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Well, readers, you're in luck -- I got power back post-hurricane just a few hours ago, so I can submit a column safely and soundly after all! Sadly, I don't have much to write about at the moment, chiefly because I'm busy cleaning up my pad and trying to get the week-old mildew smell out of my putrefied, possibly self-aware bedroom carpet.

Without the wherewithal for a magazine update, I thought I'd instead profile a somewhat related Japanese book -- the fall 2000 edition of Kougien, a Japanese catalog of console games and cheats/passwords/info on unlockables (referred to collectively as urawaza in Japanese).

These volumes, released twice a year, are published by Mainichi Communications, which at one point had five or six regular game mags in Japan but nowadays has whittled them down to only one, Nintendo Dream.

The name "Kougien" is a pun on Koujien, one of the definitive dictionaries of the Japanese language (the equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary), with the character for "word" replaced with the one for "skill" or "technique" -- i.e., secret cheats.

Kougien is sold mainly as a collection of cheats in Japan, but at one point it was also a complete listing of every console game ever released in the country from 1982 forward, complete with release date, publisher, a short description, and cheats.

This fall 2000 edition, a book roughly the size of the Houston white pages that weighs in at a head-spinning 1540 pages, was the last one to have a full entry for every game ever; later editions include only those consoles that're still actively sold in the Japanese marketplace and are quite a bit smaller in size. A total of 9982 games and 15,100 cheats are listed in this book.

If you know Japanese and collect old games, this edition of Kougien is practically a must-have, an instant reference on nearly every system that Japan saw in the 20th century. (The Sega Mark III/Master System is the only major omission, a somewhat odd one considering that Kougien includes listings for systems as obscure as the 3DO, Virtual Boy, PC-FX and Neo-Geo CD.)

Even today, when all the info in Kougien can be found on the net if you look hard enough, I still refer to this volume at least once a week, part of the reason it's in such "well-loved" shape.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]