Saturday, April 28, 2012

Star Wars Power Droid Wanders Aimlessly Around Town

Da dee dooo dee dum
Not really Famicom Related but what the hell.  I love my Star Wars Power Droid Action Figure so.   These photos work best if you imagine he is singing as he moseys around like this.
Watch might get what your babies....strange but not a stranger.....I....AM...AN....OR-DI-NA-RY GUY...Burning down the house

And I think its gonna be a long long time til touchdown brings me round again to find I`m not the man they think I am at home oh no no no I`m a rocket man...ROCKET MAN--- burning out his fuse up here alone....
Oh the Camptown Ladies Sing this Song Doo Dar, Doo Dar.....
Never gonna give you up, Never gonna let you down, never gonna run around or desert you....Never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie or hurt you.....

I got something to tell you....I got something to say....I`m gonna put this dream in motion...Never let something stand in my way....When the going gets tough....the tough get going.  Woooh

Shiny Happy People me in the crowd people...people....throw your love me....
With a load of iron ore 26000 tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty...That big ship `n true was a bone to be chewed when the gales of November came early.....
If you`re blue and you don`t know where to go to why don`t you go where fashion sits.....puttin` on the ritz.....
I meet her in a club down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Cherry Cola....C-O-L-A Cola.....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lights Out Omocha Souko

Three years ago the entrance to Omocha Souko looked like the above photo. Bright and lively. Today it looks like this, dead and dark:

Omocha Souko was a special place
From the excitement of the Famicom chace

To the agony of missing a cheap deal
That made me cry over a meal

When that place the retro gamer called heaven
Was lost in 1957*

*(actually lost in 2012, but its hard to find a word that rhymes with twelve and I was stealing this from a poem about Ebbets field which closed in 1957 and....anyway, never mind).

I have been meaning to do a final post in my series on the closing of Omocha Souko for over a month now. Before I could do that though I felt I needed one event to occur so as to bring a sense of closure to me, that event being the store actually closing.

I had to wait a while for that to happen because in typical Omocha Souko fashion (for all my love of the place it really was poorly managed) they couldn`t even go out of business right. After telling everyone they were going out of business on April 1st they just kept the place open for a few weeks longer in an attempt to get rid of whatever remaining crap they could sell.

The long, drawn out process was a pathetic site to see. A store slowly deteriorating - shelves emptying and not getting re-stocked, displays getting knocked over and nobody bothering to tidy them up.
It had a sort of poetic quality to it (hence the above poem.), with all the broken pieces nobody wanted left to sadly await their fate on the shelves. Headless nymphs:
Armless ballplayers:
Fallen angels:
And....all of this stuff:
The saddest site though was the once mighty glass showcase where they kept the nice Famicom games. It once boasted pride of place and had some actual good games in it but in the final days was basically tossed aside into a corner, with what meagre fare that remained not deemed valuable enough to even warrant locking the door anymore:
And the remaining merchandise was in the process of being crated up for transport to the Shingu store:
When the place finally closed a few days ago instead of feeling sad I actually felt a bit relieved that it had been put out of its misery. Which is a shame because I really do miss the place. Omocha Souko was the first place that I ever saw a Famicom game at, on my very first visit to the store just a week or so after it opened in 2008. They had a mountain of Famicom carts, thousands of them, in a huge pile at the top of their elevator. It was an amazing thing to see. There was a sign saying 300 yen each next to the pile. I didn`t know what they were at the time having never seen a Famicom before. They were clearly video game cartridges from some 1980s system, but other than that I knew nothing, except that they looked incredible in all their colorful glory and that I wanted them. It was from that moment at the top of that Omocha Souko escalator that I became hooked. A couple of weeks later I bought my first Famicom and the rest is history.

So on that note, this will be my last post about the place. Omocha Souko Fukuoka Honten: I salute you. Thanks for all the memories. And the games.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Kind of Sort of Almost Valuable But Not Quite Famicom Games

As I have been inching ever closer to my goal of collecting all of the Famicom carts ever released I have been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I have picked almost all of the low hanging fruit in the console's catalogue.  F1 Race?  Got it.  Baseball?  Got it.  Mahjong?  Got, like, 12 of it.

The sad fact is that a lot of the remaining games on my "need it" list are the expensive ones.  This has forced me to move out of my "comfort zone" of buying mostly games that cost less than 1000 yen each and start getting some of the "glass case" games from my local shops.
The good news is that unlike the Atari 2600 and some other consoles, the Famicom collection doesn't include many impossible to find holy grails.  Well, there are a few.  In the above photo for example among those Famicom carts (bottom row, 3rd from the right) is a gold copy of Hot Scramble for 44,000 yen (over 500$).  There are a lot of rare variants of some carts like that (Rockman 4, Kinnikuman Muscle Tag Match and Obake QTaro Wan Wan Panic are others) that they only made a few copies of for some promotion and thus sell for obscene amounts, but they don't count towards the basic set. 

