Monday, June 18, 2018

The Most Expensive Famicom Games at Super Potato

I made a trek out to Super Potato in Nagoya the other day.  I love Super Potato even though I don't buy a lot there, its just such a beautiful shop to stroll around in and gawk at the amazing stuff they have.  If I ever opened a game shop, I don't think I would do anything differently from what Super Potato has done with theirs.

I brought my camera along and in addition to the obligatory pictures of rows of Famicom games on shelves:
And stacks of Famicom consoles:
I also took some pictures of the glass case in which they store their most valuable Famicom games and thought I'd share with you the most valuable stuff they have.
The CIB stuff is, predictably, the most expensive.  Some of the highlights here include:

Battle Formula: 128,000 Yen
Over Horizon: 49,800 Yen
Gimmick!: 69,800 Yen
Adventure Island IV: 49,800 Yen
Metal Storm: 29,800 Yen

Also visible in the foreground is an oddity - the Gradius Archimendes version, which was limited to 4000 copies given out to consumers of ramen back in the day.  They want 59,800 Yen for it, which is in the ballpark, but its odd because the box is a regular Gradius box.  The Archimendes version has a distinctive label across the upper right corner which is missing on that one (otherwise it would be much more expensive).
Right next to them is the most expensive thing in the store, though I think it is a pricing error.  A CIB copy of Recca Summer Carnival 92 for 778,000 Yen (that is about $7,000 US).  That is definitely a valuable and rare game, but CIB copies usually go for about 100,000 Yen on Yahoo Auctions (and in fact there is one there now at that price).  Super Potato's price tend towards the high side, but not THAT much, so I think this must be a mistake and maybe somebody accidentally added an extra zero to the price tag.  
More goodies here, including Moon Crystal (64,800 Yen):
Battletoads (21,800 Yen) and some Rockmans with prices falling into reach of mere mortals:

A few more beauties in the 10,000-20,000 Yen or so range:

The cart only selection is also pretty impressive. Tailor Made by Bridgestone (49,800 Yen, the one with the cyclists on it) is one of the holy grails of Famicom collecting.  It was distributed only to bicycle shops and allowed customers to choose custom parts for their bicycles, thus making it one of the rarest games out there (though also one of the boringest).  Recca Summer Carnival 92 is available for the same price and is a lot more well known, though it seems to be a lot easier to find.

One of the more surprising things I noticed was actually that, impressive as this selection is, its nowhere near as awe-inspiring as it once was.  A few years ago a trip to Super Potato would inevitably turn up some hyper rarities - like my visit to the Osaka branch a few years ago where I found copies of the gold Rockman 4 (only 8 ever made) and the gold Binary Land (only about 200).  The hyper-rarities like those ones seem to have disappeared from the market as they never turn up on Yahoo Auctions anymore either.  Games like Tailor Made and Recca are certainly impressive, but they don't really feel up to the task of headlining a Super Potato glass case.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Oh No! Japanese Retro Video Game Bars and Cafes are Getting Shut Down by the Fuzz!

A few years ago I wrote about what I thought was one of the coolest things in Japan: Famicom bars.  Basically these are bars or cafes which cater to retro gamers.  For an hourly fee they allow customers to sit at a table and play a Famicom (or other retro console) while having a drink.  Its a very similar business model to internet cafes which are everywhere in Japan.  I'm not sure when the first opened, but some have evidently been around for decades.  Some of them are really great places with really knowledgeable owners.

Or, at least that is how they were until today.  Police in Kyoto and Kobe have just arrested four individuals who ran retro game bars (Game Bar Clantz in Kyoto, Equlit in Kobe, and two others which aren't named in the news reports).  Their crime?  Allowing customers to play games produced by Nintendo and Capcom without permission from Nintendo and Capcom.

If you want to see something really surreal, check out this news clip about the arrest.  The police seized more than a thousand game cartridges (mostly Super Famicom) and several consoles, including a red and white Famicom.  They laid it all out for the press to see, the same way they do with piles of drugs and cash seized from drug kingpins.  Its weird.

The legal problem is that charging the public to play on games licensed for home consoles is a violation of copyright law, since the owners of the copyright (Nintendo, Capcom and other game makers) only license those for non commercial, domestic use.  In other words, the entire business model of Famicom bars is basically illegal. According to this report, the police action was launched in response to complaints from Nintendo itself (along with other game makers).

While it was only four retro game bars that were targeted in this raid, this basically means that all of them are illegal and I doubt any will stay in business after today at the risk of the owner being arrested.  I just discovered that the link to Famicom City in Shibuya, a major retro game bar that opened in 2015 which I wrote about in my earlier post on these stores (from which the photo at the top of this post comes), is now dead.  The only way for these bars to go legit is either:

A) get permission from the makers of each game they offer to the public to do so (highly unlikely, given that the makers obviously can and will refuse such permission), or:
B) Remove all home consoles and replace them with arcade cabinets (which are licensed for use by the public and thus not illegal to use in a bar).  This is do-able, but of course arcade cabinets aren't ideally suited for cafes (except the table top ones) so doing so would really change the nature of places that do this.

This is really sad, since retro game bars were one of the coolest elements of the Japanese retro gaming scene.  It also feels quite petty  on the part of Nintendo.  While I appreciate that legally they are in the right, I don't see what purpose is served in shutting these places down.  The games involved look like they were mostly over 20 years old, so its hardly like they were eating into Nintendo's profits and turning a blind eye to technical violations of copyright undoubtedly had the benefit of throwing a lot of good will from the gaming community to Nintendo (and Capcom who were also behind this).  I think they deserve to take a hit to their reputation for this, how about you?

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Last Famicom Game: Adventure Island 4

This week I scratched another game off my Famicom want list - Takahashi Meijin's Adventure Island 4!

It was released 24 years ago this month (June 24, 1994) which gives it a distinguished place in history as the last game ever released for the Famicom.  This also makes it one of the hardest to find since it simultaneously falls into several categories that make it a high-demand item:

1. Late release with very limited sales/production making it a rarity
2. Game featuring a popular character
3. Game never released outside of Japan
4. Game generally well regarded as a game

I have wanted a copy of this since the earliest days of my collection.  Its every Famicom collector's white whale since the existence of the other Adventure Island games (all of which are much easier to find and cheaper) in your collection constantly remind you of its absence.  Its something about the numbering that plays on whatever elements of an obsessive compulsive personality lurk in your psyche - 1, 2,3.....where is 4?  Its an itch I need to scratch!!!

So I am relieved to have this in the collection now, though once again I find myself regretting not having purchased it a few years ago when I had the chance.  I distinctly remember holding my finger above a Yahoo Auctions BIN button for a nice loose copy at a price of 8200 Yen about five years ago and for whatever reason (hubris?  arrogance?  sheer stupidity?) holding fire in the mistaken belief that a cheaper one would magically appear.  I paid just under 14,000 Yen for this one and counted myself lucky.