Thursday, December 31, 2015

Japan Retro Direct

When it comes to collecting retro video games these days there are no shortages of options, heck even GameStop got into the retro game again by offering a older games for a selection of systems on their website. There are plenty of other retailers online located all over the world and while I've found a few deals here and there, it seems the one place I find myself checking out often is Japan Retro Direct.

What? You've never heard of them? Yeah, that's what I've gathered so I thought I'd take a second to share my thoughts and experiences in my little corner of the web. Sometimes when you find something so good you want to hoard it and keep it for yourself. However with more and more people getting into collecting and selling retro video games, prices keep going up and up and up. This is one of the reasons I frequent JRD - fair prices.

Japan Retro Direct is the brainchild of one person, Kevin Tamburino, but you may know him as Vinnk. Part of the successful Famicom Dojo and contributor at sites such 4 Color Rebellion and RETRO Magazine, Vinnk decided to start offering up Japanese games to those of us that live outside of Japan. I've bought games from others that live in Japan, but Vinnk always seems to offer up his finds at very reasonable prices and because he is an American I don't have to worry about dealing with the language barrier.

Now you may be wondering by now, where do I find this Japan Retro Direct? Well first and foremost you can make sure to Like and follow his official Facebook page to make sure you are getting the latest updates. His store is a part of the awesome video game auction site, Game Gavel. If you aren't familiar w/ Game Gavel then you should, but that is a post for another time. In his store you'll find Japanese games ranging from the Nintendo Famicom to the NEC PC Engine to the Sony Playstation formats and everything in between.

Why should you follow my advice and buy from Japan Retro Direct? Well other than the few reasons I mentioned above, you can trust Vinnk. He tests and cleans all the games before he makes them available in his store. Pricing - better than eBay, better than most places you'll find the games offered. Shipping - reasonable shipping rates and well packaged for the trip across the Pacific. Knowledge and Trust - it seems more and more reproduction cartridges and bootlegs are starting to hit the market and I know that I'll never be misled by what I'm buying. I can even trust the game on the Famicom Disk I'm buying is the actual game on the disk. Lastly Selection - some of the categories may get thin at times, but that's because he's selling through the games so quickly! However he is great at keeping his store full of great offerings. There isn't many times I haven't been able to find 4-5 items I want each and every time I stop by.

I've been shopping from Japan Retro Direct for several years now and I can't recommend them enough. If the above reasons weren't enough to sway you from giving him your business, then I've got one more reason. He takes requests. I don't remember how it even came up, but one day last year I shot him a message asking what the likelihood of him finding me a NEC PC-FX console would be and if he could help suggest a few games to start with. It wasn't long before he responded with some information which led to a complete loose console w/ two games he recommended, Battle Heat and Team Innocent. He made me an offer that I simply could not refuse and still today I categorize as one of the best video game deals I've ever had. He even was nice enough to give me the link to a great English walkthu for Team Innocent so I could get the most entertainment out of my new purchase.

One of the next requests I had for him was for a boxed copy of the Sega game Quartet, but only forthe Sega Mark III (known as Double Target in Japan). Sure enough he was able to come through again for me.

I don't work for Japan Retro Direct and I wasn't asked or paid to do this. I simply wanted to share my positive experiences in the hopes that other fellow gamers and collectors could benefit from this awesome service that Vinnk operates. Yes, you do have a lot of options as to where you get your games from. For me Japan Retro Direct is a proud option for me. Make sure you stop by his store and see what he's got to offer. Selection is always changing so bookmark the site and stop by at a later date if nothing catches your eye on your first visit.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

How do you protect your game collection?

** This article was originally posted on my other blog, Random Toy Reviews

One of my growing hobbies is video games. Namely retro games. While I have certain criteria when it comes to what I look for when buying a game for a select platforms, others I'm OK with owning just the loose cartridge.

Take the old 8-bit Nintendo (NES) games for example. While many of the games featured really nice box art, I just don't care to own the cardboard boxes the games came in. So I'm OK with just buying a loose cart. 

One thing about collecting retro games is you have to keep them clean, otherwise every time you insert them into the game system you are just making the connection pins dirtier. I takes a little time to properly clean an NES game or an NES console so my goal is to keep the games as clean as possible. This includes keeping dust off the games. The games originally came with a black dust sleeve and while those work OK, I wanted something better. came up with some really nice VHS style clamshell cases recently, but being on a tight budget I couldn't afford to house all my NES games in those. Thankfully I found a cheaper solution that works for me. Enter

These cases are made of PET (Polyethylene Terepthalate) which is a better plastic than PVC. They are acid free and ligind free, making them perfect for long term storage. They are 12 mil / 0.3 mm thick and are shipped to you unfolded. Simply fold them together and insert your game!

