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Thread: Delafro's Guide to Akihabara 2016!

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    Strawberry (Level 2) delafro's Avatar
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    Default Delafro's Guide to Akihabara 2016!

    State of Akihabara 2016 (Retro Gaming Edition)

    Like the rest of Tokyo, Akihabara is constantly changing.
    First as a postwar black market for electronics goods, then hobbyist hub and gaming haven, then idol/maid cafť ground zero, and now to its current iteration as a full-on tourist attraction, change has been a constant. The area itself is a lot more developed than it used to be, restaurants, bars, izakayas, and non-gaming shopping are now available. The development of the massive Yodobashi Camera and several high-rise offices has changed the character of the area to a more upscale, tourist-friendly destination.

    But what Iím here to talk about now it retro gaming.

    Access
    Getting to Akihabara is a snap. Just take the JR Yamanote loop line (green train) JR Chuo-Sobu Line (yellow train) or JR Keihin Tohoku line (Blue Train) and get off at Akihabara station. Other options include the Tsukuba Express line and the Hibiya subway line. Every place here is accessible by foot from the station.

    Tips for a day at Akihabara (Basically this advice goes for anywhere else in Tokyo as well)

    -Wear good walking shoes. Youíll be walking a lot and on your feet constantly.

    -Plan on spending more time here than you might expect. There's a lot to see and do.

    -Bring cash. Lots of it. Stores in Japan are increasingly using credit cards, but except for the largest chain stores Iíd say never count on it. And youíll almost certainly spend more than you expect. (There is a Japan Post ATM on the first floor of the UDX building, fairly close to the JR station exit on the side with the Gundam cafť. Usually you can get cash from these even with international cards.) https://goo.gl/maps/oYh3RLeY7kN2

    -Bring a backpack. Youíll need somewhere to stash all of your purchases, space for snacks, drinks, etc.

    -Additionally, always check the weather forecast and prepare for rain if necessary. Walking around outside and using public transit, youíll be exposed to the elements a lot more than say, driving your car around suburban USA.

    Food: Akiba isnít really the place to be going for gourmet foods, but if youíre okay with most of the chain restaurants, you should be fine here as well. Most of them around here are used to having foreigners around so there should be English menu options. You can also pick up a pita/gyro/kebab thing for a quick bite, as several of those stores are scattered around the area. If youíre looking for something a little nicer, the upper floors of Yodobashi camera have sit-down type restaurants, or just hop on a JR train to any number of other stops in Tokyo which will have better dining options.

    -Shop around. If you have the time, energy, and patience, you can often find the same game at a lower price at a different store. Or, on the other hand, the first time that you see the game will be the lowest price that youíll see all day. Still, thereís no ďMagicĒ price for games here. Although there is roughly a going rate for a game based on desirability, rarity, playability, etc. prices can and will change based on the store, item completion and condition, recent demand and timing, etc. So if you can do it, it might be to hold off until you check the other stores. (Or not. Or somebody else could buy what youíre looking at. Who knows!)

    -Akihabara is expensive. If youíve got the time and resources, finding stuff at a Hard-Off or used items ďWarehouseĒ will often be cheaper. But stuff in Akihabara is usually geared towards collectors (if you demand that your stuff be complete or in top shape, this is usually the place for you). Of course there are online auctions as well, but to me thatís just not as interesting. And thereís something about being in the crowds and the lights that makes it an experience by itself.

    Retro Game Stores

    Super Potato (https://goo.gl/maps/4XU7p2R5rrj)
    This is likely the most famous shop in Akihabara, and mostly for good reason. Thereís a lot of really rare stuff there, it has a unique name, colorful interior, and an easily accessible location. In fact, when you go there, it seems like more half the customers are foreigners. Yes, it is expensive, and yes, sometimes they run low on stuff (the PC Engine section in particular always seems to be decimated), but if you pick and choose your spots I think that it is possible to find some halfway decent deals. The store itself is three floors (third, fourth, and fifth floors or a five-story building), with retro stuff on the 3rd and 4th floors, with the 5th floor being a retro-style arcade). Most of the good stuff is on the third floor, but you depending on the system youíre looking for you also might want to try the fourth. As for retro arcades in Akihabara, I think that you can do better elsewhere (see below), but itís all part of the Super Potato Experience I suppose.

    Mandarake (https://goo.gl/maps/cUSHYsJxykq)

    The Akihabara shop of this used manga chain is a large black Monolith of a building, eight stories high and packed with all sorts of nerd stuff. (Some of the floors can be pretty risquť, so if youíve got kids or are conservative about that kind of stuff, consider yourself warned. Actually this goes for pretty much all of Akihabara). The retro gaming stuff in on the sixth floor; you can wait for a cramped elevator ride, or if you feel like exercise, take the stairs on the side of the building.
    On the sixth floor, youíll find shelves and shelves stacked with all sorts of stuff for all of the major retro systems, and then some. For size and selection of rare goods, the selection case of Mandarake is probably unrivaled; however you will pay through the nose for this stuff. In my opinion, Mandarakeís the most eye-wateringly expensive store in all of Akiba. Thereís almost always a good selection, theyíll have almost all of the major retro systems covered, but good lord the pricesÖ Anyways, itís worth a visit, but hold on to your wallet.

