Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Oyama Collection

Behold! The Oyama Famicom Collection!

What is the Oyama Famicom collection? It is Goonies, Super Star Force, Ninja Kun, King Kong 2, Clu Clu Land and Yie Ar Kung Fu.


Oh, wait I see. You mean why are those games together called the Oyama Collection? Because of this:
Well, maybe I should rewind a bit here.

I went to Omocha Souko today and they had just tossed these games into their junk bin with prices of 100-300 yen each on them. I just picked them up, paid for them and didn`t really think much about them until I took them out of their plastic baggies. It was then that I noticed that each of them had the same name - Oyama (大山) - written on the back.
I thought that was quite interesting. I get Famicom carts with kids` names written on them all the time, but this was the first time I had ever gotten a whole group of them from the same kid`s collection.

At this point in the Famicom`s lifespan enough time has passed that most of the childhood collections of kids like this have already been dispersed throughout the secondary market. Some have been sold and resold countless times by now.

Not these ones though. These came directly from the kid (or perhaps a relative of the kid, whose first name is Shinji according to the backs of Yie ar Kung Fu and King Kong 2). Probably somebody was clearing out an old room, maybe getting ready for a move or something, and they just dragged everything they didn`t want to Omocha Souko where they were probably paid 20 yen for the lot and that was that.

Anyway, I think that is something special. Individually these are all fairly common games that you can find pretty cheap at most retro game shops, but taken together the group is more than the sum of its individual parts. I think I will try to keep the Oyama collection intact rather than breaking it up. In fact, I feel almost duty-bound to do so.

Cheers to you, Shinji Oyama. Your Famicom collection will be maintained for the ages....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Listening to Wall of Voodoo and Writing About the Sega Mark III

I was just sitting here listening to Wall of Voodoo`s Mexican Radio and it moved me to devote a few minutes to the old blog. Something about that song, its very conducive to writing about early 80s video games. That line about wishing one was in Tijuana eating barbequed iguana, that is exactly how I feel when....well, just about all the time actually.
So anyway, guess what I got! Without looking at any of the pictures or reading the title of this post. Go ahead, just guess! Yes, a Sega Mark III!
I`ve wanted one of these for a while. I already have the adaptor that lets you play Mark III games on the Mega Drive but I felt that was cheating. If you are going to play old school video games then there is really no excuse for not doing it in style with the original console.

Well, not having the console is, I suppose, a decent excuse. At any rate, I no longer have to worry about that sort of thing.

It came in a lovely box:
With everything in there (even the manual, which I didn`t get in this shot):
The Mark III is very similar in style and shape to the SG-1000 II, though they aren`t compatible with each other. I do however like the way they look stacked one on top of the other:
A chance encounter at an out of town conference that led to an evening of wining, dining, karaoke and ultimately an ill advised night in a hotel room that they would both regret on waking the next morning:
Innocence lost, they lay casually on the futon pondering an exit strategy. For their love was never meant to be.

`If only we were compatible....` He says, a puff of cigarette smoke emanating from his cartridge slot.

`We just weren`t made for each other.` She says in a voice of resignation, turning away on her side.

OK, enough of that. These posts are getting too avant garde for a video game blog. Lets just end by saying that I do like this new console of mine.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some Thoughts on Retro Games Over a Burger and a Comic Book

There is a cool little restaurant near my place that sells burgers. Burger places in Japan (not counting fast food places) are a hard commodity to come by so I was happy when this place opened up last year. It is locally owned by a guy who bought an old abandoned building, tossed some paint onto it and filled it with an eclectic mix of used furniture. I love the place.

Among the odds and ends they have are a few American comics from the late 80s. Like burger places, these are also a rare commodity in Japan. To a guy like me who absolutely loved comics in the late 80s, they are a massive source of sentimental curiousity.

So as I had my lunch there the other day, I picked a copy of Detective comics from maybe 1989 or 1990 off the shelf and flipped through it.

One of the things I noticed while perusing its pages is the heavy reliance of 1980s comics on video game adverts. The back cover of this one had an ad for Double Dragon 2 for the NES on it:
An ad for the Atari 7800 in it:
And about three or four other full page ads for mostly Taito games like Sky Shark and Operation Wolf scattered here and there.

The best part though in terms of what they reveal about gaming culture at the time was what was in the back, the little classified ads.

This one here really caught my eye:
Lets have a look at what this says here...

Looking for something to do?

Oh you know I am.

Play a computer game through the mail.

Well now just you hold the boat there, fella. What if I don`t have a computer?

You don`t need a computer and it costs very little to play.

Perfect! I`m sold!

Try two turns free.

How much will subsequent turns cost? How many turns does this have? What kind of computer game is it? Wait....what is the point of playing a computer game without a computer?

Its a crime!

OK, this is getting very surreal.

We want you to try this play by mail game for free!