I had a few of these type cases that I acquired online years ago, but was unable to find them again until recently. These guys offer a variety of sizes to fit just about any retro cartridge. They also offer cases that fit your boxed games too!

Prices are more than reasonable in my opinion. The cases are sold individually or in packs of 10, 25, 50, 75 and on. NES cases for instance are $.80 each, 10 for $7.10 ($.71 ea) or 25 for $15.00 ($.60 ea).

I wanted to case my NES, SNES, Famicom and Super Famicom loose carts, since I don't care to own the boxes (in most cases) for those platforms. My first order recently arrived and I've got to say I love the product. I will be back for more, especially to finish off my NES collection and start off casing my loose Famicom carts as well.

One of the things I like about these cases, especially for SNES and Super Famicom is that it allows me to finally stack my games. With the natural shape of the cartridges they don't stack very well, or stand up on their side. Now that they are encased I can display and organize them on my bookshelf however I see fit.

The standard NES cases also fit Camerica, Color Dreams, Tengen and Wisdom Tree carts.

As you can see the Super Famicom cases are slightly smaller than the SNES cases.

I picked up a few Genesis cases as well hoping they would fit a few loose Mega Drive carts I have...and they fit perfectly!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16)

Hudson Soft
HuCard, 1989

Even though I've owned several TurboGrafx systems in the past, I never gave games outside the shooter genre much love. I didn't know anything about Neutopia until a few months back until I saw the game featured on someone's YouTube channel. I thought it looked like a fun game so off I went searching for a copy. Unfortunately I didn't like what I found - the prices!

Normally I don't even consider buying loose TurboGrafx games (or PC Engine), but luckily I ran across a guy in a Facebook group I'm a part of that was making custom cases with artwork. These great little hard plastic snap cases were originally made for gift cards. I have no idea where he gets these, but they are awesome. I had him make me up a Neutopia case and I proceeded to buy my first loose HuCard.


The case is a little smaller than a PlayStation Vita case. It's the same height as the original TurboGrafx cases so these look great up on the shelf.

I was told the game was a blatant Legend of Zelda rip-off and it is, however it's a fun game and isn't that what matters? The one thing going for Neutopia over Zelda is you don't have to worry about your battery dying on you. Instead the game uses a password feature to save your progress.

The game plays from a top down perspective and you navigate from screen to screen just like that other game. You start off equipped with a small shield and sword. You are on a quest to search out 8 medallions that have been scattered after Princess Aurora has been captured by the evil demon Dirth. Medallions are usually hidden in underground labyrinths where you must find a crystal ball to mark the map. A large key must also be found in order to unlock the final door leading to the boss fight. Sound familiar?

As you progress through the game you can upgrade your armor and your sword as well as find new weapons such as bombs and a wand that shoots fire (burns bushes too). The similarities to Zelda are definitely there, but I'm ok with that as Zelda was a great game and o equally enjoy Neutopia. The visuals are a tad nicer, but the soundtrack, while good isn't as epic as its NES cousin.

Overall this is a fantastic game and one that I'm glad I decided to pick up. A complete version can run you $60+ on the secondary market so be prepared if you are looking to add this game to your collection.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DinoCity (Super Nintendo)

Smart Egg Software
Irem, 1992

I have no idea where I first learned of this game or when or where I even bought it. I know you aren't supposed to judge a game by it's box art or in this case label art, but man does this game have horrible North American artwork!

I watch a lot of YouTube retro video game shows and I've yet to see this game featured on any of those channels. Kind of half thought it show up on one of Metal Jesus' Hidden Gems videos. Anyhow the game thankfully is much better than this horrible label art. Based loosely on the film Adventures in Dinosaur City, this game was first release in Japan and then later in the U.S..

The game is a side scrolling action type platformer. You can take control of two different small kids, Timmy or his friend, Jamie. Each ride on the back of a different dinosaur and have their own attack and abilities. As you progress through the level you'll eventually come to the end and there will be two doors you can enter. Once you go through enough doors you'll fight a boss before moving onto the next area. 

What I can't figure out is that there are two doors, usually one yellow and one red. I don't know if either color is better than the other. It seems you are randomly transported to an ice cave, jungle or grasslands. There are a total of 6 areas to work through, ultimately chasing Mr. Big which has stolen an important component of a machine that will send Timmy and Jamie back to their home.

