Monday, April 19, 2021

Mega Sized Super Mario Bros. 2 Menko

 

This is another recent pick up - a Super Mario Bros 2 menko that is about the size of my head!  

This is from the Famicom Disk System's Super Mario Bros 2, NOT the American Super Mario Bros 2 (which as we all know is Super Mario USA here, or Doki Doki Panic).  

This was released in 1986 by Amada and is considerably larger than their other Famicom menko cards.  From my general knowledge of how menko were distributed back in the day, these big ones weren't sold but rather were prizes given out to kids who bought the little ones and hit a winner ("atari") card which they could redeem for them.  These would not have been practical as menko due to their size, so they were probably intended for decoration or just plain collecting.  

This definitely belongs on a wall in my house somewhere, I think I might get it framed.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Big Box of Famicom Puzzle Boxes

 

Agh, I'm so excited about these!  Amada Famicom Puzzles!

I decided to pull the trigger on a big ticket item that was up for sale on Yahoo Auctions a few days ago.  This beautiful box arrived in the mail from the seller yesterday:

Open it up and you find three more boxes, with jigsaw puzzles for Super Mario Bros, Pooyan and City Connection:

Picking them up, they are so beautiful:

And under them you find 40 more boxes, each containing a random puzzle of a Famicom game inside:

The outside of each box looks the same.  It has Super Mario Bros artwork on the front, City Connection on the back:


They are so cute to hold, slightly smaller than a Famicom cart.

Despite the cover art being the same on all of them, they don't all just contain Super Mario Bros and City Connection puzzles.  Rather the puzzles are a random assortment of games from the Famicom's early releases.  I haven't opened any of mine to see what is inside, but I've found a few online like these which give a representative sample.  

I think all of those games came out in 1985 or earlier so I would date these to around then.  I've also seen puzzles of 10 Yard Fight, and Route 16 and Sky Destroyer are also featured on the big box so there are probably puzzles of them out there too. I'm not sure how many exist in total, no checklist is known to exist of them.

You might ask why there are three bigger boxes containing larger puzzles and 40 boxes containing smaller puzzles.  The three bigger ones weren't sold in stores, they were prizes.  Kids would buy the little ones (which cost 50 Yen each) and out of the forty in the box, three were "winner" puzzles, which contained something on the inside which the kid could redeem for one of the three prize puzzles.

The box I have is complete, in the same shape as it would have been when distributed to toy stores.  This allows me to know exactly which of the three were the winner puzzles, since they came packaged in a plastic bag to allow the store owner to know which was which so they could randomize them. The three in the upper left hand corner of my box are still in the bag, so they must be the winners!

These things, particularly whole unopened boxes of them, are pretty rare so I was super psyched to be able to pick it up at a reasonable price.  What is a reasonable price?  Well, its way more than I would have paid for something like this 10 or even 5 years ago.  But that is ancient history (sadly).  There is just one other of these available for sale anywhere in the world right now and this is the starting bid:

That is 450,000 Yen, about $4500 US.  I did not pay anywhere near that much for mine (as proof of that I offer as evidence the fact that my wife has not killed me), and I doubt that anyone is going to buy it at that price.  But with the absolute insanity of vintage game related prices over the past year, you never know.  These things are ridiculously hard to find and pretty cool, so I wouldn't be too surprised if some tech millionaire with money to burn dropped it on something like that.  

Anyway, I'm glad I secured one for my collection.  As with my previous posts about Famicom Menko and Famicom Milk Caps, there aren't any checklists of these puzzles out there and very little information exists about them, so I'm kind of having fun delving into this end of the hobby where I can shed some light on these things.  These aren't the only Famicom puzzles Amada released, so another side project for me will be to try to put together a catalogue of all of them out there.  

UPDATE!

After writing the above post I just found this tweet from last year which contains still images from a TV show on Fuji TV (which I think might have been Game Center CX?  Not sure) that did a feature about these puzzles.  It answers some of the questions I wasn't sure on.




From these we learn a few interesting things about these types of puzzles.

1.  The puzzles were issued in 1985 in two types.  One (the one I have) was distributed in little boxes containing 20 piece puzzles which sold for 50 Yen each.  The other (which I don't have) were sold in little envelopes containing 12 pieces which sold for 20 Yen each.

2. Most importantly, the last image there shows all the games that were featured on the puzzles (at least the bigger 20 piece puzzles), so we can create a checklist!  Almost at least, some of them are hard to make out due to glare.  This however is a tentative checklist, if anyone can identify the two I couldn't (which might be two from among Championship Lode Runner, Mach Rider, Bomberman or Binary Land, but I can't tell from the picture), please let me know!

