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.

Motion/Simulator Sickness -

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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Yet Another Game Haul Post….

Sorry to do it to you again guys, but I have another photoblog that highlights just how cool retro hunting in Japan is. I know I’ve said it before that Japan is starting to dry up for retro gear (at least near where I live), and that still applies – even so, you just don’t get this kind of luck anywhere else in the world! :)

So what gear do we have today then….

Before I get into that, I have to say that the post today is brought to you by a pretty horrible head cold. I was at the desk, and there was no way I could finish off the official work I had on, so why not head home and put up a post.

Hopefully I didn’t leave any snot on the gear, but if you do see a few specks let me know. :D

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OK so first off….

A TaTaKon (Taiko controller) and a few games for the PS2. I’ve actually wanted one of these Taiko controllers for ages, but I always thought they were a bit pricey – however this weekend luck was on my side! I managed to score this controller for the hefty sum of $3 in one of the junk bins of HobbyOff. Most of the PS2 games there were in the junk bins too, so there are a few scratches, but for the prices I can’t complain at all. Katamari Damashi was a game that I had borrowed, so I’m happy to finally have my own copy without having to pay $20 – I got this for only $1.

*Click on any thumbs to enlarge*
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Next up, a bunch of PCE titles. These weren’t actually obtained from the wild – well, unless you count Yahoo auctions as ‘the wild’ that is. There were a few that I needed in the bunch, so I basically bought this heap just for about 3 or 4 games.

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Some little figures for SNK vs Capcom. There were another thing gotten from the auctions that arrived over the weekend. They were pretty cheap, so I thought why not – not like I could get them outside of Japan very easily right?

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Not into real life Pachinko/Pachislo a great deal, but I do like the controllers and games for the TV. I have one of these controllers for the PCE, and to see one for the Famicom in the wild was a first, so I grabbed it. Managed to score a few boxed Famicom games as well, plus some new PCE and Saturn titles.

All of these were gotten from one of the HardOffs I frequent – unfortunately this HardOff has some of the rudest staff members you’ll be likely to meet in Japan though. Those of you that have been over here know how rare it is to get rude sales staff, so it’s a bit disappointing to hand over the cash, but hey…. they’re cheap! :)

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Yet another thing that I am now hooked on getting… Game related Manga! I found out about these recently while searching for something else online, and now it’s looking like I need to get the whole set – not easy to find though. I got this one from a BookOff that’s really close to my place (the first one I looked in incidentally), and then every other book related place I’ve been in came up with nothing. Have to persevere though!

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A few N64 and Nintendo related items. Got these from a BookMarket (not related to BookOff/HardOff/HobbyOff etc.) – you wait till you see what else came from this shop later in the post!

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PS2 special editions. I had one of these before (the Love Songs one), and sold it on. As this was only the second one I have seen in the wild, I thought I’d grab it just in case someone wants it back home.

Check out that pocket-watch in the Grandia set though! Won’t be long before they don’t even give you disks with the games you buy – stupid digital distribution….

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A nice Final Fantasy Wonderswan Color. This was about $5!!! My jaw seriously dropped when I saw this for that cheap. A few posts back I talked about a cool game shop that is absolutely meticulous in the way they wrap and store games which you may remember. Well, this was bought from that same chain – Chamelon Club. Really great stores made even greater by finding this for $5!

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Some Gamecube manuals bought from Book Market, and although these are related to the very cool item I mentioned previously in this post bought from the same place, these are not it. Also another DK G&W, as you can never have too many. :)

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And finally…. The pick of the bunch!

A Metal Gear Solid Gamecube limited edition! I have only seen one of these once before, and as I didn’t know what it was, I went home to look it up on the web (before smartphone days), and by the time I got back it had been sold…. Like I said previously in this post, I got this – and some other great stuff – from BookMarket. This was the first time I had checked the store out too, so needless to say I will be going in there again! To top things off with GC, it was literally half the price of the last one I saw!

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So, not a bad trek into the Japanese wild (plus a few auction finds thrown in). Ahh Japan. :D

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Just a Quick Post – Laser Disk Frenzy

Based on a conversation in another post regarding Laser Disks, I stopped in and grabbed a bunch of the Anime related ones. I am not a huge Anime fan by any stretch, but I thought friends might be interested in them, and the art work on them is pretty darn cool if I get stuck with them. One thing that struck me about having so many in one bunch was the weight of them though – these together were so heavy that by the time I got home, the bag was stretched and deformed.

