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An old Japanese video game console sits in my living room and I write things about it. Here.

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    Behold, the smallest copy of Wild Gunman you are likely to ever find. About one-tenth the size of the regular cart:
    I just picked up a set of Famicom erasers and this was by far the smallest one in the lot. Back in the 80s collecting erasers was pretty big with kids here in Japan. Actually I remember it was big in Canada too, in the 3rd grade way back in 1984 I had a few cherished erasers shaped like various things that I kept in my desk at school.

    Here you could get them out of those Gachopon vending machines. Wild Gunma here is so small that the eraser is basically just a generic rectangle that looks nothing like a Wild Gunman cart:
    The larger ones though look pretty cool and the erasers themselves are miniature versions of the cart, like Dig Dug here (next to a regular Famicom cart for scale):
    I got about a dozen or so of these in the lot, they are all games released early in the Famicom`s life so I think these probably came out in 1985 or 86 at the latest. A very neat little thing that I will never ever in a million years be using to actually erase anything.

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  • 08/17/12--18:25: More Famicom Erasers
  • As I mentioned in the previous post, I picked up a lot of Famicom erasers last week. They are pretty neat little things, basically mini versions of Famicom carts.

    I am pretty sure these were released by Amada, the same company that made the Famicom Mini cards in the mid-80s. I`m not sure how many they made but I have Donkey Kong Jr, Exerion, Ninja Kun, Urban Champion, Mario Bros, Dig Dug, Tennis, Formation Z and Galaga.

    They are quite a bit smaller than the original carts and not quite the same, as a comparison of Galaga cart and eraser reveals:

    One of them, in a Mario Bros box, contained a mini Family Computer, the Eraser Computer rather than a version of the game`s cart:
    It doesn`t have the controllers but it still looks kind of neat:)

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    It has been about four months since my last post, how has everyone been doing?  Well I hope.

    Unfortunately this is more like a visit than a resumption of regular content.  Work and family commitments have me so swamped that I no longer have time to play old video games, let alone write about (or, perhaps more importantly, shop for) them!

    Still, I did snag one neat thing on Yahoo Auctions the other day (online shopping I can at least spare a few minutes for from time to time) and thought I`d resurrect the blog to make a little post about it. 

    What I picked up was a box of old Nintendo Hanafuda cards.

    As everyone with an interest in Nintendo knows, before it was a video game maker, or even a toy maker, it was a playing card maker.  I had been wanting to find an old set of Nintendo playing cards for a while and when I found these, complete with the lovely (if worn) little wooden box I couldn`t resist.

    I see reprints and modern, Mario-themed Nintendo hanafuda cards all the time on Ebay and Yahoo Auctions, but the actual vintage ones are a bit harder to come by (though by no means impossible).

    The little red imprint on the upper right of the box says Nintendo (任天堂) using the older style kanji that were in use before the war:

    These seem to be post-war cards though, according to the seller they date from the early 1950s.  Open the box up and voila:

    A very colorful bunch of cards.  It is a pity that I have no idea how to play:

    Anyway, that is that.  I`ll try to make it less than four months before my next post!

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     As I mentioned, by way of explanation for my four month absence from blogging, I had a big move/ job change back in October.  Sadly, since that time, I have been almost completely out of my beloved retro gaming loop.  I just plain don`t have the time that I used to back in good old Fukuoka.  Moreover I don`t have the good Famicom shops conveniently located right next to my place.  Oh Omocha I do miss you!

    Our new apartment is really great, but sadly I have had to put most of my retro gaming gear collection - the Intellivision, Super Famicom, PC Engine, Color TV Game 15, Sega Mark III and about half a dozen other vintage consoles - into storage due to lack of space.  The only thing I was able to salvage was my AV Famicom, which now sits in a little piece from IKEA, and about 200 of my favorite Famicom carts.  Yup, that means that even the bulk of my Famicom collection is in storage too!

    Sadly this also means that my much beloved Famicom cart shelf fashioned out of dish drying racks that I was so proud of a couple years ago also is no more.  We had to make some hard choices while packing up and this was placed into a box that was carted away by a truck headed to a recycling centre a couple days before we left.  It did, I should say, prove its usefulness for those two years so I stick by my original post in which I recommended putting one of these together.
    On the plus side, not all is lost.  Today I received in the mail a copy of Maniac Mansion, the first new cart I have added to my collection since the summer.  So I am slowlygetting back on the horse.  Once again my resolution for the coming year is to get a few carts closer to that goal of collecting them all:)

    Happy New Year everyone.  And a belated Merry Christmas.

