Monday, November 1, 2010

Famicomblog is neat

When I first started blogging, one of many things I intended to do was showcase other great blogs. I never actually did this, until now... If you like the original Famicom, or Famicom games in general, then step inside Famicomblog.

Visual imagery generates strong emotional responses in people. For the religious the iconography is obvious, for archaeologists it could be something as simple as a broken urn in an unexpected place. For gamers the possibilities are diverse – perhaps it’s the kidney shape of a Genesis pad that reminds you of childhood. For me it’s rows of brightly coloured Famicom cartridges, the colours and labels of which enhanced considerably my early gaming experiences. I occasionally Google photos of them, such is their nostalgic quality, which is how I discovered Famicomblog: one man’s attempt to collect every Famicom game released.

Quite a daunting task considering there’s 1051 official releases, probably a few more if you count especially exotic limited edition games, where they replace main characters with bowls of Ramen and such like. It’s actually a task I’ve sometimes considered doing myself, especially if I became an overnight millionaire and had more time to spend on whimsy. I bought the LEVEL X Famicom almanac, which lists every official Famicom game, its exact date of release and initial cost, along with a photos of the box. There’s also some excellent write ups on releases of significance (such as the strange Takeshi Kitano game). It’s been a joy to read. Likewise, in an unofficial sort of way, this English language blog provides a nice companion for the Famicom fan.
Living in Europe Famicom cartridges are extremely rare (outside of conventions I’ve never seen Famicom carts “in the wild”), which really only leaves eBay and that kind of takes the fun out of it. Of course blogger Sean lives in Japan, studying at Kyushu University's Graduate School of Law in Fukuoka, so he has easy access to them, and often at very reasonable prices. The blog details his adventures to various retro stores, lucky finds, insightful opinion, surreal escapades, and other points of interest.
What makes the blog especially pleasant is that Sean posts with more clarity and eloquence than many other bloggers. The Famicom was my first system, and I write about games professionally, but were I to do something similar it would be a nostalgic, messy affair prone to deranged and eclectic tangents. To me blogging is a rapid stream of consciousness – much to the ire of those who take me absolutely seriously all the time (I tried putting SATIRE warnings on some entries, but this only angered them further).

Along with clarity of thought (which I assume is a benefit of lawyerly shenanigans), Famicomblog also manages to be both whimsical and serious when needed – the five Excitebike cartridges on tour in Fukuoka was a thing of Biffo-esque genius (Mr Biffo being the pseudonym behind Digitiser, a sort of Monty Python for gamers).

Another interesting entry was on the nature of collecting games and how they hold their value, compared to baseball cards for example. His analysis of the situation was worthy of publishing in a print magazine – as he states, games actually serve a purpose compared to other things which can be collected but only looked at. Physical media is also likely to end at some point, with download only games. Famicom games are the perfect collectible – many are cheap enough to allow regular purchase on a limited budget, and they can offer hours of fun actually being played. Then, when put away, they’re infinitely more attractive to look at than other cartridge media.

Another thing which I was reminded of when browsing the blog, is how fed up I am of the current hardware generation. This always happens to me when things progress in the industry, and I never adapt well to change. It took me a long time to make the jump to the PS3, and a little longer still before I finally bought an HD TV. Then I had to upgrade my HDD to 500gig. About £800 in total, British money (which is maybe like $1,200). Now Sony want me to upgrade to PSN PLUS, which is more money, plus a 3D TV which I don’t want, and I dunno, does this also need some kind of 3D glasses attachment? Probably two if I want two player gaming. Then of course there’s two Move controllers, a PS3 eye camera, the adjacent dongle for the Move controllers... OH, and let’s not forget that I need to buy a whole bunch of DLC content to unlock stuff which is ALREADY ON THE DISC (motherfuckers). I still don’t even have a Mic for my PS3. Anything else I need? Good thing I don’t own a 360 too, because then it’s LIVE, and Kinect, and god knows what else.

It’s not that I inherently dislike new things. I was fine getting a PS3 in the end. The problem is, I am still happy with my PS3 and willing to spend money on it, without the hassle of acquiring a whole bunch of new hardware keys to remove the arbitrary locks placed by developers. I don't believe 3D or Move will enhance my enjoyment. The fact Microsoft has apparently demanded X360 developers cater for Kinect is shameful – I don’t WANT to jump around like an ape or play STANDING UP. The Wii in my eyes has been a failure as far as control goes, since suddenly needing to the point at the screen (ala Metroid Other M) doesn’t enhance the experience, it’s a pain in the ass. The same for waving and shaking and throwing. None of it has enhanced my experience – the more layers of gimmickry and unsought complexity you place on something which is intended for recreation, the less interested I become.

Famicomblog reminded of the simple purity we had back in the day. You plug a bright cartridge in and away you go. Most of the time you didn’t even have save files. The Famicom of course had peripherals, including a lightgun, 3D goggles and an internet modem (sort of), but none of these were ever essential to getting the most out of it. Famicom was like VHS. Everyone had one, and many still do. I still use my VHS despite having a DVD and Blueray player.

I’m inevitably going to reach a point, probably in older age, where I abandon current videogames. At this stage I’ll probably go back to collecting Famicom games, since they are as they are.

If brightly coloured cartridges also make you feel fuzzy, check out Famicom blog. (either that or get a shave, you filthy animal)

The above images is NOT from Famicomblog, rather it’s a ‘random’ from the internet – possibly InsertCredit’s old forum. Maybe not, I can’t remember any more. Credit to whoever posted it.


