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.


  1. Nice! I can consider comic books, video games, and movies the trifecta of entertainment. If any franchise can dominate all three, it has proven it's worth. Throw in some burgers, and you've got yourself heaven.

  2. I love posts like these! Thanks for sharing. That first photo looks like someplace I would love to spend a few hours in. Does that burger bun have 2 bumps on it? It kind of makes it look like a frog!

  3. I'm with you on finding non-fast food burger places in Japan. The best burger I've ever had in Japan was at Chofu Airport. It's a really small airport in western Tokyo. The only commercial flights it has are to islands like Oshima off of Tokyo on this tiny airline company that uses propeller planes. It was right behind where I was staying in Tokyo. Anyway, my girlfriend told me she heard there was a cafe inside the airport. We checked it out one day, and sure enough. For about 1000 yen, you got about a pound of fries, and a huge burger that was cooked perfectly. There might have been a side salad too.

    There's unfortunately no video games or comic books, but the back wall was all glass so you could see the runway and watch the planes land. Pretty nice place.

    Also, under the "Internet is Small Category" I'm fairly certain sure I used to work with "apricotsushi." Haha!

  4. Michael - I agree 100%. Toss a burger onto those three and its just perfect.

    apricotsushi - thanks! And you have a very good eye, the restaurant is actually called the Frog Burger Cafe (you can see the name in the menu in that top pic) and the burgers are meant to look like frogs!

    Nate - I`ll have to check that airport out next time I`m on my way to....Oshima. Could happen. Actually I`m surprised that there are a couple of decent burger places in Fukuoka. When I lived in the Kansai area I went a full five years without a good burger (save for trips home to Canada). Interesting that you used to work with apricotsushu, small world indeed! Her blog is quite cool if you havent checked it out yet!

  5. I remember that Double Dragon II was all over every comic in that era.. they must have spent a fortune promoting that game.

  6. Yes, I remember that too. Operation Wolf ads were in a lot of comics too about 1989 if I recall. I`ll have to dig out my old comic collection next time I visit my folks!

  7. Those ads are pretty cool (and a little weird!) but the thing that impressed me most here was that burger bun - it has ears! Or are they sticky-uppy eyes like a frogs? :)