Yakuza 6 – A Photo Journey Into the Past

YAKUZA 6: The Song of Life Tenkaichi St. Just a couple of jokers.

Sitting next to my PS5 are copies of Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Lost Judgment. I’m trying to figure out which one I’ll play next and came across some of these photos from my playthrough of Yakuza 6. I don’t think I really have anything to offer other than my complete love for this series. I played through the whole series in order and my Boo watched along with me. The Yakuza soap opera story really grabbed our attention and we were completely hooked in the tale of Kazuma Kiryu.

What a lovely spot for a… date?
I mean, did you really expect the shark to win?
Just try and rank me!
Who would have thought that Takeshi Kitano would star in a video game.
The baby looks pretty decent, usually they’re modeled poorly.
A little slice of life.
These chat rooms were just the best.
The Yamato battleship.
Don’t look at me for answers to this.
Just the best posters.
Yea, I let him fall to his death.

That’s basically all I wanted to share. I love all the games in the Yakuza franchise and these were just a few of the memories I had and wanted to share.

Shit, looking back at my trophies, this is the only Yakuza game that I got the platinum trophy in. Mostly because they tend to be insanely time consuming and this one wasn’t for some reason. I also completed the game in January of 2019, so it’s been a hot minute.

Watch Dogs Legion – Review (PS5)

Oh boy, this is some type of game. It was the weirdest experience I’ve had while playing one of these large open-world style games. I have to just start with what made this game so odd, screw the rest.

So you don’t get a main protagonist to control, instead you have to go around London to recruit people into your group, called DedSec. These recruits can be any NPC you see walking the streets of London, does that sound interesting to you? Because it wasn’t for me. I’ll get back to that though because I still need to get to what’s so fucking odd about this game and the way it was designed. You can unlock, very easily mind you, a little robot that you can control to infiltrate any base in the game. This little spider-bot robot can be upgraded to go invisible for a short period of time and can stun enemies, while also being used for hacking and stuff like that. That’s the setup.

Clean up your streets London!

Another hacking skill you can do is to hack construction drones with the tap of a button. Their stations are littered across the city, so all you have to do is walk near one, scan it and call a drone to your location. You then hack that drone and bring it down to the street level so you can hop on. You jump onto those drones, control them, fly over whichever mission you have, and drop down your spider drone. Your human character is just floating 50 meters in the air while you’re controlling a robot as you complete your objective. Once that’s done, back out of the drone, leaving it since it doesn’t matter, and you’re immediately in control of your character. You then fly out of the danger zone of the mission and the mission is done.

That sounds like a great setup and a cool mechanic, and it really is the first few times you use it. You quickly discover that it’s an easy, quick, and effective way to complete 90% of the missions in the game. I would start a new mission, fast travel as close to it as I could, find a construction drone to hop onto, fly to my mission, use the spider bot and bounce. You start to just get the sense that you broke the game design and that you’re cheating. It ends up getting super boring to keep doing this. I get that you’re in control of how you experience the missions and you can just sneak in with your character, kill people left and right, but that’s just a huge fucking hassle.

I think that’s what it is with game design and me as a player. If I’m given the option to have this amount of power over the game, I’ll use it. This setup is just too powerful. The second the game gets a little boring or you don’t care about the mission, or you’re just rushed for time, you’ll resort back to what makes the game easy. There is nothing to then stop you or slow you down from abusing this system to complete the game. It’s a freedom, why restrict you? When you think about it this way you start to understand why games may limit your abilities, or only allow these at certain times or towards the late game. I had this ability just a few hours into the game mind you. That is a serious design issue in my mind. Have missions where the spider-bots can’t enter a building because they have some sort of security preventing it, forcing me to change up my tactics, but that’s not in this game.

Play dress up or down.

The Citizens of London

My main issue with the story is the use of NPCs as the main protagonist in this game. It sounds like a cool concept but it leaves a lot to be desired. You just don’t give a shit about any of them to be honest. You may prefer one for a skill they have, a vehicle they have easy access to, or something similar, but that’s about it. You don’t care about their story or background, why they joined DedSec or anything like that. And yes I skipped recapping the story or how it all works because this is the third game in the series and you should already be caught up and I don’t care.

Instead, they should of had a group of characters, like in an Oceans 11 movie or something, all of them unique and with their special abilities. Just have their designs all locked in with great voice acting for each character and a unique backstory and abilities. I would have been 100 times more invested in the story if I felt like the rest of the team were actual characters with depth! Not this bullshit of disposable agents that you don’t give a shit about. It’s a shockingly bad design decision. A cool concept to have in a meeting and when creating a design doc, but it should have stopped there, at least for this iteration of it.

A true moment of tension, a rarity.

That’s all okay in the end I suppose, care less about the story and try to enjoy more of the gameplay. Does that work out for you? It kind of worked out for me. I started this game up and played it for a day or two a couple months ago, got distracted by something shinny and only just got back to it on a lark. I even got the fucking platinum trophy in it I’m so insane (not bragging).

The one thing I liked about the story is this moment when I had to chase down this bad guy that fucked over my team. He took off in his car and wouldn’t you know, I was on my dumb construction drone. I stuck with it and pretty soon he was out of sight while I slowly floated after his engine exhaust. I figured the mission would fail, I would be sent back to a checkpoint and I’d try it over again in a car this time. Instead, to my surprise, he got away and the story kept going. I had to do a mission to resolve this new branching story arch, it felt surprisingly organic and kind of impressed me. Now, to be honest, I have no idea if this was an actual branching story path or I was going to fail that mission no matter what, I hope it was a branching path because that is pretty cool. And if that’s the case I want more of that, I want a harder game that accepts your failure and gives you alternate ways to achieve success.

Just flying my construction drone, as you do.

So yea, I plowed through the story, which is really just forgettable. A lot of video games, in my eyes, just fucking suck at telling a good story that grabs your attention. It’s like we’re still coming out of the silent film era and learning how to use voice and audio in our movies. After that I stuck around to get trophies, which I wasn’t sure I was going to do. Luckily I had some nice podcasts and long-form YouTube videos to listen to in the background. I checked out PowerPyx for their guide and just went in the order they recommended. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic to go around checking boxes and cleaning up a game like this.

So I played the game on PS5 and it offers you two different graphical options to select from. You get a performance and quality mode, only one of which is actually playable. You would have to be a complete psycho to choose the quality mode in this game. It runs at 30fps and it’s just not where it’s at, it gives me a headache to watch the camera sweep around at such a low framerate. It really makes me wonder how I used to feel good about 30fps games on last gen consoles, perhaps they better optimized the way the image was rendered to smooth out some of the stuttery look of 30fps by using motion blur and stuff like that. You do get some nice ray traced reflections and everything, which are impressive but not worth it in the least. I would love to see them go for a 40fps quality mode with raytracing like Ratchet and Clank did, now that could be something usable, especially with a 120hz TV.

