In the latest of our long-running Ninterview series we speak to a UK-based video game collector with the kind of haul you can't help be insanely jealous of. Lifelong Zelda fan Justin Hickman - known on Twitter as "Jutman / thec0llect0r82" - was kind enough to sit down with us for a chat about games, retro collecting and teaching his offspring about the classics.
Nintendo Life: What was your first gaming experience?
Justin Hickman: My first vivid gaming experience(s) were a mix of playing both the NES and Commodore 64, specifically Super Mario / Duck Hunt and Midnight Resistance respectively. I had them both roughly at the same time. I was blown away equally by both but much prefered the NES controller over the C64 joystick, so while my interest in both started equal, as the years went on I leaned much more towards the NES.
When did you start collecting video games?
I've always loved playing games and this has never changed. Much of my collection is from when it was bought new, however in my teens when I wanted new games I had to trade and sell as it was the only way I could do it - pocket money only stretches so far! But the passion remained and the love for certain games and genres stayed with me until a time where I had enough disposable income to get them all back (a collector's cliche, I'm sure). So in summary, I was a collector initially by proxy as bought everything to play and not to put on shelf but later on I actively sourced those games again. I have always put myself in the "gamer" camp, not the "collector" camp, though as I get older and free time becomes more finite I find myself going the other way, justifying it as my way of preserving just a little bit of the history to my all time favourite medium.
What item in your collection would you say means the most you personally?
Hands down my Super Nintendo, To me this was the golden age of gaming which has never been beaten. I still play so many SNES games now and a large chunk have stood the test of time - Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger - I could go on but I'm sure you get my point! Some of the best games ever made (in my humble opinion) live on this platform. To hit it home, I could live without most of my collection if I had too, the SNES however would have to stay! It means more to me than any other console, past or present.
What item in your collection is worth the most from a purely financial standpoint?
Hard to say really, If you're talking about software I have quite a few CIB JRPGs on the SNES which now demand a downright silly high premium, so maybe Terranigma? If you mean hardware, I have an upright arcade machine that I'm sure also is quite expensive!
Which item has taken the most time and effort to acquire?
Probably Terranigma, The game passed me by at the time and even though I played Illusion of Time (Gaia in US) I was unaware of the "Quintet trilogy" - this wasn't helped by Soul Blazer's illogical EU release so I missed out on buying it new in 1996 (also not helped by being so late in the SNES life cycle). I refuse to pay silly money for games and as such the high hitters take time to get without paying a premium, luckily I have owned many from new but with Terranigma I just couldn't justify the £250-£350+ pricing so waited it out and found one for normal(ish) money in the end. Made it all the more sweeter!
Do you have any complete series collections?
Yes, I have two, They are The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Two of the finest video game franchises of all time (in my humble opinion).
How much of your collection is related to Nintendo, do you think? Would you say you have a soft spot for the company and its games?
I would say close to 60 percent of my total collection is Nintendo (maybe more), they are and always have been my favourite video game company. I get more excited over a Nintendo first party IP release than most other gaming franchises, There is just something special about Nintendo that in my case is boosted no end by nostalgia. To reflect on gaming today, Sony and Microsoft may now have the numbers, but Nintendo still has the soul.
You've got a young family - are the kids allowed near your collection and have you started to educate them in the classics?
I'm lucky to have a room dedicated to my collection (it's needed!) so its rare they really come in. I do try and educate them on the history of video games - and indeed "the classics" - but they are more interested in Minecraft! Having said that, when they have friends over they do like to show the games room off! They appreciate it but it sadly does not hold their interest, which is totally fine.
What advice would you give to someone who was interested in starting their own retro game collection?
Grow slow and steady, don't collect for the sake of collecting. Make some rules and stick to them - condition, format, franchise, complete or loose, etc - or you will get overwhelmed very very quickly. Never get into debt for a game or pay over the odds. You see so many people get into collecting, grow too quick, land themselves in lots of debt and sell it all off again normally at a loss. Lastly, do not collect video games as a financial investment. If this is your only objective there are much better ways of making money - plus you over-inflate the prices and genuine collectors suffer.
Do you play modern systems as well? What's your opinion on the Wii U and 3DS?
I do! I'm lucky to own pretty much all consoles released since the NES.
The 3DS is an outstanding piece of kit though I care little for the 3D. It has a remarkable library of exclusive games (some excellent JRPGs) that is further strengthened by the fact that it can also play all DS games. It's an absolute must-own handheld console that I would not be without. I fear that the phone market may kill off another Nintendo handheld, especially as they have now been forced to embrace mobile gaming (which I have zero interest in).
The Wii U has some of the best games of this generation, such as Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2 and of course the two HD Zelda remasters. I'm not a big fan of the GamePad controller but I do utilise it (currently playing Earthbound while the wife watches TV!) and the streaming technology is mind-blowing. It's a shame the system has somewhat failed and failed with an ironic twist - a lack of third party support. When was the last time you brought a Nintendo console for third party games?
Do you have a message for the readers of Nintendo Life?
Be it video games or otherwise, do more of what makes you happy!
Ninterviews are a series of interviews where we get to know interesting people with a passion for Nintendo. Please contact us if you have any suggestions for future Ninterviews. Click here to see the full series.