    Trader (https://goo.gl/maps/eKy57y7NLSC2)

    To me, this is the best overall store in Akihabara for actually buying stuff. Go up to the second floor (again, avoid the upper floors if youíve got kids), and youíll find a good selection of retro stuff for all of the major platforms, rare items as well as more common stuff as well. Itís rarely cheap, but I never wince at the prices like I do at some of the other stores. Theyíve also started selling a selection of import (that is, Western) games. I canít quite but my finger on why I tend to buy stuff from there, but it seems like the store is very professional, well run and organized, and the prices are just OK enough that I usually find something.

    Beep (https://goo.gl/maps/eAGDtexhguT2)

    A new store in town, Beep is usually focused on retro PC stuff, but the last few times Iíve been in there theyíve really increased the console section as well, so it deserves inclusion on this list. It might be easy to overlook this store; itís actually in the basement of an otherwise unremarkable building, and youíll need to take an incredibly narrow staircase to get to the store entrance. However because of this mix of console and PC gaming, I think that itís possibly the most interesting store in the area. Thereís plenty of retro hardware on display and available to play, so if you ever wanted to try out an X68k, PC-88, or FM Towns, hereís your chance. The prices on the console stuff seems pretty reasonable too (by Akiba standards, at least), thereís lots of doujin-type strategy books, soundtrack CDs, and some arcade PCBs and promotional stuff too. Yes, it is cramped, and out of the way, but well worth a visit.

    Retro Game Camp (https://goo.gl/maps/G5dNZcc2wwN2)

    I think this store has a bad rep, and itís not entirely undeserved. Even by Tokyo standards, the store is incredibly narrow and cramped to the point where it is hard to walk around at times. The interior is a complete jumble, and if youíre looking for one thing in particular, good luck. Compared to, say, Trader, the whole thing somehow comes off as amateurish. But thatís not to say that the store doesnít have anything good going for it. Thereís an unexpectedly solid selection of FDS games, sometimes youíll find some decent deals, and they will often replace the batteries on the cartridges, so you can be sure to save your games on all of those old RPGs. But I canít really recommend the store too much; it lacks the charm of a Super Potato or the selection or rarities like a Mandarake, and shopping here can feel like a chore at times.

    Friends (https://goo.gl/maps/4aZEBDBJsHF2)

    This store doesnít get a lot of press, but I think that it deserves more attention. Why the low profile? First, location: itís located on the very northern end of Akihabara, actually closer to Suehirocho subway station that anything else. Second, the store is hardly advertised at all, thereís barely any signage. And the store itself is very simple, just some racks, bookshelves, and a cash register, and despite the name, the staff never actually seems that particularly friendly (there are plenty of signs that say smart phone use is prohibited in-store, and I assume that they mean it). But even though the appearance isnít much, itís well worth a visit. It seems like I often find stuff there that I canít get anywhere else: for example, a large selection of PC Engine CD games, or brand new FDS games. In fact, for whatever reason, this store seems to have a lot more sealed new stuff than others, so if thatís your thing, stop by here. Iíve found that itís also good for cross-shopping and comparing prices as well. So if youíve got the time, donít overlook this one.

    Sangatsudoh (https://goo.gl/maps/gwRR52UZT9E2)

    This oneís tough to categorize, but I feel like it deserves a mention. Youíll find all sorts of stuff here, including plenty of doujin books and CDs, and a scattering a used Famicom games. But the main attraction for this store is all of the hardware modding stuff that goes on there. Items include RGB output mods for Famicoms and even modern LCD replacements for Game Gear screens. I havenít spent a whole ton of time here, but thereís all sorts of modding stuff going on, so if thatís your thing, stop in and take a look.

    Kaden Ken (https://goo.gl/maps/V7mMV3JkCeu)

    This one isnít really a store, itís more of a stall, or booth, which is in fact very fitting for Akihabara, which used to be full of these kinds of places back in the day. (You can still see some of these as you walk around: small, family run stores that specialize in a certain kind of product or component.) Anyways, this oneís got retro games, including Famicom, Super Famicom, Disk System, and some PC Engine stuff as well. Thereís also some retro PC games and components, but there are two unique things about this store: it has a pretty solid selection of western NES and Master System stuff, and also there are some Gachopon-style vending machines which apparently dispense FM sound chips, if thatís your thing. So even here, you might find something interesting.

    Retro Arcades (I mean, Game Centers)
    Fortunately, there are still places where arcade gaming is alive and well. A trip to memory lane is only a 100 yen coin away. (No quarters here, folks.)

    Retro Game Museum (https://goo.gl/maps/VJzzrPHGykS2)
    Basically just a large room stacked with old arcade machines, posters, and the like, itís still a lot of fun thanks to the games on ďdisplayĒ. As far as I can tell, this arcade is run by one guy, who basically curates his collection of old arcade games, rotating them in and out as he sees fit. This makes for an interesting experience, because youíll never quite sure what you might see each time that you visit. While the location is slightly inconvenient (on a back street well behind Yodobashi Camera), the quality of the games on display and the ambiance makes up for it in my opinion.