  1. Yer losin' it, Sketcz! Seriously, though, I failed to find anything remotely insightful in this guy's blog.

    Certainly it is admirable and interesting to watch him collect every Famicom game ever made and then some. But the impression I get of this fellow is that he is... well... sort of pathetic. I mean those pictures of the Famicom carts at different locales just seemed so sad to me. Seemed to comment on the emptiness of this poor soul's life. Or maybe I'm just being an old crank? In any event, I was expecting something quite different. Perhaps you meant this post to be yet another example of your "satire"?

  2. I do wish anonymous posters put some kind of pseudonym on their entry.

    No, it wasn't satire. Several times throughout the entry I state that the Japanese Famicom and the visual impact of its cartridges, since it was my first system (wow, that was over 20 years ago...), is very nostalgic for me, and so by default I'm going to be biased in favour of Famicomblog. It simply felt nice reading about Famicom collecting outside of Tokyo.

    I think you're being a little harsh on the guy's life too. He didn't move there to collect Famicom games, he's studying law and, looking at his other blog, he leads a VERY diverse life. It's just a thing to do, and he doesn't spend big money on it. He doesn't seem to describe himself as a "gamer" either (which contributes to the clarity of thought in his writing I feel) - and he keeps the game aspect out of his main blog.

    Your attitude saddens me slightly, since you appear to have judged someone solely on one of their blogs. Do I need to expressly state that I too do things outside of posting on here, involving friends, family, a job and future dreams? Or that Discoalucard or Cj Iwakura does the same?

    As for the 5 carts out and about, maybe it's the British side of me, but I found that surreal, ingenious and hilarious. Lots of respected artists photograph unexpected things in inappropriate places. it's kind of a visual non sequitur. It also reminded me of Digitiser's Brown Trumpet competition (which is worth a google). I love absurdist humour, and unless expressly told not to, I'm likely to reference it as the mood takes me.

    If you found my entry boring, fair enough. But what was the different thing which I led you to believe would be there?

  3. @Sketcz: I think you're too much on the negative side. I might not know you very well but in your last 2 blogs, you were basically complaining about stuff. It's interesting to hear about thing you don't like, but it would be even more interesting to read about stuff you do like.

    sorry for being self-centered, but I would like to read more posts like your "Mid-development hardware change" rather than hearing you whine about bad magazines or the new generation.

    Hope that helps. ;)

  4. Sketcz - thanks for the nice write-up! Your way with words is impeccable and you do me great honor by devoting them to my humble blog!

    About the critics...critic....well, I'm not going for the "insightful" blog. Booze rather than Famicom blogging is the preferred medicine for the occasional emptiness in this poor soul's life. Your concern is appreciated though.

  5. Sorry if I came off as a bit harsh earlier. I had just woken up maybe less than 5 minutes before I read your article. Perhaps you'll find it somewhat flattering when I admit that this blog is the first site I visit each morning? Also, didn't mean to be too harsh on your writing or judgment either. Don't let this next comment get to your head, but your writing is the only saving grace of British games journalism. Your articles are always insightful and a joy to read; were very often the highlights of the magazines they appeared in. Believe me, despite my morning vitriol, I really am an admirer of your work.

    Having said that, I gave Famicomblog another try. It still didn't speak to me, though I apologize to that site's owner for my brusque comments. Still, it really wasn't what I was hoping to find: meditations or discourses on the Famicom, if you will. Hey, I guess I have an idea for my own blog now!

    In any event, I still loves 'ya, Sketcz! ;3

  6. @Gezagond:
    As a veteran games journalist, I've grown extremely bitter over the years and so temper almost everything I say with some degree of negativity - even if it's unrelated to the subject at hand. This is undoubtedly a fault, and I apologise for it, and I will endeavour to be more positive in future.

    No problem! If you get a chance, I'd love to see the odd write up on an obscure gem you've discovered. With something like only a quarter of Famicom games making it officially to the west (plus a few more which have been fan translated into English, like Sweet Home), I'm sure there's plenty still worth discovering.

  7. @Sketcz,

    Thanks. Actually I've been thinking of doing some reviews of Japan-only games, the only problem is that whenever I think I've found something new and exciting to write about I look it up on the web and find that five other guys have already done a good job of introducing it and I would just be adding to the pile. So hard to be original....:)

    Actually your blog and in particular your excellent post about the Egyptian game markets has inspired me to do a more thorough post on Fukuoka's game shops, which I think will be my next post. I did one already but its a kind of half-assed post, next time I want to give the shops the proper treatment. This'll be tough as unlike Tokyo (Akihabara) and Osaka (Den Den town) Fukuoka doesn't have a centralized game neighborhood, they are spread out all over town. Loads of pedaling will be involved. I'll try to have it out in a month or so!


    No problem. I appreciate criticism. "Meditations or discourses on the Famicom" is a pretty tall order to fill though. It takes much more writing talent than I possess to pull off that type of thing properly, and doing it improperly would result in unreadable drivel. To avoid falling into that trap I generally prefer to let the photos provide the meditative element of the blog, I think they more or less speak for themselves. As Sketcz points out above, visual imagery provokes much stronger responses in people.

    Still though, if you could be a bit more specific about what you'd like to see on the blog I'd be willing to give it a go. Or if you are saving it for your blog, good luck with it!