Retro game collecting is a way of life for many of us here at Retroware TV. Whether you have been collecting for a long time, or have just gotten into this fantastic community/hobby, you’ll quickly discover that reclaiming some of the best games of yesteryear can come at an incredibly high price. There are a multitude of reasons why the price of games back in North America continues to be on the rise, and it shows no signs of slowing down as more and more people who grew up with the NES and Super Nintendo get big people jobs and more and more disposable income. But, is this phenomenon the same in Japan? Sure, there are plenty of people here who adore retro games just as much as we do back home, but with a different region, comes a completely different market for retro games.
Having spent yearly 2 years of my life in this country split up between 2007 until now, I’ve observed the Japanese market for retro games and the North American one very closely over the years. The differences never cease to amaze me. This will be an ongoing series in which I’ll compare the average prices of various titles of loose games in North America with their Japanese counterparts. For reference, North American (NA) prices will be pulled from Price Charting and Japanese (JP) prices will be determined from Surugaya. These sites do a pretty good job at capturing a current price that isn’t too high or too low, but obviously, there’s no one perfect source. The prices pulled from these sources may not be the exact price you see it for on a regular basis at (insert website/store here), but I’ll do my best to keep it fair!
Super Mario Brothers 3
Average NA Price: $10.73
Average JP Price: $3.90
You may be scoffing and saying yourself, “C’mon Osaka Papa, everyone and their mother has this game already!” While that may be true, just about any collector, at some point in time, will try to get their hands on this game. The major difference is that in Japan, you will be hard pressed to find this game for any more than around $10, even at the most overpriced retro game shops. In the US, you will be hard pressed to find a retailer that sells this game for any less than $10. I’ve seen this game at retail shops in the States for $15-$20 on a regular basis, and if you are foolish enough to pay that price, than you have my sincerest condolences.
Rockman 5 (Mega Man 5 in NA)
Average NA Price: $64.97
Average JP Price: $7.40
So, all you Mega Man fans who do not own Mega Man 5, are you ready to buy a Famicom yet? Rockman 5 is arguably the cheapest game of the series in the Famicom library, where its North American counterpart is arguably the most expensive. The price for Rockman 5 has remained relatively stagnant over the years, and yet, Mega Man 5 continues to soar in value. This is far from the only example of this phenomenon within the Mega Man series, which I’m sure is music to the ears of cash-strapped fans. What’s even better is that no Japanese language ability is required to play these!
Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in NA for the Super Nintendo)
Average NA Price: $30.46
Average JP Price: $3.00
That’s right guys, living in Japan mean that you’re living in a world where Final Fantasy IV, arguably one of the best RPGs for the Super Nintendo, can be found in just about any retro gaming bargain bin around the nation. I have seen the NA version of the game go for upwards of $40 on numerous occasions, and yet, on many more occasions, I have seen the JP version go for only 100 yen, or, a whopping $1. Sometimes I pick these up out of the bins and take them home because they just deserve better than that.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Playstation 1)
Average NA Price (with jewel case & manual): $14.79
Average JP Price (with jewel case & manual): $54.00
I bet you were thinking all of the games I was going to talk about were cheaper in Japan, didn’t you? Mortal Kombat is a series which, at best, has a niche group of fans here in Japan. The revolutionary fighting game series just did not catch on here like it did back in the States. This game had no chance of ever overthrowing the likes of Street Fighter back in the early 90s in Japan in terms of popularity. Thus, certain titles in the series became tough to get a hold of over the years as the series went on. Trilogy of course, is one of said titles.
Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania 1 in NA)
Average NA Price: $17.59
Average JP Price: $98.00
Holy bejeezus! That’s right ladies and gentleman, if you want to get your hands on a cart of Akumajou Dracula for the Famicom, get ready to shell out a nice crisp Benjamin! Now, I want you to look closely at what I just said. Notice I said “cart”, right? Those of you familiar with the Famicom library may be saying “Hey, wait a minute! Akumajou Dracula was a Famicom Disk System game! This dude is wiggity-whack!” Ah yes, wiggity-whack as I may be, what I said is indeed the truth. You see, after releasing the game as a cartridge in the West due to the NES not being privy to the Disk System, Akumajou Dracula was re-released on the Famicom as cartridge, years after its initial release on the Famicom Disk System. This version is quite the hot commodity in the Famicom collector’s market, and the price continues to go up as time goes on.
Oh, by the way, the Famicom Disk System version of the game, which is the better version in this guy’s opinion, will only run you about $15.00! You can all breathe a sigh of relief now.