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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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    I just got back from an overnight business trip to the place where this blog began: beautiful Fukuoka!

    I was there for a couple of meetings on Tuesday, but Wedensday morning and early afternoon I had to myself and decided to drop by good old Mandarake to see how things have changed there since I left.

    I would have loved to have been able to do a thorough revisit to all the Famicom shops I described in loving detail in numerous posts on here back when I lived in Fukuoka but it wasn`t possible to do so with the time I had.  Sadly my favorite shop that I used to visit 3-4 times a week, Omocha Souko, went permanently out of business last year so the one place that more than any I wanted to see on my return could not be paid a visit.

    Another issue was simply the fact that as a visitor to Fukuoka I did not have a bicycle, which was really instrumental in allowing me to visit all those awesome retro game shops, many of which were not easily accessible by public transport.

    Anyway, I made sure that I would at least visit my favorite surviving Fukuoka Famicom shop on this visit and even booked a hotel (the Green Hotel if anyone is interested) that is literally next door to Mandarake.

    Despite their no-photography policy I decided to take a few pics this time since even if they kicked me out its not like I visit there that often anymore.
    Wall to wall CIB Famicom goodies, no other shop in Fukuoka comes close to matching this.  The blue sign there says they will pay 50,000 yen for a CIB copy of Kung Fu.

    A few copies of Thunderbirds and Tomato Princess in the Salad Kingdomthere:

    Oh and what is that at the end of the aisle?

    Get a little closer:

    The glass case with all the good Famicom stuff in it!!

    About half of this stuff I remembered from my last visit, loads of CIB games for the Famicom and Super Famicom.  They have a CIB copy of that really rare silver Hot Scramble Z which they are selling for about 900 bucks.

    Basically all that stuff was out of my price range, but I did pick up a few Famicom games. Mandarake generally has pretty good prices, at least at their Fukuoka branch, so I am always glad to walk out with a few new purchases.  I picked up CIB copies of Binary Land and Highway Star, which will go nicely with my collection.

    The only other Famicom-related place I got a chance to visit was a Book Off next to Hakata Station.  I had actually profiled that one on here a couple of years ago in a post that consisted mainly of complaining about their outrageously high prices.

    I was hoping they might have changed that problem and got a bit excited when I saw that they had moved the `old soft` section (which is where all pre-PS2 era games at Book Offs are kept, if they have any) and tidied it up a bit:


    Unfortunately despite the facelift the prices were the same as usual.  They even still had the exact same copy of Devil World priced at 1550 yen (about 2-3 times what its worth) that I had complained about in that post 2 years ago:


    That will probably always be there!

    Anyway, it was nice to go back to Fukuoka, I really do miss the place. 




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    When I was down in Fukuoka earlier this week I was flipping through the channels on the TV in my hotel on the first night and happened to stumble onto a variety show that was featuring Famicom games. It was kind of a cross between the Price is Right and Antiques Road Show.

    This was actually one of the more interesting Famicom-related show I have seen because it was specifically about the collectability of Famicom Carts.

    They had an expert from one of the big retro game shops in Tokyo (I missed the first minute or two of the show so I didn`t catch which one he was from) and he explained a little bit about the Famicom collector`s market and what it was that made some games valuable.  He divided them into a few simple categories to explain their value.  The first were games from popular series like Rockman, Final Fantasy and Puyo Puyo:


    And then there were games that were released late in the Famicom`s lifespan, meaning that there were only a few released like Gimmick and Recca:

    And games that had appeal because they were unusual, like Spelunker or Takeshi no Chosenjo:


    And games that were really limited edition ones, like the green Kinnikuman and Silver Hot Scramble Z:


    They explained some of these in detail, like the fact that the Spelunker cart came in two versions, one with a red LED and one without.  The one without the LED is worth more (there were a few of those Irem games released like that, I have seen Sqoon without the LED too):
    And the Green Kinnikuman cart, which was originally given out as a present and not sold in stores:
     And Takeshi Chousenjo, which as the writing at the bottom of the screen says is called a `kusoge-` (crap game) but its difficulty has led to its re-evaluation and its achieved a sort of cult status:

     In the second part of the show it became a kind of price is right type of game show.
     Then the battle began.  The challengers were:

    Some guy (on the left) vs Manabe Kaori (on the right), model and actress who is still hot even though she is well past 30:
     They basically had to choose which game was the most valuable out of a small selection of the ones pictured at the top of this post.  In the first round they looked at the really expensive ones:
     Then they had this rotating number thing which would eventually tell them how much the game they had chosen was worth:
     70,000 yen!  Very good Kaori!  Other guy might have won this round because I think Hot Scramble Z silver cart is worth a bit more than that CIB, but still.  Way to go!
     And don`t worry, in the next round the choices were like this.  Rockman 6 worth more than Summer Carnival 92?  Other Guy, what were you thinking? 
    Anyway there wasn`t exactly a lot of suspense in watching these unfold since as a collector I already knew which ones were worth more.  Still though, it was awesome to see Other Guy choose the Takeshi Chousenjo game as the most valuable only to be told that it was only worth a few hundred yen. 

    It was really fun to watch the show anyway.  When you are part of a hobby that is somewhat limited in size it is always really exciting when you see it mentioned in the mainstream media.  Unfortunately this was just a one-off program and not a regular thing, at least as far as Famicom games are concerned.  At the end they said in next week`s episode they would be doing the same thing only with baseball cards. 

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    In the five years or so since I started collecting Famicom games I have been through a wide range of storage and display options for them.  For the first couple of years I mainly just shoved them in boxes or stacked them on shelves like this:

    Then about 3 years ago I tried my hand at DIY Famicom cart shelf making with some dish drying racks I bought at the 100 yen shop.

    Thos actually worked really well, they looked OK and it allowed for easy finding of games I wanted to play without having to knock over stacks of carts:

    Sadly when I left Fukuoka last year, I had to get rid of these for space reasons.  I say it was sad because these really were a good solution to the problem, I used those shelves for a couple of years and they worked great.

    A few months ago I had a try at making some new shelves with postcard holders, also from the 100 yen shop.

    Those looked good, but unfortunately they could only hold 4 carts each, which is way too few for this to be an effective solution.

    The other day I was at Seria, another 100 yen shop (there are several chains of 100 yen shops) and I came across these:

    They are basically just generic little shelves.  I bought ten of them and tossed them up on the wall to see how they would work:

    They aren`t too bad. They hold more carts than the postcard holders (and even the dishracks) did, which is good.  They don`t look too bad, which is also good.  The only downside is that they aren`t ideal for quick game identification like the dish racks, which had a little space between each game so you could see the front label. Still though, because they aren`t in stacks it is pretty easy to flip through them.  So this is my new Famicom rack in the living room.  I might get a few more and turn this into a floor-to-ceiling sort of thing.