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    As the part of the title that precedes the colon states, I`m back.  Well, I never left really, I have just been too busy.  Today I am home sick from work (just a cold, nothing to worry about) and for the first time in 2013 I find myself with a few spare moments to devote to my beloved blog.

    Ah how I have missed it.  I thought I would do a post on one of my sub-collections - the small box early Nintendo carts CIB.

    This is a very difficult to name series because it doesn`t quite correspond to the pulse line carts - Hogan`s Alley for example doesn`t have a pulse line version of the cart but has one of these boxes while Devil World, which does have a pulse line cart, was only sold in the larger silver boxes so far as I know. So tempted though I am, I can`t just refer to it as a CIB set of the pulse line carts even though that is almost what they are.  That means, you know, just look at the pictures to figure out which CIB games I am talking about here.

    These, along with the early Namco boxes of similar size, are my favorite Famicom games in terms of boxes.  They just have the right balance of size, color and evocative-yet-simple artwork on the cover to lure me in.  If I had been a kid in 1983 and been confronted with a sales display full of these I definitely would have bugged my parents for them until they became so massively fed up that they just bought me one to shut me up.

    Come to think of it I was a kid in 1983.  Lucky for my parents that they never took me to Japan.

    Anyway, I only have 10 of these which means I am still a few short of a set.  That includes some of the nicer ones like Mario Bros and Donkey Kong Jr. Math.  Fortunately none of them are expensive so hopefully I`ll track them down at some point.  Sadly that will probably have to be on Yahoo Auctions or somewhere similar as I don`t get out to the shops anymore like I used to.

    Anyway, I think the Donkey Kong one is probably my favorite of the ones I do have.  It is a very cool piece of pop art.  I think once I finish the set my next project will be to try and devise some way of properly displaying them all as my current method (putting them in a box stored under the bed) just isn`t doing them justice at all.

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    As I mentioned in a recent post, I moved about 6 months ago.  One of the sacrifices we had to make while packing up was my beloved Famicom shelf system.  Painstakingly constructed from 100 yen shop dishracks it was a bit too bulky to justify taking with us, so it went out with a truckload of other stuff to the myriad of Fukuoka second hand shops that take stuff off people`s hands when they move.  The North American tradition of the garage sale  does not exist in a country where most people don`t have garages.  Sadly a Super Famicom and a big pile of Famicom carts (pretty much all baseball and Mahjongs) went wtih it.

    Until this week my Famicom carts at the new place were relegated to storage in a box and were completely undisplayed.  That continued until the other day when, in a scene reminiscent of my visit to the 100 yen shop in Fukuoka a couple years ago when I stumbled across those dish racks, I stumbled across a pile of these:

    Postcard racks!

    I picked up a whole bunch of them (the great thing about 100 yen shops: you can buy tons of stuff on a whim and it won`t break you).  I then put them on the wall and presto, a new Famicom cart storage system is born:

    Compared to my old dish rack system these have one advantage and two drawbacks.  The advantage is that these do a much better job of displaying cover art of each game, which you couldn`t see very well with the dish rack system.  Since Famicom carts generally have awesome cover art that is a big plus.

    The first drawback is that these can`t hold as many games as the dish racks.  One of these can hold 4 Famicom carts whereas one dish rack could hold 8. The other drawback is that these aren`t quite as stable as the dish racks.  In two years the dish racks never dropped a Famicom cart.  With these, the carts are a bit more precariously positioned so when the next earthquake comes along (they do happen pretty often here) these are all going to be on the floor.

    Still, I really like the way this ties a corner of the room together. If you are in Japan and are interested, these racks aren`t available at the Daiso (the main 100 yen shop chain in Japan) but only at Seria.  Also, they have two kinds of these postcard holders, the metal ones I bought and some wood ones (you can see two of them in the photo on the left, just below the Famicom carts holding some baseball cards).  I recommend using the wood ones rather than the metal, they are a bit wider and will fit Famicom carts a bit better (I`m probably going to switch over to those next time I hit Seria).

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  • 05/24/13--07:22: The Atari 2800 Saga

  •  I made a pretty nice pic up on Yahoo Auctions last week: my very own Atari 2800!!!

    That is correct, Atari 2800 and not Atari 2600.

    The Atari 2800 was Atari`s abortive attempt to export a version of the 2600 to Japan.  They were a bit late to the game with it though, releasing it in 1983 just as the Famicom was about to hit.  That meant it was a total failure in a commercial sense and they only sold a handful of them.

    That, in turn, means that these consoles are extremely hard to find today.  Until this one arrived in the mail in all of my years of combing retro game shops I had never seen one with my own eyes before.  I think they are about as close as you can get to a holy grail of retro Japanese consoles (sadly this fact was reflected in the price I paid for it, but I think it was worth it).

