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I’m actually not much of a modern console gamer. Growing up in a house with a Sega Megadrive, the golden age of gaming for me remains around the early ’90s. As such, retro gaming has become somewhat of an obsession for me. Luckily, instead of living in the West where the only easy way to collect retro is for $100s on eBay, I live in Japan where retro collecting is still very much alive. In this series I will talk about some of the best stores in Japan for retro gaming and all the positives and negatives that come with each one.

Mandarake

Established in 1987, Mandarake now has 11 stores in Japan focused on several areas of nerd culture, from cosplay to manga, and a bizarre collection of ancient collectible toys; it is of course the video games that I come to Mandarake for.  Mandarake has 4 stores across Tokyo, 2 in Osaka and 1 in Fukuoka, Kokura, Nagoya, Sapporo and Tochigi, so it’s a good choice for those visiting one of Japan’s metropolises.

mandarake fukuoka

While all Mandarake’s are different, even the small Kokura store has a generous gaming section.  The software section usually boasts a large selection over a broad range of consoles, though not much modern fodder. While Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, Gameboy, 3/DS, Playstation (1-4, PSP and Vita), XBOX 360, Wii/U, Saturn and Dreamcast games are pretty commonly available in most retro stores, Mandarake goes a lot further in its selection. Note: Xbox One has not really sold here.

If you are a fan of more uncommon consoles, such as the Virtual Boy, 3DO, Neo Geo/CD, Wonder Swan, NeoGeo Pocket, MegaDrive, Game and Watch, Atari Lynx, PCFX or SuperGrafx, then you should be able to find at least some software for that here. The staff here tend to be more knowledgeable about gaming than most retro stores, and while their English may not be good, if you write down the name of the software you are looking for, then they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Mandarake games

Mandarake also has a cabinet of rarer or more valuable games as well as consoles. You will see a wide range of older consoles in these cabinets often in good quality boxes; however, I do not recommend purchasing consoles here. Mandarake puts a heavy weight on a good looking box. If you are a perfectionist, the higher price might be worth it to you, but if a few tears or knocks don’t bother you, you can often purchase the same console for around half the price elsewhere.

That being said, perfect in box games also have ridiculous prices at Mandarake. But this can work to your advantage. If you don’t mind a beaten up box, or a game with the box or instructions missing, then you can get games at extremely reasonable prices. The original Mother can be picked up at Mandarake in a damaged box for $5, and Megaman/Rockman 2, usually $30+ in Japan, was only $18 out of the box.

Rockman 2

Positives

-Large selection of rarer kinds of software.

-Central City Locations.

-Cheap games if box is damaged or missing.

Negatives

-Not a large amount of stores overall

-Consoles are very overpriced.

-Games in good boxes are expensive

Overall Mandarake is possibly one of my favorite retro gaming stores but you have to be extremely careful when it comes to in-box pricing.

You can find out more about Mandarake on their website.

Cover photo from asianbeat.


Georgina Young

Contributor

British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.



  • ShitBiscuits

    This is probably one of the main reasons I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, to raid the retro game stores, I’ve just never gotten around to it.

    The big question I’ve always had, how do I get all that stuff I bought home? I’d imagine taking it on the plane would be a pain in the butt. So could I mail it to myself?

  • Nytezero

    Mandarake is fucking badass! Games, figures and doujin all in one!

  • Siveon

    Eh, seems kind of pointless to scout around there for retro games if you don’t speak Japanese.

    (That probably goes without saying though.)

  • George on the Go

    Megaman has barely any text to it, same for say all the pokemon games and many others. If you know a game well language is not a barrier. I buy mostly Japanese games and my japanese is no where near good enough.

  • George on the Go

    Technically you can mail it to yourself but something heavy like a console would cost a lot. Best would be to take it in your stored case

  • Siveon

    So…I would need to buy a game in english (to know it/play it well enough) to then go out and buy the japanese version. I fail to see the logic in that.

    I mean yeah, I could play action games just fine in Japanese, but any game with a focus on text (including Pokemon) – I’m SOL, plain and simple.

  • George on the Go

    The point is a game that you know already (maybe you used to own it but don’t now, maybe you played it through with a friend or maybe have it emulated) is easy to play through in Japanese. I’m not saying buy it in English first, obviously that’s dumb.

    As someone who doesn’t speak much Japanese but plays a lot of Japanese games almost every type that isn’t an RPG is completely playable without the language. Even if you don’t understand something it is often easy to look up online.
    Where Japanese over English language excells is games like Megaman or Mario Party which are ridiculous prices when purchased in America, but around $10 each when purchased in Japan and the language difference doesn’t matter really.

  • Siveon

    It’s not just RPGs, it’s any game with a story or requires specific instructions on how to play them. Hell, sometimes it’s just small but necessary things like getting a hint to kill a boss in an action game.

    And I don’t know about you, but HAVING to look something up online bites. Unless I’m mapping something out or taking notes in an old-ass game, I want everything I need to know about the game in-game or in the manual.

    I also really doubt any english-speaking group would want to play Mario Party in japanese.