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    The Japanese language internet has been abuzz over the past few days with speculation about the origins of the gold Binary Land Famicom cart, seen in the above photo selling for 84,800 yen (almost $1,000) at Super Potato in Osaka.  I figured that since nobody seems to have picked up on this bit of gossip in English I would do the honors here.

    I`m getting my information on this from the excellent Famicom no Netta blog, which did a post on the scandal here.  By way of background, there is a very romantic story about the origins of Binary Land, which is fitting given the romantic theme of the game (which, I have to add, is a really fun one to play).  The game was developed by two employees of Hudson Soft, known as Kiku and Megu.   If you turn the game on and, while the title screen is showing press down on the A and B buttons on both controllers and press reset, a hidden message saying KIKU MEGU LOVE STORY! will appear.

    When Kiku and Megu got married, Hudson produced the special gold version of their game to give out as gifts to wedding guests. There were thus only a couple of hundred made, which explains why it is such an expensive game.  It has been featured on TV shows like Tameshi Ka (website here and you can also see a post I did a couple of years which mentions the show here) and sometimes pops up on Yahoo Auctions, always selling for tens of thousands of yen. 


    Basically the doubts about its authenticity seems to have started on October 30 when Sakurada Meijin, a former employee of Hudson and a disciple of Takahashi Meijin (BTW, I love the fact that in Japan Famicom game players even have disciples) noted something really interesting: the wedding at which this game was allegedly distributed back in the 80s never took place! Kiku and Megu never actually got married!

    Further in a different tweet he noted the fact that if you look at different copies of the gold Binary Land cart they have stickers which identify them as the wedding version.  But these stickers aren`t the same on all the carts, they are in different sizes, different locations and with different lettering, leading to suspicion they may have been added at a later date by different people.

    Doing a bit of further research he determined that the source of the story that the cart was distributed at Kiku and Megu`s wedding may have originated with the man himself: Takahashi Meijin.


     Looking back at the record though, it seems that Takahashi Meijin never actually said it was a wedding version.  He actually said something like "I think it was something like that (a wedding present)..."

    Looking further at a cached comment by Takahashi Meijin on his blog from 5 years ago in which he discusses Binary Land, he says in response to a question about the gold version that he had forgotten about it.

    At any rate, the mystery continues.  Is the Binary Land gold version cart a fake?  Or is it legit, but made for the wedding of someone other than the star crossed lovers Kiku and Megu?  My impression is that the latter is a more likely explanation. The story has spread quite a bit and perhaps somebody will dug up the truth!

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  • 11/14/13--17:45: Some Game & Watch Goodies

  • I`ve been collecting Game & Watches for a few years now, but I still don`t have too many.  I really like them though.  I never owned one as a kid, though I did have some generic-brand handhelds which were nowhere near as cool.  

    Anyway, this week I acquired four more Game and Watches all in one go through a trade with Whatsupchang over on Famicom World.  I sent him a package of Famicom games and he sent me these beauties:


    Gold Cliff, Donkey Kong II, Donkey Kong Jr and Mario Bros!

    Actually, Donkey Kong Jr and Mario Bros I already had copies of which I bought at Omocha Souko in Fukuoka a couple of years ago, but Donkey Kong II and Gold Cliff are completely new to me and are really great.  Gold Cliff in particular I had never heard of before but it is kind of a neat game - you control an adventurer and have to get him up to the top of the dual screen to collect some stuff.  Basically the same gameplay as all Game and Watches and I like that.  It also looks pretty good, I like blue stuff!

    This is actually my second Famicom-for-Game and Watch trade that I have done on Famicom World.  About a year ago I did a similar trade for the red Micro vs system boxing one, which goes well with my Donkey Kong Hockey here:


    There were three of these vs systems made, all I need now is the green Donkey Kong 3 and I will have the whole set!

    So my Game and Watch collection is now on the grow again. 

    I just love these things!  If anybody else has some Game and Watches they want to trade for Famicom carts, just let me know! 



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    One of these things is not like the other....

    Actually wait, both of these things are unlike the other.

    Yesterday I got a copy of Sqoon in the mail.  I already had a copy of Sqoon, which is a really cool game, but the copy I got yesterday was missing the little red LED. This actually pleased me.

    When Irem released its first series of games for the Famicom - including Sqoon, Spelunker, Spelunker 2, 10 Yard Fight, Zippy Race and Mashou - they included a little red LED on the cart that would illuminate when the Famicom was turned on.  This was a pretty neat innovation given that on an original red and white Famicom it isn`t always obvious if the console is turned on or off from a distance.  These may have been the only cartridges in video game history to have such a feature.

    Unfortunately they also cost money to include on the carts and didn`t really influence people`s decision of whether to buy them or not (a decision most people make based on the game`s quality rather than whether or not it has a red light on it), so when they later released a second run of some of the games they eliminated the LEDs from them.

    As you can see from my new copy of Sqoon, while they eliminated the LED they kept the rest of the cart exactly the same, including the very conspicuous triangle where the LED was supposed to go.  So the carts without LEDs look a bit awkward.

    Despite their awkward appearance, the versions of these carts without the LEDs are worth way more than the ones with LEDs.  Apparently by the time they re-released them these games were already yesterday`s news so not many people bought them.  They are pretty rare today, much like the `Kung Fu` version of Spartan X. They were even featured in that Famicom antiques road show/ price is right TV show I posted about last month, which used the Spelunker version as an example of a rare and valuable variation of a Famicom cart:


    Not all of the games have both versions.  Spelunker 2 and Mashou apparently weren`t popular enough to begin with so they never got no-LED versions of themselves.  As far as I can tell only four - Sqoon, Spelunker, Zippy Race and 10 Yard Fight - exist in both versions (see here for pics of them).


    Interestingly one cart exists in only non-LED form, Yan chan Maru (visible in the above photo, back row far left).

    That game was apparently a sort of transition cart.  The design is basically identical to the Irem carts which had LEDs, except that it is missing the LED and doesn`t have the little triangular space for them carved out of the front label.  After that, Irem started issuing games in carts that looked more like the standard Famicom carts.

    Anyway, there you have it.  Another little piece of Famicom collecting lore explained through the power of Sqoon.

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    I got a roulette set in the mail last week.  I don`t play much roulette but I like this one.  Its electric and it says Nintendo on the wheel.!

    This is one of those light gun games that Nintendo made back in the early 70s.  It is called Electro Roulette, and I do like that name.  Putting the word "electro" before anything makes that thing better. As you can tell from the box cover, in this one you shoot the target (the middle of the roulette wheel) to make it spin.


    The gun was sold seperately back in the day so this only includes the wheel.  As luck would have it, I actually own the light gun that goes with it, which I did a little write up about here.  Unfortunately my six shooter doesn`t work and is for display only, so I`m not sure if this roulette wheel is still functioning or not.

    I also have another one of the targets, the Electro Safari set, though I kind of like this roulette wheel better.

