Spend any time reading our Genesis Around the World articles, and it becomes quite easy to feel envy towards those who live close to a retro game store. The advantage of having tons of classic games within easy reach is one that all retro gamers long for, but not everyone has such luck. I know that for the better part of twenty years, I’ve been forced to buy via mail order or on the Internet. I still remember the pain of having to pay $60 for a shipped copy of Fantasia from Chips ‘n Bits back in the day.
Imagine my surprise then, when I received a message on the Digital Press boards from Jerry, the proud owner of Neo Japan Games in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. It turns out that there has been a classic gaming store on the island for the past decade! How it escaped my notice is anyone’s guess, but there’s no such thing as “too late” when it comes to tracking down your favorite games. Jerry and I got to talking, and after tallying the immense trade-in list I sent him, we made arrangements for a trip out to his store.
How They Stack Up
Locations: Neo Japan currently has two locations, one in downtown Bayamón (open 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturdays, and closed on Sunday) and another in the southeastern city of Caguas (open 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday). Since the former was closer, I quickly made arrangements with three friends and organized a game nerd road trip. There was a lot of excitement in the air as we made the more than two hour trip out to Neo Japan, and it was quite a thrill to walk into the store for the first time and be greeted by walls full Saturn, NES, Game Gear, and SNES games.
I made out great that day, picking up a pre-TMSS “HD Graphics” model one Genesis and around a dozen games. Jerry and his employees were very helpful and friendly. While I was there, I learned a bit about what Neo Japan does and how it operates. The store sells all types of retro games, from the Atari 2600 to the Xbox, and there is an immense selection of titles from which to choose.
While the stock of classic gaming goodness is ample, Neo Japan’s stock-in-trade is its console repair service. The Bayamón store offers quick and reliable repairs for all types of machines (trades are not currently accepted at the Caguas location), and customers can either call directly or inquire about a repair through the website or Facebook page. Neo Japan sells and repairs all modern consoles and handhelds. Nintendo DS hinge busted? They’ll fix it. Playstation 3 giving you the Yellow Light of Death? They’ll patch it right up.
Modern gaming machines aren’t the only ones they’ll fix, either. Given that Jerry and his staff are real enthusiasts, they have an intimate knowledge of what makes gaming hardware tick, and this is especially valuable when dealing with a classic console. Older ones get special treatment, and that machine you thought was unrepairable and tossed in your closet probably has a chance to shine again. Master System, Genesis, Sega CD, NES and SNES are among the many machines that can be fixed to keep you in the game. Neo Japan will fix everything from a loose AC adapter connection on a model 1 Genesis to the vertical line problem on the original fat Game Boy.
Prices: Games run at around market value or lower. All items are clearly marked with their prices, which means that a glance is all that’s needed to determine if a purchase is warranted. Nothing that I saw was overpriced, and Jerry is open to negotiation if the deal is good. Moreover, Neo Japan runs specials every so often, which promotes a new product, such as the RetroDuo, or offers great sales on classic games. “Buy two, get one half off” deals are common, and they make the difference for gamers making large purchases. The store also recently reduced prices on 90% of its inventory.
Trade: Trading in items is easy. Through either email or a simple phone call, customers can detail all they have to trade in. Neo Japan will then contact the customer with a high and a low estimate for both cash and store credit, depending on the condition of the items. Credit must be used entirely in-store, but with the amount of goodies on hand, this shouldn’t be a problem. I had little trouble finding enough stuff to buy, and I actually have a list of things I couldn’t take home that day (perfect justification for another trip). Systems like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are taken above what stores like GameStop offer, and if the trade-in amount is used in-store, Neo Japan will add up to another 15% on top of the total value.
Moreover, all hardware sold is cleaned and tested by Jerry himself. Unlike major game store chains, which take games in trade-in that look like they were used by a DJ and then sell them for ridiculous prices, Neo Japan doesn’t accept anything without testing it first. Yes, this may cause trade-ins to take a while longer, but it not only guarantees that all transactions are honest, it also means that everything in the store works. No surprises when you get home! For the more skeptical buyer, Jerry has lots of hardware on hand to test any game in the store before a purchase is made.
Condition: Since all items sold at Neo Japan have been tested, you can be sure you’ll never walk away with a game that doesn’t work. Loose games cost less and are more plentiful, but there are plenty of complete titles from which to choose. NeoJapan is constantly on the look out for loose boxes and manuals to complete titles it has for sale, and orphans are eagerly accepted. Those games that are more rare and are in pristine condition are kept behind glass, and while they may cost a bit more, the reason why is evident. I walked out of the store with mint copies of Crusader of Centy and The Punisher for considerably less than what either would have cost me on eBay.
Return Policy: Though tested before placed on sale, all games and consoles come with a fifteen day guarantee and can be tested again in-store if the customer so desires. Nintendo DS and Sony PSP models have a thirty-day policy. Neo Japan does not currently sell Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii consoles.
Tips: I recommend calling the store and inquiring about a specific title before making the trip. Neo Japan will hold a game for you if you pick it up the same day, and you can also order through the mail (U.S. and P.R. only). It’s also best to call or email about trade-in values so you know just how much you’ll get for your stuff.
Worth the Trip?
In a word: absolutely. Not only is Neo Japan the only retro store on the entire island, it’s a darn good one at that. Plentiful inventory, fair prices, and friendly service are about all one can ask for from a store, and Neo Japan offers them all. Its proximity to the metro area means that anyone visiting Puerto Rico is less than forty minutes or so from the Bayamón location. My friends and I managed to easily find it with a smart phone GPS, and we were coming from the extreme opposite side of the island.
The best part of Neo Japan is that the owner and staff are all gamers. They know and love the consoles of old as much as we do, and they can still throw down in Halo: Reach and find all the treasures in Uncharted. This is the kind of store every gamer wishes was in the neighborhood, and anyone taking a trip to Puerto Rico definitely needs to take a day and head over.