Super Arabian
Star Force
Wrecking Crew
Super Mario Bros
Lode Runner
City Connection
(Not sure)
Challenger
Sky Destroyer
Formation Z
Duck Hunt
Elevator Action
Devil World
Balloon Fight
10 Yard Fight
(Not sure)
Clu Clu Land
Zippy Race
Route 16
Chack n Pop
Exerion
Field Combat
Ninja  Kun
Hyper Sports
Astro Robo Sasa
Road Fighter
Ice Climber
Hyper Olympics
Nuts & Milk
Space Invaders
Geimos
Yie Ar Kung Fu
Urban Champion
Baseball
Front Line

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Mysterious and Lovely Famicom Milk Caps

 

One of the cooler and rarer Famicom things out there to collect are these guys: Famicom milk caps.  

These things are awesome, yet very little seems to be known about them.  They were distributed with bottles of milk for Japanese kids back in the 1980s, you could pry them out of the top of the bottles like this:

They feature characters from well known Famicom games from the mid-1980s.  The artwork on them is quite striking because it is unique and doesn't just mimic the art on the cart labels or anything.  

I don't know which milk company released these, which is the mystery I'm interested in solving.  There are a LOT of milk companies in Japan.  The little text that wraps around the edge of them doesn't provide any clues, it is just nutritional information about the milk.  The big kanji characters on most of them just say "Milk", except for the Takeshi's Castle one which says "Takeshi's Castle".  

In case you need help matching the milk caps in the above photo to the Famicom games they are:

Ninja JaJa Maru Kun
Takeshi's Castle
Binary Land
Ganbare Goemon
Super Chinese
Bomberman
Makai Mura
Super Mario Bros.

This is far from a complete list, I only have a small fraction of the ones out there.  Which brings me to the second part of the mystery: what does a complete set of these look like?  I've seen the odd group of these pop up here and there, but I don't know of anyone who has a complete set of them nor do I know of any checklist that exists.  These things are quite rare - most of them were thrown out decades ago so only a few seem to have survived which makes them difficult to find.  

There are a few up for sale on Yahoo Auctions right now and I can see some for Wild Gunman, Dig Dug and Pac Land which I don't have, as well as some different versions of Super Mario Bros, Makai Mura and Ganbare Goemon which have different pictures from mine.  

If I stick with this long enough, maybe someday I'll be able to track them all down and be the first to create a full checklist of them!

For now though I'm happy to introduce them to the English language Famicom collecting world, another thing to chase like the menko I discussed in my previous post.   Japanese collectors are already aware of these and prices seem to have gone up quite a bit (along with everything Famicom related) recently, they are listed for about 10$ each on Yahoo Auctions right now.  


Friday, April 9, 2021

Famicom Menko are Amazing

 

I picked these up the other day, a big pile of Famicom menko.  They are spectacular.

Menko are cards that Japanese kids use to play a game that mainly involves throwing them at other menko on the ground. It is very similar to pogs, though menko have a much longer history in Japan.

There are a few different kinds of Famicom menko out there which were sold in the 1980s, all of them I think  produced by a company called Amada which made a lot of Famicom related ephemera.  About 3 years ago I wrote a post about snagging some rectangular shaped Famicom Menko. The ones I got this week are round and come from a different set, but likely from the same maker.

I have to say, I like these round ones WAY better than the rectangular ones.   One problem with the rectangular ones is that most of the pictures on them are just screen shots from the games which, while kind of cool, also means some of the cards are pretty dull to look at (not all, but probably like half).


With the circular ones though all the pictures are extremely colorful, eye catching compositions which incorporate the game's box artwork.  Which is AMAZING!  Put them in a pile like the ones I have in the top picture on this post and they just blow you away.  

Another cool thing about these is that they were likely issued fairly early in the Famicom's life (all the games were released in 1985 or earlier so probably in that year) so it features some of the most iconic titles out there - Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. Ice Climber, Balloon Fight and so on.  Most of the games are Nintendo's own releases, but there are also games from Konami (Antarctic Adventure, Yie Ar Kung Fu), Taito (Elevator Action, Chack n Pop), Jaleco (Ninja Kun, Exerion, Formation Z) and Hudson Soft (Nuts & Milk, Star Force, Lode Runner, Raid on Bungling Bay).  

So anyway, if you are looking for some more Famicom hidden treasures out there, I recommend putting the round menko on your list. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Famicom Galaga CIB Completes my Namcot collection

 

I haven't been posting much recently, mainly due to just being busy.  I did hit a milestone in my Famicom collection that I thought was worth mentioning though.  

7 years ago I did a post detailing my attempt to put together a complete CIB collection of the 18 little Namcot Famicom games. At the time I was just three short of finishing it - Burger Time, Valkrye no Bouken and Galaga.  