Anyway, having broken down and started to spend some real money I have put together a modest but respectable little pile of "semi-expensive" Famicom carts:
None of these are particularly expensive, but they are all games that usually sell in the 2000-6000 yen (25-80$) range, which is about as high as I can go right now. 

 The best cart I have is probably this one here:
Good old Gimmick.  Ironically it is the one I got for the cheapest out of all of these and the only one I have CIB.

One of my most recent acquisitions was this baby:
Guevara!!!  I got this at Manga Souko last week for 2500 yen, one of the highest prices I've ever paid for a Famicom cart.  I've wanted it for a long time though.  They have one at Mandarake for 3000 yen and I have been eyeing it for years.  Seeing it for slightly cheaper at another shop was enough to push me over the edge and take the leap.

My second most valuable game (according to the Japanese market at least) is probably this one:

Idol Hakkenden.  You have probably never heard of it.  It is an obscure little RPG about a teen pop idol.  I don't know why it is expensive (007 has a loose copy in their glass case for 5800 yen, Manga Souko has one for about 4000), perhaps because it is pretty hard to find.  I never play it but I like it a lot, the cover art just looks really cool.

Anyway, those are my good ones.  Oh except for Magical Doropie which I forgot to include in the photos.  To end, please make note of the fact that the copy of Spartan X 2 in these photos looks quite nice.  Last month I bought a brutally sun-faded copy of it at Omocha Souko.  I wasn't overly happy with that so when I saw a nice copy of the game at Manga Souko last week for almost the same price I decided to pick up a replacement copy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fripp the Entertainment Shop: Another Decent Place for Famicom Games

During my recent efforts to broaden my Famicom hunting grounds since the closure of Omocha Souko I stumbled across another decent game store, Flipp (actually spelled `Fillippu` in Japanese) the Entertainment store.

This shop is out in Ohashi (there is a map here for anyone interested). I actually found it by accident while riding my bike in the area. From the outside it looked more like the kind of place that would stock only newer games but I decided to have a look inside in the off chance that they might have a Famicom game or two lying around.

I`m glad that I did as it turned out that they had a pretty decent selection of Famicom and Super Famicom games on a shelf at the back of the store:
They have about 200 to 300 Famicom carts nicely arranged on the shelf.
Each cart has a label with the game name and price on it. Most shops don`t give that much attention to the price tags like that, so I give them points for going the extra mile.

I also like it when games are lined up in rows like this, it makes them quite easy to flip through quickly.

Their selection and prices are pretty good too:
580 yen for Super Mario USA is pretty reasonable, and 100 yen for Super Xevious (the gold cart on the right in the above photo) is a very good deal.

I ended up bringing a basket to the cashier full of Famicom goodies:
The highlights for me were CIB copies of Exed Exes (300 yen) and Sweet Home (980 yen), which were both very good deals for those complete like that even though the boxes were a bit rough. A little trick of the Famicom-collecting-trade that I have learned is that some shops (like this one) charge the same price for a game regardless of whether it is boxed or loose and those places can turn up some CIB treasures from time to time.  Those prices are about average for loose copies of those games, but for CIB copies they were absolute bargains. I particularly like the Exed Exes box with its bold colors - a true Famicom classic.

So if you are in town and looking for another decent place for Famicom games, I give this place a thumbs up. The only downside is that they don`t have much retro hardware and the only non-Famicom/ SFC/ Game Boy games from those generations I found were a couple of loose Mega Drive carts - so if you are looking for PC Engine stuff or any of the rarer early systems (Sega Mark III, etc) they unfortunately don`t have any. Still though, if you are looking for some decent priced Famicom carts its not at all a bad place to visit.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Famicom Rocky: Best Manga Ever

In addition to Famicom games I also like to collect other random Famicom stuff from back in the 80s.

Most of this stuff, like the box of Amada mini cards I bought last year, I just stumble across in my travels without having even been aware that it existed.

Today I found one such thing while browsing the aisles at Mandarake. Allow me to introduce Famicom Rocky - the most amazing* manga ever published. Ever.
I found it in their comic section which has thousands of books that I have never heard of. I don`t know how I found it but somehow it managed to grab my attention.

This was published back in 1985 and, with the possible exception of the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour, constitutes what must be the most shameless example of art-as-nothing-more-than-blatant-medium-for-product-placement in world history.
The basic premise is that the main character, Rocky, is a young genius with the Famicom who is faced with various challenges in each issue that all somehow involve him playing the Famicom well in order to defeat the bad guys.

Each issue features a different game. After purchasing it I had a seat at a cafe, ordered a coffee (well, actually I ordered a coffee then took a seat at the cafe but...not important) and read the first chapter, which had its own story arc.

