Friday, July 29, 2016

My Visit to Retro Game Stores in Akihabara



This summer I had the chance to vacation in Japan with my family.  We stayed is multiple locations, one of which being Tokyo.  Being a family vacation, the majority of activities were sightseeing and family-friendly activities.  On one of the days I was able to slip away and go to Tokyo's famous electric town, Akihabara.  This neighborhood is jam-packed with technology goods stores, anime stores, pachinko parlors, arcades, and the like.  Anticipating that I would eventually make may way here, I procured a map online from retro-video-gaming.com to help me navigate efficiently through the area.

The area is relatively compact, and blocks are not as large as here in the states, so things were not as far as they might appear.  My first stop was the most well-known retro gaming store in Japan, Super Potato.

This store is has the largest selection of all of the stores that I visited.  The store is actually spread over three floors.
The Mega Drive section was relatively small, but some prominent titles were available.

The Super Famicom section was well stocked, but most titles were arranged standing in rows, with Japanese labels.  I spent some time flipping through them, but I had to budget my time.  The big titles were on display, like Mario, Zelda Rockman, etc.
There were a plethora of used Nintendo consoles, all aged to that yellow perfection.  Notice the Famicom and Disc systems.  Original controllers were strangely sparse.
The PC-Engine Shuttle, with a form factor that was aimed for a younger audience.  Who wouldn't want a console shaped as a ship?
The Sega Saturn did very well in Japan, and hence the large number of released titles.  Alhtough there are a good amount of shooters on display here, many of them had "sold out" stickers on them.  The prices on these were about average eBay prices.

These Titles were in the locked case.  I didn't even bother to see them, based on their prices.  

The top floor has a small arcade, candy for sale, and Solid Snake statue which I forgot to take a picture of.

There's a pretty sweet stairwell.
Overall it has pretty steep prices for games in high demand.  For common games, the prices were a bit above average, but manageable.  I didn't buy a lot here, but it was still amazing to see in person.

The next stop was Mandrake.
  They did not allow photos in this store, but I can tell you that its prices on everything were through the roof.  I spent the least amount of time here.  The selection was decent, but as I wasn't willing to pay over top dollar for what they had.  Moving on.

Trader is a resale chain that has several locations.  It had a decent selection of games, and a lot of hardware.  It was here that I lucked out and found an official Sega Saturn-style controller for the Paystation.  I have always disliked the d-pad on the Playstation controllers, and this is my wish come true.  I had always put if off, because being a rarity, it was pricey (>$100).  Here I found it for about $45!
Not many have heard of this controller's existence.

RPG's on the Super Famicom are a dime a dozen here.  Chrono Trigger, which usually goes for about >$100, is just under three dollars.  These and Final Fantasy games litter the bargain bins.  Of course, in order to take advantage of the savings you need to be able to read Kanji or get a translation patch and play through a Retron 5.

Top tier games are locked in security cases.  

There was a little basement store called "Beep" that I found out about on a FB group.  It was really tiny, so much so that if someone were standing in an aisle, you could not pass without getting really friendly.  It had a decent PC Engine selection, but mainly it was arcade parts and PCBs.  I'm not really into buying arcade boards, so I moved on.

The next stop was perhaps the best.  It is called "Friends" and is very difficult to find, even with a map.  It doesn't have a store front, and you have to go into a building and up a stairwell to see the sign.  This place has loads of games and reasonable prices.  Again, no pictures were allowed but trust me that this place is exactly what you want to find in a retro game shop.  The lady behind the counter was very nice, and everything was neatly arranged on display.

Lastly, I stopped into "Book-Off", a second hand book and media store.  This place reminded me of a chain here in the midwest called Half PriceBooks.  There was a fair amount of 5th and 6th generation stuff, but the cartridge games selection was pretty thin.  There was a bargain bin in the back left that had Famicom and Super Famicom carts, but nothing too enticing.  The majority of gaming product that they had was relatively modern.  I went to another one in Kyoto, and noticed the same thing.  

So what did I get?
The King of Fighters ($30) and Rez ($9) I purchased from Super Potato.  Capcom Vs. SNK 2 I got for a dollar from a street sale outside Meiji Castle, and Macross VFX2 I got for $5 from Book Off.
I have been waiting for the eBay prices on Waku Waku 7 to drop for a while, and then I find it at Traders for $20.  Golden Axe the Duel was $11, and Mr. Bones was $13.
Kid Dracula was purchased from Friends for $22, Rockman Soccer was $8, and Super Fire Pro Wrestling was a bargain bin pickup from Book Off for a dollar.
Dungeons and Dragons collection is a reissue of the Sega Saturn release, with the same games ($18).  MVC3 was $5.  
Overall, I found that Friends and Trader had the best prices, and Super Potato was neat just to experience.  Mandrake was lame, and Beep was a bit too niche for me.  If you are ever in Tokyo, you should really make the trip to Akihabara; its easy to get to and tons of fun.