Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Famicom Rarities: Amada Puzzles and Menko

In the mid-1980s a company called Amada had a contract with Nintendo and a number of game producers like Jaleco and Konami to produce novelty items related to Famicom games. I first got interested in their stuff a few years ago when I stumbled upon a box of Famicom mini cards they put out in 1985.  They made a number of other things, including the ever popular series of erasers shaped like Famicom carts, complete with their boxes and a series of stickers that I have a few of but haven`t posted about yet.

Amada`s relationship with Nintendo was very brief, they seem to have only had a 1 year contract as all of the merchandise they made was limited to games released in or before 1985.  So for games from 1986 onwards there is none of this stuff, which is kind of an interesting divide in Famicom game history.

Last week I picked up a couple of other Amada Famicom goodies released in that one year.  The first are a pair of Famicom jigsaw puzzles of Star Force and Yie Ar Kung Fu pictured at the top of this post.  These were relatively tiny puzzles with only a dozen or so pieces

Though the boxes are almost the same size as the regular Famicom game boxes:

Judging from this blog here (in Japanese, but there are some pretty cool photos of Amada Famicom stuff so its worth a look) these puzzles sold for just 20 yen each back in the day, though most of them were sold in little envelopes rather than boxes like this. The boxed ones were given out as prizes to lucky winners of a game (if your puzzle had winner written on the back you could trade it for one of the boxed ones I think).

Another thing that I picked up were a couple of boxes of Famicom Menko.  Menko are like trading cards, but they are made of very thick cardboard and intended to be throw at the ground in a game (the goal of which is to flip over other cards). 

So these are different from the mini cards Amada also issued for the Famicom, though the fronts are largely the same, featuring images from games that look like they were created just by somebody pointing a camera at a TV (something which a number of Japanese trading card makers were known to do back in the 80s).
 Like the puzzles, these Menko came in pretty cool boxes that replicate the look of Famicom cart boxes, mine featuring Star Force and Wrecking Crew on the fronts:

 The backs of the cards look like this:
These things are pretty hard to find unfortunately.  Loose mini cards and some erasers turn up on Yahoo Auctions regularly but the puzzles and CIB stuff only shows up every once in a while.  I think they are a pretty cool side-collection type thing to compliment an actual Famicom.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rarities: Nintendo in Store Display from the early 1970s

The above is one of the most interesting things in my vintage Nintendo collection.  It is a 1950s store display used to advertise Nintendo playing cards.  The big white characters 任天堂 spell out the company name Nin-ten-do.

Nintendo started out as a playing card maker and as late as the 1950s that was still its main line of business (somebody correct me if I am wrong about that).  They made a variety of cards, including regular playing cards and Japanese style hanafuda cards.  This display advertised both, with their landmark Napoleon cards featured on the top panel.

These things are literally museum pieces, one having been featured prominently in the Nintendo museum event held in Osaka back in 2007.  That is about the only reference to them I could find online.

About 2 years ago one of these popped up on Yahoo Auctions and I joined in the bidding, which ended up going through the roof (I dropped out at about 10,000 yen, it went a bit higher than that but I can`t remember the total).  So when I stumbled across this one a couple weeks ago with a starting bid of 1,000 yen I was the first bidder.  I put in a max bid of 10,000 just to see what would happen.

And guess what?  Well, obviously I won it but the best part was that I ended up being the only bidder this time so I got it for a bargain.  The good thing about bidding on stuff which only shows up in auctions once every 2 years is that unless the auction gets well promoted the people who would bid it up might not even notice it is there, which I think is what happened this time.

The thing that I really love about this is that it makes for a great piece of easy to display interior decoration.  These were designed to be hung from the ceiling as mobiles.  Pardon the mess in the background of this photo, I will be finding a more suitable location to hang this in good time.
 The artwork on them is very vintage and cool looking.  They slowly turn, revealing the other side of each card:

I am really getting into collecting vintage pre-Famicom stuff from Nintendo, partly inspired by Erik`s Before Mario blog, so I`m pretty happy to add this to my still modest collection.

