Conveniently for me, the set's release coincided with my trip to Japan. Picking up the set while I was there was one of my goals but it didn't look promising for a while. I saw stores selling team sets (usually for around 1000 yen each) but I didn't see anyone selling a complete set. I got a response of "we don't have it" whenever I asked about it. Finally about a week and a half after the set came out I was in the Mint Urawa store and asked the staff about it. They again told me they didn't have it but I could put it together from team sets. I said I didn't really want to spend 12000 yen for it - I was thinking more along the area of 7000 yen (which is what I spent on last year's edition of the set). They said that 7000 yen would be fine. There was a problem though - they didn't have team sets for the Fighters, Lions and Giants out for sale right then. They told me that they'd make them up for me while I waited - they figured it would take maybe 20 minutes. I agreed and did some more snooping around the store while they went to work sorting a stack of cards from the set. When they got done they realized that they were short about 10 cards so they gave me a list of what was missing and knocked 1000 yen off the price. I ended up with a near complete set for 6000 yen.
Singles for the set were not hard to come by so I was able to get the missing cards at the next store I went to (Mint Chiba) for roughly 1000 yen which meant the total price worked out the same. At least that's what I thought until I was going through the cards the next morning and realized I was still short one of the Giants cards. I was able to get the card at the next store I went to (Wrappers) but it meant I actually spent 7100 yen for the set. So a little more than I spent last year on the set itself but I didn't have to pay proxy fees and shipping on top of it.
Anyway on to the set - this is Epoch's answer to BBM's 1st Version set. Since 1st Version only has 324 player cards NPB has 33% more players in it. Like last year I was surprised to discover that 1st Version has players in it that NPB doesn't - 17 in all. 10 of these are Westerners - Brandon Mann, Josh Ravin, Kennys Vargas, Johnny Barbato, Justin Hancock, Tyler Eppler, Joey Meneses, Jabari Blash, Alan Busenitz and Ryan Cool. There are 125 players in NPB that aren't in 1st Version - I was somewhat surprised to realize certain players weren't in 1st Version. The big one was Munetaka Murakami of the Swallows - he's in the "Beginning" insert set but not in the base set. Some of the other players who show up in NPB but not 1st Version include Ikuhiro Kiyota, Steven Moya, Joely Rodriguez, Yuya Yanagi, Yurisbel Gracial, Livan Moinelo, Efren Navarro, Atsushi Nohmi, Makoto Aduwa, Yuki Saitoh, Kenshi Sugiya, Kensuke Tanaka, Chris Marrero, Fabio Castillo, Kyle Martin, Kona Takahashi, Manabu Mima, Louis Okoye, Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, Hayato Terahara, Edwin Escobar and Alex Guerrero.
Like the 1st Version set the NPB set has cards for all the non-ikusei draft picks from last fall.
I have my pretty much standard gripe about the photos - while there's a decent handful of fielding and base running photos, there's way too many of the "pitchers pitching, batters batting" poses. And there are sequences of photos in team sets that were obviously taken from the same position from the same game. Take a look at these four cards for the Dragons:
|Top row - #383, #386; Bottom row - #387, #389|
I think the photos were all taken this year although unlike last year there don't appear to be any Fighters photos taken in Arizona. Here's some sample cards - I tried to get some of the more interesting photos:
Here's what the back of the cards look like - like last year they only show the stat lines for the last three years a player has played in NPB - there's no KBO, CPBL or MLB stats listed:
|#164 (Kazuya Fukuura)|
All the cards (along with the inserts and parallels) can be seen over at Jambalaya.