Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Childhood Video Game Stash has been Found!

 Been a while since I last posted.  Am still alive and well.  Thank you very much.

In September I made a trip back home to Canada with my family in tow to visit my parents.  It was the first time back in quite a while for me (and my son`s first time ever).  After getting over the emotional greetings, etc one of the first things my parent`s said was "There is a huge stack of your junk in our garage.  Do something about that."

While most of my childhood possessions are long gone, a selection of my old treasures has somehow managed to survive multiple moves over the decades and remain packed up in plastic bins at mom and dad's place.  And as I happily discovered while going through the boxes my childhood video games were among the survivors.

My NES Action set, still in its box, was among the first things I fished out (but forgot to take a picture of).  I didn't have a chance to plug it in so not sure if it still works, but along with it I also found my complete library of NES games, pictured above.  Double Dragon III, Shinobi, TMNT, Operation Wolf and the SMB/Duck Hunt cart that came with the console.  Yup a grand total of 5 carts that I put together over several years.  Sitting as I am now on a pile of hundreds of Famicom games, its hard to imagine how I managed to get so much entertainment out of these 5 carts back in the day, but I remember very clearly that I did.  The fact that these cost $40-$50 each in 1980s dollars, which represented several months worth of allowances for my 10 year old self no doubt explains that.

In another box I found an earlier era of my childhood video game collection, my Commodore Vic-20, complete with all the games.
 My dad bought this in about 1982 at Canadian Tire, which at the time included its own store-branded software set with each purchase. I still have the Canadian Tire card that it came with, which I think is really neat:
 The Vic-20 operated games either in cartridge form or in tape cassette form if you had the Cassette Unit, which we did (and still do).
 The computer itself is built into the keyboard and I remember we used to have it hooked up to a 14 inch TV in our kitchen throughout the early 80s.
 My joystick!!  Covered in dust but still existing after all these years.  Oh the fun I had with this.  That fire button hasn't been used to shoot on-screen aliens in about 25 years. 
 These are the cartridge games I had.  All of them except Visible Solar System I played a lot. As you can tell, I liked space themed shooting games as a kid.  I wish they had made a Famicom version of Gorf, that was an awesome game. 
 Still had the manual for Avenger in the box, its basically Space Invaders.
 This was our cassette tape software.  $99.95 for 6 cassette tapes.  In 1982 Canadian dollars that represented a fairly major family purchase.  I didn't play these as much as the cartridges since they took longer to load, but I remember having fun with some of these.
 Ah the Cassette Unit. 

I also found in the box a pile of floppy disk games for the Apple IIC, the computer that eventually replaced the Vic-20 as our official family computer in about 1987 or thereabouts.  While I had saved the software for it, the Apple IIC itself is no longer around, probably a victim of its own bulkiness.

I'd like to say that I was able to hook these up and play with them but I unfortunately didn't have time.  Nor did I have space in my luggage to bring them back to Japan with me.  I can at least say, however, that they are still safe.  After some negotiation with my parents I was able to secure the continued use of some storage space in their garage for the indefinite future (in exchange for my agreement to get rid of a lot of other stuff: sorry baseball card collection and all of my old books).  So they remain in Canada, awaiting my return.  Someday I shall return for you, childhood video game collection, and we shall play together again, probably when my son is old enough and my apartment big enough to house you.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Checking in

It has been a few months since my last post.  If anybody is still reading, don`t worry, I am not dead.  I am just a father.

My son is now 10 months old and the old saying about your children becoming your only hobby because they kill all your other hobbies is basically true.  I don`t think I have played any video games since he was born (save testing some that I sold, but basically that just involves me putting the cart in to see if the game loads and no more).

To be honest, I haven`t missed them much - playing with the little guy and watching him grow day by day is by far the funnest thing I have ever done.  Suddenly I find myself finding it hard to imagine having a hobby that wouldn`t include him.So now my hobby is reading Thomas the Tank Engine books to a little guy who can`t speak yet but absolutely LOVES it when I make a toot-toot sound for Thomas.  Hard to beat that.