    Anyway, open it up and this is what you get:

    A roulette wheel and some chips.  I am guessing that there might have also been a ball originally packed with this, but I am not sure.  Normally a roulette wheel would of course have a ball, but this one mainly functions as a target intended to be hung on a wall vertically, which would have made a ball impossible to use on it. Instead of a ball it seems the number was to be indicated in this little window on the top:

    The chips are pretty cool.  They have the old Nintendo logo that the company briefly used in the early 70s (and which looks nothing like `Nintendo`) stamped in the middle of them:

    The best part though, as with so many old Nintendo things, is the box itself.  The cowboy on the front is pretty iconic:

    And they have a completely different cowboy on the side.  The blue and white star border with an orange brick background really make it look cool too:


    Normally when I do a post about one of these pre-Famicom Nintendo finds I reference Erik`s fantastic Before Mario, but I was surprised to find that he hasn`t gotten around to dedicating a post specifically to the Electro Roulette yet (though he does have a post which overviews the Electro series and mentions the Roulette wheel).  This is the first time since I got my Electro Safari that I have been able to introduce an old Nintendo thing which wasn`t already out there, so I feel kind of cool.  Erik`s blog is a bit like the Simpsons for Nintendo collectors, every time you think you`ve found something new, you discover he already has it (and I mean that as a compliment of course)!




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     A very brief history lesson: in the 19th century after Japan opened up to the West, Europeans became very interested in Japanese art.  Woodblock prints like the one above, for example, became highly sought after and art collectors from Europe and America bought them up like crazy, to the point that by the 20th century many of the finest examples were only to be found outside of Japan.  They were able to do so in part because the Japanese themselves didn`t place a very high value on those prints and thus works that would later be worth a small fortune were sold for mere pennies.

    After Japan underwent its high growth era in the 60s and early 70s the trend partially reversed itself, with newly affluent Japanese seeking out and repatriating some of the nation`s antiques and artwork that had been sold abroad in earlier times. Of course in doing so they were paying thousands or even millions of dollars for things that had left Japan decades earlier for almost nothing.

    This overly-simplified story of an episode from Japanese art history got me thinking about Japan`s retro video games.  In part this is because almost anything gets me thinking of retro video games, but also it is because there seem to be some parrallels in the modern day flow of Japanese collectible games.

    The basic trend that I have noticed is simply that foreigners (like myself, though I do live in Japan) seem to be buying a lot of Japanese retro games, particularly for the Famicom.  The reverse, however, does not seem to be happening: there seems to be very little market in Japan for vintage games from outside of Japan.
     

    As a random test of this I just did two searches.  First I went to American Ebay and did a search for “Famicom”.  That gave me 29,628 items for sale.  A lot of those would be Super Famicom stuff, and of course there would also be a fair number of pirated games from non-Japanese sources like China.  But just a casual scroll through the results indicates that about half of it is actual Famicom games, consoles or accessories originally marketed in Japan.  So I would say there is probably close to 15,000 Famicom items available on Ebay at the moment.

    In short, while this is by no means a scientific survey, I think it can safely be concluded that there is a reasonably big and active international market outside of Japan for vintage Japanese video games.

    The second search I did was to try to find out what the flow was going the other way – in other words, how much of a market is there in Japan for foreign retro games?  I did a few searches on Yahoo Auctions (the Japanese equivalent of Ebay) to try to tease out the scale.  First I did a search for “NES”, the term which is also used in Japan to describe the American version of the Famicom.  That turned up a grand total of 92 results in the gaming section, some of which were actually Famicom games.  I also did a search for that other colossus of American retro gaming, the Atari 2600, and only found 19 results, all but one of which were actually Japan-released Atari 2800 games.  “Colecovision” turned up zero results, while “Intellivision” only turned up 18 – all of which appear to have been games released for the Japanese Bandai version of that console.

    This indicates that in terms of scale there seems to be a much much smaller market for foreign retro games in Japan than there is for Japanese retro games overseas.  While large numbers of Famicom games are leaving these shores for lands far away, the Japanese don`t seem to have much interest in vintage foreign games.

    This is understandable given the fact that while Nintendo was a massive cultural hit abroad, creating a natural interest in the Famicom among people who grew up with the NES, there was no equivalent American or European game maker back in the 80s or 90s which similarly impacted the Japanese market.  The Atari 2800 and the Intellivision were both massive flops in Japan and after that generation it really wasn`t until the XBox came along that a serious American firm entered the console wars as a major competitor.

    But that aside, the interesting question to me is what the long term effect of the seeming exodus of Famicom games from Japan will be.  On the one hand, there were millions of Famicom games produced back in the day whereas there are probably only thousands of games being exported, so in terms of overall volume the effect might not be so big (though over time it might add up).  

    On the other hand though, it is really obvious that international demand for certain games is having a big effect on the Japanese market.  Gimmick, for example, has exploded in price over the past year to the point that it is impossible to find loose copies going for less than about $200.  The main reason for that isn`t because Japanese Famicom collectors suddenly had a heightened interest in the game, but because it is one of those games that was never released in America and is immensely sought after by folks over there.  

    I hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with that, its great that people around the world have an interest in the Famicom.  I just think it is kind of interesting.  It also makes me wonder if, a few decades from now, Japanese Famicom collectors will have to start buying the best games off of Ebay from American buyers because there are so few copies left in Japan, as Japanese woodblock print collectors once had to do.  Food for thought anyway.

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    OK, got me some complaining to do and since I have a blog, I`m going to do it here.  

    I finally got ripped off in an online transaction!  It happened on Yahoo Auctions.  It was kind of a big purchase so I`m going to whine a bit about it in a transparent bid for sympathy.


    I also thought this would be a useful excuse to do a post about something that has sort of been in the back of my mind for a while – the complete lack of buyer protection on Yahoo Auctions.  So fear not, this post will not be an entirely narcissistic exercise in complaining about first world problems.

    Now, getting ripped off in any deal always sucks, but I`m going to do something I don`t normally do here and actually heap some praise on Ebay and Paypal for a change.  I`ve been an active Ebay user for a few years now (as a buyer) and in the few instances where I`ve had a complaint about a transaction I have always been able to get it resolved to my satisfaction.  A couple of times I have received an item that was either damaged or not as described and both times the seller gave me a refund almost within minutes of me contacting them with my complaint.

    I think the main reason Ebay sellers are so accommodating is that both Ebay and Paypal have pretty effective dispute resolution mechanisms that provide them with an incentive to act that way.  If they ignore a complaint not only will they get negative feedback, but they also run the risk of Paypal forcing them to refund the buyer`s money.  Those are some pretty powerful tools and, while not perfect, I think they do heighten the overall trustworthiness of Ebay as a marketplace.  The downside of course is the fees they charge, but that is another story.

    On Yahoo Auctions it is a completely different story, which I can illustrate by doing a little complaining here.  Basically what happened was this.  A few days ago I was looking for an AV Famicom console only (ie no controllers, cables, etc).  I found one with a BIN price that, with shipping, would set me back about $60.  This was a pretty high price for just a loose console without anything else, but I needed one on short notice so I decided to go for it. It was from a seller I had done business with in the past without problems so I let my guard down and just hit the BIN button, paid for it and waited. And it came.

