Down a narrow walkway filled with neon lights and maid cafe waitresses, in the streets of Akihabara, Tokyo, lies a small stairway that leads into the glorious past of retro gaming. Super Potato is renowned throughout the retro gaming community, with stores in Osaka, Kansai and Tokyo, with the latter serving as the flagship store. I couldn’t visit Akihabara without paying a visit to this illustrious store that holds some of the world’s greatest video games.
Video game artwork from past and present adorned the walls and stairway upon entering the first floor of the store. It was like stepping into a museum, each item inside enriched in history. Across three floors a treasure trove of hidden gems from the 80s and 90s onwards, comparable to the gaming equivalent of Aladdin’s Cave.
Losing myself in aisles of Super Potato – “The Aladdin’s Cave of Retro Gaming”
There were games I’d never seen before, rare titles – some still sealed in pristine condition. Famicon cartridges decorated the walls like an artist’s canvas bursting with colours, entwined with one another but holding consistency, similar to a Jackson Pollock painting. Every corner of the room just oozed with memories from my childhood, remembering back to when these retro characters and games were once more popular than the giants of today. Each one instantly triggering that nostalgic feeling.
There were rows and rows of wondefully coloured Famicon boxes along with single cartridges, each one meticulously ordered throughout the store.
The Japanese versions of each game, in terms of packaging, seemed to be of a different calibre of what we are used to in the west. I’d never noticed that Japanese Gamecube games came in individual sleeves that featured full artwork, some with extra detailing such as textured raised spot glass accent to specific areas of the sleeve. Super Potato also sells pre-loved games and it just shows how much the locals value their possessions. The used games were in such pristine condition they could have been mistaken as brand new.
The sleeve design and box artwork from the Japanese Gamecube games was a lot more appealling than those in the west.
Not only does this condensed retreat offer games from the past, it also has a small selection of more recent releases, although they aren’t the stores main focus. Every side of the room features some form of popular gaming protagonist. There’s merchandise, gaming peripherals, home consoles and more, all of which are purchasable unless otherwise stated.
The highest floor of Super Potato is abundant with Arcade Machines that give prominence to the golden era of gaming. On approaching the top level of the store you are instantly hit by that vintage, retro beat from gaming’s past, like a waterfall of sound hitting your ears from the open doorway. Local folk can be seen spending their evenings in a pixelated universe, escaping the day to day mundane before heading back off into their daily lives. Luckily we managed to visit during a weekday so avoided the boat load of attendees we were told visited after working hours.
We managed to visit the arcade mid afternoon on a weekday, avoiding the truck load of people who visted after working hours.
The pure excitement etched on people’s faces as they first stepped inside was shared among others as an instant reflection of those from the past. The first time we acquired the master sword in The Legend of Zelda, Defeated Bowser in Super Mario or stepped away victorious from the elite four in Pokemon. The Christmas days of way back when that saw us tearing open the newest home console, now housed on the walls similar to a video game museum. It’s the facial expressions in these memories and moments that was plastered on the faces of those arriving for the first time, the memories not only seemed to flood back to me upon entering but many others too.
Although my girlfriend isn’t the biggest fan of gaming she certainly developed an appriciation for the place, especially after meeting the giant Super Mario at the entrance of Super Potato.
I for one had become extremely jaded with how important this era of gaming was, however, for many years I’d took it for granted. This gaming pilgrimage to Akihabara made me realise that this foundation of classics, that was built up so long ago, was the building block that allowed gaming to thrive today, becoming a behemoth of the entertainment industry, and for that, I am truly thankful.