Despite the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever actually played an actual fishing videogame on purpose (and holy carp, are there a lot of them), I certainly have “fish stories” — you know, legendary tales of great catches, and the ones that got away — about videogame collecting. There’s no better feeling than stumbling across a rarity for a cheap price, and no worse feeling than finding out that that one game you passed up for a few bucks years ago is a rare find. I have both types of stories, as I’m sure you do too! So sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…
Earthbound: Although it’s now sitting comfortably in its highly-revered cult-classic status, if you were around when Earthbound came out on the Super NES in America, you’ll remember that nobody really even cared about it at the time. Nintendo had a hard time marketing it to the US, where RPGs were not as popular as they were in Japan, and the ones that were hits over here were traditional sword-and-magic titles like Final Fantasy and…uh…Final…Fantasy. So the oddball, modern-day, psychedelic yet charming role-playing romp known as “Mother 2” in Japan had a tough time gaining a foothold over here, and neither Nintendo nor its consumers really knew what to do with it. As a result, the big-box release of Earthbound, which included a full strategy guide, sat on store shelves in abundant quantities before retailers had finally had enough. I bought my brand-new copy of Earthbound at Best Buy on clearance for $10. Even I wasn’t sure about the game itself, but as an open-minded gamer I knew it was at least worth a shot for 10 bucks. I have since become a huge fan of the Mother series, having finished all three games on original hardware (thanks to repro cartridges of the original official English-translated Mother 1 ROM that was infamously leaked many years ago, and the beloved and appreciated Mother 3 fan translation). Of course, these days my only regret is not buying up ALL the copies that were in the racks that day and hanging onto them until, say, now.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Collector’s Edition: When ZOoT was released in the US, the first run was made in a gold cartridge, with a shiny foil cover on the box. Most of these were snapped up by pre-orders, and from then on, the game was only available in the standard gray cartridge. Occasionally though, you could still find gold carts on shelves, perhaps from preorders that weren’t picked up, or stragglers that just happened to wind up there. I found one single copy in the rack at that same Best Buy where I got Earthbound, so I snagged it. The funny part of the story here is that I handed it to the kid at the checkout counter, and he acted like I just handed him a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15.
“Where did you find this?!” he demanded.
“Um, on the shelf, where it’s supposed to be?” I replied.
As he rang me up, he muttered to me that he pre-ordered one and didn’t get it. Sorry dude. Anyway, gold ZOoTs are not uncommon these days, I’m sure he found one eventually…
Metal Storm, Panic Restaurant, Gun Nac, Chiller, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Radiant Silvergun, Mega Man Legends 2…: You know, a big part of having a nice game collection in 2018 comes from just having been buying videogames, both new and used, for the past three decades. Lots of NES “heavy hitters” weren’t so heavy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I picked up now-hot titles like Metal Storm, Panic Restaurant, Gun Nac, and Chiller used for under $10 apiece. And Panzer Dragoon Saga is rare and worth a buncha money on eBay now? I walked into Toys R Us when it was released and bought it for 50 bucks brand new. Sellers these days want $200 for Radiant Silvergun? I thought it looked rad when it came out, so I purchased the import for $60. I’m sure there are people with CIB copies of ridiculously expensive games like Little Samson or whatever that crazy-priced Flintstones game is, just because they picked them up when they came out for 40 bucks. Sometimes you have to remember that these were just retail products, not instant collector’s items. So just buy the new games you like, and who knows what’ll happen to them in 20 years?
Chrono Trigger: I found a loose copy of Chrono Trigger in a bin at Software Etc. for $5. I shit you not. I don’t know what it was doing there or who priced it, but I swooped on that like an osprey on a fish, paid for it, and got outta there before anyone else realized what just happened.
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Then there were the ones that got away.
I’m still kicking myself for not acting more quickly on some things I’ve run across over the years, such as…
Bonk’s Adventure for NES for $8 at a used game shop. I was gonna grab it and thought eh…maybe next time. Then the next time, it wasn’t there no mo’.
Dragon Warrior II CIB for $40 at Midwest Gaming Classic. Picked it up, thought about it, put it back down and said “maybe I’ll come back to it,” and when I did, somebody right behind me grabbed it. Well that was an apocalyptically dumbass move on my part, wasn’t it? From then on, I realized that if I run across something I want at MGC, for chrissakes, just get it.
F-1 Race for NES?! Sort of! Another MGC find, I found a US NES-style cartridge with a yellow and black label with Japanese text for F-1 Race, an early Famicom Pole Position-a-like that never came out in the US. I was told it was for a Nintendo hotel unit. Later — after not buying it — I realized it may also have been a ROM cartridge for the Famicom Disk Writer, the unit found in convenience stores and game shops all over Japan in the ’80s that let you write games to a blank Famicom Disk for only ¥500. I have no idea why I passed it up, but I’ve been looking for another one since then.
Sega CDX on clearance. I think when these cool little units were on blowout price at Toys R Us, they were like 60 bucks. I didn’t bite, and I wish I would have.
Metroid yellow box on clearance. Kay-Bee Toys at one of the local malls literally had a stack of the yellow-box reissue of Metroid at a blowout price of $10 sitting on the counter forever in the ’90s. At the time, I already had two variants of the original silver-box release, so I didn’t feel the need to pick up a third version. But now here I am, 25 years later, and I never did get a yellow-box Metroid. I could have had a dozen of them at any time back then, and for cheap as hell.
The moral of the story? If you see it and you want it, buy it. I know, that’s easier said than done sometimes, especially if your budget is limited. But I find that more often than not, I don’t regret a decision to buy, but I DO regret decisions to pass. I mean, you don’t want to wind up writing blog posts about kicking yourself over it, do you??
How about you? I’d love to hear about your legendary scores, or regrets about passing up something great!