    When I opened it I noticed right away something was wrong.  It was dirty, which was OK since I had been able to see that in the photo.  What wasn`t visible in the photo was the fact that on the back of the console there was a big chunk of the plastic that had broken off and was nowhere to be found.  Furthermore when I plugged it in I found that it was dead to the world.  No amount of fiddling around would bring it to life: the Famicom was a paperweight.

    I immediately got out my laptop and double checked the listing, which had been put up by bazubazu1023 (AKA douchebag, his store is here: http://openuser.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/show/auctions?userID=bazubazu1023 ).  It did not say anything about it being broken or mention the damage on the back and the price it was being sold at certainly suggested it was a working one.  On the other hand it did not say that it had been tested and the dealer`s boilerplate language said `I sell old stuff, I do not guarantee their condition – judge for yourself by what is in the photo.`  Oh, what a fool I had been....

    No kidding Mr. T, no kidding.  I kind of realized that I was screwed right there but I thought I would send him a message just to see what, if anything, he would do.  As a seller myself I have had a couple of games that I sold get broken in transit and both times I either gave a full refund or sent a replacement at my expense, so I thought at the very least he might apologize or offer at least a partial refund.  All I said in the message was that the Famicom was not working and that there was a broken part on the back that had not been visible in the photo.

    Shortly thereafter I got what I sort of expected to receive – a tersely worded reply saying that I should have read the fine print more carefully.  About the broken part he said it was my fault for not having asked him before making the purchase if there was anything broken which was not visible in the photo.  About the Famicom not working he simply said tough luck, it wasn`t his problem.

    Even though I had kind of expected it, the message was a bit like waving a red flag in front of a bull to me.  I went from calm to this in about 0.00001 seconds:



    I immediately started to familiarize myself with Yahoo Auctions` dispute resolution process in order to determine how I could make some sort of complaint.  This was an extremely easy and quick task for me to accomplish since it turns out none exists.  Basically the guidelines simply says something to the effect of  “Yahoo Auctions does not get involved in disputes between buyers and sellers.  Please just work it out for yourselves…”  (the “…” at the end is actually in the guidelines!)

    So in other words if you get ripped off on Yahoo Auctions by an unscrupulous buyer you have no recourse unless the unscrupulous buyer suddenly becomes a nice guy and gives you your money back. 

    The only thing you can do is leave negative feedback, and you better believe I left some negative feedback.  I have been very reluctant in the past to give anything less than great feedback to sellers on Yahoo Auctions because in another example of them screwing over buyers, retaliatory negative feedback against buyers is not only the norm, but in fact a much stronger weapon than it is on Ebay (where it is not allowed to begin with).

    So I left the guy a negative feedback.  It says

    “This guy is selling broken Famicoms.  I feel like I have been scammed, it is really awful.  Everyone please be careful with this guy.”

    (ファミコンが動かないものを売っている。 非常に、詐欺に会ったような感じで 最悪である。皆さまお気をつけ下さい。)

    Then the retaliation started. First, sellers on Yahoo Auctions have a curious power to “cancel” transactions even on things which have already been sold.  And bazubazu1023 did exactly that.  I would love it if cancelling a transaction meant that the buyer got his money back, but it doesn’t.  All it does is shield the seller from any further communication from you while allowing him to keep your money.   

    Then I got the negative feedback, which pissed me off because I had a perfect record up until then.  It says:

    “This guy isn’t Japanese, he doesn’t understand anything.  I cannot believe you would ignore what is written and leave such a feedback.  Don’t harass me just because you cannot accept things.  You have been blacklisted, I will not deal with this person anymore.”

    (日本の方ではなく文章を理解する事が出来ない方です。記載してある事を理解せずこの様な評価は有り得ません。納得が行かない事を理由に嫌がらせはしないで下さい。ブックリスト入れました。今後一切お取引はありません。)


    “Blacklisting” is an option for sellers on Yahoo Auctions, which basically prevents you from bidding on their stuff in the future (which is fine with me).  The unvarnished racism in the feedback was a nice parting touch from a guy who took $60 from and left me with a piece of garbage.

    And just to piss me off more, Yahoo Auctions actually allows sellers to not only leave negative feedback on a current transaction but also to retroactively recall positive feedback they had left for transactions in the past which have nothing to do with the current one, so my overall score actually went down by two instead of one (I had bought some games from him about a month ago).  It doesn`t work both ways though - he gets to keep the positive feedback I had left him on that transaction. 

    Anyway, the moral to the story is of course buyer beware, especially on Yahoo Auctions.  The system really is out of whack there, to the point that a buyer who has been ripped off not only has no way of making any sort of claim, but can`t even leave negative feedback without suffering reputational consequences of their own. 


    Fortunately I do have a bit of a bully pulpit here, so I am going to dedicate this post to Yahoo Auction seller bazubazu1023.I do so in the sincere hope that this image of Jesus licking his bowling ball, which I have named bazubazu1023, will become the main image one gets when Googling the name bazubazu1023.  Oh and did I mention bazubazu1023, bazubazu1023 and bazubazu1023?  If not I will mention it one more time after this photo just in the off chance that might help with Google`s algorythms or whatever it uses to determine search results.





    bazubazu1023


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    A Week of Garfield is one of those games that if you haven`t played it, you really don`t know what you are missing.

    I am not sure if I mean that in a positive or a negative way. Over on GameFAQs it is one of the worst reviewed games around, getting an average rating of 2/10.  The reason for this is its difficulty.  This is a massively hard and frustrating game.  Garfield is hyper sensitive to being touched and you only have one life so you have a life expectancy somewhat akin to that of a First World War fighter pilot on the Western Front.  This probably explains why it was never released on the NES, despite the character`s massive popularity in the US back in the 80s (ironically in Japan Garfield was never a well-known character).

    That said, it is also one of my favorite games for the Famicom.

    The reason for that I can sum up with a quick anecdote.  I had some American friends over a couple of months ago, two of them were video game fans familiar with the NES.  We played a few of the normal classics - Rockman, Makai Mura, some of the Kunio games, etc.  But the game that got the biggest positive reaction by far?  Week of Garfield. 

    The reason I think can be summed up by the fact that the game is crazy difficult in a way that is just really really amusing.  It is a  side scrolling platformer and you contorl Garfield:



     If it is your first time playing it what will probably happen is that you will move Garfield forward for about 5 seconds, then you will encounter a mouse and a worm.  You will probably accidentally touch one of these which will cause Garfield to do a hilarious looking face plant:

     Then the screen will immediately flash `Game Over` and that is that.

    I`ve never seen people laugh so hard at how bad a game was.  The thing is, Garfield manages to be a bad game whose awfulness actually makes you kind of like it.  Something about the sudden unexpectedness of how fast the game ends just makes it a great group activity.

