Here's a shot of the actual Hollywood Video from my childhood town. Man, this picture brings back many memories. The mountains in the back. How TARGET was right across the street and just to the right of the Target sign was a classic mom and pop rental shop VIDEO MART. One time my mom was shopping at Target and I decided to sit on the little lawn right there by the Target sign, reading Goosebump book #26 "My Hairiest Adventure." Man... for some reason that sticks out in my mind. Good innocent times from a bygone era. It's really a shame kids these days only know of Redbox and NetFlix. I like those modern conveniences too, but damn if it'll ever match the pure joy and wonder of visiting the local rental store on a Saturday afternoon. If you were a kid growing up in the early-mid 1990s, it was a ritual and a way of life. It was how we experienced the bulk of our games since our parents didn't buy us more than 3 titles a year -- if that. There's something incredibly sacred about those old video stores and memories
Speaking of memories, below I'll share the stores and stories of my youth. Renting video games every Saturday afternoon was a big part of my childhood. It's something from a bygone era that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Kick your feet up, crack open a cold one, and join me for a sentimental stroll down memory lane. It's from a more innocent time in our lives. A golden time
My brother Kevin and I -- we rented a TON of games in our day. Actually, I rented them. Kev made me do his dirty work, as he was too lazy and shy to go rent games on his own accord. 90% of the time he had a specific game for me to get. If it was rented out, then I could choose. Sadly, for me at least, most of the time his choice title was there. If not the first store, the fifth
However, I secretly enjoyed doing the dirty work for him. I have very fond memories of renting. I loved all the little (and semi-lengthy) trips that my dad and I shared. Each Saturday afternoon we would make the trek together. He was a busy man, but he always awarded me and Kev with one game to rent each Saturday. Lookin' back, I think it was more than just simply renting video games but alas, I digress. At any rate I always looked forward to our weekend ritual, rain or shine
From roughly 1987 to 1995 (what I personally consider the best years of gaming, as well as the best 8-year span of my life, up to now), we must have rented 200 games between the Nintendo, Genesis and Super Nintendo. Years later, I rented some PS1 games for Kev, but it was few and far. The renting bug eventually faded as my bro entered high school and gradually lost interest in gaming. It wasn't much long before the renting bug died completely sometime circa 1998 or 1999
From the mom and pops to the big boys, here are memories and tales of my childhood favorites
"Curse them, those mom and pop killers!"
I didn't rent a TON from BBV, as I found the alternatives much better, but my dad and I occasionally stopped by. They were a bit on the expensive side, $4 or $5 to rent a Super Nintendo game, but the plus side was you could keep your rentals for up to 5 days
My best memory involving Blockbuster Video though is completely non-game related. It was my first job! A new one was being constructed just a 5-minute walk away from my house, a minute by car and 15 seconds by jet
I was a ripe 17 years old. It was October of 2000. I told my friends how we should all apply and work there, what a blast that would be. My friend Eddie (the same one fromJessie's Girl) got the job one night. The next night I headed over. The store was being worked on, but the manager was in. I asked for the job, he interviewed me on the spot and before I knew it, "See you next Friday"
It was a great experience. I worked there for about ten months before quitting in August of 2001 since I was starting college later that month... just mere weeks before... sadly... 9/11 happened
Ed stayed on board 'til November 2001. He often told me it just wasn't the same without me. It's funny, we had a competition with each other. We were able to get 5 free rentals a week, and we always HAD to max it out, even if we didn't have any time to watch the movies. Before I left, the computer displayed that I had used a whopping 172 free rentals! That's roughly $775 saved
I remember when Nikita and Judy joined the team. Oh man. I'll never forget those two. They were from our same high school and let's just say... they had a reputation, and as I would find out, for DAMN good reason! Judy was very friendly, especially. The first day we worked together, I was putting a DVD on the top shelf. As I was doing this, she squeezed in to put a DVD on the bottom shelf, and... and...
One of our friends was especially jealous of me and Eddie. He picked us up one Saturday evening after our shift ended. He saw Judy working and later cried in his car, "Why didn't I interview!"
They say you never forget your first time, er, job. I believe that
My first love... I can blame Evergreen Video and its owner, Tom, just a common man, working hard for the American dream, as the source that corrupted me. One day in the late 1980s my dad was driving me and my brother Kevin around. We spotted Evergreen Video by chance. It began the whole renting craze
I can still hear that little bell that rung each time you opened the door. It was a small store, with lots of family videos. Up front there was a wooden case full of NES goodness. The smell of the oak wood shelves permeates to this day. If there was ever a quintessential mom 'n pop rental store, Evergreen Video was it
Tom was a cool guy, and he became sort of like an uncle to me and Kev. He owned the store, and worked there every Saturday afternoon when we would visit. Back then, I even rented my fair share of games that I wanted. I basically picked the games with cool covers. I still remember some of my choice titles....