Blogging is, along with video games, one of those hobbies that has had to take a back seat as a result, hence the lack of posts here.  At the moment he is sleeping so I have a few minutes before I pass out from exhaustion to compose this post (ever tried spending a day carrying a 10kg bag of potatoes around?  Give it a try and you`ll understand).  I`m not sure how often I will be able to post though, mainly because I haven`t got much to write about. Its incredibly difficult to generate content for a video game blog when you aren`t playing video games.  I am not declaring the blog closed though, I have too strong an attachment to it to do that.  When my son gets old enough to play I might start back into video games again. I hope he`ll like the Famicom classics because thats what we`ll be playing.  And maybe that will generate some interesting material for posts.

In the interim I will try to find some time to devote to posts whenever I have a minute.  I do at least get the chance to stop at game shops on the way home from work once every month or two.  I don`t buy stuff much anymore, nothing like the glory days in Fukuoka 4 or 5 years ago, but I still like to look.  When I find something interesting, I`ll try to let you know on here!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some Famicom Playing Cards - Mach Rider Style

 Famicomblog is not dead!  Its owner and curator does, however, have a 6 month old baby at home to keep him occupied, leaving precious little time for blogging. 

I do have a few minutes to spare here though so I thought I would use it to introduce one of my more interesting Famicom ephemera additions - a pack of Mach Rider playing cards.

These are pretty neat, they seem to have been issued by Nintendo back in the 1980s.  I am not sure how many different games they released packs of cards for, but I have also seen Spartan X ones out there.  They come in a nice plastic Family Computer case that is blue on the bottom with the Nintendo logo in the middle:

Open it up and you have a deck of cards ready to play poker or whatever:

If your pack is new like this one it will also come with a special stamp on it:

There used to be a tax levied on playing cards and these stamps, issued by the government, had to be applied to all decks of playing cards as proof that the "Trump Tax" had been paid.  You don't see playing cards in stores with these stamps anymore so I assume the tax was abolished at some point, but I think it adds a layer of interest to these cards.

I will try to start updating the blog a bit more regularly from now on but we will see how that goes.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Minor Quibble with the Festering Cesspool of Racism that is Japan's Yahoo Auctions

Rant time.  Sorry, but I'm pissed.

I was cruising Yahoo Auctions earlier today and was about to put a bid in on a Famicom game from this seller by the name of gs76u87o.  

Then I stopped because I wasn't allowed to.  Not because I have any problems with my feedback.  Not because I couldn't pay promptly.  Not because of anything I had done or would do.

The reason I couldn't put a bid in on the game was because gs76u87o is a piece of racist garbage.

If you can read Japanese and take a look at any of his listings, he openly states that he won't deal with foreigners.  Note that the language makes it clear that he isn't referring to people living overseas - which would be OK since most sellers only ship within Japan for a variety of legitimate reasons.  No, he means anyone who is not ethnically Japanese he won't deal with regardless of where they live.

While not in the majority, it is disturbingly common to find this sort of racism being openly displayed by sellers on Yahoo Auctions.  It probably doesn't get commented on much since these things are always written in Japanese so most foreigners don't notice and it has less visceral impact than seeing "Japanese people only" written in English..   

It pisses me off that Yahoo Japan - a major company if there ever was one - allows this open type of racial discrimination to go on.  If an Ebay seller put up a condition saying "Only white people can bid on my stuff, if I find out you aren't white, I will leave negative feedback and blacklist you" you can imagine the shitstorm that would happen.  That guy would not have an Ebay account for long.  On Yahoo Auctions though it is totally OK and good luck trying to complain about it.

This sort of shit is, while not an everyday thing, something that foreign residents of Japan do have to put up with in various situations.  The only time it ever really causes a stir is when the perpetrators make the mistake of expressing their racism in English - as was the case with the incident in the photo at the top of this page (which occurred at a pro soccer game - the team actually allowed that banner to be hung in the stadium for the duration of the game and were only punished by the league after an outcry following the photo showing up online). 

So anyway, what was my point?  Fuck you  gs76u87o I guess is obvious, but also fuck you Yahoo Japan for allowing this shit to exist on your service that I AM FUCKING PAYING YOU TO PROVIDE TO ME and have a LEGITIMATE EXPECTATION THAT MY ETHNICITY WILL NOT PRECLUDE ME FROM FUCKING USING IT.

