ItoiIt was. Since it was going to be on the Super Famicom, there was more capacity, and I wanted to make the graphics more involved. So that team expressed interest in making what I was envisioning.
Arino KachoWere you able to put everything you wanted into Mother 2?
ItoiI was able to include everything I wanted, but we did get stuck.
Arino KachoWhy is that?
ItoiWell, I don’t know enough about it to know why, but I think it had to do with the programming.
Arino KachoWas there anything that ended up being impossible to implement?
ItoiThey told me that at the pace we were going, things were really going to get mucked up, and that we’d hit a dead end. So all I could do was nod my head.
Arino KachoAnd that’s where Iwata came in?
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.