There is a certain class of video game whose existence I’ve been slowly discovering over the last few years. Let’s call these fine wine games.
My idea of a fine wine game1 is one that is best experienced a bit at a time. You know, enjoyed in moderation. The kind you only pick up and play every once in a while… because it’s just that good.
Does that sound counter‐intuitive? Why would you want to take it so slowly with something so great? Well, here’s other side of the coin: this sort of game also has an element of rarity, or scarcity to it. It’s not the sort of game that prints money, selling millions of copies, so the chances of a sequel being made aren’t very good.
So enjoy the game itself. Savor it as you go. Don’t cry because there won’t be a sequel; think of how lucky you are to play it in the first place! Wring every drop of enjoyment from the experience that you can.
Here are a few games you’ll find in my cask:
Zack & Wiki (Nintendo Wii) The original fine wine game in my book. Critically acclaimed; sold quite poorly. Chance of sequel? Slim‐to‐none. Thus, I decided that I’d only play Zack & Wiki sparingly.
With save dates as my basis, I’d estimate that I would pick it up every couple of months, play for a day or two (enough time to struggle through my current level feeling like the world’s biggest moron until finally feeling like the world’s greatest genius, which is what this game does to you). And then, back on the shelf it would go, to wait for the next time I’m in the mood for savory gaming greatness.
Thus, despite having bought this game in 2008, I only completed it this past weekend. $40 so very, very well spent.
Soul Bubbles (Nintendo DS) While I bought my copy from an Amazon Marketplace seller, this game was released in the U.S. as a Toys R Us‐exclusive title. If this artificially limited its audience, that’s simply unfortunate, because this is a beautiful game… one that I tend to forget all about for months on end before rediscovering it anew every time.
I’ve been taking my time with Soul Bubbles, and have more than half of it (read: years of enjoyment) left to go!
Mother/EarthBound series (Nintendo NES/SNES/GBA) Enough has been written about this series of quirky, rather un‐RPG‐like RPGs, which have attracted a cult‐like following. Thus, I’ll offer only this quick assessment: the fact that English‐speaking gamers have the opportunity to play any of the three games should be enough to make a fan thank their lucky stars.
While it could be said that three games released over the course of fifteen years effectively nullifies any supposed rarity… hey, you know what? Fuck you. Nintendo translated Mother and then promptly shelved the English version, Mother 2 (EarthBound) received one stinker of a U.S. marketing campaign, and the English translation of Mother 3 had to be undertaken by a team of incredibly devoted fans.
Mother games in English are some mighty fine wine.
Cave Story (Windows, WiiWare, et al.) Cave Story is the work of one dedicated amateur over the course of five years… work that was simply given away for free as a Windows game, and later ported to a handful of popular platforms by fans.
I started Cave Story a few times over the years, but the lackluster Linux port kept putting me off of it; I knew I should wait for a good port to be available for a platform I use. The WiiWare version was released a few months back, and the rest is history. After years of anticipation, I swilled this one down in a decidedly non‐fine‐wine manner.
Whether games or other media, what do you consider to be your fine wine?
- Initially, the idea I had was that a game of this sort (it was Zack & Wiki that brought this to mind) would be enjoyable to play quite literally with a glass of wine, as this is the sort of game that would be best enjoyed at a relaxing pace, in a chill atmosphere. But last weekend, I instead started thinking of these games metaphorically; the game itself is the wine. I liked that thought, and knew I had to write this post. ↩