So I got sick of waiting for Jeff and Co. to go on The Raid and decided to take things into my own hands. Kind of.
I am not crazy enough to just show up with an empty bag and a wad of cash and then leave 2 days later. If I am going all the way to Japan (somewhere I have never been before) I am going to spend some time there. So I went for two weeks with a friend, she left after 10 days leaving me 3 whole days to do nothing but buy a stupid amount of old-ass video games.
And that is just what I did! Here are my experiences and advice for anyone considering a raid on Japan.
I went over knowing I would come back with a lot more stuff than I took over so the first step was to get a second bag allowed on the return flight. I selected a bag to take which was far bigger than I needed and then packed very light. I considered taking two bags with me but I wasn’t sure how much stuff I would bring back so decided to buy the second bag when I got there.
And I am glad I did! I ended up with a larger volume of stuff than I thought I would and I had to search for a bag which was as large as the airline I was flying with would allow. Here are the two bags I came back with, the pack was 60% full of games, and the black bag was 100% full of games, over 40kg in crap all together:
So after over a week of doing tourist crap I was itching to throw all my money away on some games! Day one I actually decided to leave Tokyo and took the Shinkansen to Osaka and visit Den Den Town. I was actually a little disappointed with it, mostly because the Super Potato there was closed. There were however several really great shops. Game Tanteidan was great, I got a handful of very cheap Dreamcast games and a very nice condition Dreamcast arcade stick for $25!
A-Too further down the road was smaller but had some cool stuff. I got a handful of PS1/PS2 and Saturn Games, and also a boxed copy of Sim City 2000 for the N64! Why not?!?
There were a bunch of smaller places and I could have bought a lot but I tried to show some self control so I didn’t have to carry too much stuff around Osaka/back to Tokyo.
Day Two back in Tokyo and I take some advice I had received which was to hit up the Ikebukero Super Potato before going to the Akihabara store so I took the train out there for the morning. This store was probably my favourite in Japan, great variety and stuff was comparably cheaper than most other places with that kind of selection. They had an impressive PS1 stock which I gave up trying to look through entirely. I thoroughly attacked the Dreamcast and Saturn sections and pulled out a range of gems for cheap, picked up a couple of Famicom and Super Famicom items including boxed Gradius and 1942, and also grabbed a Famicom Dual console for $40.
After spending way too long trying to figure out how I was going to play these NTSC-J Saturn games on my PAL console at home, I decide to also just buy a Japanese Saturn. Console, cables, and a controller for $45.
With daylight running out I randomly called into a chain store called Book Off and was surprised by their game section which included a huge PS2 section, equally impressive PS1 section, and what they call “oldsoft”, mostly Saturn, Dreamcast, Famicom, and Super Famicom games. I went nuts on their PS1 section and nothing was more than $2-$5 each. They had two bins full of loose Famicom carts where 90% of them were $1 each. I could have just bought a random heap worth and been happy but was again fearful of my baggage allowance and I hadn’t even made it to Akihabara yet!
On my way back home I stopped in at the Shibuya Book Off and was again surprised at the PS1 and oldsoft sections. A few nice boxed Super Famicom games and a few PS1 oddities and I was done for the day.
Day Three and I was finally heading into Akihabara. A quick stop at the Book Off there resulted in me finding a copy of Mr Mosquito for the PS2, something I had been looking for since I got there. It’s strange Kanji font for its Japanese title “Ka” made it hard to spot but I am glad I found it. Each store had a different shelf ordering system too, which made it hard for a non-Japanese speaker. Some stores were ordered in Hiragana which was ok if you knew what you were looking for, but some stores order in genre which got frustrating when they would mix up the shmups with the Call of Duties.
Before I hit up any more stores I went to the most important place in the entire country, the shmup floor at Hey Arcade. I have been wanting to go there for a very long time and it was almost overwhelming how amazing that place is. I spent several hours just watching the freakish talent there, dudes just destroying games like Ketsui like it ain't no thing. I even managed to 1 credit Mushihimesama Futari Black Label (a slightly easier game relatively speaking!) and set the high score on the machine so I held my own reasonably well for a foreigner!
After my arcade fix I had my heart set on achieving my number 1 goal in Japan, a goal I am sure would be common among many Giant Bomb fans. Find a copy of Windjammers. I have an arcade cabinet at home and a Neo Geo four slot board so I was hoping for an MVS cart. First stop, Mak Japan, a place in which I wanted to buy absolutely everything. Arcade boards galore, and a fat rack of MVS carts. No dice. I ask the fellow behind the counter if they have it (Japanese name “Flying Power Disc”) and he apologises. Dang.