The story in this one involved the game Star Force, the cart of which appears on page 23:
I thought this was a little interesting because the Famicom Star Force cart looks like this:
The cart in the comic on the other hand looks a lot like Championship Lode Runner:
Being the anal retentive nitpicking type this bothered me. Why did they draw Star Force like that? Then I realized that from an ease-of-drawing perspective Championship Lode Runner scores quite highly relative to Star Force, which would probably be one of the more difficult carts out there to draw accurately. Championship Lode Runner you could probably draw in about ten seconds while a good depiction of the Star Force cart would take a lot of time and effort to get right.

This made me wonder if there may have been some tension between the story writer and the illustrator on this point. Perhaps the conversation would have gone like:

Writer: `OK, the next issue is going to involve Rocky playing Star Force well in order to defeat the antagonist`s evil plot. Got it?`

Illustrator: `Fantastic! Love it! Oh, but you know what? I love that idea, LOVE IT, that sounds dyn-o-mite! about if instead of Star Force we do Championship Lode Runner? Huh? Yeah, you know what I mean! Championship Lode Runner, high five! Oh Yeah!` (raises hand to do high five)

Writer: (not returning the high five) `No, we`re doing Star Force.`

Illustrator: `Oh OK great, no problem at all. I LOVE that Star Force idea. Umh....just totally out of curiosity have you ever actually seen the Famicom Star Force cart?`

Writer: `No, what does it look like?`

Illustrator: `It looks like Championship Lode Runner.`

Anyway, the story I read was pretty damn awesome. The bad guy has planted a bomb in a hospital where Rocky is visiting his friend. The bomb will go off in one hour - which doesn`t leave enough time to evacuate the hospital`s many patients. The only way to find the bomb is to play to the last level of Star Force. This is no ordinary copy of Star Force though, for after completing the last level a map will appear on the screen showing the location of the bomb.

Normally finishing the game in an hour would be impossible but Rocky is aided by a new Famicom Joy Stick (3900 yen, kids, tell your moms):
And he plays his guts out, wins and saves the day. The end. So exciting!

Anyway, if this manga sounds at all intriguing to you then I have good news, an English translation of the first couple of stories is available online! After returning home I did a little Google search and discovered Pepsiman`s post here on Giant Bomb in which he introduces Famicom Rocky and presents his own fantastic translation. The story in my copy which I summarized above isn`t on his site (I bought volume 2 in the series), but you have to check his stuff out, its quite good.

I hasten to note that my glowing review of the comic is meant to be taken in a somewhat ironic manner. Pepsiman`s review, told from the perspective of someone who probably isn`t as enfatuated with Famicom stuff as I am, is perhaps a bit more objective:
The character designs are hideous, turning what are supposed to be kids of an indeterminate age into adults with profoundly strange proportions. The writing is so vapid and the plot so stupid that they take what might have been a good-dumb premise in better hands and just turn Famicom Rocky into abysmal-bad.

Seriously though, I think a copy of Famicom Rocky is a must have for any serious Famicom collection!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Manga Souko: A Very Good Famicom Shop

As I mentioned in my previous post I ended up visiting a Famicom shop that I had never been to the other day. That shop lies WAY down south on good old Route 31. To get there just keep heading south. Pedal along until you think you are going to die of exhaustion. If you see an old F5 fighter plane (correction: F-1 fighter plane) on your left you are on the right track, probably only a dozen more kilometres to go:
The shop`s name is Manga Souko. Like my old local shop Omocha Souko it is a chain of stores that sell recycled toys, comics, clothes, movies, CDs and video games.

When I go to video game stores for the first time I always get nervous as I walk in the door. If you don`t know the store and, like me, are only interested in retro video games then the odds are stacked against you finding what you want. The possibilities are:

1) They don`t have any retro games at all;

2) They have retro games but not a very good selection;

3) They have retro games but their prices are too high;

4) They have a good selection of retro games AND their prices are reasonable.

Most of the time you will find the shop falls into category 1, 2 or 3. It is the cross that all retro game collectors in Japan, nay the world, must bear.

Not this time though. I am happy to say that Manga Souko falls decidedly into category 4! I was so delighted!

Take a look at this massive Famicom section they have:

Hundreds of different titles! Most of them quite reasonably priced!

I was like a kid in a candy store. Pure giddiness.

The great thing about visiting a new store with a huge Famicom section like this is that even if, like me, you have hundreds of games they probably will surprise you with a few you have never seen before. With the game shops that are on my normal `rounds` I know their selection pretty well so I rarely find games that I don`t have or know about.

At Manga Souko though I was able to pick up a surprisingly large number of games that I needed, some of which I had never seen before.

Let me show you around the place a little bit.