    To be clear: this is not a game you want to play all the way to the end unless you are a member of one of those Catholic sects that views playing this game as an acceptible substitute for self-flagelation.  You will grow to hate it.  But in small doses, it is hilarious to watch someone play.

    This gave me the idea for a good Famicom party activity - a Kuso game marathon.  A `kuso` game is what Japanese call awful games for the Famicom and other old consoles.  Week of Garfield is a prominent member of the kuso game club.  Platformer kuso games like this generally suck if you play them alone, but in a group they are actually quite fun.

    So if you have a video game get together, I think it would be cool to try to organize some sort of kuso game marathon.  A few other titles that come to mind are Transformers Mystery of Comvoy and Spelunker - insanely difficult games that result in almost immediate death to first time players.

    The built in quick death actually makes these games ideal for parties.  Watching someone play a game they are good at can be, if we are all honest, about as interesting as watching paint dry.  It is fun for the person playing, but for everyone else they are just kind of waiting their turn.  If the guy spends 30 minutes playing Spartan X all the way to the end, that is just going to bore people.

    The fact that kuso games kill you immediately eliminates that - every 30 seconds or so you will be changing turns, meaning that it will be a fast paced activity ideal for a party.  And it also lends itself to friendly mockery of people who die quickly while at the same time giving those people an excuse not to take that personally - it is the game`s fault that they die so quickly after all.

    Related Posts

    Famicom Party Game! Loads of Fun!

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    I have a lot of Famicom games.  Living in Japan I have never noticed much distinction between the ones which were released only in Japan and the ones which were released everywhere - I`ve pretty much had equal access to all of them since I first got into the Famicom about 5 years ago.

    Nonetheless I figured it would be cool to do a post about some of the Japan-only releases that I like.  I`ve chosen 20 of them to highlight in this post.  I thought I would do a `Top 20!` list or something but abandoned the idea.  It is too hard to rank them and there are so many worthy ones that making a list of only 20 is going to leave a lot of deserving ones out.  So this is basically just a list of 20 Japan-only Famicom games in my collection which I kind of like.  Some of them are actually total crap games like Transformers Mystery of Comvoy which I nonetheless like for its awfulness.  Others are actually really fantastic games to play, like Crisis Force.

    In terms of numbers, most of the Japan-only releases are games that are probably of limited interest overseas - Pachinko, Mahjong and RPG games.  I have avoided these in this list and focused on games that were playable without Japanese language and which have something - be it good game play or some bizarre feature - that I thought made them interesting.  Generally I`ve also ignored the super-expensive rare stuff and focused on games that can be found cheap (Crisis Force is about the only game on here that goes for more than $15 or so loose, most of them are way cheaper than that).

    Anyway, here they are, in no particular order.





    Gorby No Pipeline

    This is one of those games that is awesome on two levels.  First, it is a pretty good puzzle game.  In a Tetris/Dr. Mario -ish type of way, pieces of pipe fall from the top of the screen and you have to arrange them so as to make a pipeline pumping water from one side to the other.  Its fun, though it would have benefited from a multiplayer option.  The second way it is awesome is the ....everything else about it.  It is a game named after a Soviet Premier and featuring him prominently on the cover art, birth mark and all.  Enough said.  Awesome game.



    Banana

    This is one of those games which I cannot understand why it was never released on the NES.  It is a kind of Boulder Dash type game in which you dig through dirt in order to collect various things and make it to the end of the screen.  As it is a puzzle game you have to do things in correct order, otherwise you end up trapped.  I like this way more than Boulder Dash though, its just a lot more fun.  The sound effects are really great too.



    Binary Land

    This is another game that should have been released for the NES but for whatever reason was not.  It is actually one of my favorite games and I keep a copy near my Famicom at all times.  You have to simultaneously control two penguins as they move through a maze and arrange it so that they meet at one point at the exact same time.  It is kind of aunique way of structuring a game and it works.



    Armadillo

    This game rocks.  It is a really good platformer, you control an armadillo.  He can curl up into a ball and hurl himself around, which makes for a very unique attempting-to-control-a-game-character experience.   I don't know why this wasn't released on the NES.




    Bird Week

    I wouldn`t say that this is a really fun game to play, but I thought it deserved mention because it is both cute and unusual.  You play a bird who has to feed her young.  The birds are cute.  It is kind of neat.  Therefore I like it!



    Bomber King

    Bomber King is kind of an overlooked game.  If I had to describe it simply, I would say "Bomberman, but not as good."  Actually that kind of sums it up sufficiently.  Not as good as Bomberman, but sometimes I like to play it.


    Crisis Force

    Crisis Force is a really good shoot em up.  The graphics are impressive, almost what you would except from a Super Famicom game.  Unfortunately it is a hard one to come by since it was released relatively late in the console's life and didn't become a huge hit. 


    Devil World

     Technically this isn't a Japan only release since I think it was sold in Europe, but it never made it to the NES in North America so I'm including it anyway.  It has a lot of religious stuff in it, but not in a preachy way.  Its basically a maze like game that looks a bit like Pac Man but has some unique features (notably the need to avoid getting squished against the edge of the screen as the wall moves) which distinguish it.



    Dough Boy

     This is not a fun game to play.  Whenever somebody compiles a "Worst Famicom Games" list, this is on it.  I think this criticism is somewhat overstated.  To be sure, it sucks, but once you get used to it....it sucks a bit less.



    Flying Hero

    Returning to games that are actually fun to play, we have Flying Hero.   I like this game a lot.  You control some firefighters carrying a tarp who have to catch (or bounce) stuff falling out of the windows of a burning building.  The game play feels a lot like Arkanoid actually, but the look is completely different.  You put out the fire by bouncing stuff into the burning windows, which doesn't make much sense but I like that.


    Front Line

     And back to games with a bad reputation.  I actually like Front Line.  You are an infantryman and basically you have to shoot the enemy while running across the screen towards their base.  Thematically it is similar to Dough Boy, but this is a much better game.


    Ganbare Goemon

     I play this game, and the sequel, a lot with my wife.  She had it as a kid and is much better than me.  It is an adventure game and is the only game on this list which requires a bit of Japanese to complete.  It has a really good cooperative mode, which most Famicom games lack.



    Hello Kitty World

    There are a lot of Hello Kitty themed games for the Famicom, but this is the only one I like.  It is conceptutally a bit like Balloon Fight. Kitty Chan is suspended by balloons and you have  to avoid having her (his?) balloons popped.  It is simple and actually not bad to play.



    Hi no Tori

    This game I play more often than any game on this list except for Binary Land.  It is an awesome platformer.  You play Gaou, who basically does a bunch of platformer stuff as he moves in an exciting way from the left of the screen to the right of the screen.  The most innovative feature is that Gaou can vomit up these concrete blocks which he can use to make stairs to climb over stuff.  Its really neat.

