Over the past several years, there has been a disturbance in the Nintendo collecting world – prices have been rising, re-sellers have been on the prowl, and there have been more collectors than ever before. These factors have all contributed, in-part, to boundaries being pushed, definitions being redefined, and the idea of a Nintendo (NES) full set has been turned on its head. Suddenly, it becomes a matter of debate as to whether that five-figure game (Stadium Events) is just an expensive variant of World Class Track Meet, or whether it counts as the crown jewel in a complete Nintendo set. Then we have Flintstones 2, a game thought to be distributed as a rental-only title. Since it was never available for sale to the general public, some scratch it from their list of games needed. And say goodbye to the unlicensed carts; without Nintendo’s golden seal, those carts are nothing more than fakes. In the past there was minimum debate when it came to these sorts of issues, but with games reaching astronomical prices, and with more people getting into the game, there just simply aren’t enough games (or money) to match the needs of the collectors. Thus, boundaries are shifted, and people begin to take a second look at traditional collector’s lists of yesteryear. Compared with what went on in overseas markets, however, these minor disputes are child’s play.
The idea of the mythological Famicom full set is almost incomprehensible. Unlike its Western counterpart, 1051 is the magical number this time, for those that choose to go for the “standard” Famicom set. The standard licensed Famicom games are included. People go after the miniature Datach carts, the karaoke machine with its built-in game, as well as a slew of boring baseball games, RPGs, and mahjong games, items for which the Japanese even express disdain. Interestingly enough, of all the collectors I have spoken with, who have the goal of obtaining a complete Famicom set, this is where they want to end up – at the magical point of 1051. To me though, the journey has just begun, the trek up the mountain is not near its end.
Just like the veteran NES collectors of long ago sought to obtain both the licensed and unlicensed game releases, I feel that in a complete Famicom set, both facets should be represented. The set of unauthorized software that corresponds closest to that on the NES would be the Hacker International games. What I mean by this is that someone that is striving for a complete set of Famicom games might want to limit their scope of games to those marketed in Japan, the official Famicom land. So to chase down Russian originals or even the various Taiwanese goodies might be a bit out of the range for some collectors. This could be compared to a NES collector that strives to obtain the American unlicensed originals, but then ignores Crime Busters, which was released in Brazil on 72-pin format. Others might want to chase down all of the original, non-licensed carts on Famicom.
By adding the unlicensed games to the cartridge list, another 300 games or so appear on our game list, bringing the total to around 1350 games. Then there are those other unlicensed games, you know, those games. What I am referring to are the infamous Waixing and Nanjing productions, original games that generally fall into the RPG category. Sure, there are a few platformers and puzzle games, but most of the games are RPGs, Chinese RPGs. To make matters worse, many of these games won’t run in real Famicom hardware, since the later carts were designed with Famiclones in mind. Nanjing has around 100 of these games to add to the list, and with Waixing, we get another 150 or so. So that brings our full set total up to approximately 1600 games.
But fcgamer, aren’t some of the Waixing games really just unofficial Chinese translations of Japanese games? Rats, caught in the act! That is indeed correct; however, since it is a different publisher (and the Waixing games are conveniently numbered, and it would look quite odd to be missing some numbers in your set of games), let’s keep them on the list.
Speaking of translations and non-Japanese games, many of the US-exclusive games actually were brought to the Famicom thanks to pirate companies. IIRC, there are about 300 licensed NES games that did not find a release in Japan, and about two-thirds of them did appear on Famicom carts illegally. This software typically circulated throughout parts of Europe, such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia. Now our cartridge total for a Famicom set sits at about 1800 cartridges.
If we really wanted to get fancy, we could also choose to include the highly-specialized Subor Educational software, which came packed with the myriad of Subor Famiclones out there. While these carts are neat to own and collect, their range of compatibility is quite limited, oftentimes being able to run correctly only on the clone it was bundled with. The unofficial Famicom Disk System game ports to cartridges could also be considered as belonging in a full set of Famicom games, so between both of the aforementioned items, our cartridge list tops out at around 1850 different items. And that does not even include the high-end promotional cartridges, such as the gold Rockman 4, and stuff like that. Sadly, we are not even done yet.
Hardcore collectors might also consider the Famicom Disk System to be an integral part of the Famicom. I personally hate the FDS, since the disks are so unreliable, but we can’t just ignore it totally. On the FDS, there are around 50 unlicensed games; ironically enough, most of these are adult games . There are also roughly 200 different licensed disks, which brings our grand total to 2100 games. Now that is one massive collection of games, and a set that is three times the size of a complete NES collection, a task that seems quite daunting, even for the most seasoned of collectors. This reason alone is why I decided to attempt obtaining such a Famicom set.
