Written by Mel Portolesi
I recently had the pleasure of spending 5 incredible days in Hong Kong. I’m not sure what makes this place so amazing, but when something compels me to keep on walking and exploring no matter how tired and aching my feet are, I know I’m on to a good thing. Hong Kong is modern yet retains traditional elements. The city is vibrant and fast-paced. To put it simply…it has life!
First stop on the retro-gaming trail was the Golden Computer Centre in Sham Shui Po. The best way to get there is to take the MTR Tsuen Wan line to Sham Shui Po station. Exit D will have you standing right out the front. This is a good indication that you’re in the right place.
The Golden Computer Centre mainly caters for current-gen technology…PC’s, laptops, accessories, current-gen consoles and games etc. So in terms of retro-gaming you really have to hunt through hundreds of stores behind you find what you’re after…and this place seriously gets packed! Somewhere in the basement I came across one store with an interesting display unit housing a Nintendo Famicom console converted into a moneybox, and Famicom consoles in both RF and AV versions.
These items were all display only and not for sale. The two guys at the store were super friendly despite speaking minimal English. I explained to them what we at Retrospekt are about, whether they understood me or not was a different matter, but they suggested I check the upper floors and also put me onto a place called the Dragon Ball Centre.
Accessing the upper levels was the tricky part. I thought I had misunderstood the guys with regard to upper floors as I could not find an elevator, or escalator, let alone a staircase. It wasn’t until a subsequent visit back to the Golden Computer Centre that I was able to find a staircase accessible only from street level.
Amongst another hundred or so stores I stumbled across two catering for the retro-gaming market. The first of these was selling mainly Mega Drive titles for the Japanese version of the console.
The second store, New Tai Sang Electronic Engineering Co (NTSCCO), sold a plethora of goods. It can be found at Shop 50A – 50B of the Golden Computer Centre.
I want to use my experiences at this store to highlight some of the trials and tribulations you may experience when trying to purchase retrogaming goods abroad, particularly in non-English speaking countries.
My greatest piece of advice is to know your product! Japan dominates the world of retro-gaming and in Hong Kong it’s no different. Be aware that the majority of games you will find are made for the Japanese version of the consoles and aren’t going to be of any use back at home unless you own consoles from that region or have the necessary converter.
Most of the game titles were written in Japanese and games also go by their Japanese names. For example, Hammerin’ Harry is known as Daiku no Gen-san or 大工の源さん. Now the Chinese can’t read Japanese. If possible have a picture of the game’s artwork on your phone. I gave the owner all three variations of Hammerin’ Harry and he shook his head. But when I flashed a picture on my phone, taken from the internet, he quickly went and pulled out a copy. Unfortunately it was for the Famicom while I was after the Super Famicom version.
The owner of this store had also alluded to the fact that he had a Sega Mark III for sale. At that time I didn’t ask to see it but made a mental note. On relaying my information to the Retrospekt crew, Paul was keen on snapping it up so I headed back for a quote. I still didn’t ask to see it because hey, if the guy says he’s got a Sega Mark III for sale then he’s got one for sale, right? Paul was happy with the price so I cashed up, and was running high on adrenalin as I dodged the mobs of people in subway peak hour mayhem. I was already thinking about how to best rearrange my suitcase, so you can imagine my surprise when the guy pulls out something that looked like this…
The owner is adamant that it is a Sega Mark III. I tell him that it is in fact a Sega Master System 1. He doesn’t believe me. I then had the heart-wrenching task of informing Paul that his dreams of owning a Sega Mark III were shattered…well for now anyway. All was not lost though as he makes known that if it is the Japanese Sega Master System 1 then it too could take Mark III cartridges. Back at NTSCCO yet again, I’m sure the owner is sick of me by now. To prove his point he reluctantly removes a Mark III cartridge from it’s sealed box and attempts to insert it into the so-called “Mark III” console. You can imagine the look of confusion on his face when it doesn’t even make it through the outer perimeter of the cartridge slot. So turns out it was neither a Mark III or a Japanese version Master System 1.
In all fairness the owner did believe he was selling a Mark III so it wasn’t as though he was trying to be deceitful. Despite my difficulties I would recommend this store as it was centrally located, well stocked, and carried games for even obscure consoles such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. So I was at least able to pick up Panic Bomber for Paul.
Next stop on the retro-gaming trail was the Dragon Ball Centre. My first task was to figure how to get to this out of the way location. The cute guy at my hotel reception was kind enough to print off Google Maps pinning its exact location and providing me with train and bus information. So it was back on the Tsuen Wan line to Prince Edward Station. Next I had to catch the number 12A bus from Poplar St to Fuk Lo Tsun Rd.
Google Maps print-out in hand, I headed up Fuk Lo Tsun Rd to the intersection with Nga Tsin Wai Rd. Nothing. Nothing stood out as a potential seller of retro-games. “Dragon Ball Centre” was not flashing in neon lights. Using the advice given to me by my friend in China, I staked out the under 30’s because according to him, this generation have been exposed to English in highschool. The first girl I asked seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and pointed me in the direction of KCP…an acronym for Kowloon City Plaza.
Walking into this Westfield equivalent I knew it wasn’t the right place. Three quarters of an hour, several females (and being pointed back to the KCP) later, I decided to change my tactic and ask the male population but with the blank expressions on their faces I was almost set to give up. Then I pretended to play videogames with my hands and you could almost see the lightbulb go off over their heads. Turns out my Google Maps print-out wasn’t so accurate!
Now I don’t know who knows this place as the “Dragon Ball Centre” but I found what I was looking for inside a building called the “Pearl House”, at the intersection of Lion Rock Rd and Prince Edward Rd West. In the photo above you can see the red pole of the bus stop where I alighted. Ironically, THAT very doorway is where I needed to be! So anyway, ignore the old ladies selling grandma garments on the ground floor because the first floor is where it’s at!
I was greeted by another friendly guy who unfortunately also spoke minimal English but that didn’t stop him from wanting to give me his phone number! I was set to buy a really cute looking game but as the guy had moved it from its original location he had no idea what I was talking about. Pointing to the original location was useless. Describing it as a yellow box was also useless. I gave up!
So there you have it…my adventures on the retro-gaming trail of Hong Kong. Undoubtedly there are other locations to be explored. For any of those keen to follow in my footsteps, trading hours are highly variable and stores don’t tend to gear up until 1PM and some as late as 4PM. Typically a cartridge will set you back anywhere between 60 and 400 HKD and a console around the 1000 HKD mark. Good luck and happy retro-gaming! ^_^