I was able to score Burger Time and Valkrye a few years ago, leaving me just missing Galaga to complete the set.  But I got distracted and totally forgot about it for years.  Then the other day my son was playing Galaga (I do have a loose copy of it, its a favorite) and it kind of jogged my memory: "Oh yeah, sitting in a box in a closet somewhere I have all the Namcot games CIB except Galaga.  I should do something about that."

So I got on Yahoo Auctions and looked for CIB copies of Galaga and HOLY CRAP!  I haven't perused Yahoo Auctions for games in over a year and damn, prices have gone through the roof.  I guess this is another one of those weird side effects of the Pandemic, everyone is buying video games so prices have soared.  

Anyway, the best price I could find on a dodgy, beat up CIB copy was about 20$, but I decided to instead go for a nice shiny copy (not new, but close to it), which cost me about 50$.  I think it was worth it, voila:

The collection is complete!

Well, kind of.  My copy of Battle City does not have the manual, and the box is in pretty lousy shape so I might upgrade that one at some point (unfortunately that will be expensive).  Druaga and Super Chinese are also a bit iffy and might also get replaced with nicer copies.  I really wish I had done this 5 years ago when doing so would have probably cost about 1/4 what it will today, but oh well!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Retro Game Advent Calender

 

I had this idea last night that I played around with after the kids had gone to bed.

We have this big advent calendar that my mom made for us after my son was born.  It hangs on the wall in our living room and has little candies in it.  I was absent mindedly staring at it when it occurred to me that most of the pockets would be the right size to hold Famicom carts.  So I took the candies out and put my son's Famicom carts in.

Yup, they fit.

This was just a test run and I have no plans on ever doing anything like this, but I thought this would be a pretty cool thing for a retro gamer to do.  Especially if you are like a retro gaming couple who live together without kids this'd be an awesome way to do advent calendars - playing a game each day throughout December.  

I'm not in that category of person, so this advent calendar was retro-gamified for demonstration purposes only, and currently has reverted to holding just candy.  But I thought I'd put the idea out there in case it hasn't already been floating out on the internet since like 2007 or something and I just didn't notice!



Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The End is Near: Planning for our first, and last, Retro Game Christmas

 

As I've documented in a few posts this year, 2020 has been the year of the Famicom in my house.   I gave my AV Famicom to my son back in April and we've played it together almost every day since.  I've gradually increased his game library with little presents here and there for good behavior and he has about 30 now.  That only represents less than 5% of my own collection, but its a pretty impressive collection for a 6 year old.

I feel very bad though because I am about to do something terrible to his Famicom interest that I've spent the better part of this year nurturing.

 I'm going to kill it. 

For Christmas this year I'm going to give him a Super Famicom, along with a few games (Super Mario World, Super Mario Collection, Mario Kart, Yoshi's Island and Donkey Kong Country).  

I've been putting off the day I would give him a newer console (albeit one that is itself 30 years old!) for months now because I know that once I do it'll be the only thing he wants to play and the Famicom will fall to the wayside, never again to be the centre of his attention like it is now.

But the writing is on the wall and I've dragged this out about as far as I can.  He is very aware of the fact that newer consoles exist and has been bugging me for months to get one where the images don't look like "Lego" (his way of describing 8 bit graphics). 

 So the Super Famicom, with its 16 bit graphics, is going to be his.  Likely its reign will also be short lived.  He is going to start Elementary School soon and peer pressure there will undoubtedly result in him wanting a Nintendo Switch (or some other contemporary gaming system) by Christmas of 2021.  

So Christmas of 2020 provides the only window of opportunity for me to make retro games a significant highlight of his gifts - and for them to be happily received by him.  A Super Famicom, or any other retro console, is not likely to be well received as a Christmas present a year from now.  So I've got to jump at the chance, even though it sadly means killing off his Famicom interest.

Being a retro gamer dad is complicated work. And I'm not even getting into the minefield of planning his little sister's presents in this post, which is an even bigger issue.

The Super Famicom won't be his only present, he's also getting a boatload of Mario Lego sets and a few other things, all of which are related to the Famicom (because that is what he wants!)  Its a huge difference from Christmas of 2019 which was dominated by dinosaur related presents.  I've felt pretty bad for the past few months as his interest in dinosaurs (which was INTENSE for a couple years there) was completely displaced by his interest in Mario stuff. I miss reading dinosaur books and playing with toy dinosaurs with him. But I've also really enjoyed playing the Famicom with him this year and so feel a little sad that it'll be coming to an end soon.

On the plus side though, I've given him a year of exposure to the Famicom during a very formative period of his life and I think 40 or 50 years from now he'll probably look back on these days with fondness and have an intense nostalgic connection to a little console that is 30 years older than he is!