Chapter 10 - The Strange Cutting-edge Arcade (3)

'Is it that alien?'

There was nothing I could do about it even if that thought popped into my mind as it was nearly impossible for me to locate her if she were on her spaceship observing me from afar. Although I was slightly wary, I brushed it off and headed towards the arcade. The best I could do was to ignore the thought, since there was nothing I could do. It would be awkward too if I headed home with her following me.

I would really, truly, sincerely, hate it if that alien girl were to fall for my dad and start to live with us; it would turn into a third-rate romance comedy. There were some differing opinions on whether my father's charisma would work on extraterrestrial beings, but his charisma really just worked on all races. I'm not joking, even the cats and dogs can't pull themselves together with him around. Moreover, there was one time when a lion that had escaped from the zoo got caught again as it started to act cute in front of my father.

'Ah, I still can't forget the faces of the zookeepers from back then.'

On top of that, I heard that they had just captured that lion from the wild, so watching it acting cute like a dog or a cat was really quite a sight. And that panicked look of theirs when they saw the lion… By the way, the lion was a female.

"What should I start with? I'm tired of fighting games."

I wandered around after entering the arcade. I had played most of the games, so there was nothing much that caught my interest. Besides Time Attack, the other adventure games are quite meaningless, and I win in most fighting games so it wasn't much fun at all.

"Should I play a shooting game? No, there's nothing special… huh?"

I then discovered a huge arcade machine in a corner. Though it was in a corner, the size of the arcade machine was similar to that of a room, so it had tremendous presence. There was a door for entrance, and when I took a peek inside, I saw that it was filled with several machines.

I entered and slipped a 1,000 won bill [1] into the inlet. Some might think that 1,000 won for a game might be too expensive, but I was immersed in something else. The arcade machine was so high-tech that it transcended my imagination.

"I don't think they will earn much money by charging 1,000 won for this."

I felt sorry, but well, it was not my business either way. It should bring them profit anyway.

My body sank into the chair as I sat down, and I followed the instructions stuck above the screen, putting on something similar to circlets and a pair of gloves. The gloves were initially quite loose for me, but after the chair got powered up and with a beep, the gloves shrank and adjusted to the size of my hands.

-Pilot recognition completed. Activating Hermes System.

The screen before me brightened up along with the soft voice of a woman. At the same time, the battle had started.

Booom! Bang!

Explosions occurred everywhere. The background was that of the universe. A board two meters wide and a meter tall descended and got equipped. There were at least a hundred numbered buttons on it.

"Wh, what is this? Why is it so complicated?"

I was thrown into confusion when a white machine showed up in front of me. It was a different race, so to say, a kind of robot with the appearance of a human.

"What? This is a game about armored units?"

But as soon as I spoke, the white machine pointed something that resembled a gun towards me and—

Bang!

The screen showed explosion effects, and it darkened in an instant.

[GAME OVER]

Looking at the white letters showing up on the darkened screen stupefied me.

"What? I only have one life? It ended right after it started?"

It hadn't even been 10 seconds since the game started. It literally ended right after it started. Entering this arcade machine and putting the circlets and gloves on must have taken more time than the game itself.

"What is this? It has too many buttons. What does it want me to... Ah, there was a manual here?" I was grumbling when I discovered a book that looked like a telephone directory and picked it up. It seemed to be something like an instruction manual.

Just what kind of arcade game's instruction manual is at the level of a major's book?

Flip, flip. 

I flipped the pages calmly after sitting down on a chair. The manual had instructions about how to use the control board and the functions of each key, instructions about how to read the dashboard and finally, the controlling method of the machines, Gigas, inside the game. In layman terms, it contained instructions about how to fight with a robot named Gigas.

"...This is harder than controlling a fighter jet."

You might ask, "Who are you to say that a mere game is harder than controlling a fighter jet?" But at least for me, it seemed so. The controls for this Gigas robot weren't just difficult. I felt like it required systematic learning and training rather than it being an arcade game. Learning from actual experience would be much faster than studying its theory, but even so, the difficulty for this was just too far off.

I insert another 1,000 won bill and start to slowly study the controls. Basically, this could be considered a mechanic FPS game, but the circlet on my head, the gloves and the control board could be referred to as the main controls.

-Entering the field. Activating Hermes System.

At the cue of the woman's soft voice, the screen before me lit up again. The situation was the same as before. The explosive sounds rang from the speakers installed on all four sides of the room, and I started to move my hands.

Swoosh!

The controls of this peculiar arcade machine were similar to those of a computer. The control board was equivalent to the keyboard, and the gloves, a mouse. The only distinctive part was that when I had the gloves on, it worked like the normal keyboard and mouse, and my vision moves according to the direction I'm looking at while wearing the circlet.