Ray Tracing Comparisons – Quality vs Performance

Quality mode also pushes out the shadows on the right. Check out the ghosting of the building reflection on the top of the car.
The RT reflections extend past the screen-space ones typically used, while also reflecting the robot perfectly.
Reflections on the buildings windows are actually accurate with RT on.
RT really does ground the scene and make it feel more realistic.
While not the best looking water, RT on does add to the realism.

In the end, I guess I’m happy that I played this game and bought it at a discount instead of full price. Watch Dogs 2 still stands out in my head as the best game in the series. I remember having fun playing that game and actually liking some of the characters in it, which is something one should care about (hint hint.

Final Score – 6.2

It’s a game that filled up some time, I had some fun with it. It’s not great. It shows that the series needs a serious redesign to stay relevant and to captivate a whole new audience. They really need to start fresh and not be so bleak with the look. Invest in characters, story, mission design, weapons, all that open world good shit that other games do better. I would have loved if they took the way the story in GTA5 wrapped around the three main characters, where they were all unique and living in the world, but just added a few more. Steal from the best. Give me that style of character progress and backstory but in the world of DedSec and Watch Dogs.

You’re welcome Ubisoft, I’d love to work on a game with you.

Returnal – Review

Returnal for the PS5 is a run based, rogue-like, third-person shooter from Housemarque. If you don’t know, they’re the developers that did games like Dead Nation and Resogun, which are both awesome. Returnal came out earlier this year on April 30 and I just picked it up a week ago. If you’d like to know why I waited let’s talk about the price.

Price

This was one of those Sony first-party super special sauce game where they felt like it should be a 70 USD experience, I felt differently. I’m a huge fan of Housemarque and I think their games are a blast to play, they focus on gameplay first and it really shows. I also don’t think they’ve ever created a product that I would consider paying 60-70 USD for. It’s just not what they do, all their games feel more like arcade experiences to me. Listen, if you paid full price I have no issue with you or your purchase. The only way Sony is going to learn anything is if people speak with their wallets. I found the game at my local store for 30 brand new and that’s when I bought it. I would have bought it on launch if it was going for 40, so I had to jump at it for 30. And after beating the game, that’s exactly what it is. Don’t be fooled by whatever anyone else may say. I’ll try not to harp on the whole cost analysis of this title, it’s not worth 70, they shouldn’t have priced it at that, and it felt really shitty that they did.

The Game

So what do you do in Returnal? You run around semi-random environements exploring and shooting monsters while you try to figure out what the fuck is happening to you. I say semi-random because while the next room in the map may be random, the layout of that room is predetermined. They’re just slotting in rooms in different ways and adding new ones in to make it seem interesting. Those monsters that you kill drop obelites that you can spend to buy items, power-ups, or equipment that will make your “run” potentially easier. If you die, you start back at your spaceship with none of the progression you earned from your last run, except for specific things which I won’t spoil.

When you finally do get to the end of a level, you then have to face a boss. Beat that boss and you gain an ability and get to move on to the next world. There are 6 levels in total. Enemies get stronger as you go, but so do you and your weapons. That is literally all the game is until you finish the last boss, the endgame mixes up the formula just a bit, but we’ll get to that shortly.

The game itself feels really good to play. They really have the feeling of third-person shooting spot on and you have to commend the developers for that. Running around, jumping, and aiming all feel perfect. The amount of control you have of your character in mid-air when jumping, along with the dash move you have gives you confidence in every move you make. Sometimes you have to make a long jump and dash at the end to reach the ledge, but I had no doubts in any of the jumps I attempted. It just all works and feels good. What that all means is that when you die, you probably did something wrong. The game gives you all the tools you need to survive, it just depends on your skill level.

You might get to the first boss or a tough enemy and feel like all the beams coming at you are unfair and you have no recourse to deal with any of it, but that’s just because you need more time with the game. Put in a few more hours and you’ll be dodging through beams, jumping over rings of energy, all while keeping a steady stream of bullets firing at your enemies weak point.

A big part of the game are the multitude of weapons that you unlock, but if you’re like me you’ll quickly find the few that you want. I don’t think I even fired the shotgun weapon at an enemy the whole time I played. Their were only about 2 or 3 guns that I really felt good with and wanted each time. I would end up not picking up any guns unless they were one of those. The weapons you pick up get different types of augments that change the way the they handle and even augment their special attack, all of which you’ll get used to, but you’ll definitely start to prefer some over others. I feel like that works for this type of game. As you go through this groundhog day you’re bound to find things that work for you and feel right.

This all just gets me to how confusing a lot of this game is. When you start playing you’re unlocking things, picking up purple and red items. Some things are malignant and you just have no clue what in the hell is going on. You’re leveling up adrenaline, collecting ether, gaining proficiency, and collecting all these obolites. When you die you really don’t know what carried over from your last game so you open your inventory to try and figure it out and still have no clue. I guess the developers just want you to keep playing until you figure it out. Just like the story.

The Story

Since I don’t really want to spoil Returnal maybe I’ll be a little vague on the story, or does that even matter? I mean, sure…from here on out there will be SPOILERS for this game. I personally didn’t care for the story that much, it’s not really something that kept me coming back to the game. So I think the game was a little flat on that portion.

You start out as an astronaut that crash lands on an alien planet. Your ship is destroyed and you wake up and have to explore this environement to try and find a way off the planet. The story is told through a lot of audio logs that you find in the environment along with some glyphs that you have to uncover. Every once in a while you’ll find an old house in the map that you can enter and go into first-person to get some pointless story exposition.

I’ll be honest with you, as I was playing this game the last thing I was thinking about was the story. It’s a part of why this game doesn’t feel like a big-budget thing. The story elements are all on the periphery. It’s hinted at in audio logs and these weird flashbacks you have. You get a little nugget of it and then have to run around an alien world for a few hours. It was never motivation enough for me to continue.

Endgame

Let’s just get right into the meat of this game. Again, SPOILERS.

To get to the end of the first part of the game you have to beat 5 bosses and clear 6 worlds. That took me about 10 hours to do. When that’s over, you have to start from the first world and go through each of the six biomes again searching for 6 sunface fragments, one in each world. Once you find all six, beat the last boss again and you’ll open up the last scene and finish the third and final act of the game. That wasn’t really too hard to do.

Thinking back on a lot of the social discourse of this game, a lot of podcast personalities complained about spending multiple hours on a run and then dying. They felt like all of their forward progression was lost and felt it hard to pick up and go on another four hour run to just die at a boss or something. That’s not really how this game plays. You can skip most of the levels fairly easily if you’re so inclined. You only have to beat bosses once to finish the game. It’s a lot more forgiving. You also shouldn’t be spending that many hours per run after your first one or two good ones.