Alright, fine. What do I have to do?

Write SEND FREE GAME on a card or letter and send to....

Wait, shouldn`t I also be putting my address down on there?

No strings attached - send no money!

OK then. No money, no address, just write SEND FREE GAME on a card or letter and send it to you. Got it.


Sometimes I do forget how much life sucked before the internet.

Anyway, there was also an ad from Play it Again for used games:
If they were in their 9th year then that means they must have started in about 1980 or 81. They were way ahead of the game there.

And with my burger finished I put that copy of Detective Comics back on the shelf, paid my bill and walked out the door into the cold and windy February afternoon that awaited me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nintendo in the 60s, Man, the 60s! Ultra Machine!

As I have stated on here numerous times, I like to go to a store called Omocha Souko on a regular basis in order to hunt for retro video games. I go so frequently that I now have an awkward time answering the question "what is your hobby?" If I were to answer honestly I would say "I go to a store called Omocha Souko 3 or 4 times a week to look through their junk bins for old video game stuff that I collect and then write about on my blog. That is my hobby."

As this answer provides too much detail on too obscure an area of interest, I usually just say "hiking" instead.

At any rate, what I don't write about too much on here is the fact that Omocha Souko is not just a video game store, it is also a big used-stuff store. The name "Omocha Souko" actually means "toy warehouse" in Japanese. About half of the first floor is, in fact, taken up by toys.
Usually I bypass this area and head straight to the second floor for the video games, but on occasion I will browse the toy section before heading up there. Yesterday I did just that and it was a good thing I did, for on one shelf they had just put this baby out:
The Nintendo Ultra Machine!!!

This thing is so awesome I don't know where to begin. Until about a year ago information on old Nintendo toys like this was hard to come by, but now thanks to Erik's excellent Before Mario blog the entire world now has a wonderful archive of information about these things which I will now blatantly rip off by quoting a few facts that he put up there.

Released in 1967 this toy was designed by none other than the late Gunpei Yokoi, perhaps better known to video game history as the creator of the Game and Watch and Game Boys!

OK, enough of the ripping off (but do check out Before Mario if you haven't already, its really a great blog). Lets look at what I got.

Opening up the box the first thing we have is:
A totally awesome Ultra Machine flyer! The reverse of this has the instructions on how to set up the machine. Note in the lower left corner there is an ad for replacement balls (100 yen per box). This is actually quite cool though and probably worth what I paid for the thing (2000 yen) itself. I might frame it someday as a piece of pop art.

Under that we have:
YES! Everything is complete!! Even the balls are all still there!

This made me quite excited as about a year ago I actually purchased another later version of this same toy that was released in the late 1970s:
The Ultra Machine DX. It is very similar to the original Ultra Machine, but as you can see from this photo the box on it was almost destroyed. It was also missing the balls and had a crack on the blue plastic part. It was only 800 yen though so I was quite satisfied with it at the time.

My new Ultra Machine though is not only complete but in pristine condition.
I love that blue Nintendo bat:
The bat that came with the later Ultra Machine DX is gray, nowhere near as sexy.

The box is pretty cool too:
Anyway, I just love this thing. It was quite the bargain too for only 2000 yen. An Ebay search just turned up one with a BIN price of 300$. That is on the high side, but still, what a bargain.

More of my Old-School Nintendo Finds from the 60s and 70s:
-Mandarake Finds: Kousenjuu SP Gun and Old School Star Wars Stuff
-Flea Market Finds: Nintendo Batting Practice with Koichi Tabuchi and Sadaharu Oh
-Nintendo Color TV Game 15
-Mega Bargain of the Day: Kousenjuu SP Electro Safari

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Famicom History: Toy Catalogs and Over the Hill Consoles

I was browsing the Japanese web yesterday and stumbled across the above fragment of a toy catalog (on Livedoor) from the early 1990s. I have no idea what store it is from since the name is cut out, though they did have 300 locations nationwide so it must have been a big one.

What caught my eye was not the toy robots that you immediately notice, but what was in the upper right hand corner of the ad:
A Famicom!

Only 9,800 yen, 33% off as the ad notes (the release price was 14, 800 yen if memory serves). This catalog (or flyer more likely) seems to have been printed relatively late in the Famicom`s life - notice the ad for the Mega Drive right next to it for 40 percent off, meaning it must have been a few years into that console`s lifespan as well.

Right below that we have some Famicom games ("ROM cassettes") for quite cheap prices:
Lord of King for only 980 yen, Child`s Quest for only 680 yen and Moero Pro Yakyuu or Marusa no Onna for 780. On the far right it looks like Final Fantasy is also listed for two thousand and something yen, but half of it is cut off. Family Stadium 91 is quite expensive at 3780 yen so it must have been a new release at that time. Guess that would probably date this to 1991.