    When I got it in the mail a few days ago I was so psyched, but I was in for one big shock when I tried to plug it in.  This is probably old news to most people, but I hadn`t realized that new flat screen TVs don`t take RF input.  During all my years in Fukuoka collecting retro games both of the TVs in our house were old-school analogue ones so it never came up.

    When we moved we got rid of those and I bought a brand new flat screen.  I had been using my AV Famicom to play games up until now so I hadn`t noticed that it didn`t take RF until the Atari 2800 just wouldn`t work on it.

    So I went back onto Yahoo Auctions, found an awesome 1989 Sony Trinitron 14 inch TV for about ten bucks and picked that up.  Today it arrived:

    I had a hell of a time trying to get it to work, but eventually I did.  The console came with four games (Space Invaders, Night Driver, Baseball and Missile Command) so I decided Space Invaders would make a good game to break it in on.

    I don`t have any furniture to keep the TV on (it is in our spare bedroom now) so it is just sitting on a box for the time being, which is actually kind of a cool way to set up a mini retro-console station.  I love how hard it is to play, I have to fiddle with the RF switch for ages just to get a reasonably clear picture and then when I play the game I am never sure when the slightest move will cause the screen to go completely blank.

    Oh and bonus thumbs up to old-school TVs for having the ability to have game consoles placed on top of them, thus saving space.  That is one cool thing future gamers will miss out on with these damn flat screens.

    True old school.  This is how retro games are meant to be played.  Old system on an old TV that barely works.  Should keep me busy for a while!

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    In the summer of 2011 something happened in Japan that made life a bit more difficult for retro gamers.  One day all the television broadcasts switched from analogue to digital.  For years prior to that the government had been running regular commercials on TV reminding people about the coming analogue apocalypse.  I remember those commercials in particular because they featured a member of the popular boy band SMAP who, right in the middle of the campaign, got caught up in a minor scandal when he got drunk one night, went to a park somewhere in Tokyo, got completely naked and then danced and shouted until somebody called the police.

    They dropped him from the TV commercials for a couple of months amid the public outcry over that, but I think they hired him back once the news cycle had moved on and it was deemed that he had apologized enough.  The incident is mainly noteworthy for the fact that it was the only time in history that a member of a boy band has ever done anything that had entertainment value, which is why I mention it here.

    Anyway, that is a bit off topic.  The main effect of the switch to digital was that it instantly rendered all analogue TVs completely useless as TVs.  Both of the TVs I had at the time were analogue so I had to go spend 5,000 yen to buy a tuner to make a TV that no longer had any resale value capable of showing the quality programming that Japanese TV networks are known for, like this: 

     When we moved last year I made the massive mistake of ditching our two analogue TVs as we intended to buy a new digital one and figured they weren`t worth shipping.  It was a mistake because, as I only recently discovered, digital TVs come with this awesome design feature known as `RF incompatibility` that allows you to not hook anything up to the TV via RF.  It’s a totally awesome improvement on the old TVs that didn`t have RF incompatibility, meaning that if you wanted a TV that was totally useless and didn`t work at all with RF then you were shit out of luck. 

    So anyway, having an RF incompatible TV (and a 1989 Sony Trinitron that I had to buy online specifically for retro gaming purposes) has made me acutely aware of the RF/ AV divide in retro video game consoles, something that I never really paid much attention to before.  It has, for the first time in the history of my collection, caused an ugly social rift to appear within the ranks of my consoles.  

    On the one hand is my AV Famicom, Super Famicom, Nintendo 64, Sega Mega Drive and PC Engine, all of which have AV cables and can be connected to the big digital TV in my living room.  They sit in a nice piece of IKEA furniture (at least the Famicom and N64 do, space limitations apply) along with some potted plants, family photos and a few  tastefully arranged knick knacks.  We see them everyday as the living room is the apartment`s centre of activity.  Sometimes we play nice music for them.  They have a view out the 6th floor terrace window from which you get a nice view of the city lights at night.

     In other words, they have a pampered existence.  They are the Carlton Banks of my retro game console collection.

    On the other hand are my poor RF-only consoles, which actually make up the bulk of my collection.  My old-school Famicom, Epoch Cassette Vision, Intellivision, Atari 2800, Sega SG-1000, Mark III, Space Vader and Color TV Game 15 are all relegated to the dreaded `spare room` which is mainly used for storage and as the only part of our apartment where we allow the dog to pee and poo on the floor without getting scolded.  The Sony Trinitron is set up in there, but there is no IKEA furniture to support it.  Rather it just sits on a moving box surrounded by doggy pee sheets.  The only place to set a console is directly on top of the TV, so only one console can be used at a time, with the rest just sitting in boxes in the closet.  It is not a comfortable room so they hardly get played at all.