EDIT: I originally thought this was from the 1950s owing to what the seller had been talking about.  As Erik points out in the comments however it actually dates from the early 70s.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Famicom Shopping News: Super Potato Just Opened a Shop in Nagoya

Super Potato is almost without a doubt the most famous of all Japanese retro game stores.  I`ve never visited the Akihabara one, but I have taken in the one in Osaka and it blew me away.

So I am glad to be the first person in the blog-iverse to do a write up about the newest Super Potato, which just opened its doors in Nagoya this week!

As I mentioned before, Nagoya has a toy/game/cosplay/otaku neighborhood called Osu, which is a bit like Akihabara or Osaka`s Den Den Town.  The new Super Potato is located right in the middle of that on Akamon Street, almost next door to the Mandarake, which will make it very convenient for retro game collectors visiting Nagoya to visit the two biggest shops. 

The shop is comparable in size to the Osaka Super Potato, I`ve never been to the one in Akihabara so I don`t know if it rivals that one or not.  Its pretty decent sized though, taking up two floors in a cute little building.

The first thing that is likely to attract your attention from the sidewalk is a giant Game Boy in the window which is....so cool....

 Similar to the one in Osaka, when you go through the entrance you are greeted mainly by snacks and plush toys rather than games.

 Proceed further inside though and a Famicom box is hooked up to a TV so you can give Duck Hunt a go!
 Beyond that, row and row of beautiful Famicom games

And no write-up about a Super Potato would be complete without a picture of the stacks of Famicom consoles.

 With some N64s, Super Famicoms, Twin Famicoms and Disk Systems for company:

Behind the Famicom games they also had a pretty huge selection of Super Famicom games.

They had some pretty amazing stuff in the glass cases.  This beautiful CIB Epoch Super Cassette Vision caught my eye, I`ve wanted one of these for a while.

They had some cool rare Famicom games too, like this green copy of Kinnikuman, which they wanted 35,000 yen for
 And a whole bunch of other good stuff:

 Probably the coolest thing in the place were these copies of Rockman 1-6.  Note that this isn`t just a complete set (cool enough in its own right), it is a set in which every one of them is signed by Keiji Inafune, the man who designed Rockman!!  They didn`t have a price on it, I can`t even begin to imagine what something like that would be worth.

 The second floor had a lot of stuff for Sega and Sony consoles.  Mostly stuff I`m not interested in except for their awesome Sega Mark III selection.
 Next to the stairs they had a massive pile of dead stock Super Famicom games going cheaply

 I suppose I should mention the prices at this point.  In a word: high.  Not quite Toronto high, but pretty damn high.  They had a loose Twin Famicom for 17,000 yen, which is probably even on the high end by Ebay standards.  Some of the games were reasonably priced but a lot of them were quite expensive - Mandarake which is just around the corner generally has better prices (though nowhere near the selection unfortunately). 

Despite the lack of dirt cheap bargains this is definitely a must-visit.  The thing I really like about Super Potato is how well they display their games - they just look way more beautiful and enticing in there than they do anywhere else.  A visit to a Super Potato is as close a thing to a religious pilgramage that retro gaming has to offer.  It is a place that inspires. And now there is one more place to do it!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

L'histoire d'un Petit Robot et un Virtual Boy.

Il y avait un très petit robot dont le nom était Phil.

 Un jour, Phil voulait jouer avec son Virtual Boy.

Mais Phil était trop petite.
 Phil a demandé de l'aide. Puis il pourrait jouer avec son Virtual Boy.
  Puis Phil a été désorienté. Et il est tombé et ne pouvait pas se relever. Oh, pourquoi était Phil si petit? Pourquoi était-Phil si petit?


Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Years of Famicomblogging: A Retrospective

Five years ago today I found myself in my living rom in our old apartment in Fukuoka with a bit of free time to kill. I sat down on a tiny sofa with a ton of recently photographed Famicom carts scattered on the floor and I wrote this post about the different designs that Famicom carts came in. Thus Famicomblog was born.

