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Ys. Secret of Mana. The Legend of Zelda. All games that are part of (or hew closely to) the venerable action RPG genre – a genre so intertwined with the history of video games themselves that it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most exhaustively documented. Who would’ve thought, then, that the knowledge of the true progenitor of this genre would lie forgotten in a stuffy basement in Akihabara, Tokyo?

I was really only at Beep in search of some books. When people talk about the retro game stores of Akihabara, they might mention the many console game stores that line the main street, and they may name-drop Super Potato, but… those in the know go to Beep. Hidden in a basement down a secluded set of single-file stairs, Beep is the most esteemed (and sadly, nearly the only) Tokyo shop that deals in Japanese vintage PCs and their games – an oasis of heritage that’s left the public consciousness; a last bastion of a culture that once reigned. Second-hand hardware, DIY mod kits, pristine games in oversized cases, the most eclectic reading material… It’s all there, proudly on display in a Garden of Eden of technology. I was there because I’d reached the limit of what English sources can teach me about Japanese vintage PCs (e.g. the PC-88, PC-98, MSX, X68000, FM Towns… home-grown Japanese machines and games unknown in the West due to the language barrier). I asked the man putting price tags on a stack of floppies if he knew of any books that could give me an overview of old beloved, popular, or influential PC games. He replied that he wasn’t too familiar, but that in about half an hour, a “real PC-88 pro” would be back from his break, and that I should ask him. I took his advice and ogled the selection for a while. …

Samuel Messner

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