By Brandon Daiker | 2:34pm, 11/8/11

Some people like to hunt through flea markets for old video games to play on their failing NES systems. Others make weekly trips to the Goodwill and rifle through boxes of Corningware and AC/DC cassette tape singles while praying for a copy of Sewer Shark for their Sega CD. I, however, a man of vast means and limitless unenthusiasm, prefer to let the tiny hands of the wage-earners do the work for me.

Yes, in an effort to recapture the fond childhood excitement of receiving things in the mail, I occasionally subject myself to the trembling anticipation brought on by Japan's one and only Super Potato Famicom grab bag. 1,580 yen and a meager shipping fee ensures a small, human-like monkey will haphazardly fill a box with ten randomly selected Famicom cartridges (no boxes, no manuals, no doubles, no guarantees except that they work), which will be painstakingly hauled across this nation's highways and delivered to my door by a subservient member of the Kuroneko delivery service, at which point I can extract every last bit of value from these useless hunks of polymer. Got a hankerin' for pictures of chemical meat? Wanna take a peek into the glorious history of the Japanese NES? Read on, sweet word sponges!

Developed and published by Namco.
Release: November 21, 1985
Original retail price: ¥4,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥180

Pac-Land is a virtually unknown Pac-Man sidescroller that came out in arcades first and was cruelly ported to the Famicom the next year. The gods of timing were not on the side of the primitive platforming game, ensuring that it debuted only two months after something called Super Mario Bros., which makes Pac-Land look like a toy for rats. Pac-Land forces you to deal with an anemic pac-crap control scheme where the A button moves you right, the B button moves you left, and any direction on the d-pad makes you jump.

After you charge on ahead for a while and grab a little Pac-Man icon, you turn into super-power power pellet Pac-Man, which is indicated by nothing happening to Pac-Man but all the bad guys turn blue. After you savagely consume them with your polished, fillet-knife teeth, you stop off at a church for "BREAK TIME," presumably to confess your brutal, inhuman sins, a line of blood glistening down your fat yellow head/body.

アイギーナの予言 バルバルークの伝説より
Aigiina no Yogen: Barubaruuku no Densetsu Yori
Developed and published by Vic Tokai.
Release: November 21, 1986
Original retail price: ¥5,300
Super Potato retail value: ¥180

This is a strange one. My crack Japanese skills have 100% accurately translated the name of this game as Aigiina's Prophecy: From the Legend of Balubalouk. Balubalouk is Japanese for "large bondage goods retail shop" and Aigiina is a part of human anatomy.

In this game your job is to punch the ground and make propellers come out, then you can jump on the propellers and shoot bullets at weird monsters that look kind of like Kraid from Metroid. Sometimes when you kill a guy he leaves a key for you to get some new item in the room, and sometimes a ladder appears and you can go down! Looking for adventure? Leave it to Vic Tokai, makers of all those games you remember!

Developed and published by Nintendo.
Release: July 15, 1983 | U.S. release: June, 1986
Original retail price: ¥4,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥480

Popeye has the rare distinction of being one of the first three games ever released for the Famicom, a launch title alongside Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. all the way back in July of 1983. That's right, new Famicom owners were able to enjoy a massive launch line-up composed entirely of ports of Nintendo's own arcade games. A month later they got Gomokunarabe and Mah-Jong, and then a port of the original Mario Bros. in September. Things didn't really get much better until well over a year later, in the holiday of 1984, when the first games developed specifically for the Famicom started hitting. And you thought the 3DS launch was bad!

It's a good thing those launch titles had staying power—Popeye is still enjoyable and addictive in much the same way Donkey Kong is, if slightly more unconventional. The game has three levels, which involve you running Popeye around and collecting Olive Oyl's LOVE IN HEART FORM, fluttering down from above, then later building a bridge to rescue her by collecting letters that spell out "HELP," and finally catching magical music notes from the sky. The entire game is bizarre, but what is least surprising is obviously Nintendo's decision to make a game based off of Popeye, who must owe most of his beloved reputation in Japan to his politically correct propaganda cartoon, You're a Sap, Mr. Jap, in which we "find Popeye singlehandedly defeating the crew of a Japanese battleship in the Pacific Ocean" during World War II. Eat your spinach, Taro!