They have quite a few consoles, though disappointingly no Famicoms (save for the one in the junk box I mentioned in the last post). They had lots of Super Famicoms, a couple Mega drives, Game Cubes and some other more recent consoles nicely packed up though:
Their Super Famicom section was pretty good too:
As was their Game Boy section:
And they had an interesting showcase full of vintage toys that I thought looked quite neat:
They also had a very nice glass case with some of their `good` Famicom and Super Famicom games:
Happily I had enough on me to buy a few games out of that!

This here was one of the store`s more interesting features:
In one part of their Famicom section they have arranged the games according to the `top 100` rankings. This follows the rankings made by Famitsu based on a reader vote a few years ago. I put the whole list at the bottom of this post for reference for anyone interested. Here you can see the top 3, Dragon Quest III, Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3:
Tower of Druaga came in at #56:
And rounding the list off at #100 was Gradius II:
Anyway, to say that I went crazy would be an understatement. This is what I got:
A whole basket full of Famicom carts, what an image of beauty! This was actually me exercising self-restraint, I could easily have filled two of these up with stuff I wanted to buy but the two hour bike ride back home convinced me to limit myself to the one basketload.

I`ll probably do another post to highlight some of the new additions to the collection later.

Since I get a few readers looking for info on local Famicom shops from time to time, anyone who is interested in visiting this particular shop just go here:

View Larger Map

To end this post, I present the top 100 Famicom rankings according to Famitsu (courtesy of Sketz at HardCore Gaming 101 who originally posted it here in a comment a while back):

1) Dragon Quest 3
2) SMB
3) SMB 3
4) FinalFanatasy 3
5) Dragon Quest 4
6) Dragon Quest 2
7) Dragon Quest
8) Legend of Zelda
9) Mother
10) Mario Bros (not SMB)

11) Final Fanatasy
12) Kirby
13) Kunio Kun no Jidaigeki dayo Zenin Shuugou (Kunio in Feudal Japan)
14) Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku Soreyuke Dai Undoukai (Kunio sports)
15) Spartan X (Kung-Fu)
16) SMB2 (lost levels)
17) Nekketsu koukou Dodgeball Club (Kunio Dodgeball)
18) Final Fantasy 2
19) Fire Emblem Ankokuryu to Hikari no Ken
20) Sanma no Meitantei

21) Xevious
22) Ice Climber
23) Spelunker
24) Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania)
25) Gradius
26) Goonies
27) Captain Tsubasa
28) Konami Wai Wai World
29) Metroid

30) Takeshi no choujin (Takeshi "Beat" Kitano game)
31) Final Fantasy 1+2
32) Portpia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken
33) Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun (Renegade)
34) Bomberman
35) Ganbare Goemon
36) Wizardry
37) Donkey Kong
38) Hokkaidou Rensa Satsujin Oho-tsuku ni Kiyu
39) Pro Yakkyu Family Stadium (baseball game)

40) Twinbee
41) DR Mario
42) Metal gear
43) Excitebike
44) Fire Emblem Gaiden
46) Dai 2 Ji Super Robot Taisen
47) Tetris
48) Rockman 2
49) Kunio Kun Soccer League

50) Rockman
51) Captain Tsubasa 2 Super Striker
52) Ikki
53) Kinnikuman Muscle tag match (M.U.S.C.L.E in the West)
54) Star Soldier
55) Dragon Ball Z
56) Tower of Druaga
57) Dragon ball Z 2 Gekishin Freeze!!
58) SD "Gundam" Gachapon
59) Dragon Ball Z Gaiden Sayajin Zetsumetsu Keikaku

60) Adventure Island
61) Ghosts 'n' Goblins
62) Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari
63) Hatori Kun
64) Metal Slader Glory
65) Lode Runner
66) Waganland
67) Balloon fight
68) Famicom tantei club 2: Ushiru no shoujo kouhen
69) Valkyrie no Bouken Tokinokagi densetsu

70) Momotaro Densetsu
71) Akumajou Densetsu
72) Zelda 2: Adventures of Link
73) Momotarou Dentetsu
74) Contra
75) Meikyu Kumikyoku Milon no daibouken
76) Rockman 5
77) Rockman 3
78) Hanjuku Hero
79) Dragon Ball Z 3

80) Famista 89
81) Famicom tantei club 2: ushiro ni tatsu shoujo zenpen
82) Kaiju monogatari
83) Famicom Wars
84) Family Jockey
85) Rockman 6
86) Dragonball
87) Rockman 4
88) Ganbare Goemon 2
89) SD Gundam Gaiden: Night Gundam Monogatari

90) Legend of Kage
91) Sweet Home (pseudo-prequel to Biohazard)
92) Famicom Jump
93) Yoshi's egg
94) Dragon Ball 3
95) Famicom tantei club kieta koukeisha kouhen
96) Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
97) Famicom tantei club kieta koukeisha zenpen
98) Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu
99) Gundam Z Hot Scramble
100) Gradius 2