Friday, August 26, 2011

Famicomblog Sells Out

As I'm often complaining about on here, my apartment suffers from an acute lack of shelf space. Its a complete nightmare trying to store stuff in a Japanese apartment, they are just so small. The addition of a dog to the family - which has brought an avalanche of new products (many of them designed to remove pee stains from various types of fabric) - has further upset the already delicate shelf space/worldly possessions balance.

Something had to give and that something has been the massive quantities of surplus Famicom stuff I have accumulated over the years. Everything must go. Well, not everything. My hallowed collection of 670 unique Famicom carts (and counting) stays. But if I want room for the remaining 400 or so that I need to complete the entire set, the doubles have to go.

So I finally got off my ass and figured out how to set up a paypal account. And my first sale, to Michael over at TechSquid, went quite well.

So, feeling emboldened, I've decided to set up a little sales page over at Famicom World. I promise this will be the only time I use this blog to plug stuff like this, but I've put up a couple hundred games and other odds and ends so if you are looking for some Famicom games I might have them there.

I'll probably update it once in a while if things go well, I have a ton of other stuff that I just haven't gotten around to sorting out yet. My loft has been transformed into a huge mess with all the sorting, photographing, etc. My advice is to never get as many Famicom carts as I have - they are just such a headache to deal with.

No wait, I'm getting off message. I should be encouraging you to buy stuff - go, buy! Lots of games. Look into my eyes, look into my eyes: you want to buy lots of Famicom games!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I've got those Famicom Disk System Blues....

Are you the type of person who just doesn't have enough frustration in life? Do you enjoy disappointment? Thrive under annoying circumstances?

If you answered "yes" to all three of the above questions, a Famicom Disk System would be perfect for you!

Alas, I answered "no" to all three. I was so happy when I just had my Famicom carts to collect and play with. Good old Famicom carts. They almost never break. If they do, all you have to do usually is blow on them. Easy solution. And if the game label says "Super Mario Bros." then that is what game you are going to get.

Since I got my functioning FDS a few weeks ago though things have changed, man (may I call you "man"?). As the above photo indicates, I now have three copies of Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Famicom Disk System. Until this morning I only had two. Neither one of which worked. Error 27 all the way, baby.

I found another copy of it for 100 yen at Omocha Souko today. For 100 yen I figured what the hell, even if there is only a 1 in 10 chance of it working, its still worth the shot.

I just got it home. Guess what? Yup, it doesn' t work.

Link I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried....I can't get NO (duh duh duh da duh duh)....FDS Satisfaction!

Sigh. At least I can probably boast the largest collection of non-functioning copies of Super Mario Bros. 2 out there. I guess that is something!

But not to worry, I also bought a Kinnikuman game for the Disk System which was also 100 yen!
See, it even says Kinnikuman on the Disk label (er, that bunch of Japanese writing in red says "Kinnikuman"):
Cool, so I'll just pop that in there and enjoy a cool game of....
Scramble Wars? What the hell is that?

Ah, some kind of Gundam themed game. Oh well, better than nothing!

I remember watching an episode of Famicom Dojo once where the discussed this problem - FDS disks that were re-written with other games. But you know, buying one yourself is just one of those things you never think will actually happen to you - until it does.

So remember: unless you answered "yes" to the three questions above, be very wary about purchasing a Famicom Disk System. And don't do drugs. That's all the advice I got.

Related Posts:
- I Nearly Died Getting a Twin Famicom Today
- 80s Girls and the Famicom: Miho Nakayama's Tokimeki High School Idol Hotline

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anatomy of a Japanese Video Game Store's Retro Section

In a comment on a recent post Bryan raised the question of which consoles Japanese retro game shops generally stocked the most games for. I thought that would make an interesting question to devote a post to, so that is what this post will be about.

I took my camera to good old Omocha Souko's retro game section and basically photographed each console's section. I only looked at consoles they had at least a few games for, so unfortunately some consoles (Sega Master System, Epoch Cassette Vision, Virtual Boy, etc) aren't included. I also didn't look at any systems more recent than the Dreamcast, mainly because this store keeps its PS2 games and everything since then in the "current" game section.

Using these criteria, we are left with ten consoles: the Playstation, Famicom, Super Famicom, Gameboy, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, Mega Drive, Neo Geo, PC Engine and Nintendo 64.

So here we go. I'll run down the list starting from the smallest and working our way up to the largest in terms of games they have available. First up is:

10. Neo Geo
Omocha Souko probably has the worst Neo Geo section out of all the game stores that have Neo Geo games (most don't have any). Just these few boxed games, almost all of them on the bottom row being copies of the same game. All boxed, none loose.

9. PC Engine
Yup, three PC Engine games. That is their entire stock of loose PC Engine games. In fairness they did have more, but I bought about half of their stock (ie three games) a couple weeks ago.

Their PC Engine section would have come last in the list but for their boxed section:
Not a lot - in terms of both quantity and quality - but at least they have a few!

8. Game Boy
These are all the Game Boy games they have. They have a small number of boxed ones in addition to this elsewhere.

Omocha Souko has an unusually small Game Boy section, most game shops this size would have several times more. I happen to know why they have so few. Last year they did this sale where they gave you a basket and you were allowed to cram as many retro games into it as you could for only 800 yen. It was one of their best sales ever, I did a couple posts on it. To really get your money's worth, size was important. You could only fit about a dozen or so Super Famicom games into that basket, but you could easily get a hundred or so Game Boy games. So naturally everybody (myself included) crammed their baskets full of Game Boy games. By the end of the sale they only had a few left, so the section in the above photo really just represents how far they have come since then in rebuilding their stock.

7. Sega Mega Drive
They have about 30 or 40 loose Mega Drive carts, and a larger number of boxed games:
The Mega Drive is one of the few cart based retro consoles where it is more common to find boxed rather than loose games, on account of them coming in sturdy plastic boxes. This is actually only part of their Mega Drive boxed section, they have a couple dozen more on another shelf. You'll note though that the selection is not that good, they have endless copies of Puyo Puyo and Monaco Grand Prix for some reason.

6. Dreamcast
They have a pretty good shelf full of Dreamcast games here. I'm not sure how the quality goes, its not really my console, but the prices are pretty cheap (100-500 yen each).

5. Nintendo 64

This is their loose N64 section. They have a boxed section as well which I neglected to take a picture of, but that adds a fair number to the total.

As an aside, the Nintendo 64 is the one console that I have officially ceased purchasing new games for due to the fact that I have actually acquired all of the games I am interested in for it. I have this section to thank for most of them, including Perfect Dark, which was the last one I wanted.

4. Sega Saturn
They have a pretty sizeable Sega Saturn section. The above photo shows half of it, they have an identical shelf that is also full of Saturn games.

3. Playstation

Their Playstation section is pretty big, though it used to be much bigger (all of it is in the above photo). Playstation games are basically the cheapest games you can buy there on a regular basis (ie without relying on any special sales or anything). You can kind of see in the above photo that some of them are bundled together in packs of five games. Those 5 game bundles only cost 200 yen each - which works out to 40 yen (about 50 cents) per game. You tend to get a mix of good and bad ones in each. Since they started doing that their Playstation section has shrunk dramatically, it used to take up about three times as much space.

2. Famicom
As I noted in a post last year, their Famicom section now is a shadow of its former self. When I first visited 3 years ago, they had thousands of Famicom games. Now they probably have a thousand or so. They have rebuilt their stock a bit since that earlier post, but it is still far from its prime.

Basically they have one aisle with games hanging on pegs from both sides:
They also have a few in a case near the cash register, but not many.

1. Super Famicom
I don't think it would be too much of an exaggeration to say that Omocha Souko is drowning in Super Famicom carts. They are everywhere. On the wall in the above photo, in another aisle here:
In crates scattered throughout the store:
Boxed copies on shelves:
And more shelves:
They are just everywhere. These photos only capture some of their stock. Thousands and thousands of games. Even when they have blowout sales people will only buy a smattering of Super Famicom games.


So there you have it - the top ten most heavily stocked video games in a relatively large retro Japanese game store. I think this is a good representative ranking, except for the Game Boy which would normally rank a bit higher at most stores.