    I also like this game for the mood it creates.  Somehow with the limited 8 bit graphics and sound they do a good job of giving it an ancient Japan feeling.  


    Joy Mecha Fight

    This is a neat game.  You control a very unique looking character who bascially engages in one-on-one fights Street Fighter style as he advances.  I haven't played this game enough to actually become good at it, I always use the easy level and never get far.  I like it though.  


    King Kong 2

     There was no King Kong 1 video game, this is actually from the movie King Kong 2, released in 1986 (the game's cover art comes straight from the movie poster).  You control King Kong as he fights screen to screen in an attempt to ultimately rescue his girlfriend.  Its a somewhat enjoyable action game, I haven't seen the movie but apparently it strays from the script quite a bit!




    Route 16 Turbo

     This is a fun game that I play a lot.  It is a maze game in which you control a car that has to navigate various mazes in order to collect items while avoiding being hit by enemy cars that are chasing you.  I'm not sure why it was never released overseas, but it may have something to do with the fact that the walls on one of the mazes are noticably arranged to look like swastikas (which in Japan are a fairly common sight since they are an ancient symbol used to denote Buddhist temples on maps).



    Sekima II

     This game is awesome mainly because it is based on an 80s Japanese heavy metal band who come from another dimension and use heavy metal music to propogate satan.  That is not the story of the game - that is the story of the actual band this game is based on.  Which is totally awesome!!


    Transformers Mystery of Comvoy

    Suckiest game ever.  But I like it.  I was in Osaka last year and my wife and I started playing this game at a retro game shop and that was the moment I realized that sucky games can be fun too.


    Yume Penguin Monogatari

    This must be the most well-known Japan only release on the Famicom.  Its a really good platformer based exclusively on not eating food that is constantly being thrown at you.  It is relatively easy to finish, as evidence by the fact that a guy as bad at video games as myself has actually completed it.



    Star Wars

    The Namco Star Wars game on the Famicom is pretty awesome.  It is a very fun platformer and it has that weird place in Star Wars nerd-dom too since it completely messes up the storyline from the film and introduces all sorts of oddities (Darth Vader turning into a scorpion, a level populated by frogs, etc).


    Takeshi's Challenge

    How could I not include this game?  Worst game of all time or act of sheer genius?  Hard to tell, but this is a must have game.





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    I did a little retro game shopping at an actual store yesterday and made an amazing discovery:  Battle Formula!  And cheap!

    I have been on a quest to find this game for years now.  I have only come close on two occasions.  The first time was a couple of years ago when I visited the Mandarake in Kitakyushu, which had a copy in their glass case for I think 12,000 yen or so if I remember.  I couldn`t afford it so passed, but oh how I wanted it.

    The second time was about 3 months ago when I bit on a copy on Yahoo Auctions.  The copy in question was pretty beat up, with a bit of damage on the front and a completely messed up back.  I dropped out when the bidding got up to about 8,000 yen or so, I don`t know how much it ended up going for.

    There are a few reasons I have wanted this game so bad.  First, it is one that I need for my full Famicom set.  Second, look at that cover art - it is totally awesome.  Third, it is a pretty cool game.

    So when I found it there - a copy in perfect condition no less - for a mind blowing 3000 yen (about 30$) tears of joy came to my eyes:
    I don`t know why they were selling it so cheap, the game is easily worth 5 times that.  I think this was just another case of me lucking into a really cheap find - the first time this has happened since good old Omocha Souko closed down almost 2 years ago. 



    I think Battle Formula might be the hardest regular game in the Famicom catalogue to find if you exclude all the limited edition, gold version, not-sold-in-stores rarities.  There is only one copy of it on Ebay, compared to three copies of Recca and about a billion copies of Gimmick!  On Yahoo Auctions there is also only one copy, going for 15,000 yen.  So I am super happy to be able to cross this off my want list without having to take a bank loan or anything.

    I am however left with the problem of not having a suitable display case or anything for this beauty, which I think is now the highlight of my Famicom collection.  My apartment is so crowded I just can`t do my carts justice display-wise.

    I think I need to get some sort of special case to keep it in that will properly reflect the high regard I hold this baby in.  I am currently leaning towards something along the lines of this:


    I would need to hire 4 full time Ark-bearers with this option though, not to mention the cost of supplying them with the proper outfits and accoutrements.  This is a bit out of my price range now, so my copy of Battle Formula will temporarily be stored in a box on a shelf until I figure out what to do with it. 

    Anyway, I`m so happy about this!  My goal of collecting all the Famicom carts has passed another milestone!




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    Almost the minute I finished making my recent post about 20 Japan only releases for the Famicom which I like I was already coming up with titles that I realized should have been on it.  So I`ve decided to add another post here with some of the other great ones that slipped my mind.

    I should note that my definition of `Japan only` is a bit loose here.  Some of these were released in Europe or had later releases on other consoles sometimes under other titles.  Some, like Yume Penguin Monogatari are `pure` Japan only releases that never made it anywhere else on any console other than the Famicom, while others might not have reached that level of exclusivity.  What they all have in common though is they weren`t released on the NES in North America.

    Anyway, here we go, in no particular order.


    Battle City

    This game is awesome.  The only reason it wasn`t on the top of my previous list is that I didn`t know it had never been released on the NES.  How could they not have released this game on the NES?  You control a tank and it is probably better than controlling a tank would be in real life, even if you could use it to run over the car of a neighbor you don`t like with it or something fun like that. It plays a bit like a puzzle game almost, you have to figure out how to position yourself so as to best defend a little base against enemy tanks blasting their way through varying maze-like screens.  Really really fun.

    Door Door

    This is a really awesome game that I have had a copy of for a while but only recently gotten into.  It is a kind of puzzle/platformer in which you have to open and close doors in order to trap enemies.  You wouldn`t think a game about opening doors would be much fun but it actually is. It is another one of those games that my wife played as a kid and she is much better at it than I am (her friend down the street, Sumire chan, had a copy of it and she used to go over to play it at her place.  I have learned a lot about Famicom history via stories of Sumire chan, who I have never met and probably never will.  Life is interesting like that sometimes....)



    A Week of Garfield

    This game is insanely difficult.  Since I did a post on it recently I won`t add much to what I wrote there, except to say that this has my favorite character death face plant of all.




    The Goonies

    I have no idea how I forgot to put this in the first list, I love this game.  In addition to being a kind of cool platformer, this game is notable for having an awesome 8 bit version of Cindy Laupher`s theme song from the film as background music.



    Gradius 2

    This is a really awesome horizontal shoot em up. I like the first Gradius a lot, but this one is even better. I have never gotten anywhere close to finishing it but maybe someday....



    Warpman

    I like this game a lot.  It is a sequel to a game called Warp and Warp, which was released overseas but which I have never played.  This one only got a Famicom release.  It is hard to explain in words, basically you play Warpman and you have to shoot enemies.  Yup, I suck at accurately describing video games in a way that allows you to mentally visualize what the game-play is like.  Sorry, that is why I don`t do many reviews on this blog. 

