My brother has his moments. Within the first 24 hours of my arrival in Japan, he showed me a place that dealt with two items on my bucket list. One was a gashapon, or toy vending machine room, where I could throw three bucks for an EarthBound figurine (I got Poo, thanks for asking). The other was on the second floor of a Taito Game Station, an arcade chain, where I got to play a game that, until now, has been one of the strangest passing bumper stickers of the internet highway: that video game where you flip over a table.
Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, which roughly translates to Super Flip the Table, is a game inspired by the idiom "chabudai gaeshi." The phrase translates to the act (or art) of causing a scene by placing one's palms underneath a table (or desk), and then heaving that shit into the air, launching all that was once atop of it into a spectacle of papers, utensils and other soon-to-be damaged objects swirling the room like a storm system. Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto is apparently a big fan of chabudai gaeshi,though sadly in a more metaphorical sense.
So how on our little blue planet does spectacularly ruining family dinner time translate into a video game? In the years since the game came out, you may have seen a video of someone going at it in the middle of a Japanese arcade. They slam their hands down on a physical, pelvis-high plastic table in front of a screen and then heave the table backward (although the table's hind legs are hinged to the machine, making it more like a big, table-shaped lever).
Cho Chabudai Gaeshi is a little bit like Katamari Damacy (a comparison that feels inevitable when dealing with a cuckoo Japanese game) and Burnout's Crash Mode. The goal is to create as much chaos and destruction as objects topple each other over into catastrophic chains. But you do not have a fast car or a cosmic ball. You have a table. There are two quick, key movements with this table: slamming and throwing.
Step one: slamming that fucking table. You do this to stop everyone around the room in their tracks. You want to time it with the scene correctly to maximize the number of people, pieces of decor, and collateral damage around for that special angry moment. Once you have things racked up, you proceed to a gesture debatably less integral but objectively more satisfying.
Step two: flipping that fucking table. Flip the fucker hard. Launch the damn thing forward, annihilating any stupid thing pitiful enough to hang around the path of destruction. You do this for points. All those points.
I played Cho Chabudai Gaeshi 2, which offers multiple scenarios. In the fast food stage, where you're a cashier dealing with a whiny customer, I hurdled the complainer back so hard she flew through the door and was struck by a truck. In the office setting, my brother sent a fellow salaryman through the window of the building, and he nearly took the photocopier with him. We made the top ten high scores in both!
If you prefer the classics, try "angry dad during dinner"
You may also choose the ghost of a grandfather unsatisfied with the priest's performance, a teacher in a noisy class, or how about just ruining a wedding. If you prefer the classics, the original setting, angry dad during dinner, is still available. There is also a multiplayer mode in a baseball diamond.
One of the things I was most interested to see in Japanese arcades was how games are still played in public spaces.
Back in North America, where conventional arcades have passed away, we have the early stages of "the new arcade." The new arcade consists of pop-up gaming spaces at events, or otherwise bypass the home console and online multiplayer trends.
Here in Japan, where arcades have not only survived but are noisily omnipresent, it's clear that the possibilities of game-dedicated spaces were explored on their own. Just before going at Cho Chabudai Gaeshi I had a round of Big Bang Smash, an air-hockey variant made by maniacs. All around the floor were light-gun games that have gone the route of multiplexes and offer a fuller, gimmickier package, including motion seats and 3D.
In another arcade, I saw a time-invested soccer game made by Sega, which uses player-owned trading cards to coordinate with virtual match. It was impossible not to gawk at Konami's GI-Gran Desire, a dining room-sized horse betting game with moving screens and anamatronic stallions as decadent and depraved as the sporting event it's based on.
Sega also dropped a behemoth machine in that same room, what was essentially nothing more than a medal pusher, but outfitted around a marble clock. It was hard to tell if the real estate paid off for the actual game. Two British tourists were making a killing in coins but had no idea how the billiard-sized marbles came into play. They offered me a few tokens just to give it a whirl but I told them the job seemed best left to the experts.
Conventional fighting games were still aplenty in many game centers, but it's clear that some of the main attractions are goofy spectacles, games which thrash about too wildly and weirdly to be recreated at home. For North Americans, that could mean splishing your fingers in various bowls of water to augment a fishing game. For the Japanese, among many other things, it means (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻.