HardOff Road Trip – Toyama Prefecture – Part Two

On to part two of the Toyama road trip! For those of you that have found this page via a search, please click here for part one.

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A pretty large BookOff that was converted from an old Pachinko place –

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This place was good for PlayStation games primarily. You might remember me saying that BookOffs were hit and miss, but some have old stock that is worth going through. This was one that had old stock, and it was definitely a good rummage through. Full disclosure, the Saturn and DC games didn’t come from this place. I couldn’t remember which store I got them from, and as receipts are not well itemised from these stores, I couldn’t even try to piece it together.

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A HardOff/OffHouse combination –

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I haven’t talked about OffHouse yet I don’t think. OffHouse is part of the same group of stores, and as the name implies, they sell househoold items like plates, rice cookers, tea pots, etc. The good thing about them though, is that they do get the occasional thing that would interest gamers, and because they take time for customers to rummage through, there can be some good bargains. Specially those gamers looking for figures and toys should look through these stores when they get a chance.

This particular HardOff is one of the good ones actually, but like so many of them, the prices are starting to get a bit crazy. To give you an idea, the Bare Knuckle II (Streets of Rage II) was sold as “junk” for 2,000yen. I have been chasing this game for ages, and this was going to be the last chance to pick it up, but I wouldn’t normally pay 2,000yen for a “junk” Megadrive game.

Speaking of “junk”, it can really be hit and miss in certain HardOffs. Some actually test the “junk” before hand, but others don’t. Cartridge based games are rarely tested in my experience, but as they rarely die, it’s a favourable gamble. Still, a risk is a risk, and most HardOff will tell you this at the counter as you pay for the gear. They always double check that you’re clear on the no return/no refund policy.

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Got some very nice controllers from this store (as you can see above). Some weird and wonderful ones, as well as some backups, and a few that I am sure the guys back home would want. Prices were only OK for these, but a few were cheap – namely the Super Famicom controllers. I was pretty happy to find the Hori SuperCommander for the PCEngine. I have a few of these for the Superfamicom and they are pretty good. Just a pity it was on the expensive side.

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One of the better finds was Blockids for the PlayStation. This particular set comes with a controller very similar to the controller for Arkanoid on the Famicom. I have heard that it didn’t support analogue controllers on the PlayStation, so to find this made me pretty happy. Looking forward to giving it a try actually.

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A very nice CompOff –

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Although great, this was another store that has caught on to the retro boom in a big way. The last time I went here there were no showcases, no premium title sections, and no expensive prices. Now all that has changed… Although there was still a nice Junk section, there were a lot of well sorted expensive games on racks and in cases. I guess this isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t as fun when you would find that rare machine or game mixed in with everything else for cheap.

The prices here weren’t too bad, but for the gear I would have wanted they weren’t good either. Still managed to get a few nice things though, but most of the stuff here I thought friends would want.

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HardOff, BookOff and KimonoOff (put together as these stores are extemely close to one another) –

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This BookOff was one of the biggest disappointments of the whole trip… The last time I went here, the was no KimoOff or Subway sharing the building, and the amount of stuff was mindblowing. It wasn’t just books, it was everything! I remember seeing massive ranges of games including NeoGeo CDs, PC Engine, and MegaDrive, and also a lot of hardware covering pretty much everything. There was also great Japanese toys from the 80s and 90s! Now however, there was nothing but Wii and PlayStation 2 games, and a crappy KimonoOff.

