Retro Game Stalking In Japan Part One: Den Den Town

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Japan is often referred to as the ultimate Mecca for video game fans. For years now people from all over the world have made the trip in search of retro gaming gold. Recently I decided to head back to Japan and see what I could find. There are two places in Japan where you can find the bulk of retro gaming paraphernalia; the very famous Akhihabara in Tokyo and Den Den town in Osaka.

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First up I hit Den Den town aka Niponbashi. Den Den town is an area the size of several city blocks filled with nothing but store after store catering for the Otaku (nerd). One of my favorite shops to hit up is called A-Too Recycle Media shop. In here you will find games from the MSX computer to the Sony Play Station. Mostly what I like about the shop is that their prices are quite affordable. This is the place where I have found such greats as a cheap copy of Holy Diver, several of the Namcot numbered series, a boxed original Famicom, the Negcon controller and tons of great and unique Famicom carts. In the corner of the shop at the back they have a bargain bucket where you can always find something unique. For example this time out I found a couple of Super Gameboy controllers for the SNES.

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They are quite useless in function but oh wow do they radiate nostalgic charm!

The atmosphere of the shop is pretty much what you would expect for a Japanese game store. It’s noisy with the sounds of chip tune CDs playing a bit too loudly and the rustling of carts as game hunters like myself search for buried treasure.  When it comes to selection they don’t exactly have a great deal of rare or hard to find games. This is a place to visit if you are just beginning your collection and are looking for affordable loose carts. Hardware wise this place is most often a bust. I lucked out on the boxed Famicom last year and didn’t find anything this year except for a large quantity of clone systems and slightly used PSP’s. I did however pick up an FC Pocket portable Famicom system which I am pretty happy with for the most part.

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The D-Pad has problems with upper diagonals. Makes it hard to play maze games.

The condition of the carts I found this year ranged from immaculately preserved to ones that looked a bit rough around the edges. They have a small collection of boxed games for the Game Boy, Wonder Swan, and Neo Geo pocket but I wasn’t able to find anything that I really needed.  If you visit this shop make sure you stop by the bargain rack at the front door as well. Here you can often find loose games in rough shape but for very nice prices.

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The next shop that is a must visit in Den Den town is game Tanteidan. This is by far the best shop to visit in Osaka. On the first floor you can find an incredible assortment of boxed and loose Famicom games that will help you fill any holes you might have in your collection. The first floor is almost exclusively Nintendo games but I did find a small selection of MSX carts as well.

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The best part of the first floor is what I found behind the glass cases. I have never in my life seen such a large collection of Game Boy Lights in the same place. If I didn’t already have a nice boxed silver Game Boy Light I’m sure I would have spent some serious money here.

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These Game Boy Lights are totally mocking Septic Lemon!

For those that love Sega head on up to the second floor and prepare to be dazzled. Here you can find a wide assortment of games from the SG1000 to the Sega Dreamcast. The selection here is quite good so if you need something Sega related you won’t leave this floor empty handed. The first time I came here I walked out with several brand new Dreamcast controllers, a Dreamcast mouse and keyboard. I also found some Game Gear games that I needed and even a nice American copy of Star Control. This visit however I managed to avoid buying the whole store and just picked up a few common game gear carts and some memory cards for the Playstation and Dreamcast that I needed.

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I just love see through controllers…..so sexy!

Last year I picked up a nice AV Famicom here for the affordable sum of only a hundred bucks. This year I couldn’t help but notice that prices on retro had increased quite a bit. This year their AV Famicoms went for over $130.

The store’s atmosphere is quite nice and they rarely blast the chip tunes so loud that you find yourself in a hurry to run out the door screaming. The only problem with the shop is that it is quite small and you will find yourself bumping into things and people from time to time. They also have a small selection of consoles ranging from the Famicom to the hard to find Super Cassette Vision if you are in the market for a retro system.  Despite the increase in price this is still one of the better shops to visit in Den Den town.

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Obligatory shot from the window of my hotel room.

Finally you can’t visit Japan and especially Osaka without taking a trip to a Super Potato. If you are uninitiated Super Potato is Japan’s most famous chain of retro gaming stores. Here you can find the largest selection of consoles available in Japan. There are literal stacks upon stacks of consoles just lying around the isles. As expected with chain stores the prices here are the worst you will find in Japan. I really wanted a Sega Master System but I simply wasn’t prepared to shell out $150 for one. Super Potatoes in Osaka are smaller than their Tokyo cousins but their prices are similarly outrageous.

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There wasn’t really much that caught my eye this time but last year when I went I managed to pick up a decently priced complete in box Neo Geo Pocket for about 50 bucks. This year I simply enjoyed walking around the isles and looking at all their wonderful games. If you are looking for something specific and don’t mind paying a bit more for it then Super Potato has you covered. In Osaka there are several Super Potato shops to choose from so it shouldn’t be hard to find what you need.

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Obligatory shot of an Apple Pippin sitting in a random computer shop. 

Next time in Part two I will talk about my crazy and wonderous visit to Tokyo’s retro gaming mecca Akihabara. So what do you think of Den Den town in Osaka? Why not let us know by making a comment below. Also why not check out Stalking The Retro a great podcast that we do here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/stalkingretro