Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cool Finds: Famicom Lunch Box

 I got an unexpected surprise last week.  I had bought a small lot of about a dozen Famicom carts off of Yahoo Auctions and when they came in the mail I discovered that the sender had used the most awesome packing box ever - a vintage Famicom lunch box!

This thing is totally awesome.  Released in 1985 it features the usual round up of figures from popular early Famicom releases on the front - Ice Climber, Super Mario, Wrecking Crew and Clu Clu Land.  The art looks awesome close up
Both the top and the bottom have that same, colorful artwork on it.  On the side it just lets you know its a Family Computer lunch box
While the other side has some blue colored characters from Super Mario Brothers:

This must have been a pretty awesome thing for a kid to carry his or her lunch to school in.  It brings back fond memories of my own Empire Strikes Back lunch box that I used to lug around in the early 80s.  I`m not sure if this Famicom one came with a thermos or not.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Famicom Bars: I want one.

Famicom City in Shibuya

Famicom bars and cafes are one of the few remaining awesome bastions of Japanese retro gaming culture which I have yet to try.

If you don`t know what they are.....well, basically they are about what you think they would be after hearing the phrase "Famicom bar" or "Famicom cafe".  Bars and cafes at which customers can play Famicom and other retro games.  There is a good write up about some of them in Tokyo over on 1Up here.

My main reason for not having ever been in one of these places (there are even a couple not far from where I live) is, I`m ashamed to admit, that I`m a bit of a cheapskate.  The problem is that most Famicom bars/cafes have a pricing policy that is significantly different from most bars and cafes.  They aren`t places where you can just go in, order a beer and casually down it at your own pace like at a pub.  Instead they charge by the hour, usually with a minimum total charge of 2000-3000 yen.

Given that I can actually buy a Famicom for about that much, I`ve always balked at going to one.  This is horribly cheap of me, I know.  You are paying for the experience of sitting in an interesting environment and playing games, so comparisons with the price of an actual Famicom are kind of meaningless.  Nonetheless, my mind works in mysterious and not always rational ways like that.

When I think about though I totally understand why they price things that way.  The Japanese otaku crowd is, to be gentle, renowned for not being short on people who like to linger.  Open a business specifically targetting them and not charging by the hour is an invitation to have your business swamped by people ordering the cheapest thing on the menu and then sitting there for 9 hours playing Dragon Quest 3 over and over again.

Anyway, what I really like about this kind of business, in the abstract anyway, is that it has always been a secret dream of mine to open up a bar when I retire and these places give me lots of room for daydreaming about what kind of a Famicom bar I would open if I ever got the chance.  I think I would introduce a twist on the pricing policy.  I would have a two drink minimum to avoid the lingering otaku problem, but with each drink you would get one game to keep when you leave.  So the menu would have two columns, one with a type of drink and the other with a list of games, and with each order you would have to choose one of each.  The price of the drink would largely depend on which game you wanted to go with it (Gimmick and a beer would be very expensive, Golf and a beer would be very cheap).  It would be kind of combining drinking and video game shopping in one experience, which I think would be a lot of fun.

And of course the best part about opening a place like that would be decorating it.  I would like to have one entire wall basically wallpapered with Famicom carts.  I think that would look awesome.  I would also cover the counter tops and table tops with a solid surface made up of Famicom carts too (covered with a bit of plexiglass).  They look so awesome, I`m surprised none of the existing places have done that yet.  The one photo (in the top of this post) is from one in Shibuya where they tried to do the decor in red and white Famicom colors.  I do not like the look of that one at all.  It just doesn`t have the right vibe - it is too clean and orderly and looks more like a generic fast food restaurant rather than a cool place with some character.  And using identical flat TVs is a big no in my books - my place would be decked out exclusively with old-school cathode ray TV sets.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Oddball finds: Famicom Label Error Carts

 Notice anything odd about the above cart?

I was just sorting through a pile of random Famicom carts and did a bit of a double-take when I saw this copy of Oukon Densetsu.  I have never seen this before, but somehow Bandai managed to put the label on upside down!  Only on front though, the back label is normal:

They must have had a sheet of labels get inserted into the labelling machine upside down or something.  It is kind of a neat find, albeit on a game I have never played.  Anybody else ever find something like this before?  I can imagine that the Nintendo, Jaleco and most other carts would have been vulnerable to the same type of problem, though with Konami carts it would be hard to do given the fact that the label extends over the top. 

Edited to add:

This cart has gotten a bit of attention over on Famicom no Netta.  I did a little further research to try to figure out exactly where I had gotten this cart (I had kind of forgotten, it was just one in a large lot that I had purchased at some point) and was able to trace it back to this lot that I picked up on Yahoo Auctions last month:

The seller didn`t mention the error cart and I didn`t even notice it in there (I mainly was after that copy of Samurai Pizza Cats)!