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The first thing I am going to post a picture of though (sectioned off as to not intrude on the LD-ness of this post), is this original 70s Japanese Starwars record I got my hands on. Total fluke to find this one! It was mixed in with the Anime LDs and was priced low. :o

*Click on the thumbs to expand*

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Enough of the non-LD related, now moving onto the LDs. As I bought the LDs you see bellow purely based on if the LD had cool cover art (from my subjective viewpoint of course), I’m really not sure what I have here, so if there is anything worth while let me know – looking at you Ji-L87. ;)

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These Evangelion LDs pictured bellow are actually still sealed. This may be an indicator of just how crap they are, or just how short lived the format was – either way, I’m sure being sealed will appeal to guys out there collecting these sort of things. :D

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*Cough* Nothing to see here bellow, nothing to see here…. :D

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I really like the artwork of the this one bellow (first picture showing the front cover, and the second showing the inside). No country does Robots like Japan!

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Slayers seem to have been licensed to pretty much every format. Definitely make for good LD covers though.

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The one pictured in the bottom right hand corner bellow is pretty unique (as far as I know anyway). It’s a rental version, and the disk is actually gold. This is the first time I have seen a gold LD, but I have to admit that doesn’t mean much, as I owned only two LDs before buying this lot. :D

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Well, I think I managed to get all the pictures up. Like I said, I know nothing about these from a collectors standpoint, so any info. would be great. :)

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Another Retro Haul Post

Due to time being in short supply for the past four months or so, I haven’t been able to really get out there and hunt like I used to. I was getting withdrawals bad, so luckily, the past week or two I have had time to get out there and see what’s been on offer. Some may say that I’ve gone overboard with this latest lot, but the gap between hauls meant that I had no choice but to buy everything I saw that was worth while – regardless of whether or not I had it already. :D

First up, the Dreamcast lot. I got this off the auctions for an absolute bargain – about 5,000yen all up after fees and shipping. In the pictures on the auction there wasn’t a great deal of detail – not all boxes were shown, and the condition explanation was iffy to say the least. I decided to bid on it anyway, and I’m glad that I did! Everything had their baggies, instructions, and inserts, plus some of the items are 100% new-old-stock – meaning unused. Got a wheel, twin sticks, console, controller, fight stick, keyboards, and of course, a console itself.

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Next comes the Game & Watch Fire (bought as junk from HardOff for next to nothing, but may not work…), SF Memory carts which I have been after for ages, a couple of 3D Systems, and a final fantasy toy. Looking forward to testing the G&W!

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Definitely one of the gems of the lot is the white Gameboy original you see there in the picture bellow. I didn’t know anything about it, and I hadn’t seen one of these before, so I grabbed it (I remember that philosophy worked well when getting that Jusco N64), and to top it off, it was found in an unlikely place too. I will probably do a single post about it when I get the chance. Those Sakura Pockets are unused and sealed too – pretty happy about that as I didn’t know that when buying.

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Bellow is just a few of the PS2 and Xbox disks. Pretty happy to get the KoF as I didn’t have that version before. Also a couple of Megadrive carts as well. **Click on the thumbs to expand**

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Moving on to the next few pictures bellow, we have the PC Engine Duo (yes another one), and a box of PCE goodies. Although I have everything I see here already, I couldn’t bring myself to leave it all in the stores that I found them in. I know there are always guys back home after these, so hit me up if you’re keen.

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Here we have a random pile of goodness – Some NeoGeo CDs, a Saturn Bomberman controller (don’t see these often at all), and some NeoGeo Pockets. Also have some Wonderswan Color games, a MegaCD disk, and a N64 cart. Crap, that was a random pic… :D

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Some more great NeoGeo CDs, and a few DC disks that I couldn’t let sit there. A few of these titles (NGCD) I didn’t have before either, so to find them in the wild was very nice indeed! **Again, click to enlarge**

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Anyone up for 1960s slotcar action? Not really something I want to try and plug in and get power into in all honestly – early electric goods are something that should NOT be used on a tatami floor in a wooden house. I know nothing about slotcars though, so if anyone knows their slotcar sets, feel free to chime in and let me know what I have here. All I know is that it’s old…

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Also got myself a few spare Famciom Disksystems from one of the HardOff stores. Cosmetically they look pretty nice, but I doubt very much the rubber bands will still be intact – never know your luck though.

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And the final picture contains a bag of random Starwars figures. Unfortunately these aren’t the original 70s/80s items, but they do have all accessories and they were pretty cheap – cheap enough that I couldn’t leave them there anyway.

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Well, that should tide the addiction of retro hunting over for at least a few more weeks. I’m pretty happy with this lot, and hopefully there is more around the corner – at least until the rest of the stores close down. Doing my part to keep them in business, but they are definitely drying up fast these days. :(

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