Monday, April 14, 2014

Cool Stuff: A Famicom with some Famitsu Stickers on the Controllers

 One thing that I like about finding old Famicoms is when they have stickers on them.  Not just random stickers, mind you, but stickers which were specifically designed to be placed on a Famicom.
This one I picked up a while ago and is sort of my back-up Famicom now.  I mainly got it for the stickers on the controllers.  Famitsu Magazine used to sometimes include various Famicom stickers that they`d include as special promotions.  By far the most useful ones were designed to put on the top sides of Famicom carts so that you could easily identify which cart it was.  Actually a lot of Famicom carts floating around out there still have those on them.

Much harder to find though are the ones designed to put on Famicom controllers.  I`ve only ever seen two Famicoms with those on them, this one and another that I found at Omocha Souko a few years back which had the remnants of Dragon Quest stickers on them.

I guess one of the reasons they are hard to find is that they don`t really have any function other than to make your Famicom controllers look different, and maybe people were therefore reluctant to put them on.  Also they look like they would have been kind of difficult to apply to the controllers, there are a lot of things (buttons, etc) you have to line up perfectly and if you mess it up by even 1mm it just wouldn`t look right. 

I particularly like these ones in part because whoever applied them did a really good job of it, they are perfectly lined up and centred.  And the artwork on them is pretty cool.  Another thing I like is what these stickers tell me about this Famicom.  The sticker on the number 1 controller is pretty messed up, indicating that it was used a lot.  The sticker on the number 2 controller however is immaculate and looks like it was put on yesterday.  Obviously whoever owned this Famicom was accustomed to playing it solo. 

Anyway, I just kind of thought these stickers were cool and wanted to do a post about them :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Famicomblog does Toronto - OMG retro games are so expensive here!!!!!

 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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back in Fukuoka Again: 007 has Become a Manga Souko

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). 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Remeniscing about being a Famicom Newbie

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!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Collecting Goal for 2014: Finish my CIB Namco 18 Series

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....

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Choujin Ultra Yakyuu Baseball Limited Edition and the Elusive Phone Cards

 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!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

10 Yen Finds: Famicom Sky Destroyer Chirashi

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.