Saturday, June 8, 2013

Retro Rarities: Amada LSI Game Mini Cards

Barely a week into June and this is already my second post this month, I seem to be getting back into blogging!

I picked up something totally awesome on Yahoo Auctions the other day and I wanted to do a little post about it because when I did some searching on Google I discovered that there is nothing out there on the internet about them (in Japanese or English).

It is a full box of Amada LSI Game Mini Cards, produced in 1980 and still completely sealed with all the cards still in their original packs.  Each of the cards features a hand-held game made by either Tomy, Epock, Takatoku Toys or Takara, whose names are on the front of the box:

Being released in 1980 they would have just missed the Game and Watch generation, but these ones are pretty cool.  I have some Tomy handhelds from the early 80s, including my beloved Puck Man,  and they are really cool. Inside the box the awesomeness begins with a bunch of cellophane-wrapped beauties:
In addition to the cellophane wrapped ones, which came in packs of 2 or 4, are the single packs with one each:
Each box contained a total of 60, which originally retailed for 10 yen each:

The company that made these, Amada, is kind of an important (and massively underappreciated) one in the history of Famicom stuff as pretty much all of the Famicom ephemera produced in the 1980s was put out by them.  My favorite among these (at least in my collection) would be the Famicom Mini Cards that they released in 1986 which came in an identically sized box as my new LSI game cards.  They display nicely together on my little shelf:

In fact, I was actually searching for some of those Amada Famicom cards on Yahoo Auctions when I came across these ones, which I hadn`t known existed before.  Amada also put out the awesome Famicom Erasers and a cool but extremely hard to find set of Famicom stickers which I hope to do a post about in the near future. 

Sadly I don`t have any information on how big the set of cards was or which games (other than the ones I can see on mine) were featured. I am guessing that these were not a big seller back in the day.  It is common to find little piles of loose Amada Famicom cards on Yahoo Auctions and there is a bit of a collector base for those here.  These LSI game ones I have never seen before though and I couldn`t find any others, loose or in their boxes, on Yahoo Auctions.  The one I got was probably dead stock from some store that couldn`t sell them.

Anyway, this type of thing I find just as interesting as collecting games themselves.  They look really cool, especially these ones still in the original packing (the cards by themselves are a bit dull in design). 
Yet another random find.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The RF/ AV Divide: The Ugly Carnage the Switch to Digital Broadcasting has Caused for Japan`s Retro Gamers

In the summer of 2011 something happened in Japan that made life a bit more difficult for retro gamers.  One day all the television broadcasts switched from analogue to digital.  For years prior to that the government had been running regular commercials on TV reminding people about the coming analogue apocalypse.  I remember those commercials in particular because they featured a member of the popular boy band SMAP who, right in the middle of the campaign, got caught up in a minor scandal when he got drunk one night, went to a park somewhere in Tokyo, got completely naked and then danced and shouted until somebody called the police.

They dropped him from the TV commercials for a couple of months amid the public outcry over that, but I think they hired him back once the news cycle had moved on and it was deemed that he had apologized enough.  The incident is mainly noteworthy for the fact that it was the only time in history that a member of a boy band has ever done anything that had entertainment value, which is why I mention it here.

Anyway, that is a bit off topic.  The main effect of the switch to digital was that it instantly rendered all analogue TVs completely useless as TVs.  Both of the TVs I had at the time were analogue so I had to go spend 5,000 yen to buy a tuner to make a TV that no longer had any resale value capable of showing the quality programming that Japanese TV networks are known for, like this: 

 When we moved last year I made the massive mistake of ditching our two analogue TVs as we intended to buy a new digital one and figured they weren`t worth shipping.  It was a mistake because, as I only recently discovered, digital TVs come with this awesome design feature known as `RF incompatibility` that allows you to not hook anything up to the TV via RF.  It’s a totally awesome improvement on the old TVs that didn`t have RF incompatibility, meaning that if you wanted a TV that was totally useless and didn`t work at all with RF then you were shit out of luck. 

So anyway, having an RF incompatible TV (and a 1989 Sony Trinitron that I had to buy online specifically for retro gaming purposes) has made me acutely aware of the RF/ AV divide in retro video game consoles, something that I never really paid much attention to before.  It has, for the first time in the history of my collection, caused an ugly social rift to appear within the ranks of my consoles.  

On the one hand is my AV Famicom, Super Famicom, Nintendo 64, Sega Mega Drive and PC Engine, all of which have AV cables and can be connected to the big digital TV in my living room.  They sit in a nice piece of IKEA furniture (at least the Famicom and N64 do, space limitations apply) along with some potted plants, family photos and a few  tastefully arranged knick knacks.  We see them everyday as the living room is the apartment`s centre of activity.  Sometimes we play nice music for them.  They have a view out the 6th floor terrace window from which you get a nice view of the city lights at night.

 In other words, they have a pampered existence.  They are the Carlton Banks of my retro game console collection.

On the other hand are my poor RF-only consoles, which actually make up the bulk of my collection.  My old-school Famicom, Epoch Cassette Vision, Intellivision, Atari 2800, Sega SG-1000, Mark III, Space Vader and Color TV Game 15 are all relegated to the dreaded `spare room` which is mainly used for storage and as the only part of our apartment where we allow the dog to pee and poo on the floor without getting scolded.  The Sony Trinitron is set up in there, but there is no IKEA furniture to support it.  Rather it just sits on a moving box surrounded by doggy pee sheets.  The only place to set a console is directly on top of the TV, so only one console can be used at a time, with the rest just sitting in boxes in the closet.  It is not a comfortable room so they hardly get played at all.

Compared to the systems that work with digital, they have a rough life.  They are the Ron Burgundy-after-getting-fired-from-the-News-Team of my retro console collection:
 I think this is probably a common pattern among the households of retro game collectors across Japan since 2011.  We are probably the only people out there who will actually still pay money for analogue TVs, but owing to the small size of most Japanese homes it is a huge burden to have to maintain two separate TVs (and the attendant seating arrangements, etc) just to play games on old systems.  Until I got that damn digital TV this had never been a problem for me because all of my games worked on our main TV in the living room. 

Now, my collection is divided.  And the part of it I like the best, the really REALLY retro stuff, I can`t even play in my own living room.  Damn you, digital broadcasting, this is all your fault.  And also damn you,  guy from SMAP whose name I can`t remember, its probably your fault too just because you are a member of a boy band.