I thought about getting the platinum trophy for this game and saw online how random some of these collectibles are and how much of a grind it is to get them. So I didn’t really want to do that and was kind of worried about it. I stuck with it, just getting the next trophy for getting the 3rd act ending. I decided to keep going and started doing runs of the first three levels and pretty soon got a trophy for getting all the collectibles in one of the biomes. A strategy was starting to form in my head.

I was watching the PS5 Trophies YouTube channel to see what he was saying about how he was going to get his last trophies, some random collectibles had eluded him so he was just running it over and over. What he would do is level up on the first biome and get his character build set so that he could survive the next two biomes. I decided to do something different.

I would blaze through the first world and go right to the portal I needed, either the one for biome 2 or 3. I’d avoid all the enemies and chests, wouldn’t even upgrade my gun or health. When I got to one of those biomes I’d pick up the proficiency bonus and then start looking for a gun in the level and getting upgrades. I would skip fights if possible, they don’t matter, all you’re looking for at that point are the little arrows on your map. You just need to find them and see if they are one of your missing collectibles. If it’s a map tile you’ve already seen a bunch it’s more than likely to not have anything for you. This started really helping my collectible runs in a major way. It’s not like you’re all of a sudden going to get every collectible in one run, sometimes I’d only get one item from each run, which really sucked. Sometimes the game would crash and you’d lose all your progress, which happened to me twice.

I did get that platinum though and I must say I loved almost every minute of it. This game was a blast to play. I actually got the last few trophies, netting me the platinum, faster than I wanted to. When the platinum trophy popped I was a little disappointed that it was over. It was just a fun game with a good amount of challenge that kept me wanting to come back to it.

Final Score – 8.6

I must say that I really did enjoy my time with Returnal. If I didn’t have a thing about picking up a game I already platinumed, I’d want to jump back into it again. All that’s left are daily challenges which I don’t care about. This is a great third-person shooter that actually feels good to play. Combat is fast and challenging, forcing you to keep your wits about you to survive. Pick it up on a sale and it’ll treat you right. Perhaps the story could have been a bit more engaging but that would mean it’d get more in the way of the gameplay, which would suck.

All of my juicy end-game stats.

Doom Eternal – Review

Doom Eternal is a shooter ass shooter. It has one of the smoothest sensations of locomotion in a video game that I’ve felt in a long time. You effortlessly run around your environment ripping and tearing and blowing Hellspawn to bits. It’s a great feeling shooter that should satisfy just about everyone’s craving to rip and tear.

I played it on the PS5 and the controls feel great, it’s easy to move around and melt enemies with your weapons. Granted, the game doesn’t really have to deal with a lot of micro aiming at a distance. Most weapons have a wide spread to them so you just need to aim in the general direction to get a hit. Even the long range precision rifle attachment to the machine gun has a snap-to feature to negate any slowdown in combat. That is all by design though, slowing down will get you killed. You want to keep moving through your environment as you launch rockets or use your double barrel shotguns hook attachment to pull yourself in for a quick blast to the face.

Where the controls let you down, at least on console, is when you need to switch your weapons. You have a very limited supply of ammo for most weapons, this can be upgraded slightly. This forces you to rotate through the weapons you have as their ammo is depleted. Specific enemies require you to use a special weapon, like the basic shotguns alt-fire that shoots a grenade projectile into a demons mouth to cause it to explode. What bothered me was how this slowed down combat when I had to use the R1 wheel to select a new weapon. You do get good at it and can usually do it pretty fast, but those times when you accidentally select the wrong weapon and have to try it all over again really suck. Tapping R1 will let you switch to your last weapon but that’s only good if your last weapon happens to be the one you’re trying to use. You almost want another hot swap, perhaps if the L1 button swapped between two weapons as well. It also gets a little cumbersome because most weapons have multiple alternate fire modes that need to be switched by pressing the Up on the directional pad. None of this is complicated or hard to do, it just interrupts the flow of combat in a way I don’t think they intended. Perhaps this is the game where using a mouse and keyboard would really help, or just release some flappy paddles for the back of the dual sense controller.

The premise for this sequel is cool at first. You’re in a space station above earth and have to teleport to different places to take on your missions. The issue I had with the missions is that I prefer more of the industrial design of the first game, compared to the generally more organic feeling of these levels. The map does a really good job of showing you where all the secrets for the levels are if you’re trying to collect everything, which is great. The only tip I’ll give you is that you can hold off on getting everything until the end of the level since you unlock a fast travel system right before ending the level. If you try to get all the collectibles as you go from room to room, you have to constantly open the map to see if there is a hidden item nearby. This really starts to kill the pacing of the game and it’s a little counterintuitive to the soul of the game. A game all about speed and chaining moves together but you have to stop yourself from going to the next room so you can pause, open the map, analyze it, perhaps go and get a collectible, and finally move on to the next room and repeat.

You have to appreciate a good map in a video game.

I ended up playing through the first DLC of the game, The Ancient Ones, which I did enjoy. I’m not always a fan of playing DLC because it’s usually just more of the same, which is the case for this game. The only thing that started to annoy me was how long some of the enemy encounters became. You enter a room that is clearly an arena, enemies start spawning in and you’re just locked in there clearing out wave after wave of enemies. The gameplay is fun, the combat is a blast, it just gets a little monotonous is all. I do recognize that this is probably a little unfair of me to judge the main game and the DLC together. Normally, you’d get to play the main game and a few months later pick up the first DLC pack and jump back in that way. Doing it one after another just became too much and I got worn out by the endless combat encounters. It sort of felt like they were padding out the play time by having each encounter last two or more waves than the base game.

For some reason the story of this game didn’t really stick out to me like the way the first Doom (2016) did. It seems like there were a lot more story elements intertwined with the gameplay, but it felt a little confusing at times. I didn’t care about reading everything I picked up like I did the old game, so maybe some of that is on me. I actually think a part of this has to do with the way stories are told in the medium. This is not a movie where you’re sitting there and locked in on the story for two hours straight. You get a minute of story and exposition, go off to play a level, perhaps take a break and finish it the next day, then get another minute of story. You’re expected to keep all this in mind when it’s all wrapping up in the end. I just find it a huge disconnect with certain games sometimes. It could have been the headspace I was when playing this as well. At least I can always just watch a story recap video on YouTube to figure what I missed.

These marauders were really fun to fight.

A great addition to this game are the enemy marauders. You have to time your attacks to actually do damage to them, adding another level to the combat in this game. It’s a really smart direction for the game design to move towards. I think it would have been really interesting to see the each pack of DLC add one more character with a similar system, making fights even more of a puzzle of how you go between enemies and hit their weaknesses. Timing attacks to stagger the enemy so you can damage them definitely feels like a Dark Souls influence and I’m all for it.

Graphics – We got that sweet raytracing now!

Raytracing on and off.
Raytracing on and off.

