Saturday, August 18, 2012

More Famicom Erasers

As I mentioned in the previous post, I picked up a lot of Famicom erasers last week. They are pretty neat little things, basically mini versions of Famicom carts.

I am pretty sure these were released by Amada, the same company that made the Famicom Mini cards in the mid-80s. I`m not sure how many they made but I have Donkey Kong Jr, Exerion, Ninja Kun, Urban Champion, Mario Bros, Dig Dug, Tennis, Formation Z and Galaga.

They are quite a bit smaller than the original carts and not quite the same, as a comparison of Galaga cart and eraser reveals:

One of them, in a Mario Bros box, contained a mini Family Computer, the Eraser Computer rather than a version of the game`s cart:
It doesn`t have the controllers but it still looks kind of neat:)

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Famicom cart that fits on your fingertip

Behold, the smallest copy of Wild Gunman you are likely to ever find. About one-tenth the size of the regular cart:
I just picked up a set of Famicom erasers and this was by far the smallest one in the lot. Back in the 80s collecting erasers was pretty big with kids here in Japan. Actually I remember it was big in Canada too, in the 3rd grade way back in 1984 I had a few cherished erasers shaped like various things that I kept in my desk at school.

Here you could get them out of those Gachopon vending machines. Wild Gunma here is so small that the eraser is basically just a generic rectangle that looks nothing like a Wild Gunman cart:
The larger ones though look pretty cool and the erasers themselves are miniature versions of the cart, like Dig Dug here (next to a regular Famicom cart for scale):
I got about a dozen or so of these in the lot, they are all games released early in the Famicom`s life so I think these probably came out in 1985 or 86 at the latest. A very neat little thing that I will never ever in a million years be using to actually erase anything.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Yahoo Auction Treasures: Epoch TV Vader

I think I need help, I`ve been buying stuff like crazy on Yahoo Auctions for the past month. There is just too much good stuff to stay away.

The latest piece of vintage Japanese retro gear to arrive on my doorstep all the way from Osaka is the above Epoch TV Vader console, complete in box.

I have wanted one of these for a really long time but I have never been able to find one in the wild. When I found this on Yahoo I entered a pretty low bid not expecting to win, but was pleasantly surprised when I did!

I`ve mentioned on here before that in the late 70s and early 80s Epoch was Nintendo`s main competitor in the Japanese home gaming market. When Nintendo was releasing its Color TV Game 15 and other consoles with single games hardwired into it, Epoch was doing the same.

TV Vader was released in 1980 and, as you can probably deduce from both the name and packaging, contains a Space Invaders type game.
I just plugged this sucker in and it works great. The TV Vader doesn`t exactly have a Space Invaders game, but rather a close copy. Everything is the same except for the number of enemy ships coming at you and the fact that every time you shoot them instead of exploding you just knock them further up the screen. After you`ve shot an enemy five times he finally explodes.
Its a pretty cool variant on Space Invaders and there are four different levels of varying difficulty.

The main reason I wanted this wasn`t for the ability to play Space Invaders per se, but because of how cool the console itself looks:
Joystick and Missile button. The controls could not be simpler, or cooler. The best part though is that artwork on the top with `TV Vader` and a bunch of space invaders on it. This is a very interesting blip in the history of video game console design as it is one of the few that actually put artwork beyond the console`s logo directly onto the console.

`TV Vader` is also an amazing name for a console.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My New Holy Grail: 1968 Nintendo N&B Block Leisure House

My interest in pre-Famicom vintage Nintendo stuff began a couple of years ago when I found a boxed Electro Safari SP light gun target set from 1970 on a shelf at the now-defunct Omocha Souko.

It was further piqued when Erik V started his absolutely amazing Before Mario blog in which he introduced to the English speaking web his amazing collection of pre-Famicom Nintendo stuff. That blog is cool not just because it allows him to showcase his personal collection, but also because it is pretty much the only comprehensive resource on this rather interesting subject out there. Even in Japanese there isn`t anything comparable.

So over the past couple of years I`ve been slowly picking up little pieces here and there wherever I can find them. Unfortunately most of the stuff is hard to find and expensive when you do.

So I was pretty excited last week when I stumbled upon the above item on Yahoo Auctions: a complete Nintendo N&B Leisure House Block Set!
Back in the 60s Nintendo released its N & B block series, which were very similar to Lego sets. The Leisure House (what a name) was released in 1968 as the instruction manual shows:
It came with a pretty cool full color booklet that included various instructions for making stuff other than the leisure house with the bricks:
This one I got is not only complete, its still sealed:
44 years and still nobody has put this house together. Normally I think nothing of opening sealed stuff but when it is something this old and hard to find....I`m not sure what I will do about that little layer of plastic.

I absolutely love this thing. I was a big Lego fan when I was a kid and even though this is a few years before my time it still reminds me of some of the sets I had as a kid in the early 80s.

These old Nintendo Block sets are pretty hard to find. I have never seen one `in the wild`, even at Mandarake which has a huge selection of vintage toys. Since I bought this one there are now a grand total of zero of them on Yahoo Japan Auctions. Interestingly there is a seller on Ebay who specializes in old Nintendo stuff and is offering the same set here for $399. I did get into a small bidding war on mine and I did pay quite a bit for it, but not that much. I really have no idea how much these things are actually worth, they don`t seem to come up often enough to get a good feel for what they usually go for.

Anyway, I now have yet another `holy grail` for my collection that, unfortunately, I have no adequate way of displaying properly. Someday we are getting ourselves a bigger place if for no other reason than to store all this stuff:)