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Most of the Famicom collectors that I personally know are either focused specifically on grabbing some of the unlicensed game releases with a smattering of bootleg goodness, or spent their time going after the official software releases. While there is some intermingling, those that go for a full set of Famicom games typically see 1051 as the goal, and leave it at that. While I’ll admit that some of the extensions to the Famicom family could arguably be excluded, I enjoy the old games and don’t see any harm in adding a few more titles to the collection list. Just like Atari 2600 collectors of long ago, I would rather have an incomplete collection that recognizes obscure titles to a complete collection that ignores inconvenient obscurities.
Once when talking with the owner of a local game shop, he had told me that he also collected gaming memorabilia. In addition to some Mario figurines and stuff of that realm, he also had a hefty collection of game consoles, all boxed. His pride and joy was a boxed Super A’can. When I asked him if he had any carts as well, he shook his head and explained that there are just too many carts out there to collect, whereas going for a set of gaming machines was a much more reasonable goal. And he is right.
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The idea of finding, owning, and storing over 2000 Famicom games sounds beastly, simply because it is. Looking back on it, I wonder how I ever set foot on this crazy adventure. Fifteen years prior, I had amassed a large set of NES games, thanks to Funcoland and other local game shops. I probably had around 400 or 500 different games back then, though I slowly but surely sold the bulk of those games off when it came time for college. When forced to choose between old games and a budding social life, I chose the latter, and my interest in games waned. I would have never suspected that moving halfway across the world would make the beast reemerge, only even stronger than before.
My first goal concerning Famicom games was quite simple. I wanted to collect all of the unlicensed cartridge-based games, and grab pirate versions of the games I had played and enjoyed as a kid. This goal was soon to be completed, however; I became buddies with a local shopkeeper and he had a large amount of stock left over from back in the day. I then began trading my extras and before I knew it, I had obtained most of the unlicensed games available. Some items would slip through the cracks, and this set of games has been sitting at around 80% complete for the past two years. The same games that eluded me in 2013 continued to elude me this year, and they will probably do so next year as well. I am not finished with this set, but I am at the point where even waving $100 bills at people won’t help me to get the few remaining pieces. So it is now a waiting game, a test of patience. And that is when I began to delve into the other facets of Famicom collecting.
Next I would go for the NES exclusives that were brought to the Famicom via pirate companies. Then after I had grabbed as many of them as I could find, I ended up at a second standstill. I then decided to grab the Waixing Technology games. But that collection was soon finished as well, in terms of what could actually be found. That is when I decided to go for the gold, namely the licensed Famicom games.
For me, going after the licensed library of Famicom games is perhaps the most frustrating of all. For starters, I need to import the vast majority of that notorious 1051. Those games tend to have higher prices, and then I also have to worry about shipping charges, tariffs, and other tiny, annoying fees, which all seem to sting my wallet like swarming wasps. In addition, the goal just seems endless. I suppose I could divide it up by publisher or alphabet or something, but as it stands, even at having obtained around 660 carts this year for this collection, I am still barely halfway done with this set. Also, unlike the other sets (which it may be impossible to complete, if the final items never surface), the Japanese-made games all do surface, with some sort of regularity. So like a marathon runner, I just push forward, receiving box after box of imported games, slowly but surely creeping towards that big four-digit milestone, hoping, counting, saving, and waiting. 2015 will be the year of completion, I hope.
As for the sets outside of that 1051, I am not sure if my dream of completion will ever be realized or not. I have searched the globe far and wide, putting my multilingual skills to use, as I scour the web in search of those who are in possession of my holy grail. I barter, trade, inquire, and look, hoping that something will turn up, sometime. But alas, even if that set never gets finished, I am not very concerned, since I am not willing to lose sleep over that, which is not available. For me it is about the quest and the dream, not about the end result.
For those that are interested in watching me embark on this quest for a complete Famicom set, I will try to post my collection stats periodically, broken down by category. Of the 2100 games I had mentioned earlier in this article, I couldn’t care less if I ever obtain most of the disk-based software, as my experience with the FDS has just left a sour taste in my mouth. But of the other 1900 games, that is something I hope to complete. 2015 is a new year, so let’s see if I can reach my goal during that year. Also, if anyone else is trying to obtain a complete Famicom set (either the licensed set or one of the extended sets I mentioned above), please comment about it, and I can also post your stats here as well. Until next time.