Collecting Video Games
Posted: Posted February 10th, 2018
Edited February 10th, 2018 by Famov
My grandfather spent a lifetime collecting American currency in its various forms, but with a particular emphasis on coinage. The question isn't whether or not the value of this hoard, if properly auctioned, could be used to purchase a house but how nice, or how many, it might buy. Regardless, the answer will forever remain unknown as it was the wishes of my grandfather to divide everything amongst his children. One might wonder how a single income household could afford to raise six kids and still support a hobby that involved collecting entire minting runs of century old American silver, and the answer to that is multifaceted and outside the scope of a video game forum. Keeping things simple though, part of the reason why is that coin collecting was not nearly so profitable a primary or secondary market seventy years ago. He assembled this small fortune before it was worth much of anything to anyone, and later in life he was forced to temper his enthusiasm as it had become far too expensive to support. It is this same dilemma I now face with games.
I have a modest coin/bill collection of my own, with some of it pictured above, but my heart ultimately lies elsewhere. It's been for over a decade that my own mania for accumulating random objects with no inherent value has been satisfied with Japanese console software from the '80s and '90s. I first started entering the "retro" space while I was still in high school by picking up old NES and SNES carts at a local Funcoland, and then I discovered online market around 2007 or so.
I got in while the getting was good, but only barely. In the ten years that would follow prices have skyrocketed, and the reason for this is intuitive enough: An increasing number of people like me have been willing to spend our likewise increasing pools of disposable income on it. There's a lot of money to be made off of irrational sentimentality... or whatever you'd call the impulse that encourages hobbyist collectors. Demand for old games only continues to rise, and the prices are adjusting accordingly. The problem of course is that there are limits to how much I can justify spending. I may for some arcane reason want Holy Diver, Splatterhouse, and Cocoron to round out my Famicom collection, but I can't rationalize one hundred dollars each for boxed copies. The same goes for an intact PC-Engine jewel case with Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which goes for twice as much, and I consider it a blessing that I don't have any kind of itch to track down the now infamous Panzer Dragoon Saga. If Ebay is to be believed it is currently worth the better part of one thousand dollars, which is (incidentally) over twice as much as it used to go for just a few years ago. And yet even that is a better bet than trying to collect for the Neo Geo AES.
This price inflation is not limited to online shops if southeast Michigan is anything to go by. My buddy spent over 200 American dollars on precisely six Super Nintendo carts (that is, no box or manual) from a local brick-and-mortar shop. This haul included obscure titles with low production runs that you've likely never heard of before, such as "Super Mario World", "Super Metroid" and "Donkey Kong Country". I managed to snag a complete Japanese copy of Ogre Battle for about 25 dollars from this establishment, and while that was a lucky find it was still comparable to what I would have had to spend on Ebay.
Collecting is all well and good, and... then again, I'm not convinced that it's either of these things, but as long as I have all of this stuff I'd like to share it with you guys and give some of the relevant context behind why it means anything to me. That's where a lot of the joy of this hobby comes from, after all. Feel free to share your own!
Speaking of the Famicom, I don't actually have all of that much for it. Pictured here, from left to right, are Megami Tensei 1 and 2. Japanese language RPGs and other text heavy games have little international appeal, keeping prices low. I love how '80s anime the art is on these things.
The manufacture of Famicom carts were not subject to the same limitations as what would be later found on the NES, and here we see that Megami Tensei 2 was the benefactor of a more advanced sound chip. In this way, a handful of later Famicom games were able to play better-than-NES music, and some of it is pretty glorious.
Seriously, go to 54:51 and tell me that's not a real battle theme.
This is my "close enough for government work" complete collection of the Ogre Battle series. Tactics Ogre has seen tons of rereleases and I don't have the slightest inclination to get them all, and anyway the PSP version (not pictured) is the definitive way to experience that game anyway.
As a long time N64 apologist it pains me to say that I don't like Ogre Battle 64 very much and haven't found the will to finish it. The Neo Geo Pocket game, named Ogre Battle Gaiden, is the real oddity here though. Information on the internet is frustratingly scarce, and as far as I can tell there isn't a single English language guide available online.