    Compared to the systems that work with digital, they have a rough life.  They are the Ron Burgundy-after-getting-fired-from-the-News-Team of my retro console collection:
     I think this is probably a common pattern among the households of retro game collectors across Japan since 2011.  We are probably the only people out there who will actually still pay money for analogue TVs, but owing to the small size of most Japanese homes it is a huge burden to have to maintain two separate TVs (and the attendant seating arrangements, etc) just to play games on old systems.  Until I got that damn digital TV this had never been a problem for me because all of my games worked on our main TV in the living room. 

    Now, my collection is divided.  And the part of it I like the best, the really REALLY retro stuff, I can`t even play in my own living room.  Damn you, digital broadcasting, this is all your fault.  And also damn you,  guy from SMAP whose name I can`t remember, its probably your fault too just because you are a member of a boy band. 

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    Barely a week into June and this is already my second post this month, I seem to be getting back into blogging!

    I picked up something totally awesome on Yahoo Auctions the other day and I wanted to do a little post about it because when I did some searching on Google I discovered that there is nothing out there on the internet about them (in Japanese or English).

    It is a full box of Amada LSI Game Mini Cards, produced in 1980 and still completely sealed with all the cards still in their original packs.  Each of the cards features a hand-held game made by either Tomy, Epock, Takatoku Toys or Takara, whose names are on the front of the box:

    Being released in 1980 they would have just missed the Game and Watch generation, but these ones are pretty cool.  I have some Tomy handhelds from the early 80s, including my beloved Puck Man,  and they are really cool. Inside the box the awesomeness begins with a bunch of cellophane-wrapped beauties:
    In addition to the cellophane wrapped ones, which came in packs of 2 or 4, are the single packs with one each:
    Each box contained a total of 60, which originally retailed for 10 yen each:

    The company that made these, Amada, is kind of an important (and massively underappreciated) one in the history of Famicom stuff as pretty much all of the Famicom ephemera produced in the 1980s was put out by them.  My favorite among these (at least in my collection) would be the Famicom Mini Cards that they released in 1986 which came in an identically sized box as my new LSI game cards.  They display nicely together on my little shelf:

    In fact, I was actually searching for some of those Amada Famicom cards on Yahoo Auctions when I came across these ones, which I hadn`t known existed before.  Amada also put out the awesome Famicom Erasers and a cool but extremely hard to find set of Famicom stickers which I hope to do a post about in the near future. 

    Sadly I don`t have any information on how big the set of cards was or which games (other than the ones I can see on mine) were featured. I am guessing that these were not a big seller back in the day.  It is common to find little piles of loose Amada Famicom cards on Yahoo Auctions and there is a bit of a collector base for those here.  These LSI game ones I have never seen before though and I couldn`t find any others, loose or in their boxes, on Yahoo Auctions.  The one I got was probably dead stock from some store that couldn`t sell them.

    Anyway, this type of thing I find just as interesting as collecting games themselves.  They look really cool, especially these ones still in the original packing (the cards by themselves are a bit dull in design). 
    Yet another random find.

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  • 07/15/13--19:00: Happy 30th Famicom!!
  • I just realized that today is the 30th birthday of the Famicom.  Sadly I don`t have time to do a long post, but I couldn`t let the occasion pass completely unobserved.

    I remember my own 30th birthday.  That is a tough one to cope with, officially bringing your 20s to a close and along with it all semblance of still being `young`.  Sigh.

    Anyway, at least it will finally be able to appreciate that show Thirty Something. 

    On a related note, perhaps this could be the Famicom`s birthday cake.  It isn`t my creation, I found it on Flickr here by somebody who is an awesome cake maker.

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     I just got back from a few days in the Kansai area and was happily enough  able to do some retro game shopping (well, mostly retro-game window shopping) while I was down there!

    Back when I lived in Fukuoka I used to do regular posts on here where I`d take my camera to local retro game shops and review them, but I haven`t been doing those since I moved last year.  The main reason for that is my new city, compared to Fukuoka, is very short on decent Famicom shops.  The few that I`ve been to have not been blog-worthy.  So I was really excited to be able to go do some retro game shop touring in Kobe and Osaka.  Today`s post will just be about Kobe!

    Kobe is an awesome city if you`ve never been there.  I actually lived in or near Kobe for my first five years in Japan, but that was before I got into retro gaming so I had never been to any of the shops there.

    Kobe doesn`t really have a retro gaming district (neither does Fukuoka though), but I did stumble almost by accident into a little cluster of cute retro game/toy stores in an unusual place.

