Movies, TV shows, and video games that we grow up with become part of who we are. They help shape us even if we don’t realize it. Just recall the sweet nostalgic feeling that we get when thinking back to the pop culture that surrounded us when we were younger. It’s always fun to interact with that nostalgic past, whether it’s by attending a 90s themed costume party or by seeing a movie based on something that we grew up with. Thankfully, there’s now a gaming store in Western New York that celebrates (more recent) bygone gaming eras and the aesthetics that go hand-in-hand with the cards, comics, and consoles.
The latest addition to the fantastic lineup of gaming shops in WNY is Retro Universe, located in the Boulevard Mall on Alberta Drive in Amherst. Retro Universe, which opened on April 1st, offers many staples of any gaming shop. They currently have a big focus on Pokémon cards and supplies, but still have what fans of other big trading card games are looking for, such as Magic the Gathering, MetaZoo, and Yu-Gi-Oh.
Of course, board games and Funko POP! figures can be found there as well, along with quite a lot of space for tabletop gaming. Customers are free to bring their own games, grab one of the several tables, and hang out for the day.
While Retro Universe has a lot of the gaming features that one might expect, it stand outs from other gaming shops in the area by focusing on nostalgia. Stepping into Retro Universe is like traveling through time. Video game setups, which are completely free to play, can be found toward the back of the shop, each of which represents a different era of gaming. There’s a classic Atari set up at a TV from the 70s or 80s, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System playing on an old big-back TV, and a Nintendo 64 at another.
Along with the gaming consoles and the TVs representing each decade, every area is decked out appropriately with artifacts from that same time period. While gaming on the Atari, you’re completely immersed in the surrounding décor (lava lamp, vinyl records, and old-school alarm clock, for example). At the early 90’s setup, you’ll find a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers thermos, a Rugrats poster, 3-D glasses, a bottle of chocolate Yoo-hoo, and more. The late 90’s/early 2000’s area is where you will come across items like a Windows 98 poster, Pokémon figures, and a Jimmy Neutron magazine. Each of these areas recreates the feeling of hanging out in your room when you were a kid. Since the video games are free to play, all are welcome to come in and take a break from walking the mall to play Mario Kart 64 and other fan-favorites.
Retro Universe’s Blockbuster corner allows you to revisit that experience, with walls of VHS tapes to choose from.
Remember the good ol’ days when your parents would take you to the video store to pick a movie to rent for the weekend? Well, Retro Universe’s Blockbuster corner allows you to revisit that experience and reminisce. With walls of VHS tapes to choose from, you can interact with iconic films in ways that you just simply can’t nowadays.
Adding to the throwback flavor, there’s a solid selection of retro comic books to help fully recreate one’s childhood experience. Plenty of nostalgic t-shirts are for sale, for those who want to memorialize a fan-favorite theme.
A place like Retro Universe almost feels too good to be true. Being located in a shopping mall has its ups and downs, though. The biggest obstacle they’ll have to face is adhering to the mall’s hours. Most gaming shops are open at night, allowing businesses to hold events all week long at various hours. This ensures that people with traditional work schedules can attend the events and gaming sessions. The truncated mall hours will make attracting customers, and building a community, a bit of a challenge. That said, being in the mall means that there will be much better foot traffic. Curious gamers will end up walking in to see what the place is all about. And since the mall has stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s Gifts – known to sell nerdy apparel – it should be a good fit. There’s even a used bookstore that has a massive selection of comic books and collectibles. That means that Retro Universe’s target clientele is likely already shopping there.
This is a brand new shop, so it’ll be interesting to see how their community grows over time, with (hopefully) more and more gamers taking over their rows of tables. The shop might still be finding its footing, but it already has some sizable plans on how to expand its offerings, with more products on the way, along with cases for individually priced trading cards. Events will also be an important aspect of the rollout, including learn-to-play gatherings and tournaments for various trading card games. They’re also hoping to hold a trading card flea market at some point, which is sure to attract a lot of attention.
Of course, having a brand new gaming shop open in the area is always something to look forward to, but there’s something especially delectable about one that offers an extra blast of nostalgia… to help us temporarily forget our modern day, more complex issues.
The next time you’re near the Boulevard Mall, be sure to stop by Retro Universe to revisit the days of the Walkman, three-handled video game controllers, and having to rewind a movie every time you want to watch it. Remember to bring your favorite Pokémon or Magic the Gathering deck while you’re at it.
Retro Universe is the blast from the past that we all needed, whether we knew it or not.