Five years later and, much to my surprise and delight, Famicomblog is still a going concern even though the recent addition to our family has severely dented my blog output.  Normally when a blog becomes too self referential it is a sure sign it has jumped the shark, but screw everything I am going to do the ultimate in self referential blogging just this one time to mark the occasion.   In self-congratulatory honor of having reached the 5 year milestone I am going to take you on my ego trip through what I like about my own blog.  Read on at your own peril
So, what are my favorite posts?  I ask myself.  

My Tour D`Excitebike post that I made during the first year remains the one I enjoyed making the most. I just took 5 copies of Excitebike with me on a bike ride around Fukuoka, taking pictures of them at random places - castle walls, a port with fishing vessels tied up, the red light district, etc etc. I got a few odd looks from people as I did so but that was a really nice day and so totally worth it.
I did a few similar posts like that, including this one with my Nintendo Lefty RX about a year ago which was also a lot of fun (I was pleased with how the photos for that one turned out, if you use forced perspective you can make a tiny toy car look almost real)

One kind of post which I did a lot in the early days of this blog but gave up after about the first year or so were ones in which I photographed my entire collection.  The carts look so awesome stacked up, I kind of miss doing those posts.  When you have a collection of under 500 carts like I did back then it was still feasible to do those, once I got above that number I had to stop doing it mainly for lack of space to set them up and take the photos.
And of course the first 3 years of the blog would often feature posts from my main retro gaming source, the amazing Omocha Souko.  The day I found out it was going out of business was by far the darkest day in my gaming life, it had been such a fun place to go for deals.  I still enjoy looking back and reading old posts about the deals I got, especially the day they put these crates out.
Another type of post which I wish I had time to do more of these days were the ones I did of retro game shops in Fukuoka that I visited. I think this blog has more information about the Fukuoka gaming world than any other, at least of those in English. Sadly, even though it has only been five years since I started this blog most of that information is already out of date, probably half the shops I visited have either closed or moved.

Probably my favorite post, in terms of substance, is the one in which I compared the power consumption of retro consoles to the PS3 and found that my entire retro gaming collection used less energy than the average one of those.  I'm not sure what the PS4 uses, I'd like to do a similar comparison but I sold most of the duplicate consoles I used in that post so I might not have enough to make a comparison.

Another thing I have to do is get Phil in some more posts.  I packed him away when we moved 2 years ago and I think its about time I fished him out of whatever box he is in.

Anyway, those are some of my sentimental reflections as the father of a 5 year old blog.  I should like to give a big thanks to everyone for reading all these years, it has been awesome getting to know you all through the blog (and through your blogs for those who have them, I'd list you by name but refrain out of fear of forgetting someone).  Hopefully five years from now I'll do another one of these on Famicomblog's 10th anniversary.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Been a Busy Month

I haven`t been posting in a while.  Been kind of busy with the above bundle of joy who just arrived.  Going to be a while before he is able to play the Famicom and by the time he does, it will be a 35 year old console.  Wow.  Hope he likes it, but I suspect I will have to buy him some more contemporary forms of entertainment when he gets old enough to actually use those opposable thumbs.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Awesome List: Japanese Gamers 18 Fond Memories of the Famicom

The Japanese website CuRazy recently published a little piece reporting the top 18 things Japanese people remember about playing the Famicom as children.  Rocketnews did a good piece in English mentioning the highlights, but after reading the original I thought it would worth doing a pure, stripped down English translation of the list, which is totally awesome.  Here they are, in the same order they appeared in CuRazy:

1. To begin, blowing on the cassette.

2. At school, classes were generally divided into a Draqon Quest faction and a Final Fantasy Faction.  But there would always be that one guy on his own who was into Wizardry.

3. Declaring that you would play Famicom all through the night on New Year`s Eve, then giving up halfway through.

4. Pushing the reset button again and again and again because the game wouldn`t start.

5. Getting into a fight while playing a simultaneous 2 player game.

6 Having it hidden by your parents.

7. When playing a two player game and the 1P player was about to lose, pushing the pause button in rapid succession (to mess up 2P`s timing, 2P not being able to retaliate as the 2P controller doesn`t have the pause button).

8. Playing a racing game and moving your whole body with the game.  Then doing it a bit too much, pulling out the cord and causing the game to blink off.