Really bummed about this place changing. I can only imagine the great sales they would have had too…

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Like I said, this HardOff, and the BookOff/KimonoOff were extremely close to one another – maybe a two minute walk. Unfortunately though, this was another disappointing visit. I did manage to pick up a single controller, but the prices here were insane! There weren’t any good deals on anything, and some of the games were way more than you’d find online in even reselling web-sites. Their junk section was one of the most filthy I have seen, and some gear was obviously missing parts or completely broken. Being this was the last shop I visited, it provided a low-point ending, but luckily I could still look back and see that massive R2. :D

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Well, that’s it for the Toyama road trip. It is always good to get out and do this kind of run in one go. The other good thing is they had a stamp rally running, so by me getting stamps on these stores (along with the stores near me) means that I get 2,000yen off my next HardOff purchase. At least this goes some way to pay for the fuel needed for the trip. :)

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HardOff Road Trip – Toyama Prefecture – Part One

Well, Golden Week is here, and seeing as I will be leaving Japan soon, I thought it’s about time I did another road trip! The prices may have increased dramatically, and the gear may have dwindled drastically, but I still managed to pick up a few cool items and have a heap of fun.

As I mentioned in the title, this trip covered Toyama prefecture. This means Tonami, Takaoka, and Toyama cities were looked at. From my place this could be done in a single day, and the drive was actually really nice too. Definitely best to avoid the rush periods, but it’s much better than driving in the big cities that’s for sure.

HardOffs, BookOffs, and CompOffs were the targets, and before I begin with the details, I should say sorry guys. I haven’t added the GPS locations to this post, as it just takes time to go through them and copy the maps. But if there is anyone seriously heading to Toyama, I will be happy to provide detailed information. All of these places can be easily found via the web for anyone not willing to wait.

Also, this post will be part one of a two part blog. I am planning another trip soon though to a different prefecture, so there might be other posts that fall into this category – you guys seem to like them anyway.

OK, so shop number one….

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BookOff in Tonami (under construction) –

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Usually the BookOffs are hit and miss. Yes, they have great books, but games are a different story most of the time. However there are times when they have left over stock, or a huge range of games. Often though, they have very little, and this particular place was one of those. Still mnaged to get a PS2 game that I didn’t have, know nothing about, but thought it looked interesting.

PS2

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HardOff – the first one of the trip!

HardOff again

This one wasn’t bad, but they wanted premium prices for the majority of gear. I managed to get a few things here for good prices, but I really had to dig through the junk section to do it. The stuff I got here is mainly gear that I thought the guys back home might want. There was only a few things I actually wanted – namely the PB3 (not sure I have this version – will check later), and the Xbox games. Both the Xbox games look interesting and they were pretty cheap, coming in at about 500yen each.

GameCube

Sega

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A very nice CompOff/BookOff combination!

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BookOff

These two places joined together to form a mega-store for pretty much everything remotely “Otaku”. There was some great stuff indeed in the CompOff portion, and I would totally recommend it to anyone here in Japan for a just a short time. The reason I would recommend this place is that there is a LOT of gear in the one place, so it would save time looking elsewhere.

The only trouble is that the prices are on the expensive side (still far cheaper than ebay though of course). To give you an idea, there was a boxed PCEngine GT for about $170, a boxed VirtualBoy (pretty rough) for $115, and boxed G&Ws for way more than I would pay. There were thousands of games (literaly thousands), but these were very expensive compared with other places too. I ended picking up “junk” from here, as there was no way I could afford anything from the showcase sections, and also there were no PCE games that I was really hunting. Again, I mainly bought with the guys back home in mind, but I have been chasing that VirtuaCop2 set for ages – very rare to come across in this condition (not cheap though).

Pikachu Nintendo 64 and PCE Duo

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Now this HardOff kicked arse!

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This was the shop that time had forgotten!! Seriously good stuff here, and although there was some gear that was very very expensive, there were some absolute gems in the junk section. Some of the overly expensive gear included 64DD games, a full Megadrive collection in a bundle, and an R7 DC amongst others. The gear I bought here was pretty cheap considering the prices gear goes for these days… Still, if I think back to just a few years ago, I would never pay these prices… Most of the gear I got here was for the guys back home, but finding so much in the one spot was insane.

R2D2 - PCE - and Sega

Special mention has to go to that R2D2 unit… What a find!! It’s pretty huge (stands about 75cm tall, and definitely looks smaller in the picture than in real life), its head rotates and light’s up. It commands attention when you enter the room too – just pure coolness!!