Sorry for the all caps, but that really needed to be emphasized.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Famicom Price Information Part 2

Last week I presented a list of sale prices from a massive auction that is taking place on Yahoo Auctions of CIB Famicom games.  The seller is putting up over 1000 CIB Famicom games (which would be almost all of them, possibly all) at a rate of 300 per week.  In the first sale, 88 of the games fetched prices over 5000 yen and I listed alll of those.  The highlights were Recca Summer Carnival and Battle Formula, which both sold for a little over 100,000 yen each.

Yesterday round 2 of the auction finished and here I present the same thing - a list of the prices of all the games that went for over 5000 yen.

This week the results weren't as spectacular as last, in part because there were fewer big ticket items in this one. Only 57 games went for over 5000 yen, and most of those went for under 10000 yen.  Not a single game went for over 50,000 yen in this week's group, but there were a few interesting highlights.

First off, the number one game was probably one you have never heard of - Karaoke Studio Top Hit 20 Vol. 2 - which went for 46,000 yen.  That is a game made for the Karaoke Studio microphone accessory and is extremely hard to find CIB (or loose for that matter).  One interesting aspect of that game landing at number 1 is that it is a game that is probably of no interest to people outside of Japan.  One question people have been asking is the degree to which Famicom game prices are driven mainly by foreigners buying stuff up.  A karaoke game like that, which is more or less unknown outside of Japan and of little interest (its all in Japanese) almost undoubtedly went to a Japanese collector, so the domestic market seems to be driving the prices too.

Number 2 on the list was the much more familiar Battletoads, which went for 30,000 yen (A few years ago I sold a CIB copy of that game for just $35, albeit with a rougher box.  I could kill my previous self for that act of stupidity).

There were a few games whose prices went for higher than I would have thought.  Prisoner of War is a bit hard to find, but it surprised me to find it in the top 10 selling for more than Over Horizon.

A few games actually sold for prices which might be considered quite cheap.  Barely making hte 5000 yen cut this week was Uchu Keibitai SDF at exactly 5,000 yen.  That is a pretty popular and, while not rare, it isn't particularly easy to find.  It must have slipped under the radar. 2010 Street Fighter and Abadox also went for lower than I thought they would.

Its also evident that new stuff was selling for a premium as most of the new games sold for prices higher, relative to the popularity/rarity of the game, than I would have thought.

The seller hasn't started round 3 yet but when he does, I'll post the results here.

Karaoke Studio Top Hit 20 Vol 2 46000
Battletoads 30000
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 29000
Solbrain 27500
Metal Storm 23200
Prisoner of War 22600
Over Horizon 21000
Goal! 20500
Eight Eyes 18300 New
Metal Fighter My 16500
Reigendoushi 16000
Yancha Maru 3 15550 New
Robocco Wars 14500 New
Samurai Pizza Cats 14500
Crisis Force 14500
Ninja Crusaders 12600
Kyouryuu Sentai Juu Ranger 12500
Guardic Gaiden 12100
Terminator 2 11700 New
Yancha Maru  11500 (with stickers)
Millipede 11100
Donkey Kong (Silver box) 10001
Saiyuki World 9851
Holy Diver 9850
Gun Nac 9850
RAF 9750
Akumajou Densetsu 9750
Wanpaku Kokun no Gourmet World 9038
Dragon Fighter 8750
Cosmo Police Caravan 8590
Duck Tales 2 8250
Layla 8020
Donkey Kong Jr (Silver box) 8000
Juju Densetsu 7800
Eggerland 7780
Magic Candle 7350 New
StarGate 7250
Duck Tales  7100
Gundam Wars (Datach) 7000 New
Western Kids 6950
Double Dragon 2 6851
Door Door 6750
Abadox 6500
Kamen no Ninja 6250 New
Yancha Maru 2 6080 New
Akumajo Special Boku Dracula Kun 6050
Chigoku Kyokuraku Maru 5800
Ice Climber  5750
2010 Street Fighter 5730
Sweet Home 5500
Tiny Toon Adventures 2 5251
Flying Hero 5250
Ultraman Club Kaijuu Daikessen 5250
Saizou 5220
Zombie Hunter 5100
Uchuu Keibitai SDF 5000
Ultraman Club (Datach) 5000 New

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Yasuda Fire & Marine Safety Rally: Oh God, What Have I Done?

