Akihabara is undoubtedly the nerd capital of the world. Although smaller than one imagines it to be from all description –it is located in a several block radius from Akihabara Station in the Chiyoda Ward and only blocks away from Ueno—there’s a lot packed into that small space. From here, you can explore the worlds of anime, manga, specialty cafes, and video games. Video gaming is one of my favorite hobbies since childhood; ever since I picked up a controller, I knew I was hooked. In recent years, however, I’ve been slowly shying away from the Hollywood big budget spectacles of modern games and trying to explore more of the past, which some people would call retro-gaming. There is no perfect place to explore retro-gaming than in Akihabara, which has some of the best stores available to collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Recently, I decided to go shopping for used games for my PC Engine. The PC Engine is a console co-developed in 1989 by NEC, one of Japan’s biggest computer companies, and Hudson Soft, a software company now owned by Konami. It is known for having the first CD-ROM drive for television consoles, but it also has games on ROM cards called HuCards. I wanted more HuCard games since I don’t have a CD-ROM drive, so I went looking for what was available.
There are three game stores that specialize in used games that I would recommend above some of the others in Akihabara. The first one is Retro Game Camp, located shortly down from Don Quixote. Retro Game Camp has a dizzying array of games and game paraphernalia, from old Famicom software, to handhelds that can play Super Famicom games. They also have a large selection of used consoles, and some peripherals that I found were surprising. They have reasonable prices, and probably one of the better selections of PC Engine HuCards. Alas, all of the games I wanted were outside of my day’s budget, so I moved on to the next store.
The next store was Trader, which has a chain of stores within Akihabara itself. Some Traders specialize in different things than others, but the one that has the best selection is the Trader next to the Belle Salle building and a few doors down from Mister Donut. It has a multiple floor layout, and features newer games on its first floor and retro-games on its second. Above that is a used DVD floor, and above that should be avoided by people with kids since it is an adult section – and that’s not for what we’re looking! Trader’s selection of HuCards has gotten somewhat smaller over the past few months, but it is still quite good, but nothing today that fit my budget. One more store to visit!
Super Potato is legendary among international video gamers and revered worldwide for its selection and the depth of what they have. They have easily the best rare game selection, the best selection of obscure consoles –the 3DO and the MSX are both well represented here!– and a lot of game soundtracks and a plethora of things that would make most gamers weep with joy. It was here that I found the PC Engine game that I decided to buy, as it was surprisingly under my budget by a lot: the famous Street Fighter II Champion Edition, only for 100 yen. I have many copies of this game, but I’ve always wanted to try the PC Engine version, so it was an easy get for me.
My game hunting was quite a satisfying task, and I came away with a game that I know I’m going to play many times in the future. My next game shopping trip might have a wider search for games, and those three places will definitely be part of the experience. I hope you come with me to find out what I can find next time!