So the thing that really got me to pick up this game on PS5 was the update they put out where you get a 60fps raytracing mode for free. That is honestly what drew me in. I wasn’t planning on getting this game, it wasn’t on my radar at all. I loved the first one but got a little sour on it when I saw the reviews and discourse around the title.

This games implementation of raytracing can be summed up in the two examples I provided above. You can clearly see the effects of raytracing on the bottom image, but it’s a little hard to really notice the improvement on the top one. Seeing raytracing running on this game, at a locked 60fps is pretty incredible. I honestly didn’t think these consoles could really pull this off with the amount of dedicated ray tracing cores they have. The levels don’t always show off this effect to the best of it’s ability, but that’s just fine with me. You don’t want every hallway to just be full of mirrors and shit, you want the effect to be used subtly and naturally to add to the realism. Look at the top image and see how it helps to ground your weapons in the world by creating more realistic lighting and reflections on the metals of your guns.

You looking at me?

Final Score – 8.2

If you haven’t already played this game you should definitely pick it up. It’s constantly on sale for 20 USD and with the added support for PS5 quick loading and raytracing, if you have the console it complements it perfectly. Just be wary of getting burned out on the combat and exploration. Have some fun and rip and tear as they say. I personally preferred the smaller, more intimate setting of the first Doom (2016) and it’s story.

Bluepoint Games Officially a Sony Studio

To the surprise of no one.

In what can only be referred to a as a shocking revelation, Sony has officially welcomed Bluepoint Games into the Sony family of studios.

The more interesting part of this all is that they are developing their own original IP now. Bluepoint is the studio behind the Demon Souls remake that launched with the PlayStation 5 along with the Shadow of Colossus remake for the PS4. They basically do those pretty remakes of games.

I must say that right now I’m just a little bummed that they’re making their own, original, titles for the platform. They are really good at taking an old property, sourcing out artwork and bringing it up to modern levels of graphical fidelity. You kind of knew that if they were doing a remake that it would be done to a high level of quality, and it seems like they could get them out at a pretty decent cadence.

Now, we’re going to have to wait 3-4 years for them to put out their own game. Maybe a little less because it seems like this acquisition has been in the works for some time. It was leaked out earlier this year that this was going to happen. They should have about a good year of development already done since Demon’s Souls came out as a launch title. Would it make sense for them to adapt that engine and make a Dark Souls style game? That’d be interesting.

I’m happy for the team of people at Bluepoint that want to create their own project, there’s a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment in doing something like that over remaking another teams work. So if that’s what makes them happy and get out of bed each morning, good for them. Hopefully their studio is big enough that they can have two teams working at once, that’s how I’d try to structure them. It does feel like a lot of the asset work in their remakes were done by other studios, which was a brilliant way of getting things up and running fast. Then again, that’s how a lot of studios work today, outsource the asset creation to studios in parts of the world where it labor costs are less.

It’s a little funny that everyone’s dreams of a Metal Gear Solid remake and Bloodborne have all gone out the window though. Perhaps one day!

Retro Game Hunting in Japan – Hard-Off Hiratsuka, Shinomiya

I was up for an adventure today, so I decided to go all the way out to the little town of Hiratsuka, Shinomiya. It’s west of Tokyo and even west of Yokohoma, close to the town of Odawara. From the train station it was about a half hour walk to get to the store, but you could always take a bus if you’re not in the walking mood. It was nice out, a little hot, but I was ready for an adventure. I got off the train, checked the direction on google maps and went for a walk.

Money in the case!

Right off the bat when entering the store you get a money case with some Famicom Disk system games in it. Some of the covers were a bit faded, just check out those Zelda games on the top row and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The prices for these games are okay, cheaper than the ones at Super Potato but you have to make sure you get a good copy. Just take your time and really look over any of the games, compare the colors of like games if you can. You don’t have to make a purchase just because they have the game you want. Look at the bottom, another boxed copy of Rockman 5, so it seems like that’s one of the easier Famicom Rockman games you can find.

Some more money case goodness.

Another money case and another copy of Rockman 5! At least there’s a copy of 6 here as well, along with a loose copy of Rockman on the row above. These boxes were a little beat up so I wasn’t having any of it. I’d rather pay a little more for a nicer condition.

Super Famicom loose and boxed copies.

The Super Famicom section wasn’t the best. Then again, I’m really only looking for certain titles now. I have almost all of the base Super Famicom games that I wanted to have in my collection. Especially the really popular titles that you’ll find at every Hard-Off you go to. So I’m basically out there looking for those good finds, which may just be one or two games at a store. So no Super Famicom games for me today.

N64. Boxed Starfox on the bottom.

Check out the pic above and below this one to see the small Nintendo 64 collection on display. Not that many games to choose from, it’s a little disappointing how hard it is to find a lot of these games for sale. I did end up buying Yoshi’s Story, Diddy Kong Racing, and Kirby 64 from this store though. They were all complete in box copies and cost between 3 and 5 dollars. You can really get some good deals from these Hard-Off stores if you’re willing to look. I’m not at the point of getting loose carts just yet, but if I ever do, I will definitely hit up Hard-Off to stock up.

The boxed Nintendo 64 games.

Some of these boxed Nintendo 64 games are ridiculously cheap. The only issue is that you tend to find the same few titles at every Hard-Off you visit, so if you’re looking for a Mario, Zelda, or Wave Race game you’re all set.

Another money case!

The hits just keep coming at the money case in this store. Rockman 2 is going for around 100 USD, but I believe it’s missing the manual. A little rich for my blood especially with the condition it’s in. It’s nice to see so many money cases in this Hard-Off, usually you only get one, maybe 2 at a location.

The rare US version of a game showing up at a Hard-Off! NFL Quarterback Club for the Super Nintendo making an appearance. US games always sell for a lot of money in Japanese stores, so If you’re already coming from the States, don’t even think about buying Western version of games out here. Some loose Hue cards are also available if you’re into that.

I don’t own a PC Engine just yet, waiting for Analogue to release their version which I’m thinking of picking up. I would be interested in these copies of R-Type II and Gunhead though. I would not want loose copies of these Hue cards, I really don’t understand collecting those loose, if feels like a thing that should be in a case.

Mega Drive and another money case!

These Mega Drive sections are always so small! At least I was finally able to find a copy of Sonic which I picked up for about 10 USD. What a surprisingly rare console to shop for in Japan.

Boxed 3DO.

Here we have a boxed 3DO and some of the games they had for that system. I still think I probably should have picked up this console, I’m not even sure why I want it. I just think it would be so weird to finally own a 3DO. What would I even play? Way of the Warrior or Gex or something? I just find it fascinating to find these complete in box consoles laying around Japan.

A few of the 3DO games they had.
Another money case! Again!

I had to show of this final money case just because of the ridiculously priced Turtles in Time game. The box was a bit beat up, which seems to be more common at Hard-Off then it is in Akihabara.

