Japan 2013: Shagohods and Street Passes
For more on our recent trip to Japan: Sushi and the Sniffles
I was convinced that the baggage police were going to catch me yet again. I was 5 kg under the weight limit on the way to Japan, but a collection of bric-a-brac threatened to put me well over for the return. I turned down consoles, said no to countless special edition box sets and even refused to smuggle firearms all in an effort to keep my suitcase light. In the end I was too frugal, weighing in at 3 kg under our allowance, space that should’ve been filled with a couple more box sets and a retro console or two.
Although I showed some restraint, I still managed to spend more than a few pennies on video games and game related tat, mostly in Akihabara. Tokyo's Electric Town, home to all things Otaku (manga, anime, video games, maid cafes and t-shirts tucked into pants), has changed a great deal over the last few years, as department stores and high-rises have replaced smaller, older shops and buildings. However, it's still my favourite part of the city. While it does feel far less retro, it’s still a joy to while away an afternoon sorting through shelves of discs and boxes of cartridges, which I did on more than one occasion during our trip. Spending the last few days of our holiday in a local hotel meant that I had plenty of opportunities to indulge, and also make the most of Akihabara's plentiful supply of bars and restaurants.
I didn't go anywhere in Akiba without my 3DS. I have owned one for just over a year, but in all that time I’d only received eight Street Pass hits. In Akihabara I couldn't clear my SP queue fast enough, unable to walk even a hundred metres without collecting ten new Miis. Welcoming an army of be-hatted Nintendites was strangely addicting, as I tried to capture one from every prefecture in Japan and complete the map. The simple process of collecting players brought new life to my 3DS and gave me a compelling reason to carry it everywhere. It also made me realise how lacklustre and confusing Near is in comparison.
I couldn’t believe my luck when, entering my very first shop during the first of many visits to Akiba, I spied a copy of the very game that sat atop my wish list: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Premium Package. It didn't cause too much damage at only £25, but as it contains a tank, it is a bit on the heavy side. It's all rather brown inside, but interesting nonetheless. The Shagohod model is smartly boxed and the larger book is full of background information, artwork and pictures of Stalin. This is my sixth different copy of Snake Eater, and will most likely be my last, unless Kojima fancies remaking his masterpiece for the PS4.
As always, I took the opportunity to add to my Japanese Sega Saturn collection, which is fast approaching 150 individual titles. Most of my stash was picked up on the cheap as "junk copies", and this bunch was no different. Daytona USA Circuit Edition and King of Fighters ‘95, complete with RAM cart, were a bargain at ¥100 each and are still able to provide arcade fun. It was only after falling in love with Persona 4 Golden that I realised that the Saturn had a couple of Shin Megami Tensei games. I knew the front covers, but had never taken the time to read the kanji and discover to which series they belong. I chose not to hold Devil Summoner’s awful cover art against it and I also picked up Devil Summoner 2: Soul Hackers, which has recently been the subject of a 3DS remake, along with an information disc, which is a disc full of information.
I thought I’d buy more current gen games, but I ended up settling for just Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f. I had intended to purchase Yakuza 1+2 HD Collection and Yakuza 5, but between the kanji, the extortionate price of new games in Japan and my hope that they will eventually be localised, I decided to pass. Miku, however, is guaranteed a play on my Vita, at least once P4G is out the way, whenever that’ll be. Speaking of Persona, there was P4G merchandise everywhere, though I was satisfied with just one mini Teddie. The Metal Gear 25th Anniversary strap came from Konami’s shop in Tokyo Midtown and the Final Fantasy Tactics OST from a Book Off; I stole the mini PS1 from a Borrower. I searched high and low for more retro console minis, but eventually got sick of asking shop assistants whether they had any chibi Saturns.
Believing that my luggage was already well over weight, I passed on the Segagaga box set towards the end of our stay, as well as a couple of different Saturn models. I should’ve bought the camo-pattern Neo Geo Pocket for under a fiver, but I held off, as I was unsure if NGP Colour games would run in black and white on the older model, of if they just wouldn’t work. By the time I’d decided to take a risk, it had already gone. Outside of Tokyo, we visited a Hard-Off, which is a store full of second hand electronics. They had a pile of PSX, Sony’s failed all-in-one DVR recorder, PS1 and PS2 for only ¥7000 (£50) each, but unfortunately they weigh about the same as nine 3DOs gaffer taped together, so I had to tear myself away.
With no Tokyo Game Show to attend, this trip was less video game focussed than past returns, but I still managed to get my Japanese gaming fix and add to the collection. It’s just a shame that I couldn’t utilise that extra 3kg of luggage for even more games and consoles that I definitely don’t need. Next time, I’m bringing scales.