As soon as I saw it when I walked in (taking pride of place in the entrance) I asked if it was for sale, and when the guy came back with “10,000yen” I grabbed it quick. It was only when i got it back home I thought… How the hell am I going to ship this back home when I leave?! Not sure what I am going to do with it now, but just having it is bringing my inner 8 yr old to the surface once again for sure. My kids absolutely love it as well!

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Well, that’s it for part one. I am going to miss this country for sure!! It really is a retro gamers’ heaven here, and I am happy to say that I’ve been living here through the best of it. Part two will be coming soon. Some pretty cool stuff coming up in the next post too. ;)

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PC Engine LT SuperCDRom2 Adapter PI-AD 18

Well, it has been a while… I haven’t had the chance to post anything due to numerous life changing events, but I’m back!!

The thing I wanna talk about today is the PI-AD 18 PC Engine LT adapter. I’ve had this for a while, but due to it recently being sold to a worthy collector, and the fact that there is very little on the web about them, I thought I’d make a quick post to share some pictures.

PC Engine LT SuperCDROM adapter

This is arguably one of the most rare items an obsessive PCEngine collector/hoarder/crazy person can get. I have been in Japan for many years, and this is the only boxed one I have ever seen for sale in the wild. In fact, it is actually the only one I have seen…. So why aren’t I keeping it? Specially as I fit the “obsessive PCEngine collector/hoarder/crazy person” category? Well, because 1) I am in a position to pass this on to a friend that has been on the hunt for years, 2) the money will go towards a good cause (last minute game acquisitions before leaving Japan), and 3) I just don’t use the handheld gear enough. This is the kind of item that should go to a real collector, and not be made available for the money hungry scum that plague the web in recent times, so I am happy to let it go.

**Instructions are printed on the back of the box, so click on the thumb to view in more detail**

PC Engine LT PI-AD 18 PCE LT super rare

Anyone that is out there looking for one of these, I wish you the best of luck. I can’t imagine there being too many out there at all. The PI-AD 18 is just one of those bits of plastic that frustrates the hell out of most collectors.

PCE LT PI-AD 18 RomRom nec

This particular one is in great shape as you can see. From what I hear it’s rare to even find a rough as hell one.

Well, it’s nice to be back to post something. Not sure how much time I will get over the next few weeks, but I hope to put up a few more posts, as I have a heap of stuff here that I’ve been very quiet about! :D

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Oculus Rift Review – Overly Hyped, or the Real Deal?

By now I’m guessing that pretty much all of you have heard of the Oculus Rift. The hype surrounding this thing is unfathomable, and even in light of the big players showing their gear at E3, OculusVR (the company behind the Rift) still generated a huge media frenzy. Why is this though? Does the hype level for this little device reflect truth, or is it just a bunch of LawmowerMan frenzied fanbois going crazy? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at.

I received my Oculus Rift last Saturday, and since then I have been putting it through its paces with not only all the demos on offer, but also a few of my own environments (created in the Unreal Engine), and HalfLife/TeamFortress (the only official games supported by the Rift).

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To give a clear picture of the Rift for you guys, I’m going to break this post into the categories I myself was interested in reading about:

Function (head tracking, latency etc.).
Resolution (the main drawback according to most people).
Motion/Simulator Sickness (what is it, and is it an issue).
Immersion and Overall Impressions (how does it feel).
Current Demos (which are the best for people new to the system).

Function –

The guys over at OculusVR have been quoted as saying that the Rift is an “Ultra-low latency device with 1,000hz processing speed”, but what does that mean in terms of actual perceived latency? Well, first it’s best to look at some of the other factors at play – number one being the machine that you are running it on.

