Kawaii Newsletter - DEKARINGO KAWAIIS ~“Shin Nihon Keikaku” miniature gaiden~
This is my test run for the Kawaiikochan Japan project, an early and rough version of what I want to turn out, made to support the crowdfund. I hit Chinatown Fair and Video Games New York with a friend last Friday, and since then I've been working nonstop (okay, I stepped out Tuesday and Wednesday to see NJPW) on these pages. To get a 10-page piece out within the week was not a small feat, and by no means will I be working at this pace for the final project.
A lot of the info you're going to read is the kind of stuff that will make it into the final product, but I want to balance that against KKC antics and fun. The layout will probably change significantly between this and the final, as I want it to be info-dense as well as illustrated.
I was a regular at the old Chinatown Fair from about 2000 until it closed, which is why I'm hard on the new incarnation. At my first office job I would spend my lunch hour in CF learning Third Strike and KOF98 from locals.
There are two distinct incarnations of CF: the one I mentioned before, which was a fighting game hub for the East Coast, and the current incarnation, which we visit in the comic. When it opened, new-CF was really bad; no games but ticket redemption.
New-CF wanted the “gamers” out (the people who hung out around DDR had a particularly bad, and deserved, reputation) and the tourists in. Problem was, tourists don't make it to this part of Chinatown, a few too many blocks away from Canal St.
So as the years have gone on at CF, the place has slowly built up a video game lineup and cut down on the redemption stuff. They started with music games, which is why you see IIDX and Pop'n, extremely rare finds anywhere outside of Asia. If I wasn’t near one of the ten places in the country that have these games, I could easily have included them in the Japan project (and I probably will, in the relevant section).
They recently started to branch out into fighters, but as the review of the Virtua Fighter cabinet illustrates, the setups are really bad. The VF one implies a basic lack of understanding, and perhaps concern, at any level. Everything is wrong with it, from the game version to the parts to even the button assignments.
“The Virtua” is a catch-all term that was used in early KKC comics to talk about Virtua Fighter, but it also applies to the entire Virtua line.
As the comics make clear, the new CF has a lot of music games and a lot of other games in varying degrees of disrepair. This was not a one-day thing, or I wouldn't have gone in so hard on it: the Initial D and Wangan Midnight have been like that (including the missing buttons on ID) since the place re-opened. I suspect that most of these machines aren’t maintained at all.
I find that unless they're big Bemani players, most people want to leave after about a half-hour in here. My visiting friend got his fill pretty quickly.
The reason the IIDX and Pop’n machines are earlier versions is that players outside of Japan, abandoned by Konami nearly ten years ago, resorted to illegal hacks to get online connectivity out of the increasingly online-dependent Bemani games. Western arcades got away with using a hacked private server for a while, but when places in Japan started to use the illegal server too-- and when places like Chinatown Fair were illegitimately running the brand-new IIDX game just days after its release-- Konami had the whole thing taken down.
Western Bemani players will have to make do until Konami rolls out a legitimate system, which will probably cost more to use than any Western arcade could ever possibly make off of Bemani, just sayin’.
The racing games don’t give cards because the cards for those game versions are no longer produced. They’re all set to expire and need replacement after X number of plays, too, so we’re talking about a pool of cards that must dry out one day. Game preservationists take note: the different versions of save-card-driven games like these are basically lost to time without the cards. At best, they are one-game demos where you can pick any track and any car you want. I know it sounds a little silly, considering I am the dude who makes Kawaiikochans, but it is exactly because these games disappear without a trace that I want to go document them.
VGNY is a really fun place to look around at, and when I was assembling my arcade sticks on the cheap (from old, clearanced Mad Catz bases) I frequently perused their arcade part selection. I’m not a retro collector but I’m constantly considering it... until I see the prices and fall back to reality. I have a PCE Duo, and I can tell you that there are only so many times you can pay $30 for a 20-year-old videogame. Until I have the means to put together a nice setup, I’ll be happy grabbing random FC and SFC carts off the shelves at Book-Off.
The Marty here used to have a sign proudly proclaiming that the system had no copy protection, so you could burn all the games you wanted for it! This is technically the case for all the 90s CD consoles that they sell in the store, from the PCE to the Sega CD, to (I think?) the 3DO, even. Since the store doesn't stock FM Towns games (the customer for them really doesn't exist), I guess that's why they bothered to put up the notice. It's gone now; maybe they realized what they were implying about the other CD consoles...
So why don't they have copy protection? Easy: in this era CD burning was not a consumer-priced technology. Nobody had to worry about friends burning each other copies of Night Trap. Is that how I played Snatcher in 2002? Well...
Anyway, that didn’t help them move it, it’s been there for years. If you wanted to pay up for a boxed Marty, you probably wouldn’t want that faded box. It would be extremely hard to get your hands on FM Towns software in the West, and not particularly worth it, as it’s all early-90s arcade ports and DOS ports anyway.
That’s my signed DS towards the end there. I got it the same way VGNY probably did: I camped out all night when Miyamoto came to the Nintendo store almost a decade ago. I actually was in the first ten and got to play Nintendogs with him (really, it was his interpreter.). Still got his save data on there. I considered Ebaying it, and several other priceless videogame rarities (anime convention shirt designed by Zun, another shirt signed by the creator of Pac-Man, who doesn't appear in public!), to help pay for the Japan project, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so.