    The main train station in Kobe is in Sannomiya.  The JR tracks are elevated there and underneath there are a number of shoutengai (shopping alleys) that stretch for a couple of kilometres from Sannomiya to Motomachi and on to Kobe station. The photo at the top of this post is from one section of it.  This is what it looks like inside:
    Near Sannomiya most of the shops are actually high end clothing and other fashion stuff, but as you work your way over to and past Motomachi they start to become dominated by more ecclectic little shops selling used electronics and other stuff.  Naturally some of them had retro game consoles, including some Famicoms: 

     Prices were not that great, about 5,000 yen or so for a Famicom.  Not a rip off, but you can do better on Yahoo Auctions.

    Just walking along the narrow alleyway was quite fun, there were a lot of Famicom bits and pieces peaking out of windows here and there:
     This guy had a lot of stuff, mostly toys but also some retro game stuff:

     Including some Famicom carts in his glass case.  Again, prices were on the high side.  Those copies of Super Mario Bros. were 1500 yen each.
    So if you are in Kobe definitely give the alleyways under the JR tracks between Sannomiya, Motomachi and Kobe stations a try.  Even if you don`t buy anything you`ll probably have a lot of fun browsing and exploring down there. There are probably some other good retro game hunting grounds in the city, but I only had a day to look around. In my next post I`ll show you retro game hunting in the bigger city of Osaka!

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    On the last day of our Kansai trip I finally was able to make the pilgrimage to Den Den Town, Osaka`s neighborhood dedicated to electronics (`Den` means electricity).  As such it is also the centre of Osaka`s retro gaming stores, thus making it worth a visit.

    Den Den Town is in the centre of Osaka, about a fifteen minute or so walk from Shinsaibashi (where we stayed).  It is a surprisingly large neighborhood with one main street (pictured above) stretching for several blocks and a number of side and parrallel streets. It is a pretty bustling area.

    Most of the shops don`t sell retro games, which isn`t surprising given that there are hundreds of stores in the area.  There are quite a few that do though, we wandered into one on the main street and found a wall full of Famicom carts:

    The prices were on the high side, but they did have a TV hooked up to a Famiclone with Transofrmers Mystery of Comvoy so we had some fun with that for a while (frustration is sometimes an enjoyable pasttime).

    One cool shop we found specializing in retro games was Retro TV Game Revivial:

    It is a small-ish shop but packed to the roof with games.  They had a good selection of CIB Famicom games:

    And a few retro consoles:

    The prices weren`t too bad here.  There weren`t any absolute bargains but their prices were fair (unlike some of the other shops in the area which were way overpriced).

    One cool thing I spotted were some old school Famicom lunch boxes, in Super Mario and Bouken Shima pattern:

    They weren`t for sale but I thought they were pretty cool.

    I haven`t mentioned the biggest shop I visited in Den Den Town yet because it will be the subject of my next post..... Super Potato!!

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     I have long wished to make a pilgrimmage to Super Potato, the godfather of all Famicom shops.  They don`t have one in Fukuoka so I was never able to visit one while I collected games down there, meaning I was also massively excited to get to visit the one in Osaka`s Den Den Town!  Look at all those amazing rows of Famicom carts!!  With the cool little hand written price tags!  So pretty.

    The shop is located on a side street that runs parrallel to the main street in Den Den town.  There are a lot of Otaku related shops on the street so its kind of a cool place for a stroll.

    Prices are on the steep side: you won`t find any bargains there.  But oh what a place to browse!  I have never seen so much beautiful Famicom stuff collected in one space (save my closet)!

    Look at all the Famicoms:

    And Twin Famicoms and Disk Systems!!!
    And copies of that shogi game for the Nintendo 64 (well OK, not everything they had a lot of was cool):

    The hyper rare stuff was, as you might expect, the best.  They had a Famicom Box, which I had never seen in person before.  This was a coin operated type of Famicom that they used in hotels back in the 80s.  They are pretty hard to find.  They are also interesting because they use the NES-type controllers and gun rather than the Famicom ones.  The game carts, which you can`t really see from the outside, are also shaped like NES ones:

    They also had some rare Famicom carts, including these gold copies of Binary Land and Rockman 4.  The Binary Land was (according to the written explanation on that card) made especially for the wedding of one of the game`s developers where it was handed out as a gift to guests, meaning there were only a couple hundred ever made (hence the 84,800 yen price tag).  The gold Rockman 4 is even rarer, only 8 of them were made.  At 628,000 yen (about $6,500 US) it is by far the most expensive Famicom thing I have ever laid eyes on.

