You can blow a lot of money in Akihabara, the Tokyo district that houses the world's densest cluster of nerd-related storefronts. And if you have far more cash than sense, you can throw it down on some of these very rare and highly desired vintage games and related items.
Here's a look at the highest price tags, coolest rarities, and otherwise most memorable memorabilia I found on my trip through Tokyo's gaming stores last week.
Spotted at the store Super Potato, this "Tournament Special" edition of Kunio-Kun's Dodgeball for Super Famicom (SNES) was given out as a contest prize. Not only is it on a gold cartridge, but the game itself has been tweaked from the wide-release version as well. 98,000 yen (about $US950).
Venturing outside of Akihabara for a moment, here's a trio of thousand-dollar Super Famicom games at the store Mandarake Galaxy. Rendering Ranger R2 is 240,000 yen (~$US2200), Magical Pop'n is 140,000 (~$US1200), and Iron Commando is 120,000 yen (~$US1000).
Also in Mandarake Galaxy's glass case is a copy of a fanzine called Game Freak, a doujinshi magazine made by gaming enthusiasts in the '80s.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because the publishers of this zine went on to found the development studio of the same name and create Pokemon. That makes these original magazines quite hard to find, although not that hard in this case, since this one is only 7000 yen (~$US65).
Galaxy also has all but one of the rarest Virtual Boy games out there. Virtual Lab at 85,000 yen (~$US800) is the second-rarest. But if anybody pays 75,000 yen for that copy of the US version of Mario's Tennis, they're a fool; these sell for around $US100-200 in the US.
Rare gaming items aren't limited to just games, of course. Here's a brand-new copy of the CD soundtrack of Mario Kart 64 selling for an even 100,000 yen, or about $US950 ($1,205).
And if CD soundtracks aren't your thing, how about making your own music? You can buy piano sheet music for 16-bit games like Super Mario World, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Bahamut Lagoon and Romancing Saga 3, although it will cost you anywhere from $US50 ($63) to $US150 ($190) for the privilege.
That US copy of Mario's Tennis might have been significantly marked up, but here's a US game that might actually be priced accurately? This Apple II copy of Time Zone, one of the first games by King's Quest designer Roberta Williams, was in Beep, an Akihabara store devoted to vintage PC games.
In fact, there were multiple versions of Time Zone as well as early Williams hit Mystery House here in Beep, meaning that some Roberta Williams otaku probably just cashed out. This was the rarest and most expensive version of the game in the store, at 100,000 yen or about $US950 ($1,205).
One of the most expensive games in Akihabara was this copy of Galactic Wars 1, the first game ever made by Falcom, which would go on to develop RPG series like Ys and The Legend of Heroes. A mere 450,000 yen, or just shy of $US4,000 ($5,073).
Of course, Neo Geo games are ridiculously expensive the world over, and here's a row of a few of those in the Akihabara branch of Mandarake.
From left: Magical Drop III (140,000 yen or ~$US1,200), Metal Slug 2 (350,000 yen or ~$US3,200), and Rage of The Dragons (320,000 yen or ~$US3,000). Add in whatever game is next to them and you're probably looking at $US10,000 ($12,682) worth of games easily.
If you're a big Seaman fan (and who isn't?) you're probably drooling over this 75,000-yen (~$US750) Christmas Seaman limited-edition Dreamcast hardware at Mandarake in Akihabara.
Nintendo's Game & Watch hardware can reach quite high prices for the fans who collect mint-in-box versions of these early handheld gaming machines.
This is one of the most desirable: Mario the Juggler, the final Game & Watch produced. It actually came out in 1991, two years after Game Boy, and thus was not produced in very high quantities. 85,000 yen (~$US800) for a complete copy.
Note here that the famously persnickety Mandarake staff has rated the outer box a "C," the lowest grade possible. Note that said box looks to be in mint condition. It probably has flaws that only microscopes and Mandarake employees can observe.
Here's another gold cartridge only given out as a prize: It's the first version of Punch-Out!! for the Famicom. Nintendo would later go in and add Mike Tyson to this game before its official release. It's 57,000 yen or about $US500 ($634).
Just to its right is All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. for the Famicom Disk System, a version of Super Mario with hosts from a Japanese radio show added into it. It, too, was only given out as a prize. It is 140,000 yen or $US1,200 ($1,522).
The Satellaview was a device that let Super Famicom users download games over a satellite connection. Some of these games are quite rare to find still loaded onto a Satellaview memory pack, and Mandarake had them all for 47,000 yen, about $US440 ($558), apiece.
From top, it's Koi wa Balance, Radical Dreamers, and Treasure Conflicts. You may know that Radical Dreamers was a sequel to Chrono Trigger, and its story served as the base for Chrono Cross on the PlayStation years later.
Sonic Blast is a fairly common game for the Game Gear in the US, but its Japanese release G Sonic is... well, it's 38,000 yen (~$US350) is what it is. Next to it is a rare game for the early Sega console SG-1000, called Gulcave, for 57,000 yen or about $US500 ($634).
Despite the similar names and proximity to each other in this glass case in the store Trader, Trip World and Miss Peach World are definitely not in the same series.
The former is a rare Game Boy game that's a spiritual follow-up to Mr. Gimmick. The latter is a hack of an NES game called Menace Beach that has naked ladies in it. Both are hovering around the $US400 ($507) mark.
One of the reasons I'm probably not going to bother trying to collect a complete set of Japanese Castlevania games is on the right, here: I can't imagine paying 51,000 yen or nearly $US500 ($634) for a copy of Vampire Killer for the Mega Drive, which is just the relatively common Genesis game Castlevania: Bloodlines.
We close this out with something I've never seen before in all my years of Akihabara shopping: Super Maruo, which is apparently the very first unlicensed adult game ever released for the Famicom, back in 1986.
It has very badly drawn explicit sex scenes. Apparently one went for nearly twice this price back in 2007, so the 270,000 yen (about $US2400 ($3,044)) price tag here at Surugaya is a bargain! Maybe if you run there you can still buy it.