— Haruo’s friends are exciting for the imminent release of Final Fantasy IV, but the kid’s not impressed. Y’see, he’s not a casual, so he’s into the hipster stuff. In fact, he owns a PC Engine. Heh, you’ve probably never heard of it.
— But seriously, FFIV was the bomb. It’s not my favorite FF game by far, but back in 1991, it must have been mind-blowing to experience. My point is, both casuals and elitists can enjoy it.
— Akira hears “PC Engine” and can’t help but imagine a computer full of mufflers. That’s the ticket. Hey, I’ve never played the PC Engine before either.
— I suppose I could. It wouldn’t be hard to find an emulator and some ROMs… but I’m not really that hardcore of a gamer. I like my JRPGs. I like some Dark Souls. But if you stick a PC Engine in front of me, I’d probably be pretty bored after fifteen or so minutes.
— It’s funny how there are gamers and then there are gamers. Haruo’s friends mock him for being such an elitist.
— Meanwhile, the girl sneaks over to eavesdrop on Haruo, because she’s curious about the console. Even though she comes from a rich family, I doubt she gets to own any games. I mean, it really depends. Some families care, some don’t. I grew up with a ton of Nintendo related consoles. As long as I got straight As, I was allowed to play as much as I wanted on the weekends. On the other hand, my cousin was way richer than me, but his parents wouldn’t let him touch games at all. They thought the games would detract from his studying.
— It must be even tougher for Akira, since gaming was probably considered a boys thing back then.
— This dork tries to ask Akira out, but she doesn’t even give him the time of day. If only he knew that she liked games…
— I don’t think adults should be threatening to stick their fingers up a kid’s bum. In fact, let’s not stick fingers up anyone’s bum… unless they ask you to.
— Haruo teases Akira for not knowing anything about the PC Engine, so she sprays him down with a hose. The next day, he ends up sick with a cold. Whoops.
— Maybe not whoops. Akira has dropped by with a package of stuff from school. And while she’s here, she may as well get to play the PC Engine. It takes a while for Haruo to catch on, but you can’t really blame him. It’s hard to communicate when one person refuses to talk.
— Man, you really have to be able to tolerate Haruo going on and on and on if you want to enjoy this story. There’s no banter, no back-and-forth repartees, or anything similar. Just one kid doing all of the talking. It feels almost lonely.
— I thought Haruo was simply mediocre. It turns out he’s downright stupid. I’m sorry, but it’s really a cakewalk to get even a C average in school. You literally have to try to fail.
— Haruo’s mom is so excited that a girl has come over. Maybe she’s afraid that her gaming-obsessed son doesn’t get out enough.
— Yeah, uh, I’ve definitely never played any of these games. They look boring, too. C’mon, go get FFIV. I guarantee you that it’ll blow your mind. Hm, maybe the kid doesn’t actually own a Super Famicom.
— Haruo notices that Akira is actually pretty bad at console games. He finally puts two and two together and realizes that the girl only gets to play games at the arcades. Yep, no consoles at home for her.
— He proceeds to show off his vast collection of PC Engine games. Again, nothing I’ve ever heard of. Just goes to show you that most of us don’t really know all that much about games.
— Eventually, the guy can’t stand to sit back and watch. He also wants to play the games too. I’m looking at the design for the PC Engine, and it looks like it’s a one-player only console. Uh, that sucks. Get a Super Famicom and you can play with your girlfriend! Or get a PC Engine and brag about how you have some obscure system that only you can play…
— When I dated a girl who was really into gaming, I actually ended up playing less games. Oftentimes, she’d play the popular stuff first. By the time she was done, I would have lost interest in those games. I would say to myself, “Eh, why bother? I already know how it plays and/or ends…”
— That mom is way too happy to hear those words.
— This kid’s just a glutton for physical punishment.
— Haruo eventually recovers from his illness, but Akira still tries to get sick just so she can come over. I mean, it’s much more practical to just become his friend and then come over whenever you want, but that’s probably too embarrassing.