This store was a bit middle of the road. They had a surprising amount of money cases for video games. Their console selection wasn’t the best, but I do want that boxed 3DO and I think I may go back down that way to pick it up if it’s still there. Are people actually looking for those to buy?

The main issue with this store for foreigners is the location. If you’re staying in the Tokyo region it is definitely not worth your time to take a train all the way out here just to have a look around. You’re better off sticking closer to the city and hitting up the many game stores there.

I have plenty more stores to visit though, so until next time!

Super Potato – Trader – Mandarake – Exploring Akihabara – Retro Game Edition

This was a big day of retro game hunting for me. After getting a taste of what’s available outside of Akihabara, I thought I was finally ready to jump into the deep end and really look for some titles that I’ve been drooling over. This felt like a good strategy for me. By going to Hard-Off stores and seeing how much you can get certain games and consoles for, it would give me more information to make an informed purchasing decision. I knew how much a boxed Super Famicom was going for, so Super Potato wasn’t going to get one over on me or anything like that. I’ve also learned a lot about what I could and couldn’t find outside of Akihabara easily. If I wanted really nice copies of harder to find games then it would just be worth it to get them in Akihabara.

My goal was pretty simple, on the train ride into Akihabara I made a list on my phone of a bunch of games I wanted to pick up. Each store got their own column. When I arrived I’d go to each store, see if they had the games on my list and put down how much they wanted for it. After I did all that I had a snack and a drink, went over my list and decided on which games I would buy and from which store. In the end I came away with a bag full of really great games and a slimmer wallet.

Trader

Trader was my first store and would end up being one of my favorite for retro games. You can enter on the side of the building and go straight up the stairs to the second floor, that’s where all the games are. The games are all protected in cases and it has a decent amount of room to navigate, at least for Japan it does. Carrying a backpack always makes navigation a bit harder.

Looking for those boxed Rockman games.

I was a little surprised to only find three of the Famicom Rockman games in box at this store, I thought they’d be a little easier to find in Akihabara, but I definitely was wrong about that.

Loose Super Famicom games aplenty.

They of course had a ton of loose Super Famicom games. I took this picture because I was looking at getting copies of Go Go Ackman 1, 2, & 3. These were all decently priced for the loose carts… Sadly, I wanted them to be boxed copies and the 3rd game is definitely a lot more expensive in that regard. I did, however, simply turn around in this isle and find all the boxed copies for those Go Go Ackman games. I picked all three of them up in one scoop. They were around 50,30, & 90 USD each for a complete in box copy.

Boxed Super Famicom games, I’m looking at you Rockam!

These were the boxed Super Famicom RockMan games they had, including RockMan and Forte. I picked up the boxed versions of RockMan 7, X2, & X3 from this store. My Super Famicom collection is definitely getting pretty good.

Akumajou Dracula XX!!!

I will end up buying a boxed copy of Akumajou Dracula XX, but today wasn’t the day. I’ve recently revisited this store and found the price for this game had dropped by 30 USD, so I think I’ll see where it’s at on my next trip and pick it up then. The box will have to be in great shape though for me. I just love the look of the artwork, way better than the game to the left of this box.

Some of the more rare Sega games.

It’s a little crazy to see the price of Battletoads. I just don’t think people should get that juiced up over playing it. And yes, I do already own Virtua Fighter for the 32X and yes, it does suck about as much as you thought it did. I have a hard time liking the first couple Virtua Fighter games, everything feels like you’re underwater. Perhaps it’s a series I need to go back to and give a second chance.

Perfect Dark!

I really need to check if this version of Perfect Dark comes with the expansion pack or not. If it does, it’s not that bad of a price, if it doesn’t then I don’t understand why Perfect Dark is going for so much in Japan. Perhaps it was a Rare game! (chuckle)

I was just looking it up on eBay and it doesn’t seem like these versions come with the RAM cart.

Night Trap for the Mega Drive.

No, I did not buy this copy of Night Trap for the Mega Drive, I already own the remaster for the Switch! When I think about it, I just feel sad for people that played these styles of games when they were younger and thought they were good. This is from someone who played a good amount of Sega CD games with their brother as a kid, we played them so much yet they sucked so bad. You just don’t know any better when you’re that young in the 90s.

Close up on that price. Multiple copies though.

Like I said earlier, the price on these copies dropped in just a few weeks. I think I’ll try to head back to Akihabara in the next couple of weeks or so and see what’s happening with these prices. If you’re a collector, or just trying to start out, it’s good to keep coming in and out of these stores over a period of time, you get a sense of pricing and the inventory does change over on the regular. Perhaps I should have picked up that copy of Rendering Ranger I saw…

Loose Super Famicom controllers

Some loose Super Famicom controllers for about 9 USD, look to be in good condition as well. I knew I was going to just buy a boxed Super Famicom, so getting 2 controllers is basically a third of the price of that package.

Mandarake

Now Mandarake is a store for the collectors out there. I believe it’s an eight story building, with the retro games taking up the 6th floor. All the games are in cases like you see in the photo below. This makes it hard to find the specific title you’re looking for if the spine is only in Japanese. They also have a good amount of money cases with a lot of expensive titles on the walls of the store. The prices are high in this store, but they are supposed to be catering to people that want their games in great condition. I’m not so sure it’s totally worth the price they’re asking on some of these titles. They do have a surprising amount of Virtual Boy games though.

Got plenty of boxed Virtual Boy games.

I’m really just not a fan of the way this store does it’s thing. I don’t like these cases, I don’t like how hard it can be to pull some of them out to look at the cover, they just pack them in tight. And some of the aisles are just small and make it awkward to dig through some of these shelves.

Cases upon cases.

Super Potato

This is the “classic” retro game shop that everyone talks about. This is place you’re supposed to go to when visiting Tokyo.

What do I think about Super Potato?

The entrance to Super Potato on the 3rd floor.

I actually loved this store! I don’t think it beats out Trader as my favorite though, I think the selection of games in Trader gives it the win. What I do like about Super Potato is that if you want a certain game, they’ll have a range of prices for it. They don’t do this for every title mind you, just some of the higher-tier games.

I did buy Super Metroid here.

So let’s look at this image of some Super Famicom games here. The boxes on display are empty, you have to bring them up to the counter and they’ll show you a bunch of copies that you can pick from. I bought Super Metroid from them and so I brought the Super Metroid case up to the counter. The clerk pulled out a bunch of copies of Super Metroid, each one a different price and in a different condition. He must of had 7 copies of the game on the counter for me to look at. I decided to get one that was around 85 USD. While that’s a bit rich, the case is in near mint condition and the manual looks like it’s never been touched, it’s insane. It makes me not want to touch the manual because I don’t want to be the one that ruins it.

