Yongsan sits in the heart of Seoul and it is essentially the Akihabara of South Korea. The electronics market is lined with computer parts, digital cameras, and video games. Tons of video games, but we have to get there first and navigating Yongsan is kind of like walking through one of Etrian Odyssey’s labyrinths.
The journey begins walking through a tunnel that doubles as a tribute to vintage electronics. Plaques for various predecessors, the Commodore 64, and original iPod line the walls. Technology milestones are written on the ground.
Hey, there’s a Game Boy too! Hyundai partnered with Nintendo to release the Game Boy as the Hyundai Mini ComBoy. The VCR style NES was the original Comboy.
Outside of the tunnel we were greeted by a giant PlayStation Vita ad. Yeah, this is the right place! This is one of two underground malls in Yongsan that specialize in video games.
Ubisoft and Namco Bandai ads welcome shoppers. Namco Bandai has a strong distribution arm in South Korea and actually handle Square Enix’s releases like Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Sleeping Dogs.
Kiosks are filled with modern games, but games don’t have a fixed price. It’s up to each vendor to decide what they want to sell their games for and if your Korean skills are up to par you can bargain a little.
There are a few Korea-only console games like:
GloRace: Phantastic Carnival – it’s like Mario Kart for PSP, but all of the tracks are Rainbow Road
Vulcanus – a mecha game for PSP
Pump it Up – a port of the arcade for PSP dancing game sans dance pad
MapleStory DS – an offline action RPG take created by Nintendo & Nexon
Magic Hanja – a Hanja (Chinese character) teaching game from Skonec
SuperStar – one of the few Korean exclusives for Xbox 360, it’s a karaoke game
Axel Impact – a PS2 racing game
Come on Baby – a mini game collection for PS2 that’s kind of like Bishi Bashi
Another weird fact – Konami released Oz aka The Sword of Etheria in Europe as Chains of Power in Korea. North America for whatever reason was the only region that missed out on the action game which some of Suikoden’s staff worked on.
While some kiosks focus on the present, others specialize in the past.
Hard to find games like Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Super Mario RPG, Strider for Genesis, and boxed Dragon Quest games are available. That copy of Treasure Hunter G from Sting and Square Enix was under $20 and it included the instruction manual.
The same retailer had NeoGeo MVS (Multi Video System) arcade chipsets too.
Boxes of retro games including a graveyard of Sonic Classics carts. Hyundai used to distribute Sega’s games too and they’re all here in Yongsan! Why didn’t console games catch on? On top of buying additional hardware, the games were not localized into Korean which made them less accessible. Compare that to today when massive RPGs like Persona 4: Golden are translated into Korean and heavily promoted by Sony Computer Entertainment Korea.
Handheld systems like the Nintendo DS got a big boost from celebrities like Girls Generation who promoted the system.
Huh… those Gam Brothers look pretty familiar…
Yongsan also has pirate game Famicom carts – the weird kind with Halo on the cover and Mario photoshopped onto Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers.
Let’s take a closer look at those carts, shall we?
Hero Story, Hero Dunk, and Dodge? Count me in! Sonic 5 where Sonic plays Santa Claus? Awesome.
I really want to know what Fatal Fox is…
Yeah, that’s Pokémon: Silver and Pokémon: Gold for the Famicom. Neither cart worked so we weren’t able to find out what hacked games these are.
And of course, there is was one DJMax Portable 2 Orpheus package.