    And of course they had a ton of CIB Famicom carts too.  Prices were way too high for my taste but it was cool to see them:

    Anyway, this is an awesome shop to visit if you are in Osaka, but like I`ve said don`t expect any bargains (except for that sucky N64 shogi game they have a million copies of up there).  Think of it more like a quasi-religious experience for true Famicom believers:)

    Related Posts:

    Kansai Retro Game Shops 2: Den Den Town in Osaka
    Kansai Famicom Shops 1: Kobe

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    The final retro game store I got to check out during my trip to the Kansai area was Mandarake in Osaka`s Amerika Mura neighborhood.

    Amerika Mura is kind of a neat area.  It mainly has clothing shops (the name Amerika Mura comes from the fact that stores selling American style clothing were centred in the neighborhood back in the day) and a lot of them are pretty hip.  

    Mandarake used to have a store in the Den Den town area where all the other retro game shops are but about 5 years ago they closed that one down and moved it to Amerika Mura.  The two neighborhoods actually aren`t far from each other and you can walk from one to the other, passing by the famous Dotonbori area with its Bladerunner look (at night at least) on the way:

    It actually kind of makes sense that Mandarake relocated given that it sells a ton of clothing (cosplay stuff) as well as games and toys.  Anyway, this is what it looks like outside:

    The games are on the first floor.  The first thing I noticed was that their Famicom shelf also sported a few NES games, which I have never seen in a retro game shop here before:

    Their selection was actually quite underwhelming.  The Mandarake in Fukuoka actually has a much better Famicom section which is surprsing considering that Osaka is about three times bigger than Fukuoka. 

    I think the reason for that is Mandarake actually has two stores in Osaka, the one in Amerika Mura I visited and another one in Umeda.  Unfortunately I didn`t have time to check out the Umeda one (presumably it has a lot more games). 

    This brought to a close my Kansai area retro game shopping.  It was mostly a window shopping trip as I ended up spending less than 1,000 yen (about $10) on retro games, my only purchases being a CIB copy of Sky Destroyer for the Famicom (I love the box are on it) and a loose copy of Fantasy Zone for the Sega Mark III (which I got at this Mandarake).  In general the prices were a bit higher than I was used to in Fukuoka but there were a few reasonable places.  Not a place for bargain-hunting but I had a really great time looking at all the pretty goodies!

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    It has been a little over a year since I first started buying Famicom games on Yahoo Auctions.  It was so awesome at first: tons of Famicom games selling for bargain prices.

    In the past nine months or so Yahoo Auction has gone from being a good place to buy cheap Famicom stuff to....a good place to buy much much less cheap Famicom stuff.

    As someone who follows the auctions there pretty closely I can say that prices for Famicom lots have increased by at least 50% over the course of 2013.  I still enter bids on stuff once a week or so but I haven`t actually won - or even come close to winning - an auction in months despite the fact that I have increased my maximum bidding strategy from what it was last year (in 2012 I would win about half the auctions I put serious bids on).  Every time a decent lot of Famicom carts comes up there are tons of people bidding for it and the prices are going through the roof.

    The main explanation  for this would seem to be the exchange rate.  The Japanese yen has lost about 25% of its value against the dollar over the same time period, meaning that it is that much cheaper for overseas buyers bidding through proxies to buy Famicom stuff priced in Yen.

    The problem with that is the exchange rate change (25%) can only account for about half of the overall increase in prices (about 50%), which leaves the question of where the other half came from.

    My theory on that is that prices last year were just insanely cheap because there were fewer overseas buyers bidding on stuff.  With the increased number of bidders entering the market as a result of the lower yen competition for the stuff available has also increased and these bidders have forced the prices up well past the exchange rate difference.

    This kind of sucks for me since my salary is in Yen, meaning that the lowered exchange rate didn`t increase my purchasing power by 25% like it did for overseas buyers.  I am forced to recall with rose tinted lenses those glory days of 2012 when I went on my first Yahoo Auction buying binge.....oh how glorious it was!

    Combined with the fact that I moved last year and have no retro game stores near my new place this means that my Famicom well has more or less run dry.  I bought tons of Famicom and other retro game stuff last year but to date this year I have purchased exactly three games which altogether cost less than 1500 yen (about 15$), which works out to less than 2$ a month.

    I know all you Famicom collectors in the US will hate me for saying this but.....I really hope the Yen goes up in value again soon :)

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    Frogger is one game that I have a lot of fond memories of as a kid.  I had a big floppy disk version of it for my Apple IIC back in the 80s and it was one of my favorite games.  I remember sitting at that computer in the basement of my childhood home with Airwolf on TV in the background and sneaking some snacks before dinner while playing it for hours on end.  The good old days.