9. When you finish the game, waiting for a bit to watch the end screen.

10. Your parents, while carrying the laundry, tripping over the Famicom and causing the game to freeze.

11.  Loving it when you played by yourself!  Hating it when your friend came over!

12. When your friend was playing, amusing yourself by playing with the microphone in the 2P controller.

13. 20 years later, finally actually reading the instruction manual for the first time and realizing what the game`s story was all about.

14. Buttons getting stuck in.

15. When inserting the cart, having to carefully push both sides in equally.

16. Being incredibly anxious the first time you played Dragon Quest 3.

17. Not being able to save a game, just leaving the Famicom on when you went to school.  Then coming home and discovering your mom had turned it off.

18. Writing your name on the back of the cart.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Interior Decor: Famicom Carts as Parquet Flooring? Wallpaper? Coffee Tabletop?

 Some carts I have more copies of than others.  Super Mario Bros, Spartan X, Excitebike and Donkey Kong Jr for some reason I have quite a few of.  They were pretty popular games back in the day and are pretty good games to play now.  Still though, I don`t relaly need 12 copies of each even though I have that many.

When you have 12 of the same Famicom cart you can organize them into 3 by 4 squares which, when put together with other carts you have 12 of, can open up some interesting interior decorating ideas.

 Parquet type flooring is one.  You would have to put them under some sort of sturdy, extremely thick plexiglass to prevent them from being broken though, which would be expensive to install.  Maybe not the best idea.
 They would make for a great coffee-table top too, just put a piece of glass over them and you are golden.  Definitely a cool conversation starter.
They would also work pretty good as wallpaper if you had some way of attaching them to the wall wtihout damaging them.  Probably there is some way of doing this.  A wall covered with Famicom carts in 3 by 4 squares would look  pretty awesome.  If I ever open up a Famicom cafe, that is how I am going to decorate it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cool World of Chirashi (Famicom and Movie Mini Posters)

One of the types of Famicom ephemera which I enjoy collecting the most are chirashi (mini posters/ flyers) that were handed out back in the day to advertise upcoming game releases. 

I like them mainly because they look cool and are the sort of thing that look good when framed and hanging on your wall.  Like my Gyrodine and Sky Destroyer ones, which have awesome artwork on them:

 I picked up a small lot of them off of Yahoo Auctions the other day that just arrived in the mail.  I`m pretty happy with them.  Most of them were actually Famicom Disk System games, like Metroid here which is probably my favorite of the lot:

And Super Mario Bros 2:

 Zelda no Densetsu:

 And a few others.

The only thing that I dislike about collecting Famicom chirashi is the price - they are pretty hard to find so the prices likewise tend to be on the high side and bargains are few and far between.  Still though its kind of worth it for the cool artwork.  They also have cool stuff on the back, like this one which explains how you can re-write games on disks:

 Collecting chirashi is actually one of my main non-Famicom collecting pursuits too.  In addition to advertising video games they are also used for a lot of other things, including movies.  Japanese movie chirashi are actually in some ways even cooler than  the Famicom chirashi.  Japanese movies almost always have unique paintings commissioned for them which are reproduced on the chirashi.  The artwork, which often combines familiar scenes with bold looking kanji, make them look pretty awesome.  Like this poster from You Only Live Twice, with the 007 in big type, with the title in kanji below.  Totally epic:

 Same with this old school Battle Star Galactica from the 70s:

 Mega Force!!!  If you haven`t seen this film, you don`t understand early 80s culture at all:
 Ditto with Mr. T in DC Cab.  Having him yell at you in Japanese is pretty priceless:
  I keep some of my favorite movie ones on the wall in the same room with the Famicom chrashi.  They are actually a bit smaller than the Famicom ones (B5 vs A4 size).  Bonus points to anyone who can identify the 5 films in this photo:
 The other cool thing about movie chirashi is that they are generally a lot cheaper than Famicom chirashi. I`m not sure why that is, but I guess there are more of them out there than the Famicom ones.  I think people have been collecting movie chirashi since the late 60s/early 70s so there are a lot of them that have been preserved, which probably helps to keep the prices reasonable.