I was a sucker for them bright yellow covers, no doubt
And yes, I know I chose some duds... still, good times they were...
Tom was so good to us -- he even held games for me and Kev. My brother would call and ask for a game, and Tom would hold it for us up to 24 hours. I remember him telling us once, with a big smile, "Only for you guys"
One time we came in to pick up TMNT II: The Arcade Game. We met Tom's son that day, and he was playing the game on the small TV they had. I still recall vividly to this day feeling bad that he had to turn off the game so we could rent it... he was on level 4 battling the wolf boss... scary how I still remember that to this very day eh?
[Yes, VERY scary... -Ed.]
One time we rented Double Dragon III, but for some reason the cart was faulty. Tom gave us a no-frills exchange and we picked Battletoads
3 weeks later, he got a new copy and held it for us. That epitomized the kind of guy he was
When the Super Nintendo came to the US in late 1991, he bought some SNES games to keep up with the changing of the guard. I rented Ultraman: Towards The Future, and sadly, that was the last game I would ever rent from Evergreen Video...
At the turn of that new year, early 1992, Kev, me and our dad made our usual Saturday afternoon trek to Evergreen Video. Two reasons we always left the house around noon:
We couldn't miss our Saturday morning cartoons
The store didn't open til noon
[Good reason -Ed.]
Unfortunately, that trip proved to be our last
Tom told us he and the family were "moving on." And of course, with my being so young at the time...
I didn't understand the "magnitude" of those words until a short month or two later when my mom took me shopping. As we passed Evergreen Video, what was once a simple but lovely store, with so many good memories, I stole a glance inside. A part of me expected to still see the wooden shelves, and Tom's friendly mug situated behind the register counter. Instead, I saw an empty store, torn down in shambles, the floor littered with debris. I felt like cryin' It was one of those sad days where a bit of your innocence is lost
And then I would forever realize....
Things don't last forever, no matter how much you want them to....
The stuff dreams are made of. That describes the essence of Game Hunter in a nutshell. They exploded on the scene in 1992 and not before long, developed a cult-like following in my town. They catered to the diehard: NES, Genesis, Neo Geo, SNES, portables and every other system in-between
Game Hunter also had a couple arcade machines. It was here that my love for World Heroes began. The 1st character I used was Brocken, the M. Bison slash Dhalsim hybrid, and never looked back
On top of all this, they also carried anime. I will never forget when my old best friend, Nelson, rented "Devil Hunter." We watched it that evening in his room with our friends and Nelly's little brother, Johnny. I was amazed at the amount of nudity! We tried our best to kick out Johnny, at least Nelson and I did, but we were outmatched by the fierce curiosity of a seven year old. We tried shielding his innocent eyes with Nelson's pillows, but to no avail. It was sheer chaos as the other guys yelled and got all riled up at the nude scenes. Ah, to be 10 years old again...
However, the greatest thing about them were the import games they carried! It gave Game Hunter a truly special feeling of awe. Seeing a wall covered with exotic Super Famicom boxes NEVER failed to amaze my little 10 year old eyes
Can you say MAJOR GEEK-OUT OVERLOAD!?! I am not worthy!
As you may recall from my Power Moves review, the first import I ever played and rented, was this little Kaneko fighter Power Athlete. Over the years, I rented quite a few imports courtesy of the almighty Game Hunter, and it was always a treat to see the Japanese version of a highly anticipated SNES release on the shelf available for rent MONTHS before the US version was due. I'll never forget the time me and Nelson saw King of the Monsters 2, Muscle Bomber (better known as SAT Night Slam Masters) and Fighter's History sitting there on the top shelf. We about crapped our pants, as those were 3 arcade games we COULDN'T wait to play!
Game Hunter's import selection was probably what made them so "legendary." Recall that back then, import did not mean just another version of a game but rather carried a strong aura of mystique
Game Hunter ran into the mid-late '90s before folding. I also bought a Game Gear there in 1994. They too "saved" games by request, though, their service was questionable at times. Once I had them hold Fatal Fury for the Genesis. I rounded up my dad and when we got there, the guy said, "Sorry, I thought you meant the Super Nintendo version"
I'll never forget this, because my dad absolutely flipped out. Game Hunter was a good drive away, so my dad went to town on the poor dude. I think the term the kids use today is, "Pwnage"
All in all though, I'll always harbor very fond memories of Game Hunter. The buzz it had and created within my gaming group was unmatched, and truly a sign of the times. Times that have long passed on...