    HEY (https://goo.gl/maps/sKn4CsggCzE2)
    HEY, or the wonderfully names Hirose Entertainment Yard, is probably the largest arcade in Akihabara. It has several floors, each jam-packed with dozens of cabs for just about every genre under the sun. This includes, of course, plenty of retro games as well, and if you are into shmups, thereís a ton to choose from, although you might have to wait for your turn- the place gets pretty crowded. Itís almost right next to Super Potato, so you can visit one right after the other.

    TRY Amusement Tower (https://goo.gl/maps/bzYw7q2CKVP2)
    Another arcade worth checking out, TRY takes up several floors of a tall, narrow building on a street paralleling Chuo Dori. A couple of the floors have a wide selection of action and shmups, so if thatís what youíre looking for, you should be in luck. However, itís a little too cramped and smoky for my opinion (and yes, I know that complaining about game centers being smoky is like complaining about jet engines being loud, but that doesnít mean that I have to like it.) Itís still definitely worth a visit though.

    --------------------------------------

    That's what I've got; hopefully it will be useful to somebody. If you have any other tips, comments, feedback, or just plain disagree on something, reply below!

  2. #2
    Strawberry (Level 2) delafro's Avatar
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    Late Breaking Update!

    There are not one, but two new retro gaming stores in Akihabara! (Well, kind of. You'll see.)

    First, is a pretty big one, I think. Internet behemoth Surugaya has opened a physical location for Retro games, on the first floor of the building right next to Beep!. The place is absolutely packed to the gills with all manner of retro gaming stuff, to the the point that it's almost hard to move around if there are even a few people in the store. You can find stuff for just about every retro console, and the selection is pretty impressive. Price-wise, it more or less compares to the other stores in Akihabara, but it's always good to have another place to cross-shop and check inventory. I'd put this in as another place to stop if you're a collector.

    Next is not really a new store, but more of an expansion. Retro Game Camp, everyone's least favorite Akihabara retro shop, has added a new location on the other side of Chuo Dori (the main street in Akihabara). The store's name is "Retro Game Camp Dungeon", which is appropriate seeing as how this shop is in a basement. Inside, there's really nothing too special about it one way or the other, but at least it has a little more space than the original Camp location. Again, there's really nothing too spectacular here in regards to selection or prices, but it should be enough for casual fans or tourists who wander in from Chuo Dori. Unfortunately, I don't recall the exact location, but it's somewhere in the vicinity of Trader, just a little bit closer to JR Akihabara station.

    So there you have it. Personally, I take this is a strong sign that the Retro Game market in Akihabara is doing well, and it's a welcome change from the string of closures compared to the "Glory Days" of retro game shopping in Akihabara. We'll just have to see if the trend continues.

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    Strawberry (Level 2) delafro's Avatar
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    Akihabara Retro Game Update 2017

    A quick update to my previous guide-- all information accurate as of end of June/Beginning of July 2017...

    It's only been a year or so, but already a few things have changed:


    Retro Game Camp: Its original location has closed and moved across Chuo Dori. As a result, there are now two store fronts for, if you include the "Dungeon" basement shop.

    The good news is that there's a little more space- it's not quite as narrow as before. The new main location has two floors; with even some interesting and obscure items for more serious collectors on the second floor. However it's still mostly the same story as before: lots of overpriced Famicom/Game Boy/Super Famicom stuff, geared to the more casual crowd. And thanks to its location right off of Chuo Dori, it manages to pull in quite a few tourists. So if their main strategy is taking advantange of tourists who don't really pay attention to how much this stuff should be worth, well, it might be a good business, but it's not a good look.

    On one positive note, they still advertise battery changes on their old carts, so there is some added value to purchasing something from there, at least.


    Sangatsudoh appears to be closed; March Rabbit, we hardly knew ye. According to its webpage, it stills says its open, but... I wouldn't get your hopes up too high with this one. http://www.march-rabbit.jp/index.php?main_page=page_2


    TRY Arcade- CLOSED their 8F Retro Arcade. Apparently, they are going to move some of those games to the 7F, but it stands to reason that less room will make for less retro arcade options. Due to that, it gets knocked down below HEY and Retro Game Museum in my book.


    Super Potato, Trader, Mandarake, and Friends are basically unchanged, which is fine.

    Beep has further solidified itself as the go-to store for retro PC stuff, and for retro gaming subculture in general. And they still always have a ton of interesting arcade/doujin/limited editions/random promotional material in there. Basically, I like it a lot. Super Potato is still famous, Trader has good stuff, but if I could only choose one place, Beep is probably my #1 choice right now.

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    Very useful. Thanks. :-)

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    Strawberry (Level 2) delafro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nz17 View Post
    Very useful. Thanks. :-)
    Glad to hear it! If you have any questions in particular, let me know, and I'll try to answer.

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