Inside Super Potato, Part 3: Through the retro looking glass
Wandering around inside Super Potato is somewhat akin to wandering through a museum dedicated to video games, just with price tags on everything. Rare games are prominently displayed throughout the store’s multiple levels, and technology that most have forgotten (Remember Nintendo’sVirtual Boy? Super Potato had several for sale), can be purchased at a discount – albeit a very small discount. But that is only a small part of the store’s appeal.
I’m not an expert on retro gaming, but there is an undeniable draw to them. My knowledge of retro games comes from the memories of a time and place in which I grew up.
We never knew it at the time, but in retrospect being a kid in the 80s had us positioned as patient zero for a phenomenon. Sure, we lived under the constant shadow of the Cold War and Satanic Panic, but when plastic cartridges from Japan came into our lives, we started living inside of fantasy worlds crafted by people who took the events of that time and made them into something hyper-magical. We explored new worlds, battled super bosses, and treasured the thrill of the next level up.
The rise of Nintendo and its competitors came at exactly the right moment. It was a new idea using new marketing tools to reach a new audience. Everything felt fresh and original. It was optimistic and engaging, innocent and endless. It was a new world-within-a-world for kids of that age group, and it was unpolluted by the cynicism of age.
If you’re on the bad side of 30 like me, then you may also have fond memories of the arcade revolution of the early 80s and sitting in your living room stomping Goombas under Mario’s boots. You probably played Contra and still remember the secret password that in a time of no internet still spread like wildfire through word of mouth. You probably spent time devouring issues of Nintendo Power and can still hear the iconic “Sega” scream that ended its ads.
These old games stacked high in the crowded bins of a retro gaming store with a strange name aren’t just treasured because they are games. Try playing them now and I’m willing to bet some of them aren’t half as fun as you remember. The memories created during that time in your life are what these games can conjure up, as powerfully as anything. Imagine those memories being neatly catalogued and laid before you in a nonchalant manner as if they had always been there, waiting to be discovered in a corner of Tokyo you never knew you would be lucky enough to visit.
Should you ever find yourself in Super Potato in Akihabara – or in their home branch in Osaka – you might wander through the rows and not be as swept up in the memories as I was. That’s perfectly fine. I’ve always been a sentimental bastard.
I found this place by mistake. I came to Akihabara because, well, it was Akihabara. I needed to be there even though I really didn’t know what I wanted from it. I didn’t know I would take a walk down my very own digital memory lane while imagining what other people’s memories of that time were like.
I walked back out onto the sterile streets. Akihabara had woken up. I took a train back to my temporary home base in Shibuya, scrolling through photos I had taken from my Super Potato Time Warp. There would be other things to see and do in the mega metropolis, but the unassuming video game store I just left behind would stand as tall as anything else in the city.
Inside Super Potato Part 1: Down Tokyo’s deepest rabbit hole
Inside Super Potato Part 2: Old consoles never die, they become collectibles