When this opened in 1994 literally a 5 minute walk away from my house, I practically ran to the entrance. A big sign on the window read:
FREE MEMBERSHIP! COME IN AND GET ONE! GRAND OPENING!
Like a miner rushing for gold, I made a beeline for the door. The SNES selection was sick! I saw Double Dragon V andFighter's History. I grabbed the former and bolted to the front of the line
I had $5, and Hollywood Video used the same type of renting procedure as did Blockbuster: 5 days roughly $5
The lady looked at this 10 year old with her eyebrow raised. "Um, does someone in your family have a membership?"
I replied innocently, "Naw, but your sign says I can get one for free"
"You would need a driver's license and credit card for that, though"
Oh man, I felt like such a damn fool! :p
So many fond memories of just all those late school nights strolling up and down the horror section and 16-bit titles while my dad bought groceries across the street. Of special note was how humongous this place was. At 8,500 square feet, it was the damn biggest rental store ever
Hollywood Video would, many years later, get a Game Crazy hub. The Hollywood Video that I used to frequent in the mid 1990s STILL stands. Just last year, I stopped by and picked up a load of Super Nintendo games (see Resurrection for more)
In fact, of this list, this is the ONLYoriginal store to pass Darwin's theory
2010 update: Damn, another one bites the dust. It was inevitable
Opening in 1993 or thereabouts, they had a mom 'n pop-ish feel, but with the size to match any Blockbuster or Hollywood Video! I really loved the aesthetic this store had. It was also near my cousins' house. Their neon green sign lit up the night sky, and if you came off the freeway it was the 1st thing you saw, dazzling you with its flash and glitz
I rented Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers from UV. I was a HUGE Halloween fan then, still am today, and part 4 gave me the chills
Many many years later, my ex bought me the tin set collector's edition of H4. I would later trade it for Streets of Rage 1 and 2, Super Mario Kart and Turtles IV
The movie's value on eBay was around $20-$25... only 40,000 copies were ever produced
Ultimate Video called it quits in the late '90s. As the song goes,video killed the radio star.....
This was a mom 'n pop as well, but was much larger than the average mom 'n pop. It had a huge selection of movies, and a small, but memorable game section
To this day, I remember the funky Sega Master System boxes, like this one
US Video was right next to the library, so it was quite convenient...
Heh, I remember renting this silly fighter from US Video. I liked it back then, but recently played it in 2006. Ouch. It is pretty bad, but as a kid, I liked it
C'MON, you know you liked this game too when you were a kid!
[Clean out your desk, NOW -Ed.]
What I really loved about US Video was the Neo Geo MVS machine they had tucked away in one corner of their store. On the other side of the store they had a Street Fighter IIcab. I was always on the other side, enjoying a lovely round or two of World Heroes. Although I discovered WH at Game Hunter, it was US Video where I poured in countless quarters. I also have sweet memories of playing the co-op mode in Fatal Fury with my bro
I remember the times my mom would go grocery shopping, and luckily enough for me, US Video was just across the grocery store. As my mom bought apples, oranges and pears, I snapped bones and set human bodies on fire
One evening, there was a tough-shot 20 something year old playing World Heroes. He was using Janne. I challenged him with Hanzo. The young girl employee was standing behind the counter, watching with great interest as this little nine year old kid challenged this 20 something guy. He was extremely cocky! Two rounds later, I left him in a bloody and twisted heap, as he walked away with one massively bruised ego. I looked over my shoulder and the girl had the fattest smile on her face. I still recall it ^_^
And when I wasn't playing World Heroes or checking out the back of game boxes, I wandered around the many TALL oakwood shelves of videos. Their horror section sticks out in memory, with the cover of Child's Play 2 leaving a lasting impression
[Gee, I can't imagine why -Ed.]
US Video shut down in the early-mid '90s
Perhaps the smallest video store I have ever seen. Like Evergreen, it was a family-owned gig, lots of wooden shelves and they would hold games and movies for you. Throughout the early mid 90s they held countless WWF new releases for me, SummerSlam '92, Survivor Series '93 and so on. Sometimes the waiting list was quite lengthy. People knew they saved videos and looking back, it was quite a unique system. They made house calls when your movie came in. I still remember the owner calling me one night, "Steve, Leprechaun 2 is back, waiting for you"
Their small SNES section was not impressive, but it was cheap to rent and the store was very close to home
I picked this film for rent when I was 6 years old. I thought the cover was ace, plus I loved trick or treating. My uncle obliged, thinking that I could handle it
Well, I spent most of the time ducking behind the sofa, and I had a nightmare of Michael Myers trying to kill me later that night when he crept into my room
... and I became a fan for life, go figure!