"Will it be more convenient if I set movement controls on my left hand, and attack controls on my right?" I explored my movements before the white robot appeared. The flat control board had about 100 buttons, and the response would be different depending on which ones were activated. On top of that, it seemed like there were sensors on each finger, so the reactions also varied depending on the shape the fingers made.

"No, what? The number of variables increases too much with this."

I grumbled while studying the controls as much as I could. It felt as though a long time had passed when the white robot flew up to me again and aimed its gun at me.

Chiiiing-

That sound was indescribable. An example would be like when the sides of two cymbals are hit against each other? Anyway, the sound that accompanied the laser beams had clashed into the energy barrier around me, and dissipated. I had created a shield with the controls. I saw an energy gauge on the top right corner of the screen, which had decreased by a fifth.

'Is that some sort of reserve energy? Like MP?'

I checked the energy gauge while moving. I activated evasion and watched the gauge fill up again slowly. It seemed like it would recover itself as time passed.

Bang!

One of the enemy machines exploded after I moved my right hand to fire the gun. My senses weren't perfect yet, and the movement felt awkward, but I still managed to hit it.

"Okay, good! I will sweep all of you away!"

Piiing! Bang! Chiiing!

Both my hands started bustling, blocking the incoming attacks and trying to attack whenever there was a chance. It was so difficult that there wasn't time to be idle.

"Huh? What's up with that guy? A lightsaber? A sword in a space fight?"

I suddenly got flustered trying to dodge the attack from a black robot which suddenly came charging at me. No, there's no way someone would pull out a sword in a long-distanced battlefield unless they're crazy...

Chwaang!

"Uwaak?!"

That moment, I too had unconsciously turned my torso out of reflex, just like any other average gamer. It was because the lightsaber that the black robot was holding had extended and slashed me. There was no way for me to respond in that instant as I hadn't seen it coming.

[GAME OVER]

"Ugh, what was that? How can such a cheat exist?"

But I continued to put in another bill even while flustered. I wasn't able to stop.

[GAME OVER]

[GAME OVER]

[GAME OVER]

I was headed to another battlefield after blasting a photon cannon at that robot holding the sword, when I was surrounded by over ten other robots. I led the movements of those robots such that they would collide into each other, and brought all of them down together at once. 

I advanced along, but not long after met a boss-like robot where I was swept away by a barrage of thousands of missiles it had. After evading all of its photon cannons and missiles thrown at me, like the face off between David and Goliath, I threw the huge robot at the large group of missiles it had fired. I then finished it off by blasting it with a photon cannon… and then oxidized the enemy warship’s main guns. And then… I wrapped it up by breaking its head with a photon bomb, but then I gallantly died a glorious death by a cannon an enemy ship fired.

"Ah~ So I'll attract the enemy's attention if I get cocky on the battlefield?"

But what was the point of a game if it wasn't for entertainment?

Kwagagang!

I dodged all the attacks and penetrated in. Sometimes, I hid amongst my allies and shot at the enemies. Sometimes, I got into close combat fights and destroyed the enemy even if close combat fights weren't appropriate in galactic warfare; otherwise, I wouldn't stand any chances at winning. The entire battlefield had been overturned with the appearance of one robot.

Surprisingly, this game had close to infinite degrees of freedom, so the battlefield adjusted to the situation no matter what I did. Nonetheless… there was still an end to it. The moment I had cleared my surroundings, defeated the boss and successfully avoided the cannons, the entire battlefield reached a lull.

And then...

[Stage Cleared!]

The white letters appeared on the dark screen and grew larger. I played with so much concentration that both my hands were trembling.

"Hoo… Hoo… Wow, wow, wow…"

I clenched my fists and then stood up.

"This is really fun!"

Ohh, to think a masterpiece like this existed!!

Others would have died in no time since the difficulty was so high, but that was why I had the motivation to challenge it. Moreover, the visuals and sound effects were so outstanding that even if they dropped the difficulty by a little, I think it would sell really well.

"This is a genuine work of art. Whew, idiots. If they make it easier, they can open up tournaments and even broadcast it on TV."

Once in a while, there were games like this, a game that seemed to have invested a lot of money into its graphics and game quality but still ended up being trash.

I don't think I've ever seen an advertisement for this game. I don't think they would have spent little money in making this game, so what was going on?

"Well, it's not something I should worry about, but the real problem is how far will I be able to go with 1,000 won?"

The arcade machine took in another bill. I didn't even bother reading the manual thoroughly, since one learns through experience anyway.

"How long will it take to reach the end?"

This thought pops up in my mind whenever I start a new game. That was when I didn't know that this damned game had a hundred stages.


1. Slightly less than 1USD

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