I love finding this sort of stuff. When I go to old book stores I always have a look at magazines from the 80s just to see if they have any Famicom ads (they almost never do unfortunately).

What I like in particular about this one is that it is a piece of Famicom history not from its peak in the mid to late 80s, but from the early 1990s when its glory days were behind it and it was no longer the sought after toy it had been just a few years prior. It is the inevitable fate of all consoles: to make the undignified transition from must-have Christmas item one year to department store clearance item the next. The store probably had a big pile of them by the door, with bins full of discount games next to them.

In 1991 I was in high school in Canada and I can remember Zellers doing something similar with the old Atari consoles. They had a pile of them for $49.99 and huge bins of software all priced at $4.99 each. I didn`t get one but can remember being tempted. I guess my Japanese contemporaries were doing the same with these old Famicoms.

Related Posts:
-Famicom History: When Dragon Quest III Went on Sale

-Famicom History: Japanese Game Slang 101
-Famicom History

Slow News Day: Professional Baseball Player Likes Famicom

I was browsing the excellent Japanese Famicom news blog Famicom no neta yesterday and I came across a link to the blog of Rakuten Eagles player Ryo Hijirisawa. It contained an entry with the above photo of Eagle`s outfielder Masato Nakamura playing a handheld gaming device.

Look closely though and you`ll notice what is sticking out of that gaming device - a Famicom cart! I`ve examined the photo with a team of experts (me and my dog) and we were not able to identify the game just by looking at the cart. Anybody out there have any idea what game he was playing when this candid photo was taken? Maybe Dragon Quest? But...not quite.

Do have a look at Famicom no neta if you get a chance and can read Japanese (or know how to use Google translate), there are some interesting Famicom news pieces there.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Famicom 3D System - Bought it. Tried it. Liked it.

The Famicom 3D System. Bought it. 2500 yen. Bargain.

If you don`t know what the Famicom 3D System is you should check out the great write up about it over on Famicom World. Basically its a set of glasses that allow you to enjoy the Famicom completely in 3D!!!! If.... you have one of the grand total of seven games that were ever made for it. For the 1200 or so others (including FDS ones), it is useless.

Fortunately I do have one of the games that it was made for, stored prominently on my favorite Famicom game shelf:
Highway Star!

I got the thing CIB, which was nice. Its a cute little box:
I love opening stuff like this up:
The glasses were in pristine condition, still with their protective film stuck on:
On they go:
I gave them a try. Surprisingly they work quite well on Highway Star. It actually produces a very convincing 3D effect. Its a shame they weren`t a popular item back in the day, it would have been quite cool to play other games in 3D like that. I have Cosmic Epsilon, which is also for use with these. I`ll have to dig that one out and give it a try sometime.

Related Posts:
-Famicom Robot Presents: The Famicom Stuff Collection
-Famicom Light Gun and Wild Gunman: Yipee Kay Ay M### F####

Friday, February 3, 2012

Collector Rage: Missing Out on a Bargain

Captain Kirk's rage at being outsmarted by Khan on the Genesis planet in Star Trek II is I think the image that best captures the mood one has when beaten to a bargain by somebody else.

This happened to me the other day at Omocha Souko. It was the most frustrating shopping experience I have ever had. By way of background, I usually stop by that place 2-3 times a week on my way home. I visit that frequently because they get Famicom and other retro game stuff in there quite often. When they do they sometimes put it in their junk bins or at the very least put a cheap price on it. The good stuff of course doesn't last, so if you want to get the cream of the crop you have to visit regularly like I do.

I walked into the store that day and started my usual stroll towards the back of the store where they keep their Famicom section. On my way I noticed a man on his way to the cashier with a basket full to the brim with stuff. As we passed each other I glanced at what he had and my eyes almost popped out of my head. The basket was full of Famicom games - really good ones. He had CIB copies of games like City Connection, Pac Man, Spartan X, Goonies and a whole lot of other ones I couldn't see underneath. These games are relatively easy to find loose but can be quite expensive to find CIB like that and all were ones that I wanted.

I knew immediately that this meant they had just gotten a bunch of Famicom games in that they had dumped out for sale because they didn't have those games the last time I visited. I ran to the back of the store to the Famicom section and I found:


That guy had just beaten me to it. He must have cleared out every single new Famicom game they had just gotten in. I didn't see the price on them, but given that he had grabbed them all immediately after they had been put out, they must have been cheap.

It was the most agonizing moment in my retro game collecting life. If only I had gotten there 10 minutes earlier! Did I really need to spend that time reading the article about Demi Moore's 9-11 call that morning? No! Why, man? Why? Oh the agony!

The funny thing is that if I had arrived after that guy had left, I wouldn't have felt disappointed at all. I would have gone in, seen they had nothing new, and walked right out and been on my way, none the wiser. But knowing what I had missed out on? Argh!