Following on from the entry on retro stores in New York, I take a look at a selection of stores in France.
Situated in Fontenay le Comt, France, is an interesting videogame store with an excellent collection of retro games. Although Fontenay is about an hour’s drive from where I live, it’s always worth the trip just to browse. Although the storefront says Dynamite Games, which appears to be an independent chain in the area, the owner’s business card says Destock Games (though he was keen to point out the website is still under construction and nowhere near complete). Whatever the name, you don’t find stores like this very often.
Though a little cramped, there is a tremendous amount of stock on display, both old and new. They also stock an inordinate amount of anime DVDs and VHS videos, figurines, T-shirts, plus videogame and anime Original Soundtracks at excellent prices (I previously picked up the Dracula X soundtrack for €10, though annoyingly passed up the Panzer Dragoon Saga soundtrack and found it was sold when I next visited).
As for games, he’s got pretty much everything covered. Japanese PS2 rarities, PS1 imports from the US and Japan, the same with the Saturn, plus Dreamcast, Sega 32X, Sega CD, Master System, N64, SNES, NES, the whole Game Boy range, and even really obscure stuff like the Amstrad GX4000. Most of it, especially the rare stuff, is in very good to mint condition, though there’s the customary collection of unboxed cartridges at lower prices. Plus of course accessories and other miscellanea. He also has an excellent range of obscurities, from mint condition RPGs and a healthy range of Saturn titles, to import shooters and games you won’t see stocked elsewhere.
There was far too much to photograph all of it, and looking back over these photos I don’t think it’s conveying what was available. I mean, he had Probotector (Contra Hard Corps) in mint condition for only €30 (eBay has mint boxed copies starting at £60 BiN), a dizzying array of Japanese PS1 titles which I didn’t even recognise, plus PC-Engine games and other early 1980s stuff. For a European such as myself, it’s also worth pointing out that he had a good mixture between PAL and NTSC stuff for the 16-bit games (one of the small plastic shelves at the front only had American SNES in it for example).
You don’t see this range of diversity very often these days, and even less so outside of big cities like Paris – Fontenay is a comparatively small town.
The owner is also really cool and speaks good English, so is happy to chat. I asked about import games for the current big three systems, and he said that while he does try to stock it, there isn’t a wide enough range of regionally exclusive titles, outside of Japan’s RPGs, to make it worthwhile these days. Most titles are soon localised and released. And of course RPGs aren’t the most import friendly – though he does stock a few English-only RPGs, which is nice.
I’m pleased that most of his PS2 titles are stocked spine-outwards. In UK stores like Gamestation they tend to be stacked forcing forwards, forcing you to go flick through each one individually (though technically they no longer stock PS2 titles). If I had to raise a criticism it’s that this store isn’t physically big enough for all the stock, and older titles are stacked back to front to conserve space. I always feel a little conspicuous standing and flicking through a shelf of games. Business must be doing well though since he has staff on hand, eager to unlock glass cabinets and answer any questions.
Pricing was also a pleasant surprise. These guys clearly know their games, so rare items are priced accordingly, but nothing is priced prohibitively or to a silly degree. Aimed at collectors, this stuff is on display with the obvious intention of selling it on. Whereas other stores will sell boxed 16-bit titles at triple figures, the collections here were priced close to the figures you’d find on Euro eBay – sometimes a bit a less. Which, considering the need to cover store overheads, and the fact that you can inspect the condition for yourself and then own it right away, is a really pleasant change to what you’d find in a lot of other stores. I certainly wouldn’t mind paying €30 for a mint condition, rare Mega Drive title which I really wanted. This is an important point to mention, since it makes the store a genuinely viable place to pick up specific rare titles you’re after, without having to blindly trawl garage sales, or resort to eBay which forces you to use PayPal and place trust in someone sometimes the other side of the world.