    Sadly Frogger is one of those smash hit arcade games from the 80s that, for whatever reason, never got a release on the Famicom.  Q-Bert is another one in that category that I really wish they had released on the Famicom so I could play it.

    Anyway, I`ve been wanting to get a vintage copy of Frogger for something for the longest time and today I found it: an original 1982 Frogger handheld produced by Gakken, a subsidiary of Konami.

    It is a really awesome machine.  The gameplay is a very faithful reproduction of the original, a bit better than my Puckman handheld that I found last year, which isn`t quite the same as the Pacman arcade game.

    This one came with the original box and manual, which was a nice touch. 

    The controls are pretty simple, I like the fact that this one lets you turn the music on and off.  Puckman and my Game and Watches all make a bunch of noise that you cannot turn off, meaning you can`t use them in some situations.

    I also like the yellow plastic and the distinctive Frogger logo I remember so well from my old Apple IIC floppy disk:
     It was a pretty good deal for about $50, my wife was actually nice enough to buy it as a gift for me.  I checked on Yahoo Auction and there are a couple without boxes with buy-it-now prices well above that so I think it was a good deal.    

    Frogger is also an awesome game because of the fact that it was a central plot element of the best episode of Seinfeld ever:

     Total classic.  I will play this game until I best Costanza`s high score.

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    Just a couple of weeks after complaining about how Yahoo Auctions no longer has any deals I find myself in the awkward position of having a deal that I scored on Yahoo Auctions to report.

    My score was the following box, full of the above pictured copies of Choujin Ultra Baseball!!

    This is a fully intact factory case of Choujin Ultra baseball containing 20 brand new copies of the game.  Back in 1989 when this game came out this is what the clerks at Japan`s department stores pulled the games out of when they put them on the shelf.

    It is exceedingly rare to find intact cases of Famicom games like this, I suspect that someone must have found a few gathering dust in a back corner of some store`s warehouse because cases of a few games have popped up on both Yahoo Auctions and even Ebay recently.  Anybody fancy a case of Super Chinese 2?  300$ on Ebay right now!

    Anyway, open that case up and presto!  20 beauties all lined up in a row.

    It is cool to have these because you can line the individual boxes up to recreate a 1980s store display atmosphere in the comfort of your own living room, like so:

    The seller I got this off of actually had cases of 3 or 4 other titles, like Super Chinese 3 and Fighting Wars which I could have chosen from.  I zeroed in on Choujin Ultra Baseball though.  If it had been any other baseball title - or sports title for that matter - I probably would have gone for Super Chinese 3 instead.  But as I wrote about in a post a couple of years ago I absolutely love the cover art on Choujin Ultra Baseball.  I think it is far and away the best cover art on any sports game ever made - the colors are fantastic and it has a kind of pop art look to it which just really appeals to me.  10 Yard Fight is the only sports game I can think of which gives this one a run for its money.  Also just look how determined that batter looks

    The case itself is also pretty neat.  It is of course just a cardboard box, but in addition to the cool FF Famicom Family logo on the top it also has the game logo on the side.

    I am really curious about how this (and the other games which have unopened cases showing up on auction sites) survived so long intact.  There are a couple of things that puzzle me.  I would have expected that any dead stock Famicom cases would have been either: 1) games which there are a ton of (like Family Stadium or something) which they may have produced too many of, or 2) games released late in the Famicom`s lifetime when the system`s popularity was plummeting as the next generation Super Famicom took over the market.

    Choujin Ultra Baseball doesn`t really fit into either of these categories though.  It wasn`t an overproduced game - loose carts pop up in game shops here and there but I`ve never seen them in bulk like with other Famicom baseball games.  Also it was released in 1989, a year before the Super Famicom came out and when the Famicom was still the king of the consoles in Japan.  It is a bit of a mystery.  I assume, as the title of this post suggests, that it was part of a warehouse find that somebody stumbled across.

    Anyway, it is kind of a neat thing and I`m not exactly sure what I will do with it.  I definitely will NOT be breaking it up.  This sort of thing just demands that it be kept together - the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.  Still, what do you do with 20 copies of the same game?  I mean, other than playing 1980s Japanese department store with them.

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    This is the city.  I live here.

    And this is my car.  1972 Nintendo Lefty RX.  Blue.  Only turns left.  Don`t ask why.

    I like to cruise the streets with it.  Looking for trouble in all the wrong places.
     Anybody seen any trouble around here?

    No?  OK, good.  No harm in asking.
    Perhaps I should explain.  This cool blue car is a 41 year old piece of Nintendo`s past: the Lefty RX!