    Anyway, one thing I really like about this game is that it has a cooperative multiplayer mode which allows two people to play simultaneously, which is quite fun - especially as every time you shoot the other player (who is on your side) he gets temporarily zapped.


    Super Arabian

    I have to admit I am a bit unclear if this was strictly speaking a Japan-only release as apparently there was an earlier game called `Arabian` released overseas which sounds similar.  Anyway, assuming it was, this is a cool game.  Platform arcade style - it kind of reminds me a bit of Popeye. 

    Anyway, those are a few more Japan-only releases.  I will definitely be doing at least one more of these posts as I just noticed Sky Destroyer on my shelf.....

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     I got some little itty bitty Famicoms in the mail yesterday!

    Look how small that is!  It fits in the palm of my hand like it was nothing.  So cute!!

    And look the Super Mario Bros cart isn`t just a molded part of the Famicom, it actually comes out and is so tiny:
    This is part of the Nintendo History collection, a series of Gachapon (capsules) that are sold in vending machines.  There were six Famicom themed ones released and I got the whole series off of Yahoo Auctions a few days ago, still in their original capsules:

    Each comes with a little explanatory booklet:
    There is also an AV Famicom one:
     The details are awesome, the controllers actually plug into and out of it like on a real one, and the cart slot flaps open and close so you can put a copy of SMB3 which came with it in:

    The FDS is pretty cool too, it hooks up to the Famicom just like a real one:

    My favorite part about them is probably that they are almost perfect sized Famicoms for vintage Star Wars action figures

    Too bad they don`t have a little TV to play it on.

    I also got a Wild Gunman set (which comes with three teeny weeny carts - Wild Gunman, Duck Hunt and Hogan`s Alley), a Family Basic and a Square Button Famicom.  I might put pics of them up in a future post.

    I really like these things, I have to find some imaginative way of displaying them....

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    I came across a little 10 yen (10 cent) bargain the other day, an original chirashi (flyer/mini poster) for Sky Destroyer by Taito. 

    It is in pretty rough shape, wtih a crease down the middle, some wrinkles here and there and some surface wear on the pilot`s face. Still I count this as a pretty cool purchase.

    Sky Destroyer was a Japan-only release on the Famicom that never made it to the NES.  Somehow I forgot to include it on my recent overview of Japan-only releases.  It is not a bad pilot-perspective shoot em up. The gameplay is somewhat similar to After Burner, only not quite as good.  I still like it though, the graphics are a bit primitive but in their simplicity they make the screen look pretty cool.

    I guess it is pretty obvious why this was never released outside of Japan - you are flying a Zero in World War 2 and trying to shoot down American planes.  No way in hell that would have been released anywhere but Japan, unless they reversed the roles.

    Anyway, politics aside I`ve always really liked the cover art on the Sky Destroyer box (and by extension my new chirashi). 

    It has the perfect balance of color - the blue sky, green plane, yellow border and pink lettering of the game title.


    This was one of the early Taito series that came numbered.  Sky Destroyer is number 5 in the series.  The back of the chirashi has an ad for the first four, Space Invaders, Chack n Pop, Front Line and Elevator Action:

    Actually all of those also have really awesome cover art.  I have Chack n Pop and Space Invaders CIB and they are both pretty cool, especially Chack n Pop.  Elevator Action in particular is a game that I really want to find CIB and to get a chirashi for.  The artwork on that one is even better than Sky Destroyer and probably one of the best out of the entire Famicom catalogue.

    For now though I have put my Sky Destroyer chirashi in a little frame next to my DC Cab movie poster, which is by far the coolest thing that I own.  I think they go well together.

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     I bought this limited edition version of Choujin Ultra Baseball off of Yahoo Auction the other day, mostly out of curiousity. 

    I wouldn`t normally bother buying a baseball game, but this one is of mild interest from a Famicom collector`s point of view.  Note the little red circle there which says `Tereka tsuki Gentai Hin` - Limited Edition, comes with telephone card.
     This was a special release of the game that came packed with a phone card.  Collecting phone cards is a kind of popular hobby in Japan since over the years lots of them have been issued with various artwork on them.  I don`t collect them but I see them for sale from time to time.  I am guessing they must be on the wane with everyone having cell phones today, but in the 90s they were pretty commonplace.
    Anyway, my copy of Choujin Ultra was almost CIB but not quite - the Telephone card had been removed.  I did a bit of looking around and found quite a few of these almost CIB copies of it on Yahoo Auction, all of them with the phone card removed.

    It seems the phone cards, which have the game`s cover art on them, are a prized collectible among both Famicom and phone card collectors, so over the years pretty much every CIB copy of this game (there seems to have been a few cases of them that survived as dead stock) has had the phone card removed.  An almost CIB copy of this game goes for about 2-3$, but the phone cards go for more like 15-20$ each, so it is by far the most valuable part of the game. 

    I can`t really get too excited about owning a phone card, so I haven`t bothered picking one up.  But if you are a purist, I suppose you would need one in order to truly have a CIB copy of this game.

    Anyway, that is just another random, extremely minor piece of Famicom collecting trivia that I stumbled across recently and just thought I would put it out there!

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    Of all the game boxes released for the Famicom I think the original Namco series of its first 18 games are my favorite.  They are small, made of cardboard and they have some awesome cover art.  Perhaps more important, in terms of inspiring me to collect all of them, as the above photo demonstrates they also look really cool when displayed together!

    After a few important pick ups that I made over the last few months, I am really lose to finishing the set with 15 out of 18:


    As you can see from the photo the ones I am missing are:

    5 Galaga
    11 Burger Time
    17 Valkrye no Bouken

    Galaga and Valkrye are actually pretty easy to find and don`t cost too much so they shouldn`t be a problem.  Burger Time is a tougher one to find CIB and usually sells for more, but I should be able to find that pretty easily too. In fact I could probably just buy these all right now off of Yahoo Auctions, but as usual I like to wait patiently for a bargain to come along.

    Some of these are not truly CIB - Battle City and Sky Kid I don`t have the manuals for and the boxes on them are pretty rough so I`d like to upgrade those at some point. 

    I have a lot of trouble deciding which one is my favorite.  Warpman is a really recent acquisition so I am currently quite taken with it.  THe blue and orange cover art just looks really awesome:

    Battle City is pretty cool too though, as is PacMan and Sky Kid. 

    As always I am left with the question of how to properly display these in a cramped Japanese apartment.  I envisage these someday getting a wall rack that will adequately show them off, but for now I have to keep them in a box since I don`t have the wall space.  Someday....someday....

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    I was looking through some old photos earlier today and I discovered the above shot.  This was taken in November of 2008, more than a year before I started this blog, and is the very first photo ever taken of my Famicom collection.