There are essentially two styles of "Ogre" gameplay. The three Ogre Battle titles are faux real time strategy games with turn based battles, and the two Tactics Ogre games are instead turn based strategy, and draw from the same blueprint that would (most famously) inform the design of Final Fantasy Tactics.
Though I can't confirm this, I nevertheless suspect that the English manual of Ogre Battle does not contain the comic found in the Japanese version. You wouldn't know it from the picture here, but Iuria Wolph (the almost clothed hawk girl) gets all of one scene in the game.
One picture can handle only so much Fire Emblem, and so I'll show some restraint by limiting myself to the Radiant titles. The secondary market is a decidedly unwelcoming place for anyone wanting to give this series a try, and in particular these two releases command three figure sums of money. The big secret about my collection is that most of it isn't actually worth anything to anyone, and the few exceptions that I've managed are games that have only increased in value after the fact. To be fair though, Path of Radiance was difficult to find even in the mid 2000s, and the number on that sticker belies the scarcity and inflated ebay prices it would eventually enjoy.
And while we're on the subject of Fire Emblem I may as well show off Shouzou Kaga's post Nintendo work. The fruit of the independent and decidedly defunct studio Enterbrain, Tear Ring Saga and Berwick Saga are largely Fire Emblem clones made for Sony platforms, inspiring a lawsuit that Nintendo eventually lost. I've told this story before (specifically, here: http://gtx0.com/read/famovs-nearly-comprehensive-and-incredibly-biased-guide-to-fire-emblem), but I have since acquired an unopened copy of Berwick Saga for virtual pennies and I think that's pretty cool!
Tear Ring Saga is an exceptional game though, and evidence that Kaga's vision was not reliant on the Nintendo brand.
Faselei is one of the most difficult to find NGPC titles, and one of the most expensive I've yet purchased. In this instance my desire to play it trumped my vanity, and as such I saved a lot of money by not buying a copy with the box. Faselei is essentially a quirky, mech based turn based strategy affair, and after seeing a video of the intro I knew I needed to have it.
Those are impressive visuals for what is running on hardware contemporaneous with Gameboy, though it can be difficult to appreciate when viewed on a screen not supported by a backlight.
In a question of quality versus quantity, I invoke the timeless wisdom of a young Mexican girl and ask "Why not both?". Starting with the electronic narcotic that is Pokemon I have been a major enthusiast of portable gaming for most of my life. My Gameboy and DS collection is likewise considerable, and assuming my count here is correct there should be 72 games in the picture. The only repeat is Super Mario Land, which I have twice somehow.
There's a lot that could be said about what's present here. I've played more of Mario Kart: Super Circuit than most of the rest of the series combined. Super Robot Taisen has one of the worst "professional" translations I've ever had the misfortune to experience. Medal of Honor: Infiltrator is basically a slower take on Commando that secretly wishes it were Metal Gear. Metal Gear Solid (known better as "Ghost Babel" in other territories) is in contrast a terrific return to Metal Gear's top down roots. Wario Land II is the best portable platformer ever made. The ending of Return of Samus is the most emotionally resonant Metroid has ever been for me, and I think I forgive that game a lot of its faults simply because those last two minutes are so memorable. God bless Gunpei Yokoi. And while we're on the subject of emotional resonance, how about all of Link's Awakening? Creating any kind of ranking for these games would be an impossible endeavor, but I can say with certainty that Fire Emblem: Binding Blade would sit at the top, and I can think of no better fit for the seventy-second spot than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you want a worthwhile TMNT video game experience you either play one of the arcade brawlers or you play nothing.
I think that's about enough. Once again though I'll encourage anyone else to post their collections, preferably with pictures and relevant anecdotes. What's your most valuable game? What are your favorites? God a library of those classic Genesis plastic cases that look like they house VHS tapes? That was something Nintendidn't do and one area where Sega clearly wins the argument. Do you have a dedicated CRT television setup with one or more classic consoles attached via AV or (if you're for real about classic gaming) RF hookups? I'd love to see it, whatever you've got!
“There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse.” - John Locke
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