Frames per second is a massive factor in perceived latency, and not having a machine up to scratch will definitely cause issues. For example my laptop is an XPS 1702x I7 with 8gig of RAM, and a GT555 video chipset. This machine is running a completely fresh and fully updated Windows 7 install with nothing but Oculus ready software, demos and applicable necessities. This computer does not cut it for many of the intensive demos at all, and even my desktop with 16gig and a Geforce 560 can’t run many of the demos at their full glory. This is because you need 60fps with V-Sync on to get a truly convincing experience, so in terms of latency it’s best to have a pretty nice machine. Once you do have it on a nice machine though, I’m extremely happy to say that the latency is almost non-existent!

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Resolution -

Being that essentially this is a prototype device intended for developers, the screen will not reflect the final consumer version, but what is it like as it is? Is it usable, or just a crap load of pixelated rubbish? Well, due to the fact that your eyes are not focused on the screen itself (they are focused at infinity), and that the 3D effect is so damn realistic and convincing (completely different to a 3D movie for example), and that the head tracking completes the realism, the screen is very passable indeed. Yes, the resolution isn’t great, but due to these factors it doesn’t seem to make a huge problem for anyone that I’ve shown the Rift to. Motion blur can also be a problem, but again, it’s not terrible at all – specially once you relax into the environment.

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This IS a real thing! In many ways this is a testament to the realism of the environment you’re in. When you stand on top of a tall building you feel the height, when you fall or fly you get butterflies, when something hits you or you run into something you flinch and jerk back. Not all demos create this sickness, but you really have to work your way up to certain experiences, otherwise you’re in for a bumpy ride. The main issue at first is that this bumpy ride can even last for a few hours even after you take the Rift off!

I think one of the reasons for this is that your brain is expecting your body to be subjected to G-forces, and when it doesn’t it can be quite jarring. Another reason is that the Rift in its current state does not support motion sensing (as in ducking down, or moving your whole body side to side), but even in demos that use the Razer Hydra (motion controller) as a way to provide motion feedback, sickness still can be an issue. Finally though, it’s often the disconnect between jumping between the VR world and the real world.

Sickness does disappear though – very relieved to say! Now I can pretty much subject myself to barrel rolls, huge jumps, and big drops, and it doesn’t effect me afterwards. The stomach churning feeling or the feeling of height etc. still remains, but I can switch quite comfortably between the real and the VR. It takes time to work up to this level though.

Immersion and Overall Impressions –

This thing kicks arse!! There is no doubt in my mind that this is a paradigm shift in the way we not only see entertainment, but also how we will deal with PTSD, Cognitive perception research, education/training etc. etc. It really is an amazing device that definitely lives up to the hype! Even at this prototype stage it’s utterly convincing, and the immersion is jaw dropping. I have demoed this to numerous people not only within the software/media development community, but also in areas of cognitive psychology and education, and even the most skeptical of people come away lost for words!

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Current Demos -

The reason I have added this category is because there are definitely better demos than others. If you have a chance to try this device, make sure you try it with at least a few demos, don’t settle for the ‘Tuscany’ demo (although it’s ok, it’s not as good as others so I don’t even show this one to people anymore). In addition, don’t do what many gamers tend to do, and want to run, jump and spin – this will make you sick damn fast the first time.

OK, so the demos I recommend for first timers –
1) Fantasy Night – This demo needs no movement, but is very picturesque in terms of particles and 3D effects. Also once people get used to simply looking around, you can put them on a gentle fly cycle that helps to get accustomed to movement.
2) Cartoon World (using a 360 controller) – this one has great 3D too with butterflies and fire (not butterflies on fire you sick bastards), and using the 360 controller it’s possible to move very slowly through the world. In addition you can look and move towards that direction which helps with sickness.
3) Rift Coaster – A roller coaster that slams people in the face with immersion. It only has a few points that cause vertigo and stomach flipping, but it’s short enough that people will come out ok.

Demos to highlight just how this machine will change the world –
1) VR Cinema, and VR Snes – These demonstrate how sitting in a virtual room playing games or watching movies on a massive screen can actually work and feel convincing.
2) Titans of Space – Educational space exploration.
3) Wingsuit VR, F1 VR, and Biplane VR – These are 360 degree videos (not computer rendered worlds) in which you can look in all directions. Imagine being in the lead role of a movie, and then being able to look all around the place – that’s what this effectively does.

