Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Rental Store Memories

Digital games and movies have really spoiled us. They've made things easier, but they've also taken away the simple joy of going to the video store.

Okay, video stores weren't great. The candy was stale. The movie you really wanted was never in stock. Things were overpriced. They charged late fees. They weren't kind if you didn't rewind, socking you with an additional fee.

But there was something about going to the video store and picking out a game or movie. Sometimes it was a real gamble. Maybe you found a hidden gem. Maybe you rented Shaq Fu (my sincere condolences).

Sega CD Summer has a passing mention of a video store. When I was growing up, we had a place called Video Towne. After that, it became Dave's Video. Was there a Pick-a-Flick? I think there may have been. Blockbuster eventually invaded Richmond. 

We also had Hastings, which only recently went under (**checks notes, discovers that the store closed in 2016 and realizes time has no meaning**). Family Video held on longer than most; we had one near our home on Indy's southeast side that closed after the pandemic.

I rented my fair share of Sega Genesis games from area stores. Here are a few I remember.

Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, and Urban Strike. These were fantastic 16-bit action games from Electronic Arts with simple but addictive gameplay. You piloted an aircraft and received mission objectives of varying difficulty and complexity. I remember a cutscene from one of the games (Jungle Strike?) in which you got chewed out for "redecorating the White House, Beirut-style." You'd get this if you, um, blew up the White House.

Flashback: The Quest of Identity. This game looked phenomenal, especially for a kid who didn't have a PC capable of playing games (we had a 286 before we got a Compaq Presario with a CD-ROM drive and a Pentium processor in the mid-90s). I just really couldn't believe what I was seeing on the screen. The gameplay, however, never quite clicked with me. I rented the game at least twice but didn't get very far. I should probably revisit it.

Wimbledon Championship Tennis. One of my best high school buds was an excellent tennis player (I was not). We had a pretty good time with Pete Sampras Tennis, a game with extra controller ports built into the cartridge! But I'm supposed to be writing about the Wimbledon game from Sega Sports. I remember it being a lot of fun. While it had the Wimbledon license, I don't think it featured any real players.

Dick Vitale's Awesome Baby College Hoops. You either love or hate Dick Vitale, the boisterous college basketball commentator. The SNES made Sega sports fans jealous with NCAA Basketball, and Genesis fans got this game instead. It's not officially licensed, but I remember my brother and I having a good time with it. The game featured a rotating court, which was something you didn't see much on the console. Dickie V chimed it with some of his signature Vitale-isms (PTPer, Phi Slamma Jamma, etc.). I vaguely remember being able to edit the rosters although the game didn't save them. I could be thinking of another game.

Ecco the Dolphin. This one was kind of like Flashback in that I thought it was cool and rented it a couple times without ever getting very far into the game. Honestly, I just liked swimming around and doing flips out of the water. The game has a chill vibe to start things off, but I understand it gets really hard and somewhat thematically dark as you progress through it. I will stick with the soothing first level, thank you very much.

Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing/Greatest Heavyweights. I'm not a big boxing fan, but these were some pretty terrific (and advanced for their time) boxing games for the Genesis. Holyfield featured some incredible graphics for the time and a neat career mode. When you landed a punch, it really felt like you connected. Greatest Heavyweights had essentially the same game engine and mechanics, although it was slightly faster with a roster featuring some of the sweet science's best, like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Rocky Marciano, and more. Definitely worth playing.

Justice League Task Force. Mullet Superman is a playable character in this very obvious "Hey, Street Fighter II is popular, so let's do it with superheroes!" game. You select from a paltry roster of DC heroes, including Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Green Arrow. I remember the game being kind of clunky with not much to do after the story mode. A solid "meh" on this one.

Pit-Fighter. I remember Pit-Fighter being the first game I saw featuring digitized sprites in a fighting game. It looked pretty cool. Mortal Kombat would do it better shortly after Pit-Fighter's debut. This started out as an arcade game and received a few home ports. While the Genesis version was firmly in the "OK" category, the Super Nintendo port was a complete joke.