Written by Henry Culvyhouse.
Break out the acid washed jeans and the scrunchies. Let’s talk the 90s and one of its biggest battles: The Console Wars.
Many millennials and Generation Xers more than likely recall the battle between Sega and Nintendo for video game domination, the proverbial rumble between Mario and Sonic and their respective systems, the Super Nintendo and the Genesis. It’s a time 22-year-old Evan Mallory remembers fondly.
“I’m always going to be a Super Nintendo fan because the graphics were crisp and the controls were good, but I do have some love for the Genesis,” said Mallory, owner of Rare Drops located at 1117 Fourth Avenue in downtown Huntington.
Mallory is perhaps a little too young to remember the schoolyard fights over which was cooler—a plumber smashing turtle skulls or a hedgehog scurrying through the landscape to collect rings. But that doesn’t make Mallory any less passionate about the battle for supremacy. Whether it’s the Nintendo, Super Nintendo or Sega’s early 2000s Dreamcast flop, he has a true appreciation for the old-time videogame systems.
Introduced to videogames by his father, Mallory said he fell in love with Super Metroid and other old-school adventure games, like The Legend of Zelda.
“There’s something about the old games that give you a feeling that anything is possible,” Mallory said. “In games today, you’re expected to do this and that to beat a level. Think about a game like Street Fighter, where you can get somebody in the corner and beat the snot out of them. There’re little tricks to the old games I love.”
As the owner of Rare Drops, Mallory sells relics from the 16-bit age and earlier, back to the old Atari 2600 days of the early 1980s. And he sells “newer” ones too—the now 16–year–old PlayStation 2, the Nintendo-64 with its groundbreaking first-person shooter Golden Eye, along with the first-generation X-Box and its glowing green and black box.
Located on what Mallory calls “Nerd Avenue,” a three-storefront row on Fourth Avenue that includes a comic book store and a table-top gaming dealer next to his establishment, Rare Drops is a dream come true for any kid of the 90s. Especially if you’re a 90s kid looking to beat a few levels of Crazy Taxi on a Dreamcast.
Mallory and his father opened the shop in 2014, after the elder Mallory won a few bucks on Wheel of Fortune. Wishing to focus less on the day-to-day operations, the elder Mallory transferred the shop to his son this year.
A visit to Rare Drops is less like popping into a typical videogame retailer, and more like stepping into a social club. Friends hang out and discuss pop-culture and videogames over pizza and soda. “I like to think of it as a social club, but not like a club where people go out dancing,” Mallory said. “I want it to feel like a second home for people, where they can go to find people who think like them and share similar interests.”
And it’s not a hang-out just for nerds—a title Mallory dons with pride. With the vintage videogame market growing over the last couple of years, Mallory said collectors and gamers of all different backgrounds frequent his shop.
“I have one customer who is 75 years old and comes into the shop to buy games for the original Nintendo,” he said. “We have people my age or a little older coming in with their kids to show them the old consoles, and sometimes those kids know more about them than they do. That’s always cool to see,” Mallory added.
Being in the retro videogame market also gives Mallory the space to highlight oddities from the early days of videogames, when Atari and its hit Pong ruled the market. The most antiquated system Mallory has on hand is the Vectrex, a black and white videogame system from the early 1980s that came with its own screen. “Even though it’s primitive in terms of the graphics, it still has its challenges and fun,” Mallory said.
Mallory let me try a round of the classic racing game Pole Position on the system. Within 30 seconds, I crashed my car into a black and white barrier.
“People might not remember, but old games are hard,” he said. “Take a game like Contra, where you only have three lives. You had to have a lot of skill to run through the levels and beat it.”
And Mallory was kind enough to settle the age-old question any gamer from the 1990s might have: does blowing on a game cartridge really screw it up?
“A light, quick blow to clear out the dust won’t hurt it, but heavy blows with lots of spit can get into the motherboard and corrode it,” he said. “So I recommend using 91 percent rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip. If that doesn’t work, try Brasso, the stuff they use to clean tubas and trumpets.”
Rare Drops is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from noon until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The shop also has an arcade in the back that is available for a small fee, and gaming tournaments are held onsite throughout the year.