Demos for the more acustomed to VR –
1) HeliHeli – Amazing helicopter demo using the Hydra as a motion tracker. Once you adjust to this it’s amazing!
2) Alone in the Rift (Razer Hydra is a must) – Horror game that is so jarring I would not recommend it to anyone too old or too frail – seriously! You use the Hydra as a torch (flashlight).
3) Sky Rifters – Dogfighting over mountains. Pretty incredible experience indeed.
4) Buggy VR – Hooning around in a buggy on sand dunes – what’s not to like! The jumps in this are incredible, and you stomach can easily be in the throat. The involuntary groans and grunts people make when they try this one are great!

There are many more demos available, but these are usually the ones I turn to for demoing the system. And by the way, I would only try HL2 and TF after going through the demos and getting used to VR.

Well, that’s my run down of this amazing bit of tech. In short, it’s @#$%%$%^ing amazing!!! I for one cannot wait for the consumer version of this device. :D

Update and EDIT:

Oculus Rift won best hardware of E3! Amazing considering the competition.

Best Hardware
- Oculus Rift (Oculus VR)
- PlayStation 4 (Sony Computer Entertainment)
- Blade (Razr)
- Shield (Nvidia)
- Xbox One (Microsoft)

http://www.gamecriticsawards.com/nominees.html

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Golden Week Hard-Off Expedition!

Golden Week! A few days off in the middle of the busiest two months of the year in Japan – very well planned (sarcasm), but these days off are definitely for a good reason. Actually, I have no idea what Golden Week is for, but anything that gives me a few spare days must be good – even at this time of the year. So what to do? A Hard-Off road trip of course!

Based on feedback in a previous post, I will be supplying links with GoogleMaps locations to all the places I visited. Some of these places were far better than others, but almost every single place had something worth grabbing. Only problem is, I went to so many places that it’s now difficult to remember what came from which, so this means I will just supply a list at the end of this post of all of them.

Another thing worth noting is that many of the Book-Offs I visited (and included in the links for you there) had Comp-Offs attached, and Comp-Offs are becoming the better places to go (over Hard-Offs that is). Having Comp-Offs attached to Book-Offs but not displayed as such online makes life difficult, and it was luck that lead me to many of these. Normally I wouldn’t just hunt the Book-Offs in this kind of trip. The Book-Off links I have given you all have Comp-Offs attached, and a few of these are epic places to visit!

So without further ado…

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The first gear grabbed came from a Book-Off that had a Comp-Off attached. Like I said Comp-Offs are tending to be the better places these days for game hunting, but they aren’t always advertised online. Although I didn’t pick up all that much from here, there were great selections of games and hardware for reasonable prices – it’s just a pity I had most of them already.

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Amazingly in the current retro climate, the prices were good on these. The V-Saturn (or Victor Saturn) controller was only 400yen, the PCE controllers were 500yen each, and the NeoGeo AES controller was only 1500yen. I did manage to get a couple of PCE titles from this place as well, but they ended up in a picture with other gear from another place. The PCE titles were 400 yen each, which is great for the two titles I grabbed. There was so much here though, including boxed PCE gear, and a tonne of ‘junk’ SuperFamicoms.

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This bunch came from one of the Hard-Offs. I wish I could be more specific than that, but I went to so many that they kind of blurred in one… I think the grand total was 5 Hard-Offs and 3 Comp-Offs in the end. I also stopped in at many Book-Offs as well on the trip, but Book-Offs are really becoming quite poor for gaming pickups of the retro variety (unless they have Comp-Offs attached that is).

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The pick of the bunch is of course the Hanshin Tigers Gamecube. It was sad that there wasn’t a controller with it, but beggars can’t be choosers right?