    That was the entirety of my collection about a week after I got the Famicom, about a dozen games.  Its actually a pretty good selection - I still play most of those games (except for Dragon Quest 2, Jarinko Chie and Mach Rider).  Clu Clu Land was the first game I bought, picking it up off the racks at 007 in Fukuoka. 

    I have to admit that collecting Famicom games was way more fun then than it is now.  Knowing too much about something can kind of ruin it a bit.  At the start all I knew was that there were more than a thousand games out there and that I had only played about a dozen of them, meaning everything else was new and interesting. 

    Now I have about 800 Famicom games in my collection and I know most of them (at least most of the ones that I am interested in playing).  I find that I have to step back from the Famicom every once in a while and just not play it for a month or two.  Then I try to approach it with a fresh slate and pretend that I know nothing about the games.  I actually have more fun that way, it sort of re-creates that feeling of being new to the system again.

    I also kind of like this photo because the games and Famicom are laid out on the floor of our old apartment that we moved out of just a couple of months before I started this blog. It was a truly awful apartment but it was also the birthplace of my Famicom collection so it has a certain pride of place in my memory.  I notice that the photos on this blog feature a lot of the flooring of the apartment that I lived in after that (which I lived in for 3 years) and my current apartment, but didn`t have any of that one, so I thought I would remedy that here.

    Cheers to you, my old old apartment and to being a Famicom newbie!

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    I just got back from a business trip to good old Fukuoka.  I head down there every once in a while and whenever I do I try to visit some of my old retro game stores.  In October I was able to pay Mandarake a visit and this time I was able to visit one of the old stores that I used to regularly visit: 007

    Actually, I can`t really call it 007 anymore because the place was taken over by the chain Manga Souko and now goes by that name.  There is another Manga Souko in Dazaifu which I used to visit and had a great selection of Famicom games the last time I visited a couple of years ago so I was kind of interested in whether they would have changed anything.

    In fact though it was basically the identical store just with a new name.  Which was kind of nice in a way.  007 is a special landmark in my Famicom life since it was there that I bought my very first Famicom cart ever, a copy of Clu Clu Land. 

    That said, sadly I found that while racks of Famicom games were still there, they now have way fewer games than they did when I visited the store for the first time about 5 years ago.  This was basically it:


     That might look OK, but this is how many they used to have (and the below picture only shows about half of what they had):


     They still had a glass case for the good games, though they put some really odd games in there.  Why on earth they think Super Chinese 3 is a rarity that needs to be protected behind glass is a myster to me.  Mind you, 007 used to do the same so this isn`t really a new thing:

    I do like the blue lighting and the little pictures of Famicom consoles, which were both there back when it was 007.


    One odd thing they had was a TV with Rockman 3 hooked up.  I could hear the awesome BGM playing and it drew me to it.  I wanted to give it a play (playing video games in stores for some reason is way funner than playing them at home) but for some reason they had two PS1 controllers uselessly hanging down in front of it and no Famicom or Famiclone ones.

    So it was kind of a bittersweet return to 007 for me. I`m glad that even though it is under new management the store basically looks the same, but a little sad that the Famicom selection is nowhere near what it used to be (and they didn`t have any Famicom consoles or controllers either this time). 







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     Famicomblog is, for the first time ever, reporting to you live from North America!  Specifically from the frigging cold city of Toronto.

    I am in Canada on the last leg of a work-related trip at the moment.  I`ve had a pretty good time so far.  I am originally from Ontario and this is the first time since the 1990s that I have been back so its kind of fun and a bit nostalgic for me.  And China Town has turned up some really cool souvenirs:

     But of course what I really want to write about is video games.  My first day when I was walking down the street just a few blocks from the CN Tower I saw this in the window of one store:


    Wow, a Famicom in the wild in Canada!  So awesome.  As you might expect this turned out to be a video game shop, but unfortunately at the time I was in a hurry and didn`t have time to wander in so I didn`t get the chance to see what it was like inside.

    My second day, however, while I was walking down Spadina Avenue on my way to the subway station to make a meeting I spotted this place:
    A & C Games, beckoning to me with that SMB paintjob on the brick work and the promise of being able to rediscover rare and vintage games.  Oh man, was I interested.

    I made a point of dropping in once my work was done and I`m kind of glad I did.  This was the first time I have ever visited a retro game store in North America and I have long been curious to see what it was like.

    The store was pretty decent in terms of size and selection.  It isn`t too big but they cram a lot of games from a lot of systems in there:
     They had a Famicom system (you can kind of see it on the top of the shelf in this photo) and a CIB copy of Metal Gear, but that seemed to be the only Famicom stuff they had out.

     Thy did have a pretty decent pile of NES games, both loose:



    And CIB:
    The staff were quite nice and helpful too.

    OK, now that I have said all the nice stuff about the shop I have to get into the elephant in the room:  the prices.

    Holy crap!  I had no idea that retro game stores were so expensive in North America!  Readers from that part of the world, I am so sorry.  I just didn`t know.

    My first clue that the games in this store might be a bit on the pricey side came when I noticed the other customers entering the shop:
    "The Lady will have that copy of Paperboy and I will take Megaman 2.  My party will contact your party to arrange for payment, I assume you accept bullion?"
    The second clue came when I looked at the shelves of NES games, which blew my mind.  On most of the games the prices started at ten dollars and just went up from there, which is kind of crazy to me.  In Japan, the prices at most game shops start at about one or two dollars per game and it is only the really popular or hard to find stuff that goes for more than ten bucks.

    As I was reeling from the sticker shock one of the staff asked if he could help me with anything.  In reality he was a pretty nice guy in a sweatshirt, but in my mind I felt like I was being confronted by the snooty waiter from Ferris Bueller`s Day Off:

    "You're Abe Froman? The Sausage King of Chicago?  I don't think so.  Get away from those Genesis games."

    I asked if he had any Atari 2600 games and he hauled out a huge plastic container with a couple of hundred  random loose carts in it. 

    "Great." I thought to myself, "this must be their junk games, they probably sell these for some fixed price and I can find a deal in there."

    "Just consult with the guy at the front about the price of these."  He said.

    "Oh."  I replied, feeling a sense of doom.

    I picked out a few games that I knew were really common and took them to the guy at the front.  "How much for these?"  I asked.

    He looked at them and then started looking stuff up on his computer, which I thought was a bit odd.  After a couple minutes researching them he told me it would be 10 bucks each for some and an astounding $19 for a loose copy of E.T., possibly the worst and most common game ever made.

    "Ummmm"  I said, feeling obliged to buy something "I'll just take this one" and grabbed a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark which I could have gotten for $4 off of Ebay.

    I'm so weak.

    Anyway, I feel bad to be complaining about the store because they seemed like really good guys running it and I actually don't mind dropping 10 bucks to support a place like that.  Still though, holy crap.  I SO appreciate living in Japan now and I am SO sorry for having ever complained about any prices in any Japanese retro game shop on here.  I had no idea what it was like elsewhere until now.

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