Hissatsu Doujou Yaburi
Developed and published by Sigma Enterprises.
Release: July 18, 1989
Original retail price: ¥6,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥480

Hissatsu Doujou Yaburi may have the most awesome name of any game ever made, because "hissatsu" means CERTAIN KILL. Actually, the game is not terrible, if you enjoy punching leaping old men with swastikas tattooed to their heads in the face until they die and you get their money, which I would do even if there was no game to allow this virtual experience.

The game puts you in charge of a dojo (that's "doujou") and before you start you can choose your martial art style and allocate some points to different aspects of your character all RPG-like. I named my hulking young lad "Marie." As you wander the countryside you will just like in reality encounter some other dojo ruffians every few steps and then you beat them into paste. I eventually got killed by a guy with a sword outside a bar, which is a shame cause I would easily have offered to buy him a drink if I had known he was gonna kill me instead.

Image Fight
Developed and published by Irem.
Release: March 16, 1990 | U.S. release: July, 1990
Original retail price: ¥6,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥180

They say that Image Fight is kind of a "spiritual counterpart" to the vastly more popular R-Type, which was released a year earlier in the arcade but (probably for the best, due to the tremendous graphics of the arcade version) never officially saw a release on the Famicom. Still, saying that any shooter that came after R-Type was inspired by R-Type is pretty much obvious—so many shooting games have cribbed from R-Type that the list of the ones which do not have similarities is probably far shorter. Supposedly, the designer of Sega Saturn shoot-'em-up miracle Radiant Silvergun says Image Fight was the main inspiration.

At any rate! This game is a vertically-scrolling shooter where you can enhance your ship by picking up "pods" and "forces" that you can then launch at the enemies. You can also adjust the speed of your ship! Good christ the music is bad. It's also really hard, no thanks to the R-Type system of not allowing you to respawn where you died and instead needing to start all the way back at the beginning of the section. Still it is actually a pretty decent game. Oh, and the cartridge says the copyright is 1989, but the game was released in 1990! CONSPIRACY

スーパーチャイニーズ2 ドラゴンキッド
Super Chinese 2: Dragon Kid (released in the U.S. as Little Ninja Brothers)
Developed by Micro Academy, published by Culture Brain.
Release: May 26, 1989 | U.S. release: December, 1990
Original retail price: ¥5,900
Super Potato retail value: ¥280

I'm still not sure how exactly the makers of this game settled on the title Super Chinese, which perhaps does not bear the same cultural strangeness as it does in English, akin to naming a game something like Maximum Russian or Ultra Bolivian. Tellingly, they mercilessly discarded the name for the U.S. version in favor of the not-any-better Little Ninja Brothers, even though I am pretty sure ninjas are not from China, where the game is based. "It's all that oriental stuff whatever"

The game itself is one part crappy RPG and one part crappy beater, which is the new term I am using to refer to beat-'em-up games. If you choose not to play the main game mode, you can participate in a sports meet, which uses the crappy beater engine to power a series of crappy track and field events in a way far inferior to Konami's own Hyper Olympic, which came out four years before Super Chinese. Anyway this game is a piece of crap and it is a miracle they even released it in America, where nobody even knows where China is.

Front Line
Developed and published by Taito.
Release: August 1, 1985
Original retail price: ¥4,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥480

Front Line, at least in its original arcade incarnation (predating the Famicom port by three years), had the distinction of being if not one of then The First game to feature a military theme. It also featured some clever controls, with a rotary dial pointing your idiot soldier and a button underneath it that allowed you to fire. Front Line is actually the fourth game Taito released for the Famicom, chronologically (after Space Invaders, Chack'n Pop, and Elevator Action), even though it is marked with that fancy "03" on the label. Elevator Action bears the "04" despite having been released a month before Front Line. CONSPIRACY

In this home version, the exciting controls of the arcade edition are right out! This port, by comparison, is god-awful slow, with the spritely movement of your arcade soldier being dishonorably discharged in favor of a clownish court jester flopping his rubbery legs around like Buddy Ebsen on quaaludes. You march your soldier ever north, shooting guys and eventually bombing a tank with a man inside it who flies out in agony, at which point the game restarts. Intelligently, this game allows us to ponder the solipsistic isolationism of war through the eyes of a Japanese programmer raised in a post-conflict nation, exploring the idea of divorcing oneself from the all-for-one nationalistic spirit of Yamato-damashii and instead choosing to kill hundreds of faceless soldiers alone. But what happens when you win? The world restarts and you do it all over again. Let's aim for the high score!