Now, can you get a boxed copy of Super Metroid for cheaper in Japan? Definitely! I said in an earlier post about the Super Metroid copy I found at a Hard-Off for around 45 USD. It was beat up and the box definitely wasn’t that nice. I am glad I didn’t just pick it up, I wanted this game and I want to display it on a shelf. I love the artwork on the box and just the way it’s presented, so the price is worth it for me. Also, I really just want to play this original cartridge on a console. I want to say that I beat this game and not just an emulated version of it.

They have a whole selection of Pokemon socks.

Super Potato also has an aisle of Pokemon and other merch, like Nintendo. There’s not a whole lot, since the store is so small, but it’s something.

Boxed Famicom games, including the Mario titles.

I did end up buying Mario 1, 3 & USA from Super Potato. I didn’t get the copies that needed to be taken to the counter, I just grabbed some decent looking boxes from the shelf below. It just makes me wonder if I really need a pristine copy of those games… That Zelda games is going for upwards of 100USD though! Who knew?

Boxed Famicom games.

What did surprise me and was a bit of a letdown, was the lack of RockMan games. You could always go to the cart isle and pick up all the Famicom RockMan games for relatively cheap, but I wanted them to all be boxed. They just don’t seem to have the supply right now. I wonder if it had to do with Super Potato starting an EBay store during the pandemic that cleared them out. I did grab a copy of RockMan 5 on my way out.

One of the money cases in Super Potato.
Games upon games.

The left of this image shows the boxed Famicom games. The right has the loose Famicom carts. The back wall has the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast titles.

Another look at the aisle of Super Famicom games.
Famicom Disk System games.

They even have a whole section of Famicom Disk System games to look through. The prices on these titles are definitely high in my opinion. I was able to get some of these titles at a Hard-Off for about half the price. Keep in mind that’s with the luxury of living in Japan and having time to go around to all these stores. If you’re visiting on a trip and have a limited amount of time, it’s probably worth the cost to just buy the games at one of these stores, even if you can get them for cheaper elsewhere.

Surugaya

I popped into Surugaya because of the videos I’ve watched of KidShoryuken and it seemed like a decent place to have a look. I ended up not liking this store at all. You go down into the basement and there are like 3 aisles you can walk down, each of them with enough room for one human adult. If someone is in the aisle looking at games you can’t really get in there and navigate, you kind of have to wait for other people to leave for you to move in. Besides that, I just prefer the shop layout of Trader and Super Potato over this store, I really don’t see a reason for me to go back here, especially since the selection of games and prices really didn’t compare well with what I had already seen.

A bit of their console selection.
I at least found the CD Romantic copy of Snatcher.

Wrap it up already!

So that was my first real trip to Akihabara to look for retro video games. I picked up 15 games and spent a good chunk of money. I am good with that though. I went in knowing that I would probably spend more money than normal, I was looking for some harder to get games and I wanted them to be complete in box. Outside of the Famicom games I mentioned from Super Potato, I got 8 Super Famicom games as well. All three Go Go Ackman games, the three RockMan games, F-Zero, and Super Metroid. Out of those games, only Super Metroid wasn’t from Trader. I also got three more N64 games from Trader, Shadows of the Empire, Episode I Racer, and Turok; all of which were really cheap.

I really did enjoy my time looking around all these game stores in Akihabara. It’s a fun trip and I really just enjoy looking around these stores. I’ll update you more on my next trip to Akihabara and what I got then, so stay tuned for that one.

Shenmue 2 – Review

I originally played through Shenmue 2 on the XBox when it came out in 2001, so it’s been a solid 20 years since I last checked in on Ryo Hazuki. The most interesting part of playing this game is just how small and insignificant it makes the first game feel, which I wasn’t expecting. That’s because when I remember back to playing these games I had all these great memories of playing through the first Shenmue, with it’s engrossing story and memorable scenes, with the second game being little more than a footnote in my memory.

To put all this into context, Shenmue 1 is the first chapter of the saga. Shenmue 2 covers chapters 3 to 5. The missing chapter 2 is a comic book story that covers the boat trip Ryo takes after he left Yokosuka, Japan. It makes sense when I go back to my review of Shenmue and take note of how short the story is and how it basically just feels like it’s the opening to a grander story, because that’s exactly what it is.

Shenmue 2 takes place in Hong Kong and then ventures a bit into mainland China in the final, brief, chapter of the game. This is probably where I have one of my biggest complaints about this game, the location. It feels a little odd that the game went into Hong Kong in these chapters. I feel a personal disconnect from what I felt when playing Shenmue 1, perhaps it’s my own bias towards Japanese architecture and culture.

When you get off the boat at the beginning of the game you’re in Aberdeen harbor, it’s honestly one of the ugliest locations in a video game I’ve seen in a while. The buildings are all this horribly textured red brick. The lack of geometric detail and lighting, combined with low quality texture work, just makes the whole image hard to look at. It starts to get a little better as the game progresses, but even then you’re mainly inside large buildings with repeating geometry and texture work.

A really ugly environment.

Yes, this game is pretty ugly to look at. Some of the NPCs will make you laugh because of the way they’re represented. It almost feels like the Japanese developers are kind of taking the piss out of the Chinese people in their game. You do have to take into consideration that this game is a port, not a remake. It was originally developed for the Dreamcast and Microsoft made a deal to get distribution rights for the XBox in the States, which means the game models aren’t improved or anything for this title.

I went back and forth on being impressed that a Dreamcast could render scenes in such detail, but other times I was really scratching my head at just how bad things looked back then. I can really see a remake of these games with the Dragon Engine from the Yakuza developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. I would personally love a complete remaster, but I don’t see a world where that would be financially viable for a studio to commit those levels of resources and money for this brand.

So let’s talk about playing the game. The map system is almost completely useless here. You first need to buy a map for each and every area you load into. The city is broken up into multiple parts, so one map will not be enough. The names of building will not be on this map, they simply give you something in the corner of your screen to orient yourself with. If you want to find a specific place, you have to ask people for directions or find a map directory in the world that you can zoom into and look for your destination. I ended up just pulling up a map on my laptop and keeping that up, way easier.

A big complaint that I had on the first game was the amount of time I waisted just sitting around killing time as I waited for the next scheduled event to take place. In this game that’s almost completely eliminated. You can fast travel in specific instances, it’ll always give you the option to wait and speed up time. If you run out the clock on a day it’ll bring you back to your resting spot, then the next morning, it’ll give you the option to continue from yesterday and warp you back. It’s nice to see the evolution and problem solving at work. If you just want the story then this is a great quality of life feature added over the first game.

The fighting is better than it is in the first game. In Shenmue I felt like I had almost no control over a fight and just smashed the same few attacks and I’d eventually win the match. There’s a bit more strategy involved in this one, especially when you get to the later parts of the game and have to do a series of street fights to progress. It’s by no means a great fighting system. You wont have fun doing it and you wont look forward to fighting at all. Just keep at it and you’ll get through it.