 Last night the two massive cardboard boxes pictured above arrived at my home.  They were heavy, I had to lug them in one by one from the doorway after the deliveryman, who had used a push cart to get them to my place, dropped them off.

I left them in our spare room until this morning when I cut them open and out poured:

Obviously, Famicom carts.

These two boxes between them contained 440 Famicom carts, which is by far the most I have ever acquired at one time. 

Why would I, a person who already has a gigantic mountain of Famicom carts, buy 440 more of them?  This is where the ridiculous calculations of the serious (but woefully underfunded) collector come in.  As it says in the blog description, I am actively trying to put together an entire set of Famicom carts. That is an expensive proposition since a few of the games are seriously rare and expensive to find.

Out of the 440 carts in these two box, 438 of them were ones that I already had.  Of the remaining 2 that I needed, one was relatively easy to find on its own, but the other was one of the rarest and most expensive Famicom carts out there and basically it was the sole objective I had in mind when bidding on this lot.

Meet the newest addition to my Famicom collection.  Yasuda Fire & Marine Safety Rally. 
 This game probably has a bit of an interesting story to it but I have to admit to having some trouble tracking down what exactly that is.  It was not sold in stores but rather it was distributed by the Yasuda insurance company in 1989.  It seems there were probably only a few hundred distributed.  Beyond that, the Japanese language internet isn`t telling me much - particularly I am interested in finding out how it was distributed.  Looks like something that might have been given out at a company event a la Pepsi Invaders for the Atari 2600 but I`m not sure.

Originally the game came with a plastic case and a map.  Finding one complete, particularly with the map, is extremely difficult and there may only be a handful in existence.  Loose copies like mine are a bit easier to come by but still command top dollar on their own - consensus seems to be in the $300-$500 range.  Mandarake has a copy with the box, but no map, for 84,000 yen while Super Potato wants 170,640 Yen for a copy with both box and map.

So these prices were way more than I could possibly justify spending on one game.  On 440 games though I could sort of justify dropping a somewhat sizeable load of cash, in the hope that by selling the 438 that I don`t need I could get back most of what I spent.

So I can cross one of the big ticket items off of my list of needed games.  Oh and if anyone is in the market for Famicom games, uh (cough cough) , I`ll probably be updating my sales thread over on Famicom World with about 438 or so carts sometime soon.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Interesting find: Atari 2800 Discovery?

I just picked the above Atari 2600 game up off of Yahoo Auctions.  Gangster Alley is the name, shooting is the game.  I am always on the prowl for Atari 2600 games to feed to my (admittedly difficult to use but nonetheless much beloved) Atari 2800 system.

This random Atari 2600 game though I think might be a really interesting discovery, a piece of video game history that I haven't been able to track any information down on the internet.  It therefore intrigues me and I want to write a bit about it here.

First to rewind a bit.  The Atari 2800 was Atari's disastrous attempt to introduce the 2600 to the Japanese market.  They chose 1983 to do so, the same year the Famicom came out.  You can guess who won that battle.  So few Atari 2800s were sold that it is quite a rare console to find today.

The 2800's lifespan was so short that only 30 titles were officially released for it.  These were all Atari 2600 carts that had Japan-specific boxes and manuals made for them, which are pretty cool and, like the console, very hard to find.  Well, the loose carts are indistinguishable from 2600 carts, so really its just the boxes and manuals for the games that are rare.

This brings me to my new copy of Gangster Alley.  Take a look at this list of Atari 2800 games.  Note that Gangster Alley is not on it.

Now take a look at that box.  Note that everything about it is the same as the Atari 2600 box for that game.  Except the lower right hand corner, which has a label which says:

ビデオゲーム カートリジ

("Video Game Cartridge for use with the Atari 2800")

This seems to have been an Atari 2600 game that did not get a re-make for its box art but nonetheless was released in Japan for the 2800 with just a sticker applied to the box.  I have looked around the internet, both English and Japanese (incidentally Japanese people almost never write or blog about the Atari 2800, it was that unpopular here) but haven't been able to come up with any information about this.  It makes me wonder what other Atari 2600 games in addition to the standard 30 might have been released here.

Any Atari experts out there know anything about this?