Timmy attacks with a close up melee type punch while Jamie can attack with a mid-range dart attack. Each can jump on the head of the enemies a la Super Mario Bros.. You can also dismount from your dinosaur to help solve puzzles to advance through the level. The game does support 2 player simultaneous play which is a nice addition.

The game looks great. It's very colorful and well animated. The music was mostly forgettable. Gameplay wise it's challenging. Honestly I wasn't expecting that much of a challenge. The more I played the better I got, especially using Jamie. The longer range attack was really helpful. This is one of those type of games that once you learn the level layout and enemy patterns it gets easier.

Overall this is an above average game. A quick search on eBay gave plenty of listings for the game and most sellers were asking anywhere from $15 to $20. I'm still looking to pick up the instructions for my copy. If you can find it cheap I'd say give it a try.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Final Fight CD (Sega Mega CD)

Final Fight
Sega, 1993

The beat 'em genre has been around for a long time. For me there are two games that immediately come to my mind when I think about beat 'ems...Double Dragon and Final Fight. Just like Double Dragon and how it took time for an arcade quality home port to happen, Final Fight has had it's hardships when it comes to home console versions of the game.

The Super Nintendo version of the game was one of the first home versions I played and while it was fun, it was far from arcade perfect. One of the playable characters, Guy, was missing from the game and there were other changes made to the game. Years later I found out that the game was released for the Sega CD and was arcade perfect...or so I thought. To get a true arcade perfect port you have to look overseas to the Sega Mega CD version.

Sega's Mega CD platform is region locked so don't expect to just pop this in your U.S. Sega CD console and hope to have hours of fun. For this very reason this game wasn't added to my personal collection until about a month ago. After securing a Mega CD 2 to add to my Mega Drive console, I knew this was one of the first games I wanted to pick up.

I sat down over the weekend to enjoy the game and I just couldn't put it down. Playing solo I've still yet to beat the game. I can usually start off really well, but there are just a few bosses (Sodom, Edi E.) that hand me my butt no matter what strategy I try to use! However that didn't stop me from several play throughs and getting a decent high score of 1,271,364.

The opening scenes in the Sega CD version has the same "animated" scenes, however when Hagger is informed that they've (Mad Gear) has kidnapped his daughter, Jessica, she is shown in a red dress. 

However in the Mega CD versionx the same scene has Jessica exposed. Why I don't have a clue. When the actual game starts and you see Jessica in the hands of the Mad Gear, she is shown wearing a red dress. So that would mean that in the Japanese version of the game her dress was obviously removed, yet they fully dressed her before they moved her to another location. How nice of the gang!

The SNES version of the game completely replaced the two female characters, Poison and Roxy, with generic male figures. Nintendo was also very strict w/ their games so it doesn't surprise me that they didn't want players beating up women.

The Sega CD version included Poison and Roxy, yet their appearance was still altered. They basically are wearing a little bit more clothing. Compare the above Sega CD image with the Mega CD image below.

Their top and pants are much shorter in the Japanese version and when punched, both Poison and Roxy do show off a little cleavage. Personally I could care less, but at least in Japan Sega was able to keep it arcade perfect.

In addition to these graphical changes, the first bonus stage was unchanged in the Mega CD version. Beat up the car and score perfect and you'll see the Mad Gear guy walk out and fall to his knees crying "Oh God!", original voice and all.

If you are looking to play the best version of this game, obviously the Mega CD game is the way to go. However I understand that this version isn't the easiest to play. The Sega CD is a great port and the route most gamers will end up taking. The Xbox Live version is also a great alternative if you don't have a way to play either of the CD versions.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pick Ups - December 4, 2015

What a way to start off a weekend! Its really not that often that I find really good games or deals in my area, but every once in awhile luck is on my side. Before I get to the goodies I find locally, the mail man delivered two reproductions that I had been waiting on.

I grabbed Ninja Gaiden for the Sega Genesis from a Etsy seller. I believe it was from FanBrewGames. The game was placed in an actual Genesis cart and not a Mega Drive cart like a lot of the other reproduction games I own are. The label sticker looks quite professional, but the case is nothing more than a Universal Game Case. While the insert has a nice layout and captures that retro Genesis feel, it's printed on really thin paper. Normally if I'm buying a Genesis/Mega Drive repro game, I just settle for the cart only. This particular seller was running a Black Friday sale when I ordered the game so I got the case essentially for free. The game itself...well that's for another post.