    You can read a really good write up with all the details about its history and specs over on Erik`s awesome blog here. Basically it was a remote controlled car that, as the name perhaps suggests, could only turn left.  
     Mine is a really beat up one that is missing everything except the car.  Originally they came with a remote control and a bunch of other bits and pieces. 

     So mine is purely ornamental, but that is cool with me.  I like ornaments.
    The Lefty RX is a pretty good looking car.  I`m not sure what it is modeled after, it looks like a cross between a Corvette and a Fairlady Z, but who knows?

    I also like the fact that it has the old school Nintendo logo right on the hood. 
    This isn`t a new purchase, I actually picked this up a couple of years ago when I was living in Fukuoka and have been meaning to do a post about it ever since.  They came in three colors - blue, gold and red.  I also have a gold one in equally beat up condition but I kind of like the blue one better. I hope to find a red one someday to complete the set.
    I took these pictures on my way to and from work today.  It added a bit of fun to what are usually uneventful bike rides.
    These are pretty hard to find, but they don`t seem to be too expensive, mine only cost 500 yen each (about 5$).  Ones in better condition with their boxes would go for quite a bit more than that though.

    Either way, this is one of my favorite old Nintendo toys.  I keep these prominently displayed in my man cave, a must have item for the discerning Nintendo collector.

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    The mailman brought some more Yahoo Auction Goodies (YAG) yesterday: seven CIB Atari 2800 games!

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, as of May this year I officially became an Atari 2800 owner. The 2800 is basically the Japanese version Atari 2600 (later released as the Sears TeleGames in North America) but much much rarer since almost nobody bought them in Japan.  It was released just a few weeks before the Famicom, which sealed its doom alongside the Bandai Intellivision, Epoch Cassette Vision and Sega SG-1000.

    Only 30 games were released for the Atari 2800, all of them Atari 2600 games.  In fact the cartridges are completely identical - the Japanese carts still say `Atari 2600` on them.  So the only way to know if you have an Atari 2800 game is if you have the boxes, which were made specifically for the Japanese market.

    The seven games I got all had their boxes, albeit in fairly beat up condition.  They were all pretty common titles on the 2600 - games like Space Invaders, Missile Command and Asteroids - but there were probably only a few thousand 2800 copies ever sold.  The boxes look pretty cool, I love the artwork:
     I think Asteroids is my favorite:

     As I also mentioned in that earlier post I have been having a hell of a time trying to play my Atari 2800 - and all my other old RF consoles - thanks to the fact that our (evil) new big screen TV doesn`t have an RF or Coax connection.

    I did the natural hipster thing and bought a 1989 Sony Trinitron TV off of Yahoo Auctions to give me something to play my old beauties on.  I based that purchase solely on the fact that it was an awesome red TV and I think red TVs just look cool.  While it does look cool sadly my red TV is pretty lousy at playing games.  If you have ever used an old Japanese TV perhaps you are familiar with the many frustrations of having to manually tune the set.  It is not fun.  After close to an hour of fiddling I was finally able to play one of my new games -Super Breakout - in all its glory:
     After about 10 minutes of that though a slight gust of wind moved some dust which had accumulated on the upper right corner of the set.  The change in weight was enough to cause the tuning to go all out of whack and no matter how much I theatened it, it did not return and I was left with:
    So now I am faced with the fact that if I really want to enjoy these games I will probably have to buy one of those ugly grey TVs from the early 2000s which sell for about 500 yen each.  They don`t look anywhere near as cool or retro (or red) as my nice old Sony but they probably will actually allow me to play a game without much aggravation so I think I`ll bite the bullet.

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  • 10/11/13--05:37: Yahoo!! A Red Lefty RX!!
  • After taking my broken old blue Lefty RX on an awesome tour around town last week I decided to do a little online shopping to see if there were any available as I didn`t have a complete, fully functional one.  And I found one!  A red one!  Complete in box!

    I entered a bid and long story short it arrived a couple of days later.

    It is sooooo smooth.
     The controller is pretty nice too.  One button is all it takes.
     This thing was really complete in box, even with the vintage 1972 batteries still in there.
     It also came with the fuel pit refuelling station:

     And the decals still haven`t been applied.
    Far and away the most interesting thing though was this advertising flyer for Nintendo toys from 1972.  This is awesome.
     It is full color on both the front and back and has prety much all the toys that Nintendo was trying to sell back in the early 70s.
     They were selling my Ultra Machine for only 1480 yen back then:
     My Electro Safari SP and SP light gun were also on there:
    I`m quite happy with this new acquisition, I now have a blue, gold and red Lefty RX (though only this red one is CIB). 

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