Nice try Mak Japan, but surely G Front down the road has a copy! (Pro tip: G Front isn’t open till 3.30pm.) G Front has less boards but a larger range of MVS carts. I grab the stock list and even ask the guy behind the counter. Nothing. Its almost as if some website has popularised this game and people have been buying the limited number of copies around! Feeling defeated I peruse the Naomi stock, maybe I should drown my sorrows with a copy of Ikaruga?
No! Plan B! See if there are any Neo Geo consoles going and hey maybe there is an AES copy floating about somewhere. So off to my next stop, Trader. Upstairs is their classic game floor which has a nice selection, including the biggest group of Master System and Mega Drive games I have seen yet in Japan (which was still pretty small). They are selling the Neo Geo X consoles which I am not particularly interested in and have a boxed Neo Geo for close to $200. There is also a distinct lack of AES carts around.
After feeling sorry for myself and then browsing through the Neo Geo CD selection I come up with Plan C! A CD copy of Flying Power Disc for $25. I remember seeing a Neo Geo CD console in Ikebukero for cheapish so I will hit the Super Potato and grab down the road and grab one. I pick up a few more Neo Geo CD games including Aero Fighters 2 and King of the Monsters 2 plus some really cheap Dreamcast and Saturn games. They use the term “trashsoft” for games that aren’t worth anything and are just taking up shelf space. On the way out I notice a PS Vita for $120. I had been thinking about picking one up and the price was right!
So on to the Super Potato in Akihabara. Straight to the consoles on the shelf, I was a little disappointed by the selection, Neo Geo CD in real nice condition with two controllers for $80. Sold! I also grab a Gamecube because I don't have one and its $25 and why not! I clear out the rest of their interesting yet affordable Neo Geo CD games, a copy of Viewpoint, a few King of Fighters titles, and a copy of Ghost Pilots.
Again I thoroughly go through the Saturn and Dreamcast sections for interesting Gems, there are train simulators, dating sims, and animal petting games galore, all gold and for a couple of dollars each! I see a copy of Night Trap for the Sega CD sitting there so it becomes mine. The Super Famicom section is expensive but a few things tickle my fancy, boxed copy of Gradius 3, Darius Twin, and R-Type, and some game where Yoshi goes on safari. I could spend all day in there (and a lot of money).
I finish of the day by heading upstairs to the Super Potato arcade where they have a handful of arcade machines and snacks! Its pretty small but far quieter than Hey or Try. A couple of games of DoDonPachi and I am ready to head home with my haul and see if it all fits inside my bags.
It does! Wrap some breakables in tshirts, stuff cases into the empty spaces in boxes, zip everything up and try to be gentle. Everything makes it back home in one piece, the airline baggage handler must have been in a good mood that day.
So how about some photos of everything I bought? Ok:
All up I bought about 120 games, and 5 consoles, plus some other crap and spent somewhere in the order of US$800.
So after all of that, here are my tips for anyone thinking about going to Japan to buy a bunch of video games:
- Osaka was good but make sure you have more time than I took and the ability to transport your purchases.
- The Ikebukero Super Potato was consistently cheaper than the Akihabara store, with just as much interesting stuff and wayyyyy less people.
- Used oldsoft is everywhere! Hit a Book Off if you want cheap PS1 games among other things. This is especially true in Akihabara, go into any store that looks like it sells video game related anything.
- If you are looking for specific items, prepare. Figure out where they are most likely to be, what the Japanese names for them are, have a list that you can tick off, and if they are reasonably common you should shop around a bit. The $5 copy of Mr Mosquito I got was $35 at another store down the road.
- Even if you aren’t after a specific item, prepare anyway! Figure out some games you would like to come back with otherwise you will end up with a bunch of weird random loose carts that don't make much sense.
- Prepare baggage early so you know how much you can buy. Make sure you pre-buy the extra bags for your flight and know what the bag size limit is, dimensions AND weight. Games are heavy when stuffed into a large bag.
- Dont hesitate too much on a purchasing decision if it is something you really want because you will run out of time and regret it later. I really wish I had bought that Sega Mark III in Ikebukero.
- DITCH ANYONE YOU ARE WITH WHO IS NOT INTERESTED IN BUYING VIDEO GAMES. THEY WILL SLOW YOU DOWN.
- For the love of god, get a bag with wheels on it. I had to carry both bags plus my carry on bag from my apartment to the train station in Shibuya, a walk which normally would take 10 minutes but took over an hour because I had to keep stopping so my back didn’t collapse on itself.
So in summary, Japan is amazing and I had the best time so you should all probably go too.