Insanity for the PC Engine / TurboGrafx CD is from a company called a company called Aetherbyte. Released in 2009, this homebrew game is a clone of the Atari 2600 came, Berserk. I had forgotten about this game entirely until I saw someone post a eBay link of the game a week or so ago. I got for less than what it sells from Aetherbyte. Packaging is quite nice and looks good spine out amongst my other PC Engine Super CD-Rom games. I may give the game it's own post at a later date.

When it comes to video games stores in my area, I actually have a few options outside of GameStop. While I'm not a GameStop hater per se, it's always nice to be able to walk into a store and find retro games. The area I live has two G2K game stores. I decided to drop by the one that is a little further out from me after work on Friday and I was glad I did. There was a lot of "new" things since my last visit. While I grabbed more than I initially planned, I feel as if I still got some good deals.

Starting on the top row, I grabbed The Suffering for the Xbox because I thought I needed the manual. Got home and turned out my copy had the manual so now I have a complete copy for trade fodder. Most of G2K's Xbox games run $5. Missile Defense 3-D was one of the few $5 Sega Master System games out on the shelves that was complete. While I don't have the 3-D glasses or even the Light Phaser at this time, I have a hard time passing up complete retro Sega games when I find them. Psycho Fox was in their glass case up front and I barely noticed it before leaving. At $35 it was more than I wanted to spend, but from the completed eBay auctions I could find it seemed like a good price. Plus I've always wanted the game so why not?

Finding Atari 2600 games w/ good labels intact in the wild can be tough, or at least in my experience. At only $.99 each I'll grab whatever I can find that looks interesting. Still looking for a copy of Pigs in Space. Anyhow, I remember having Dark Cavern growing up and how could I resist a cheap Donkey Kong game?

The two DS games came by chance. I never look at DS or 3DS games while I'm there, but I went to pick up a DS case that had fallen on the floor and I noticed it had been marked down. That got me looking and I saw many of their complete DS games were discounted. Being the Transformers fan and collector that I am, I grabbed the Animated Game for $4. I don't know much about Classic Action Devilish, but it was only $2 and it looked cool. Turns out its kind of like an Arkanoid clone. Look forward to spending more time with this one.

Lastly I found two SNES games I wanted. Super R-Type and U.N. Squadron. I'm a big fan of the shmup genre so I'll grab just about anything that I don't have. R-Type was only $5 while the Capcom shooter was $10. Not too shabby in my opinion.

Being a frequent shopper of G2K, I also get 10% off all my purchases. All in all not a bad little haul for a Friday. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Exclusive Pokemon available at McDonald's

Over this past weekend my mom brought my oldest daughter home from church and they had made their usual stop at McDonald's. I knew there was a promotion going on in the Happy Meal's for the new Peanuts movie, but I didn't know a new promo had kicked in...Pokemon.

If you choose a Happy Meal for a boy, you are treated with a small figurine and a collectible trading card game card. Both of my daughters like Pokemon, so for it to be designated as the boy toy kinda sucked (she ended up w/ a small Build-A-Bear stuffed animal). Anyhow in addition to the toys in the actual Happy Meal, I spotted on the side of the box that there was an exclusive Pokemon available via McDonald's free Wi-Fi!

This new Pokemon available via the Mystery Gift option at McDonald's is called Hoopla. An exclusive Psychic / Ghost breed. This Pokemon is compatible with Alpha Sapphire, Omega Ruby, X and Y.

My daughter's love for Pokemon kinda got me back into playing the Pokemon games. I previously owned all the previous Game Boy, Color, Advance and DS versions, but sold them off when I saw they were commanding decent money on eBay. However I bought Pokemon X needing a new game for my 3DS XL. This past Father's Day my kids gave me Omega Sapphire! 

On the way to taking my youngest daughter to school this morning, I grabbed the 3DS and decided to swing by McDonald's on the way back home to my office. I've only used the Mystery Gift option once or twice, but I was able to figure it out and now I've got a level 50 Hoopla in my group.

The base stats for Hoopla don't look to shabby. I haven't played Pokemon X or Omega Sapphire much lately so this gives me a new reason to grab the handheld and play for a little bit each evening in bed before I turn out the lights. 

This promotion appears to have just begun and I don't know how long it'll last, but you may want to grab your 3DS and head on down to your nearest McDonald's to grab this exclusive Pokemon. I may just have to pull into Mickey D's parking lot and see if I can also download Hoopla to my Pokemon X game too.