Mangasouko, A Retro Mecca In Japan, is a Retro Gamer’s Dream

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Retro gaming is a booming hobby right now. With the Millennials (Generation Y) getting older and having a bit more excess cash, many are looking to buy back a piece of their past. The nostalgia is hitting hard and as such prices of older games are rising, especially in the States. With little options to find these games outside of flea markets, yard sales, Salvation Army style secondhand shops and EhWhytTheHellIsaZeldaGame50dollarsOnEbay, people are catching on and prices are going up. As a result of this boom in popularity it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find that one game you want at the right price, at least outside of an online auction site.

For the last two years or so I have been living in Japan. Being a retro game enthusiast, I came here excited to see what the atmosphere around this hobby is like. My time in Japan has made me notice a few things about retro gaming (and gaming in general) that stand in stark contrast to the experience I had at home, in the U.S. One of those things is the fact that games for older consoles are more widely available in Japan. The primary reason for this is the proliferation of secondhand shops that sell everything from tea cups and old clothes to; you guessed it, video games. There are many different kinds of secondhand stores all across Japan, but for the sake of this article the focus will be on one in particular, a store called Mangasouko.

Mangasouko will basically make any gamer, especially a retro gamer/collector, cream his or her respective pants. It sells more than just video games. The primary focus of this particular secondhand shop is games and manga. As most of you probably already know, manga are Japanese style comic books. The store is broken up into various sections depending on what you’re looking for, be it clothes, manga, snowboards, guitars, a section with sticky floors I have yet to enter and, of course, video games. One can find used games and consoles ranging from the Family Computer or “Famicom” (the NES in Japan) to the more current generation consoles and games. As far as I know, the U.S. does not really have a secondhand store that is equivalent, at least on this scale, that is mostly devoted to games. It’s also a chain store, so there are many spread out all over Japan for your convenience.

Is that a Dragon Ball Radar off to the right?1
Is that a Dragon Ball Radar off to the right?!

For me, Mangasouko (along with other secondhand shops in Japan) embody the mentality of both of the gaming community here as well as Japanese people in general. Japanese people, on average, seem to take much better care of their games (and other items) than their counterparts in the States. That isn’t to say Americans can’t take care of their games, I certainly did, but I think we’ve all felt that pang of frustration when we receive the newest addition to our collection; the box is torn, the manual is missing or covered in mysterious stains, the CD has seemingly angered the previous owner to such an extent that they felt the need to brutalize it with a fork or f—ing John or Billy or Mike just had to write his name on the cartridge in BIG BOLD BLACK LETTERS.

In contrast, when you get something secondhand in Japan, you will more than likely be able to find the game you want in fairly pristine condition. The reason I was told this is the case is that most kids in Japan, when they receive a game, have the notion that they will one day in the future have to sell it to help pay for a newer game. So, with this in mind, kids in Japan take exceptionally good care of their games as they want the absolute best price they can get when selling the game to a secondhand shop in the future.

In short, this means there are a ton of gems out there that are in really good condition. On top of that, most games that are considered rare in Japan are games that are actually quite common in the States. In general the opposite is true about games that are common in Japan, they end up being quite difficult to find in the U.S. For example: I found a cartridge only Japanese copy of Goldeneye for Nintendo 64 for the equivalent of $30 USD; a boxed copy with the manual can run you up to $100 USD. That’s a pretty common game in the States but, it’s so rare in Japan that the price kind of makes me want to go clubbing with a seal. In contrast, I recently picked up a copy of Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana 3 (Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan), the latter never being released Stateside for the SNES. They were both complete in the box and included all the inserts. I ended up paying just under $8 USD for both.

Japanese is a hard language and can be quite intimidating to learn. Admittedly, my command of the Japanese language isn’t stellar, but if you can’t play through Chrono Trigger blind folded or find a translation of a Japan only release via the power of the internet (there are tons of good folks out there who translate them for fun), you should probably be ashamed of yourself. Or learn Japanese. Or both. So next time you find yourself in Japan make sure to stock up on some sweet, sweet retro goodies!

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