Let’s not even get into the QTEs and how stupid they are. You have to do button presses at various story moments and fight sequences. This is not a good mechanic that holds up to the test of time. It was meant to provide a more cinematic experience but really it just frustrates the player if they mess up. You end up not caring about what’s happening because all you’re doing is trying to input a dumb sequence of button presses so you don’t have to start the whole sequence over again. This is a slam against all instances of QTE throughout all video games, it is simply a commentary on how they were implemented in this title.

If you intend to play this game I recommend that you use a guide to get you through the story. I don’t have time in my life to play this game the way you were supposed to when it came out. I don’t want to run around asking people where to go and piece together all the clues. Modern games would just give you waypoints on your next objective, pointing you to a restaurant you’ve never been to, this game makes you figure all that out yourself. I didn’t just want to beat this game or see the story, I was aiming to get the platinum trophy for both Shenmue 1 & 2 so I followed a trophy guide. Luckily, it was a fairly straightforward platinum and doesn’t require you to have to do a bunch of extra tasks, which is really nice.

I did come to this game for the story. I wanted to play through all three titles just to see what happens at the end of the third game. I think I owed it to my younger self to experience all the Shenmue that I can and to at least get the platinum trophy in the first two games. I’ve been looking at what’s involved for the third game and I’m not sure I care that much about collecting herbs, but I’ll see what happens when I get there.

What can I really say about the story in this game? It’s slightly better than the first game. I’m simply talking about the story itself here, not the way it’s presented or anything like that. There’s a bit more action towards the end of the game that really makes you feel like you’re actually in the second act of the game. Things are happening, granted, there all happening in a 17 story building that seems to go on forever and everything looks the same. You start to learn about the mirrors and what they do. Some mystical/magical things happen with the mirror that isn’t physically possible. Lan Di is talked about a lot and you get to see him at the end battle, but he’s not involved and just hangs off a ladder attached to a helicopter. This is literaly the weirdest game ever made.

The final chapter of the game has you going into mainland China to rescue a girl in a river chasing a deer. She seems to have magical capabilities or something and keeps reciting a poem that references you coming to her. You get to run around a forest for what seems like forever. You see the Shenmue tree and use a sword and the mirror to make a sword float in mid air. What does it all mean?!

I don’t even know…

Do you see what I’m saying? I have no idea. This is what I was left with 20 years ago, an image of this. This is what all of us Shenmue fans had to go on. Then Yu Suzuki crowdfunds a sequel to this game and it gets greenlit. I hope he can wrap up this story in the sequel because I really don’t think he’s going to get another shot at it.

Final Score – 7.1

I think it’s a better game than the original. As hard as it is for me to say that it is a better game. The setting and the sheer volume of memes from the first game make it more memorable by a mile. Is this a good game that people should actually play in 2021 though? No. Only people with a soft spot for this series should even think about going back to these games. It’s fascinating to see what they were trying to do with the technology they had at the time. They were clearly overambitious and bit off more than they could chew. If you have never experienced a Shenmue game then you really need to give it a try, it’s interesting for sure.

Retro Game Hunting in Japan

Hard Off Hachioji Owada & Oizumigakuen

Two in a day

After getting off the train.

These Hard-Off stores were pretty far away for me. It was a rainy day but with the heat of a Japanese summer bearing down on us all, a little rainy weather made it a little more bearable to wander a round Japan for an afternoon. What made this location interesting to me was that you typically don’t get all of the Off stores in one place like this, and this place had them all. So if you have a lot of interests and are looking to buy some used stuff, this would be a great first place to have a look. The walk from the station was about 20 minutes for me, but you can always take a bus or drive a car to get here if you’re so inclined.

Famicom Disk System Games!

When I get to a Hard-Off I tend to have a walk through all the isles first, just to see what they have. This aisle was the first one with a dedicated section to the Famicom Disk System that I ran across, which felt unique to me. While I didn’t pick up any of these games on this trip, I would eventually add some of these titles to my collection. It’s just a fascinating thing to see in person, especially growing up in America and never really knowing about these systems when I was a kid.

Famicom Games

I really haven’t been getting into collecting loose copies of Famicom games, but If I were to do so, I could easily get a large collection for relatively cheap. Just know that if you’re going for boxed copies of Famicom games, they are more rare at Hard-Off stores, but you can still find them. I tend to see more of the expensive titles behind glass here and they tend not to be in as great of shape as you can find in Akihabara. They will be cheaper though.

They actually have some Mega Drive and Mega CD games at this location!

I had already picked up a copy of Virtua Racing for the Mega Drive prior to this trip so I didn’t really find anything good for the console. You tend to find a lot of weird history role playing or sim games for the Mega Drive, just not really sure what those games are about. I would pick some up for the fun of it, but since they are so text heavy I’d have a hard time getting through them.

A fairly small selection of Sega Dreamcast games along with some random handheld titles and Hue Cards. Again, I wasn’t really picking up for Dreamcast or anything at this time so there wasn’t a lot for me in this section.

Boxed and loose consoles.

In this image you can see the boxed Mega Drive going for around 90-100 USD. That’s basically the price you’ll find for a boxed system outside of Akihabara, where it will tend to be a bit more expensive. A loose Saturn with a power cable is only around 30, the Wii consoles all range from 20-50 depending on their condition and what they come with. If anyone has questions as to prices for systems just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

More consoles, including boxed Famicom and Gamecube.

The N64 in this picture is expensive because it comes with multiple controllers and the expansion pack, which you can see in red above the N64 logo. They’ll leave the expansion slot door open to show you when it comes with the expansion pack. Be wary about buying some of the old Nintendo consoles from these stores, a good amount of them will be yellowing, but if you’re willing to retro-bright the console it could be a good way to restore something old and save a little money.

Super Famicom section.

Just like every Hard-Off I’ve been to, they have a massive selection of loose Super Famicom games to go through. You can tell just how popular this console was by how many loose games they always have. The majority of them are also really cheap. If you’re into loose games, this is a no-brainer.

Another Hard-Off!

Walking to the next store.

After I picked up a few games from my first Hard-Off, I decided to hop back on the train and go to another Hard-Off not too far away. I had my headphones in, listened to a few gaming podcasts, and set out to continue my journey.

The second Hard-Off I went to was in the town of Oizumimachi, in Nerima City. It started off with a lovely walk through a little neighborhood and then continued down the Shirako River. The store wasn’t too far away and I had a good time stopping to take photos while holding my umbrella with the other hand.

This store was definitely smaller than the last one I went to. They have an Off-House on the first floor so you had to take the escalator up to the second floor to find the Hard-Off. The game section was small compared to other stores. The selection wasn’t the best as well. I decided that since I was heading home after this and because the game selection was so small, I should look into buying a console instead.

