If you’re a serious Famicom (or any Japanese video game, really) collector, Tokyo is the place for you. All (and I do mean ALL) of those hard to find titles show up with almost frightening regularity at second hand game stores. If Super Potato, Retro Game Camp, Friends, Mandarake, or Friends don’t have what you’re looking for, come back a week later. Those hard-to-find titles aren’t CHEAP, but they’re, well, *there*.
Here’s the issue, though. Almost NO Famicom titles are what you’d consider “cheap” in Tokyo. With the exception of (most) pachinko and mah-jong games, even the most common of titles will often run you between three-hundred and eight-hundred yen. And when I say “common” I’m not talking about titles like Super Mario Bros or Rockman. *Those* command a bit of a premium, too. I mean games like Volgard 2 and F1-Race. Three-to-eight hundred yen may not seem like much, but when you’re trying to collect the entire Famicom library (Officially 1,077 games, if you count variants) that starts to add up real quick.
When I took a vacation to visit my family in Fukuoka, I made sure to save enough time to visit a few stores that sell second hand games. And let me tell you, I’m glad I did.
My first stop was a place called Hard-Off. Laugh if you must, but they specialize in discounted hardware. But they carry quite a bit of software as well.
For a combined total of 2,300 yen, I walked away with about a dozen games, including Spartan X, Tiny Toon Adventures, and the title that launched the popular Kunio-kun series, Nekketsu Koha Kunio-kun. The cashier at the store was *amazing*. He opened up the glass showcase and let me browse through the more “high-end” titles. “High-end” here meaning “games that cost up to 2,000 yen”. When I took my selections up to the register, we actually chatted for a few minutes. Turns out, he’s also a Famicom fan. Not only that, but both of us are huge fans of Game Center CX. It was a short conversation, but even *that* is rare. In Akihabara, I’m something of a regular at a few different used game stores. There have been times where I’ve spent…considerable….amounts of money at each of those places. But usually, I just get a polite “Thank you. Please come again.” Which is fine. I don’t expect them to become my new best friends just because I’m buying a bunch of games older than they are. But I’d love to hear “Oh, this one’s great!” or “If you like this one, you may want to give this other game a shot”.
My second stop was at a place called Book-Eco. I hit the Famicom mother lode at this place. They had hundreds and hundreds of Famicom titles. Some were boxed, but most were just loose carts. Their “high end” games showcase didn’t stack-up to those in Akihabara, but they still had some good stuff in there. Athena, Balloon Fight, Ice Climbers, some of those nudie mah-jong games. All for around 1,000 yen each.
I dove into the loose “commons”, though. After about 20 minutes of flipping through ‘em, I came away with 29 carts, many of which filled in some pretty noticeable holes in my collection. Superman, Sunsoft’s Batman, Wrecking Crew, several of the Dragonball titles, Ninja Hattori-kun, and dozens more, most for only one or two hundred yen each.
The only problem was that each cart had an anti-theft tag. So the clerk had to open the plastic wrap on each and every one of those 29 games and remove the tags. It took her about five solid minutes and I felt *terrible* that she had to do it.
The last place I visited was the Book-Off Super Bazaar in Tenjin. I was excited to see they had an entire rack of loose Famicom titles. I was *less* excited to see that they were almost laughably overpriced. They were, without exception, the highest priced commons I’ve *ever* seen. Nearly every title was priced at 950 yen with some going for twice that. Many of them were the same games I’d bought at Book-Eco for less than 100 yen. Even the Pulse Line carts (Tennis, Pinball, etc) were 950 yen, with Mario Bros reaching 1,500.
I was about to resign myself to coming up empty at this place, until a red box in the corner caught my eye. There were two boxed Famicom games. Top Gun for 250 yen and MOTHER for 1,755 yen. Mother is considered one of the best of the Famicom RPGs. It’s an absolute classic and it’s a darn shame that it never got an (official) English release. It’s also the only title in that infamous “Top 10” list that is in any way hard to find. LOOSE copies regularly sell for 2,000 yen or more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boxed copy (even with the box in such ratty shape) for sale at less than 5,000. So, that was just the perfect way to cap off my Fukuoka Famicom hunt.
All told, I wound up with 39 games and spent a combined total of just under 10,000 yen (100 USD). I had a great time visiting these stores, and if you’re ever in the area, I’d suggest checking them out.