Related Posts:
-Why Japanese Retro Game Shops are so Much Better Than North American Ones
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 1: 007
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 2: The Decline and Fall of the Famicom Empire
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 3: Mandarake
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 4: Flea Markets Brought to you by the God of War
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 5: Don Quixote and Village Vanguard
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 6: The New 007 and Hakozaki Flea Market
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 7: The Other Omocha Souko
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 8: The Cheapest Famicom Carts in Town
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 9: Wanpaku TV Game

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day at a Japanese Game Center: One More Reason Arcade Fans Should Visit This Country

In addition to amazing retro game shops, I suppose one of the other things Japan is famous for among video game enthusiasts is its game centers.

Its pretty well known that arcades have been in decline around the world for a long time, and while that trend is also observable in Japan (declining population = fewer young customers), there are happily still a ton of cool arcades in every city.

I didn't used to go to arcades very often though. Not because I didn't enjoy them but more because it was hard to stomach slapping down 300 yen (about 4$ with the current exchange rate) to play a game for five minutes. I mean, I've paid less than that for entire consoles.

That all changed for me recently though when I found out about Round 1 downtown. It is a massive 8 floor complex full of games. The best part though is that they have an all-you-can-play fee structure. 1400 yen (about 18 bucks or so) will get you three hours of unlimited play on all the games they have on the 3rd, 4th and 8th floors.

So the missus and I went over on our day off yesterday for a few hours of fun.

It is a really great place. I was a bit worried that there would be huge lines at the popular games or that they wouldn't have a good selection on those floors, but was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case. They had a huge selection and even the popular ones didn't have lines (and if someone was using one you wanted to play, you could always just play one next to it until it became free).

They had baseball games:
Motorcycle games:
Ball throwing games (this was my favorite):
And a ton of other favorites a la drumming, dancing, guitar playing, racing, shoot em up and other genres that I didn't take pics of. All free once you paid the entrance fee. The eighth floor was actually the roof, which had batting cages, a basketball court and other outdoor sports games. The third floor also had non-video game entertainment in the form of billiards, darts and ping pong. We tried just about everything. It was awesome.

The entrance fee also got you 2 free tries at the UFO catcher (we didn't get anything) and 20 coins for the entertainment area, which is full of casino like games. We spent ours on this thing:
You basically just shoot your coins into there and try to knock other coins off and into your cup. Basically it is a no-win game, but as it was free we enjoyed it for about 10 minutes.

Unfortunately what Round 1 is lacking in is retro video games. They had a Gradius 4 machine, but that was about as far back as they went. Still though, this type of place is another must-visit for video game fans who land on these shores.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Retro Handhelds: Tomy Programingdigipro Powerman

This is the other present my wife gave me for our anniversary, the Tomy Programingdigipro Powerman handheld.

Seriously, "Programingdigipro" is actually in the name, all in one word on the top of the box:
This is one of those really really not-famous handhelds. There is precious little in English about this out there on the internet, so I thought I might use this post to introduce a few facts about it. The box and manual themselves don't provide a great deal of info in terms of the year it was released or anything like that, so I had to do a bit of research.

After a little looking around in Japanese I pulled up this (fantastic) page that features original Tomy handheld video game system catalogs from the early 80s. It really is a must-see item if you like things that are stupendously awesome.

My new Powerman handheld is to be found in there in the October, 1982 Tomy Omoshironics catalog, which gives its list price of 5,970 yen:
This describes it as a completely new "Monster game" on a "color LCD". This mantra is repeated on the box, which advertises "Pure color":
I suppose back in the day when all LCD displays were basically monochromatic, being able to display things in red, blue and black (as this game does) was a revolutionary breakthrough. If they hadn't drawn my attention to it though I probably wouldn't have noticed.

It is, I should hasten to add, a pretty cool game. You basically control a "Powerman" who has to navigate in a maze-like environment and capture little monsters (which are red) and take them back to your home base at the bottom of the screen without yourself being captured by one of the several big monsters out hunting you. The gameplay isn't too hard and I have rather enjoyed playing around with it.
Mine was complete in the box, with this kind of cool instruction manual:
The monsters look nothing like that in the game of course.

The console has a fair number of buttons, which is not necessarily something I like in a handheld, but they actually work pretty well:
I really dig the look of the thing, actually. Even before I found the catalog I had a feeling just looking at it that this was something made in 1982. This just looks so 1982. It is definitely not a 1981 thing. It just doesn't look 1981. Nor does it look 1983. 1982 though? Yup, that is where this thing is at.