Thanks, Video Mart
(and one crazy uncle!)
After my family moved in early 1996, I returned to Video Mart circa '97 to rent a SNES game. The owner remembered me, even after not having seen me for a good year or two. Why did I come back? What game did I rent? See Combatribes
Video Mart ceased to exist, to my sorrow, for sentimental reasons y'see, in the late '90s
I'm sure some of you are familiar with this store, as it was no mom 'n pop. It dealt with games, movies and music. Back in the day it was a pretty happenin' place, and I rented a lot of games there. They had all the SNES games in thick see-through cases. Movies were encased in those plastic cases where you had to squeeze and shake for the VHS to slide out
One of my damn fondest memories was picking up a GameFan issue from the magazine rack over at The Wherehouse circa spring of 1994. There it was... a lovely one page preview of World f'n Heroes 2 for the SNES. I shitted my pants!
But then came my ultimate challenge. Summer of 1994. Super Street Fighter II just came out, and my brother, Kevin, shipped me off to get it. By this point, I had become a renting machine!
And after years of doing anything constantly, you get to be a bit of a pro at it. A master, even. Kev told me once, and I never forgot this: "Steve, you sure do know how to rent the hell out of games." It became a badge of honor. Although there were so many times where I saw games that I wanted to rent, I almost always came home with the title my brother requested. I had a 98% kill rate, and I know it sounds silly, but it was something I took pride in. And then, my greatest challenge: Super Street Fighter II. It just came out, summer of '94, and my dad took me to the Wherehouse. I raced to the SNES section madly thumbing through the thick glass display cases. There were a few other guys huddled around, and I knew they were after the same holy grail. In that moment, instinct took over and I sprinted to the counter. A pimple-faced male employee, who looked like he was 3 weeks fresh out of his senior prom, glanced down at me. Panting, I asked him if he had a copy of Super Street Fighter IIsafely tucked away somewhere. I figured it was so rare that maybe they keep it behind the counter in order to avoid the inevitable bloodshed that would occur in the aisle if not. His expression immediately changed. Flashing me a clandestine smile, as if I had just shared the secret password he'd been waiting desperately all day to hear, he reached down behind the counter in dramatic fashion. "Kid, it's your lucky day. This here is the last one we have." And right there, in that moment, my childhood was made
I was absolutely blown away. Time froze. Few moments are so epic that they are literally, pardon the pun, game changers. It was my greatest haul ever. I caught the biggest fish. I found Bigfoot. I was going home with the prom queen [Alright, now we're crossing the line of reality -Ed.]. It was the longest 5 minute drive home I had ever experienced. When my bro opened the door, you could tell that he was expecting the worst. Even if I knew "how to rent the hell outta games," renting Super Street Fighter II successfully on LAUNCH was right next to building a rocketship in your garage. Knowing that, I had to mess with him a little bit, so I told him some BS story about how I was too late, etc. He nodded compliantly. "Well, you took your best shot," he chirped. "YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID!" I eagerly revealed the prized trophy I had kept hidden behind my back. My brother's jaw dropped and hit the floor. An instant classic snapshot memory
The Wherehouse, sadly, died off along with the '90s
Was it just merely renting games... or something more? *shrugs*
Last year, I was playing SNES Robocop vs. Terminator. My brother happened to walk by and said, "I beat this game before! Remember, I made you rent it for me way back when"
"Really? I can't remember renting this particular game"
"Probably 'coz I did all the playing!" he laughed
*rubs chin* Hmmmmm....
Oh hell, I thought I had a point to all this, but I guess not :p
In all seriousness, renting was just part of an innocent era that's sadly gone by the wayside in today's digital age. Technology has taken over, and simple innocent pleasures like video rental stores have long gone the way of the dinosaur. A relic of the past, I feel sad thinking about how my children will never get to experience this basic childhood joy. The memories of wandering up and down countless aisles surrounded by hundreds of movies and games. It was like a museum of pure entertainment bliss. Alas, life marches on. Hey, at least we'll always have the memories!
The joy of renting, whether it was "OH MY GOD! IMPORT!", connecting with your fellow man, watching your dad stick up for your pride and honor, or snagging the final copy... those were some badass, bitchin' times