The lights are on
"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know," says former U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld (bear with me), "There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know." Rumsfeld may have been referring to supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but his words are apt at describing my first trip to a famous game store in Tokyo. It turns out there is a lot I didn't know that I didn't know about exclusively Japanese video games.
I've been playing video games most of my life, researching them for a better part of it, and been writing about them professionally for the past four years. Despite my lifelong hobby and experience nothing could prepare me for the overwhelming wonder and joy that came with discovering the wealth of Japanese games I'd neither heard of nor played. My visit to Super Potato in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan was a check to the gut (and my wallet) that I won't soon forget. In this post ,I lay out my trip to the store and share the haul I brought back from Akihabara this TGS 2013.
To top off a week of hard work at the Tokyo Game Show I decided to visit Akihabara, a district in Japan that caters to video game, anime, and manga fans. After a short ride on the train to Akihabara station I got off and headed for Super Potato, using the below video as a guide. Check it out to get a sense for where this magical wonder store rests within the area.
The steps leading up to the shops of Super Potato are hard to miss. You quickly understand you're in good hands.
A sign outside the shop featuring Sagat and Eevee greets customers outside the first level of the multi-tiered shop.
A small glimpse into the magical realm before stepping in.
Rows upon rows of Famicom, Super Famicom, gaming peripherals, Sega consoles, and more line the shelves of this cramped shop.
I had never personally seen a Famicom (the original Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System) or the Famicom Disk System before this trip, and here they are sitting in stacks. I've always adored the Famicom's charming color scheme and quaint built-in controllers.
Various classic and obscure Famicom games are on display. Nearby I could hear unmistakable bass line from the the main theme of Ghosts 'n' Goblins playing.
A better look at the secure collection of rare Famicom cartridges. If you've never seen one before, notice how much smaller they are than NES cartridges. Super Potato even has a new, sealed copy of the original Famicom Mother game.
Plenty of plushes and collectibles are scattered across Super Potato as well. Plenty of shops in Akihabara sell video game memorabilia, but few boast the variety of Super Potato.
This jam-packed row of Famicom games is joined by three others you can't see in this picture. I started out with every intention of perusing the entire library, but quickly realized how much of an undertaking that would be.
Someone scooped up the original Rockman, making Super Potato's collection incomplete. Thankfully, former Game Informer editor Annette Gonzalez snagged me a copy during one of her previous trips. Note the awesome hand-drawn advertisements.
I had to hold myself back from snagging every Castlevania game in sight. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was particularly tempting considering its enhanced Famicom soundtrack. I settled for Kid Dracula, which I've only played on the Game Boy before now. I fell in love with the Famicom section of Super Potato, hunting down games I've always wanted to play and asking for suggestions from other visitors.
Seeing classic RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior is both exciting and depressing. Luckily these wonderful RPGs have been localized in the West, but there is a wealth of awesome-looking, text-heavy titles that are impenetrable without knowing Japanese. Makes a guy want to learn.
Just as many Super Famicom games line the shelves. Luckily I was able to modify my Super Nintendo slightly so any of these games will play back home. Can you spot Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy VI?
Japan's variety of Mario plushes never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I've seen them all I spot Shy Guys, Hammer Bros., Baby Princess Peach, and more.
The next floor up is filled with PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance games, and more. I walked on through to the upper arcade in the interest of time. Perhaps I'll be able to focus more on those generations during my next visit. After checking out the few machines up top I retraced my steps back to the train station, went back to my hotel, and basked in the glory of the purchases I made at Super Potato.
The first half of my big haul. I took the Famicom route. I've always wanted one of the white and red consoles, and it seemed like the right time. I'm not going to go through every title I picked up, but what you see is a collection of suggested titles, personal picks, and cheap gambles. There's Hello Kitty World, Dragonball Z, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, Pop'n Twinbee, Castlevania: Kid Dracula, Transformers, Exed Exes, and more. I can't wait to dig into these games and hopefully grow my library of Japanese-only imports in the future.
I picked up a collection of plushes for my nieces and nephews. But not that Dry Bones. That sucker is all mine. He's going to proudly sit on my desk next to my Koopa Troopa and Koopa Paratroopa. Dry Bones is awesome. I picked up a couple obscure Super Famicom games as well, one of which is the shoot 'em up Flying Hero. Lastly is the original Japanese version of Resident Evil: Biohazard. I already have a sealed copy U.S. copy of Resident Evil at home so I figured this would be the perfect addition.
That's all I have to show from Super Potato and Akihabara for this year. Video game conventions like the Tokyo Game Show always have the potent effect of revitalizing my love for video games, but my trip to Super Potato was on another level. Both my career and personal passion for games require me to research and keep current on all things games, so it's easy to feel like there just aren't any surprises anymore. It's an incredible feeling to walk into a game store and receive a slap to the face reminding me that there is a wealth of worthwhile titles waiting to be enjoyed. They're simply hiding behind another language and being kept across the Pacific Ocean.