Related Posts:
-Retro Handhelds: Bandai Gekisen U-Boat LCD Solar Power

Friday, August 12, 2011

Retro Handhelds: Bandai Gekisen U Boat LCD Solar Power

This week is my anniversary. Hooray! Anniversaries mean, of course, presents. This is our eighth, which according to Gormley's Wedding Anniversary Gift Guide is the "Handheld Gaming Device" Anniversary. Lucky for me!

To mark the occasion my astoundingly awesome partner purchased not one but two amazingly awesome retro handhelds. The first was the Bandai Gekisen U Boat LCD Solar Power (long name, I know).

This game was released in Japan by Bandai in 1982 as part of a series of solar powered handhelds. You can see a contemporary catalog ad for them here. I believe that these were also released in North America with just the Japanese lettering removed.

My copy is in perfect mint condition:
It unfolds into a picture of blue perfection:
I love the fact that these things are solar powered. I've been playing it all day and the panels are quite effective - the thing doesn't need to be directly under the sunlight to work, a room with adequate lighting or indirect sunlight will do.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the main advantage is that it saves you the hassle and expense of buying batteries. The downside is that you can't use it in a dimly lit room, but that isn't much of a problem for me.

It is a pretty decent game. There are two levels. In the first level you are a sailor in a submarine that is sinking after being hit by a depth charge dropped from a destroyer. The game actually begins with a primitive "cut scene" of that happening:
Water gushes in at various points and you have to move the sailor around to plug the leaks. The leaks spring in rapid succession from the start, so it is merciless on beginners but once you get the hang of it its pretty fun.

After achieving 500 points, the game switches to level 2. In that game you take control of the submarine and try to sink the destroyer that is dropping depth charges on you.

As of yet I have not gotten to 500 points on level 1 so I don't know how fun that is, but I'm pretty psyched about trying it out.

My second present was another retro handheld, I'll do another post about that one soon.

Related Posts:
- Mario Bros. Game and Watch Hits the Road
- The Unveiling: Donkey Kong Hockey!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fukuoka Famicom Shops IX: Wanpaku TV Game

Yesterday I was on my bike doing some errands in the Ohashi area of town. I like that part of the city, it isn't in the main downtown area, but it has its own centre of gravity and some nice shopping areas with cool restaurants and stuff. Unfortunately it is pretty far from my place so I don't get out there very often.

As I was cycling in that area I came across a long-forgotten Famicom store: Wanpaku TV Game. The last (and only) time I had visited this shop was about two years ago when, like today, I had just stumbled across it while on my bike. That time I was with my wife and we were on our way home from a day trip, but she allowed me to pop in for a look.

They had a semi-decent selection of retro games at the time and I remember purchasing a boxed copy of "Aero Gauge" for the Nintendo 64 because it was cheap (about 200 yen) and looked like it might be a decent game (its kind of mediocre actually).

So I was quite pleased when I came across this shop again, so I parked my bike and, as I luckily had my camera on me, spent a few minutes re-acquainting myself with the store.

One thing that I really like about this shop is its location. Directly below a darts bar and right next to a pachinko parlor:
I spotted one of those Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary posters in the window, I really have to get one of them for myself:
Here is the front entrance, not particularly impressive but about what you'd expect. Wanpaku TV Game is an extremely small store in comparison to Mandarake or Omocha Souko:
As I walked in, the lack of activity in the store was overwhelming. No customers at all and a lone employee, a young man who looked to be in his early 20s, sitting hidden behind some display racks at the counter reading a comic and paying me absolutely no mind. That must be the best job in the world, assuming of course that he doesn't own the place.

The vast majority of their stock is, unfortunately, current gen games. They seem to have reduced their retro game section considerably since my last visit, or perhaps it was never that big to begin with:
They only had a couple dozen Famicom games, all of which I already had. The prices were about average, no bargains but nothing too expensive. Smaller shops like this rarely have the blow out prices that bigger ones offer on occasion. They had another similar sized rack with Gameboy and Nintendo64 games, but there wasn't anything exciting there either. They didn't have a single retro console for sale.
In the end I walked out without making a purchase, but it was kind of fun to re-acquaint myself with this place. Mainly I think it was nice just because the shop reminds me of the pleasant day trip I had just had when I first discovered the place.