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This lot also came from one of the Hard-Offs, and although there isn’t a heap of gear there in my pile, this Hard-Off had a LOT! The only trouble was that the prices were insane – by Japanese standards of course. To give you an idea there was a very rough loose Megadrive with 50 titles (generic and beat up titles too) for around the $200 or 20,000yen mark. Over here that is crazy to pay for the same set. If there were a few nice games in there it might be different, but not for the lot they had there.

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I couldn’t resist picking up those N64 controller either. I get asked all the time for good ones, so now I have a few the next time people ask. They were cheap!

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Some of this stuff came from a Comp-Off and the rest was a Hard-Off. The pick of the group is that DDR controller, not because I am into the game, but mainly because I’d never seen one before. Although the box is a bit roughed up, upon opening it up I realised that it has never been used and it’s still sealed. Not sure if that is an indication of how great they are though of course, but either way it’s pretty cool to have found one. It was nice and cheap too, coming in at 500yen.

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That PS2 game there (on the left) is pretty interesting as well come to think of it – not because it’s a great game (actually I haven’t tried it out yet), but because of the name. Ever heard of: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo Haji before? I sure haven’t!

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Pretty nice bunch of controllers – Capcom CPS sticks, PS2 VF Evolution sticks, and an out of place NeoGeo CD controller. These came from one of the Hard-Offs, and they were nice and cheap. Bought as ‘junk’, so either they have not been tested or they have some sort of trouble. Being that today is my last day away from official tasks it’s not looking good for me being able to try them out for a while. Still, cheap enough that I can’t complain either way.

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These two NeoGeo CD controller were bought from the last Hard-Off I went to – happy I found these to give the loose NGCD controller a bit of company. This shop was just off of route 329 if memory serves. They were a little pricey, coming in at close to 2,000yen each, but boxed ones are few and far between. The prices for NeoGeo are shooting up like crazy all of the place though! I saw a boxed top loading NeoGeo CD at the same place for 9,000yen, and it was only a few months ago that I would have gotten them for 2,000yen cheaper than that.

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OK, to be fair I didn’t grab this on the same trip, but I did grab this from one of the Hard-Offs at the start of Golden Week. It’s a Playstation Net Yaroze for those that have never seen one before. I got this dirt cheap, as it was bought during the first Golden Week day sale at 30% off. The only trouble with it though is that the CD music playing cut in and out a little bit, which indicates that the laser mech might need a bit of a play with. Pity, but buying ‘junk’ means that things haven’t been tested fully.

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This was a good bunch of gear (for me anyway)! Two NeoGeo Pocket Colors for next to nothing, although the stick on one has a few cracks and they have a few scratches. A very old Gameboy case, and a few Famicoms. All untested, but they were so cheap that even if they don’t fire up they will be good for parts.

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These are a few randoms that were gotten from all over the place. One PCE HuCard that I’ve been chasing for a while, a cheap Wonderswan, plus some other assorted goodies. Although I have a Wonderswan already, this was only 200yen – yep, you read that correctly! So cheap that I couldn’t let it sit there. Damn hoarders’ curse. :D

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Well, that’s about it for this round. One of the great things was that doing this road trip allowed me to collect stamps that will lead to a 2,000yen discount next purchase. Kind of pays for fuel, and I can’t complain about that.

Bellow are the links to the shop pages:

Book-Offs with Comp-Offs attached –
http://www.bookoff.co.jp/shop/shop10417.html
http://www.bookoff.co.jp/shop/shop10800.html
http://www.bookoff.co.jp/shop/shop10328.html

Hard-Offs –
HO1
HO2
HO3
HO4

These include GoogleMaps links etc., so they should be pretty easy to find for anyone that is interested.

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Final thing….

Some of you might have noticed a new ‘For Sale’ section on the right hand side of this blog. Soon (when I get some time) I will be putting a few things up for sale. This will not be a mainstream thing, and the gear will be sold to guys I know outside of the web, or guys I speak to in email personally – this is not a business venture at all. I hope to go through a few things and get some gear up next weekend. :)

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