Developed and published by BPS.
Release: December 22, 1988
Original retail price: ¥4,900
Super Potato retail value: ¥380

This version of Tetris was developed and published by BPS, which you might also know as Bullet Proof Software, well before the whole Tetris-rights controversy erupted in the U.S. Unlike the version later released in America, this Famicom version is relatively rough in play and appearance, owing to the fact that it happens to be the first Tetris ever released for a home game console! According to expert wordsmith EarthwormJim55, as stated on popular website "YouTube," this version of Tetris is "really balls... the worst tetris game [he] has ever played." Indeed, perhaps because the "rules of Tetris" hadn't quite yet been figured out, pressing down on the d-pad rotates the piece while pressing the A button drops it instantly. That makes sense!

Fun fact: for a while after this game was released it was actually being sold in violation of copyright/trademark law. The rights to make a home console game were bought by then-BPS-president Henk Rogers from another company called Spectrum Holobyte, who had itself bought the rights from a guy named Robert Stein, who sold the rights to Spectrum Holobyte without even owning them at all. This whole situation came to a head when Henk flew to Moscow to get the handheld rights for the upcoming Game Boy system, did some fancy deal-making, and got the rights for the home console versions for real. That makes this Famicom version a quaint little piece of history, which I will study tonight instead of listening to anything that my girlfriend says to me.

Developed and published by Nintendo.
Release: December 7, 1983 | U.S. release: October, 1985
Original retail price: ¥4,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥280

Baseball's most distinguishing characteristic at the time of its release was that It Was Baseball, a feature that no other Famicom game could tout. Baseball features six authentic teams, C, D, G, S, T, and W! In all likelihood, these refer to the Carp, Dragons, Giants, Swallows, Tigers, and Whales, which were probably the most popular six of the twelve teams in Nippon Professional Baseball in 1983. Interestingly enough, the stateside release of this game, in a case of what must be one of the first displays of home console game localization in history, features teams that were changed to A, C, D, P, R, and Y, surely to better reflect some abstract ideas about which letters could represent what ball clubs.

The title screen features the same annoying jingle that Nintendo had a habit of including as their default title screen for every sports game they released all the way through 1986. The game itself pales in comparison to essentially every baseball game that would follow it, including the massively popular Moero Pro Yakyuu and Family Stadium titles that would eventually be released by Jaleco and Namco, though not for several more years. For a long time, Baseball was the only baseball around! It was also pretty popular if the game stores in Japan are any evidence—Baseball is one of the few original "small box" Nintendo titles you can always find with its original box and instructions on the very cheap. Still, I would rather watch real baseball on TV than play this Famicom baseball. lol jk

ドラゴンボール 神龍の謎
Dragonball: Shenron no Nazo (released in the U.S. as Dragon Power)
Developed and published by Bandai.
Release: November 27, 1986 | U.S. release: March, 1988
Original retail price: ¥4,500
Super Potato retail value: ¥180

Dragonball: Shenron no Nazo is perhaps most notorious for having been released in the U.S. as Dragon Power, well before the anime boom brought the actual Dragonball cartoon to the country. As a result, the bizarre edits instituted on the game were numerous enough to fill an entire article. Most notably, I guess, to people who know this Dragonball stuff, is that an old pervy character called Master Roshi—who is particularly fond of panties—finds himself instead surrounded by tiny, white triangle "sandwiches" in the localized version. "Boy, can't wait to get these sandwiches all up in my mouth, and chew on them and savor every sweet bite," he says. Not really. Also Goku, despite keeping his name, is edited to look something like a monkey. I cannot tell if it's racist or not.

The game itself is an unremarkable Bandai scroll-and-punch game, where you punch. During boss fights you can jump! When you get stabbed to death with a knife by the first boss, Goku sits like an asshole on the game over screen, laughing and cheering as "GAME OVER" appears at the top. He is a total jackass and will never collect all of the Dragonballs. I have two copies of this game now and it makes me hate it twice as much. Tomorrow I think I'll throw one off of my balcony.

Famicom grab bag cost: 1,580 yen
Total Super Potato value of cartridges: 3,100 yen
Net cartridge-form profit acquired: 1,520 yen
Current number of original Baseball carts owned: 3