— Oh look, now it’s an ad for classic Namco games.
— This weird goblin is apparently Akira’s tutor. Basically, the girl won’t really get to enjoy her summer vacation. She has to spend all of her time studying, learning the piano, and doing relatively useless shit like flower arrangement. But who knows, maybe flower arrangement looks impressive during an omiai.
— This guy tells Haruo all about a legendary arcade where all the games cost only ten yen. And because it’s so cheap, there are some truly hardcore Street Fighter II players there. Needless to say, Haruo’s interest is piqued. He wants to find this “El Dorado” of arcades. Akira, who’s been eavesdropping again, also wants to join him. That’s hilarious. Before apps, I guess this sort of stuff can only spread through literally word-of-mouth. Not only that, you can’t hop onto Google Maps or Yelp or whatever to check out if a place is legit. You gotta go on an adventure to find it!
— Seriously, this kid is straight up dumb.
— Anyways, he ends up borrowing a bike, because the legendary arcade is quite some distance away. Since Akira is tagging along, she gets to ride on the bike. It’s almost like a classic anime romance!
— Ah, there it is…
— You actually have to go down a flight of stairs to get to the arcade. It’s a bit sketchy to say the least, and Akira’s a bit of a scaredy-cat. Y’know, she’s a tough gamer girl and all that, but it’s anime so we gotta give her a cute flaw like being easily scared or whatever.
— I actually have played Space Harrier thanks to Yakuza 0. Sega likes to stick classic arcade games in the Yakuza games. I think you even get to play Virtua Fighter 5 in the latest one. Anyways, I thought Space Harrier sucked. Maybe it was cool back then or whatever, but I can’t stand to play it more than five minutes. I only did it for the Yakuza-related substories.
— While Akira was busy playing the games, Haruo wins a cheap toy ring from one of the crane games. I thought he was going to give it to her at some point before the episode ended, but I guess we’ll hold off on that for now.
— Eventually, the kids decide to head on home, but when they turn around, the place is gone. Um…
— And since Haruo dropped the key to unlock the bike, he and Akira end up having to walk all the way home on foot. Kinda.
— At one point, she gets hungry, so he buys her a meat cutlet. Her family’s probably to rich to let her eat cheap snacks from a conbini. So by hanging out with Haruo, she gets to slum it up.
— Her feet starts to hurt, because she doesn’t have comfortable shoes. For some bizarre reason, the more expensive the pair of shoes, the more uncomfortable it has to be. It’s just true. Have worn leather shoes? They suck. Sure, you have to break them in, but who’s got time for that? But I digress. Haruo volunteers to walk the remaining distance in his socks just so Akira can borrow his shoes. Geez, what a gentleman.
— Eventually, Akira’s butler finds her, so she gets a ride home. I doubt the butler offered to give Haruo a lift.
— The kid realizes that Akira probably won’t get to have any fun at home, so he offers to take her to more bizarre arcades if she ever feels like it. For once, the girl almost looks like she’s smiling. Good luck getting a word out of her, though.
— Later that night, Haruo eats more punishment for his absolutely terrible grades. I mean, honestly…
— As for Akira, her little adventure seems to have tempered her rebelliousness quite a bit. Her tutor is shocked to see the girl so well-behaved.
— There’s a little more characterization in this week’s episode, so I’m thankful for that. It’s not just wall-to-wall gaming-related talk. We actually get to peel back the layers to Akira’s personality. Hopefully, this is just a taste of things to come. On the other hand, she’s still a little too violent for my tastes. Less violent than last week, but it’s still uncalled for.
— As for Haruo, he’s still not a particularly interesting character. Surprise, surprise, he’s actually a nice guy beneath his bratty exterior. Nevertheless, you have to listen to him prattle on and on for 20-plus minutes, which can get old sometimes. I would love a third character to join the group just so I can hear someone else talk for once.
— Speaking of arcade games, there are a few arcade cafes here like Emporium SF or the Coin-Op Game Room. I guess I could see if my friends want to check them out.