My new, old, console.

I ended up getting a boxed N64 for around 60 dollars, it had everything in the box, the console, controller, power supply, video cables, and even the original documentation that came with the unit. I went with the Clear Blue model since I thought it looked pretty cool and because the one my brother and I got as kids was the basic grey model, which he has possession of now.

The game haul for the day.

I picked up a few N64 games from the second store to add to the Super Famicom games I purchased at the first Hard-Off of the day. All in all, I had a great time exploring some out of the way towns in the Tokyo region. It’s as if the hobby of collection retro games is more of an excuse to get out and see more remote areas of Tokyo and Japan in general. I’ve found that as I’ve visited these stores I tend to get less and less games. Partly due to the fact that I’m not a “hoarder” collector, I kind of just want the games that speak to me or peak my interest and not every game ever made. I’m also looking into getting more of the consoles and you’ll be able to see those in my next posts.

Until then, I hope you’ll join me on my next trip to Hard-Off!

Hard-Off Yamato : The Sequel to Hard Off

After getting a taste of what Hard-Off could offer, I was eagerly looked forward to another trip out into the electric lights of smooth jazz sounds of Japan. This time I was headed for the little town of Yamato, west of Yokohama and even further west of Tokyo. When I arrived I got off the train to one of the quietest little train stations. You quickly get the sense that this town is not one that is frequented by a lot of visitors. There were hardly any people around this train station or on my short walk to my destination. After a brief stroll down the road I came upon the building I was looking for and rounded the corner. I was greeted with a grocery store which threw me for a loop, I backed away from the building and looked up at the sign to see that Hard-Off was actually on the second flood, I entered and went up the escalator to the right.

The game section encompassed one long isle in the middle of the store. Starting with PS4 games and eventually getting into a decently sized retro section on my left. To my right was a small selection of consoles along with one glass ‘money’ case that held all the more expensive games that are harder to find.

A few of the console available, you can tell I was thinking of buying a boxed Saturn, but not today!

I felt invigorated by seeing all these games and I really decided to get my hands dirty and take my time to go through the titles they had. I wasn’t really in a rush, my afternoon was this trip and I wanted to really get a sense of what Hard-Off had to offer. I’ve been watching plenty of content on YouTube over the past few weeks, looking for good recommendations of games to buy. I wasn’t too well versed in Japanese games and what they had to offer, especially on the older generations of consoles since there are a lot of exclusive titles that never came out in the West.

The one thing you have to really learn by doing is figuring out what a good price for a game is. If you’re frugal with your money you really should take your time to get a list of games you’re looking for and find out what they’re going for online. This will give you a frame of reference as to what a good price is. Maybe watch some YouTube videos, or check out some of the prices I’ll be posting in my Retro Game Hunting updates, or perhaps use a site like pricecharting.com. Sometimes you just need to get in there and see games on shelves and see their prices. By visiting a store like Hard-Off, you can easily find games for a fraction of the price you see them going for online.

If you’re visiting Japan and are planning on staying in the Tokyo region, you have to think about if going to a Hard-Off is really worth your time. You might see some of the prices I’m showing and talking about and think of all the great deals you can get and all the money you can save. What you need to consider is that some of these hard offs are 60-90 minutes away from downtown Tokyo. They may cost 10 or more dollars to get to by train, depending on the location. The further away from Tokyo the cheaper they may be as well. If you pick some far locations it may take up your whole day going to one or two of these stores. If you want to spend a day or two of your limited time visiting Japan wandering around little towns and thrift stores that’s okay to do in my book. If you’re looking for certain games and want them in boxed and in good condition, you may just want to hit up Akihabara and the stores there. While you may pay a higher price, they’ll most likely have all the games you want and you wont really have to travel far for them. Just something to think about.

For me, living in Japan and enjoying these little trips to different places and exploring off the beaten path has given me an idea to start collecting for other people. It’d be fun to buy games for others that can’t visit Japan, putting together little gift boxes of games and miscellaneous items for a fee. It’s a cool concept at least.

Loose games going for just a few dollars a piece. It’s “hard” to beat these prices.

If you’re simply looking for loose N64 games, they are really easy to come by in these Hard-Off stores. They are generally very cheap for your major franchises like Zelda and Mario. Boxed copies are widely available as well, including all the inserts and manual, for a relatively low price at the moment. While you can get a boxed copy of Ocarina of Time for around 12-15 dollars, Goldeneye may cost up around 40-50.

Looking down the aisle.

Every Hard-Off I’ve been to has just a massive amount of loose Super Famicom games for you to pick through. The majority of the bags games are in decent condition as well. They are definitely cheaper than the boxed games I’ve been hunting for. You can probably get 25 good loose Super Famicom games for around 100 USD if you avoid the more rare titles.

Looking the other way.

Yes, you can find PSP UMD titles in Hard-Off as well, if you’re into that sort of thing. There are usually a good selection of Game Boy titles as well. The boxed copies of games are sealed up with wrapping, so it’s hard to really inspect the inside of the boxes to check the condition of the manual and everything. Typically, if it’s a boxed copy at a Hard-Off, you can expect the quality to be okay, I haven’t bought any games that were a mess inside, but I have got some that were really great quality, it’s more of a crap shoot in that regard.

Small selection of MegaDrive and other consoles.

You’ll notice through these images the disparity in the selection of Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) and Nintendo games. This was at a point where I was only really looking for Super Famicom and N64 titles, I’ve since spread out further into other console but you’ll have to wait for that revelation! I’ve noticed that a lot of the Mega Drive titles they have tend to be historical in nature at Hard-Off, it’s less likely, but not impossible, to find your Sonic or more popular Western games.

The big dollar money on the mind gaming case.

This was the glass ‘money’ case at this store. It didn’t have the biggest selection of titles and nothing that really spoke to me at the time. Even though this store is a thrift shop of sorts, don’t expect to always find the cheapest prices on every game here. Some of these prices will rival what you’ll pay in Akihabara and they could be in worse condition! Just be mindful of what you’re buying and make sure the price is right for your budget and what you’re looking for. Don’t feel pressured into getting the game just because you’re there.

My haul from this trip.

These were the games I picked up on this trip. I was happy to see they had a copy of Virtua Racing for the Mega Drive, I remember renting that game as a kid and enjoying it. It’ll be pretty funny to see how it holds up today. As you can tell by the rest of the games I bought, I’m trying to get the basic set of games for a collection. All these titles seem to be relatively easy to find at any Hard-Off, so as long as you find a good copy of a game, pick it up.

Heading home after a long afternoon of game shopping.

So that was the second Hard-Off trip that I went on and I enjoyed my journey. I’m not sure I’ll really need to ever visit this Hard-Off again, mostly because I’m getting more and more particular on the games I’m looking for, and hardware for that matter. The trip was enjoyable and I’m happy it was one of the earlier stores that I went to.