Unboxed older titles meanwhile are also very reasonable, especially if you’re trading stuff in. Stock changes quickly and is dependant on trade-ins. While he’ll take in most items, it’s only for store credit not cash. But if you’re keen to maintain your playing collection this is a cool way to cycle through titles, and you’ll get more than if you traded it in for cash at a place like EasyCash or Cash Express. Other stores have also started cutting back on their retro titles, leaving him as the only dedicated store I can think of.
New games for current systems are priced at €50, which is in stark contrast to nearby supermarkets such as CarreFour, which stock PS3 and 360 games at €70 a piece (I saw Cross Edge and other recent-ish PS3 titles for €50, and I’m fairly sure they weren’t second-hand).
Overall a really cool place to visit, though as luck would have it I often pass up something I want, only to return a week later and find it sold. If you’re in the region it’s worth taking a look.
EASY CASH and CASH EXPRESS
These are a couple of cash converter style junk stores near me, and while I’ve bought a lot from them, they’re far too random to be relied on. They’re also dirty, poorly staffed, with terrible condition stock (most PS1 cases are broken) which are adorned with massive price stickers that never come off. I also wouldn’t dare step foot in them with a camera to take photos. They’ll buy unboxed games off you for about €2, and then sell them on for anything from €4 up to €40 for some things – and the prices seem to be randomly applied. Items which go for three times as much you’ll find for only €5 (I made a killing by buying up their entire stock of Goemon 2 cartridges), but some games, like Metal Gear on the NES, are priced at €40 unboxed.
Most of this happened when they changed management. At one point I bought a Game & Watch for only a couple of Euro, but now they’ve got a glass cabinet with Game & Watches in it and most are close to the triple figure mark.
Cash Express is also on my bad books, because I went in to get prices for things, including a Saturn peripheral which they said they’d buy for €12, so I went to the car, collected my box of stuff and went to trade it in. So the guy rings everything up, takes my address and photocopies my driver’s licence, then hands me a receipt stating how much I’ll be paid and asks me to sign it. Suddenly the peripheral is only worth €3. I point this out to the guy and he looks dumbfounded, before trying to talk his way out of it in French. He claims the total value for everything he gave me was €12, and that I somehow got confused and thought it was just for the peripheral. I point out that the receipt he gave me values the total for all my items at only €10, so if what he says is the case, then he still screwed up. He pauses and then starts rapidly talking in French and I decide to call the whole thing off, at which point he flies into a rage because he has to cancel the transaction on his system which, apparently, is a huge pain the ass. Well, not as inconvenient as being screwed around is. So I don’t shop there anymore – though I did see Sword of Etheria on PS2 for only €9, which seemed like a good deal.
I’ll concede that these places are a necessary evil, and you will, on rare occasions, find a really good bargain as a result of incorrect labelling, but I always feel kind of unclean after walking out the door.
DOCK GAMES and UK’s GAME
This a weird one, and kind of shows the audacity of the UK’s chain of Game stores (which also owns Gamestation, it’s worth pointing out, which gives them a monopoly on UK videogame chain stores). France has its own chain called Dock Games, though I’ve only recently noticed that the UK’s Game has started to muscle in on the scene. Amazingly, in one town near me, both Dock Games and Game are sitting side-by-side each other (no photo sadly, since I forgot my camera last I trekked out there). Presumably Game is staffed by French-speaking locals.
Dock Games used to stock retro stuff, though the last time I went in all of it had been relegated to a single bookshelf around the back corner to make room for current generation stuff. Which is fine, I guess, if you’re really into your current gen games, but the majority of it ends up being old copies of FIFA traded in, and whatever else is mainstream and temporarily popular. You know, the kind of crap which sells for about a tenner on eBay six months after release, but is still listed at half its RRP second-hand in-store. Anything of obscure merit, such as Senko no Ronde or Cross Edge, is nowhere to be found.
And that about covers what I’ve seen locally to me – though it’s worth saying that I don’t make much effort to visit to research all the local stores.