Related Posts:
-Crazy Climber and the Perils of Collecting Loose Famicom Carts
-Why Japanese Retro Game Shops are so Much Better Than North American Ones
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 1: 007
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 2: The Decline and Fall of the Famicom Empire
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 3: Mandarake
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 4: Flea Markets Brought to you by the God of War
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 5: Don Quixote and Village Vanguard
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 6: The New 007 and Hakozaki Flea Market
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 7: The Other Omocha Souko
- Fukuoka Famicom Shops 8: The Cheapest Famicom Carts in Town

Monday, August 8, 2011

Famicom Ads: GeGeGe no Kitaro and Kinnikuman

One thing that I really love are retro game and toy advertisements. They are the sort of thing that really invoke that feeling of nostalgia, perhaps even more so than the actual games and toys themselves. These are the things we used to peruse with longing eyes as children. One of the first things I do when I find an old comic book from the 70s or 80s is to look at the old toy ads.

Famicom Freak over at Retro Gaming Life has put up a lot of posts with old North American game ads, mostly for the NES or Gameboy, that are quite fun to look through. In addition to the nostalgia factor, the ads also often possess creative qualities that are just as good as, if not better than, the art on the game boxes themselves.

As for the Famicom, Disk-Kun has put up an amazing selection of handbills for a lot of Famicom games, which are great fun to browse through. And Youtube of course has a ton of great TV commercials for the Famicom, this video collection here is probably the best. Great fun.

What you can't find too much of on the internet though is ads for the Famicom that appeared in other media. The print ads that appeared in comics and magazines and that sort of thing.

I've been trying to find some of these by scouring used book stores for magazines and comics from the 80s that might have them. Yesterday I was at Mandarake when I found these two publications for 100 yen each:
These are titled "Manga Matsuri" and are basically illustrated pamphlets for animated films that were released in 1985 and 1986 respectively. According to the Famicomblog resident expert on 80s Japanese kid's culture (ie my wife) the studios would promote these films every summer by giving free tickets to kids that were only valid if accompanied by an adult (who would of course have to buy a ticket). As most of them were geared towards boys, however, our resident expert didn't go to them.

Anyway, the main reason I picked these up was because on the backs of each are ads for Famicom games based on characters in these animated films. The back of the 1985 one has an ad for the Famicom Kinnikuman game:
As I've noted before, I really like the cart for this Kinnikuman game, even though as a game it leaves a lot to be desired. I like this ad a lot too, it is very colorful. They released quite a few toy tie-ins as well, such as the Kinnikuman Battle Royale ring:
They actually have one of these for sale at Mandarake now. It costs significantly more than the 3,800 yen it went for back in 1985. Because it is so awesome. It even has a cassette tape. That is how awesome it is.

This also features an ad for a Captain Tsubasa handheld which looks really cool:
Bandai released quite a few handhelds like this based on characters which also appear on Famicom games. They are quite collectible these days, though I'm still partial to the Nintendo Game and Watches.

There is also an ad for a GeGeGe no Kitaro board game:
Which looks kind of neat and acts as a nice lead in to the ad on the back of the 1986 Manga Matsuri, which features the Famicom game GeGeGe no Kitaro:
What I particularly like about this ad is that the vertical writing in big letters says "Lets put a circle around the items you want!"

You'll notice that the advertisers have already gone ahead and put a circle next to every item on the page. Very helpful of them.

Anyway, GeGeGe no Kitaro cost 4,800 yen back in the day. Today you can pick a copy up for about 300 at most stores, but it is a pretty good game:
The controller add-on is a much more interesting part of this ad. I've never seen one of these before. It is called the "Super Controller", which unfortunately makes it an exceptionally difficult thing to do a Google search for due to the fact that any search with the terms "Famicom" and "Super" in it will just get you a bunch of Super Famicom links. The only thing I could find in an image search was this French site which has a picture of it but not much more. At 800 yen for a set of two, it might not have been a bad deal though.

Anyway, there you have it. Some Famicom ads from the past. Hopefully my travels will turn up more of these in the future!

Related Posts:
-M.U.S.C.L.E. Men and the Famicom: Kinnikuman Muscle Tag Match
- Sqooner or Later You Should Give Sqoon a Try