Have I got a bargain for you… returns!

The most expensive game I own lies within. Dare you enter?

I’ve got a quite extensive games collection, it has to be said, but I’d rather not define myself as a “games collector”. I’m a games player with a keen interest in retro, and especially the games I grew up playing. Some of them aren’t worth much at all, and others have — so eBay tells me — appreciated in value. Secret Of Mana is relatively valuable, as are Suikoden, NES Elite, Master System Ultima IV, any of the Game & Watches and for some reason, U.Four.Ia to name but a few.
The thing is, I don’t care a whit what they’re worth, beyond listing them on the insurance and hoping they don’t break, at which point replacement cost becomes a concern. They’re not for sale, and they’re not part of the kind of “collection” that sits in shrink wrap on a shelf, never to be played. If you’re into that, knock yourself out, but I think you’re going about this gaming thing entirely wrong.
So, no, the most expensive game I own, isn’t, say, Stadium Events. Heck, up until the other week, the most expensive titles in my collection probably wouldn’t sell for much more than a couple of hundred dollars each — and again, THEY’RE NOT FOR SALE. Many of them aren’t even all that rare, because the rarity of a game doesn’t get my delicate parts all wobbly; whether they’re fun and playable does.
And then a game that costs a thousand dollars arrived. In the post, no less. There’s part of my brain that says any game that goes north of five hundred dollars really ought to have delicate handmaidens throwing rose petals before the Rolls Royce upon whose rear seat the game in question nestles, but perhaps I’m picky that way.
I’ve actually covered this particular title before, and I should point out that the “costs” above arguably should have a “theoretically” before it. Because the game in question is Club Nintendo’s “Game & Watch Collection”, only available via redemption of Nintendo “Stars”, which you get for buying Nintendo products.
Or via eBay, where the Japanese-only second Collection is also widely sold.
Despite appearances and cost, the box is not made of gold.
But I didn’t buy via eBay. Over a couple of years, I’d accrued a reasonable number of points, but there was very little — to put it kindly — that actually enticed me to use my stars to buy Mario-themed face towels or DS stylus packs. The purchase of a DSi to replace a defunct DS Fat put me over the 2500 star limit for the Game & Watch collection, which meant rather worryingly that I’ve spent around a thousand bucks on Nintendo games. Ouch.
I did ponder if it was worth “saving” my stars for “something better”, and then remembered that when I originally wrote up the scheme, nothing had changed for the better part of a year. Nintendo, it seems, grinds very slowly in terms of offering new Star rewards. They wouldn’t change anything in the catalog, because honestly, they never had.
Naturally, the day after I put in my order for the Game & Watch collection, Nintendo updated the Stars catalog.
Thankfully, it was only with more tat — folders, bookmarks, pencil cases and playing cards. The playing cards would have a nice tilt towards Nintendo’s early history, but still, they’re 1500 points, or around $500 of purchases for a deck of cards that’d be hard put to cost Nintendo more than 50c to print, if that.
Despite conflicting reports from the web site — which told me I’d have to wait up to eight weeks — and the confirmation email — which suggested three weeks — it only took around a week for the collection to turn up.
It’s sat there for a couple of weeks while I’ve been busy with other tasks, but today I’ve decided to crack it open. Unlike the Digital Dragon GB-150, I could at least be assured that these were genuine games, and as I owned every other Game & Watch collection Nintendo’s put out, I was assured of lots of fun… right?
Sort of. The really big problem with Game & Watch Collection is that as collections go, it’s on the titchy side. Three games are featured — Oil Panic, Donkey Kong and Greenhouse. Two of those I could go and compare to their originals if I had some batteries for them, for what that’s worth.
To put some perspective on this, the last time Nintendo put out a collection of Game & Watch games was “Game & Watch Gallery 4” for the Gameboy Advance. That had TWENTY Game & Watch games on it, including some quite rare titles: Fire, Boxing, Rain Shower, Mario’s Cement Factory, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Chef, Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Octopus, Fire Attack, Manhole, Tropical Fish, Mario’s Bombs Away, Parachute, Bomb Sweeper, Climber, Safe Buster, Lifeboat and Zelda. Twenty games for, as memory serves, about fifty bucks. It got a little cheaper once the suckers (that is, me) bought a copy and the sales figures plummeted, but like most first-party Nintendo titles, not that much. That’s still only $2.50 per game, though.
Versus the Game & Watch Collection. Three games for a thousand bucks. That’s quite the price premium there, Nintendo. I could actually buy boxed versions of all three off eBay for less than a thousand bucks. Yes, yes, I know. They’re a loyalty scheme reward setup, and I’ve got other things for that thousand dollars. It’s not as though you can buy Game & Watch games for the DSi separately, though.
Except that you can.
To add insult to injury, Nintendo’s recently started offering up classic Game & Watch titles via its DSiWare service. Admittedly, nothing that’s on the Game & Watch Collection (or the Japan-only second collection) is up yet, but you can pick from Ball, Chef, Donkey Kong Jr, Flagman, Helmet, Judge, Manhole, Mario’s Cement Factory or Vermin for 200 DSi points, or $3 in real money. So if Nintendo chose to — and could get past the messy licensing issues for the Disney and Peanuts character games — they could release the entire back catalogue of sixty titles for around $180 all up. Quite how they’d differentiate the prize and regular versions of Super Mario Bros is also a bit puzzling.
If I’m being totally honest, I’d be sorely tempted to buy them anyway. I’ve got a lot of affection for the Game & Watch games, and while nothing beats playing them on the original hardware, the costs of acquisition are astonishingly high. Even dead units gather a fair premium.

Rescuer, off to rescue "The Lady". What kind of Lady hangs around building sites, hmm?
Rescuer, off to rescue "The Lady". What kind of Lady hangs around building sites, hmm?

Anyway, what are the three games like? They’re exceptionally good, that’s what they are. Donkey Kong’s a clear favourite if you’re of my generation. I can’t tell you how many of my compatriots when growing up had one, but the orange cased double screen game was rather common once upon a time. I never had one, but my wife did — and that’s the rather battered but beloved unit that sits downstairs. For those who want a bit of trivia, I find it amusing that the character in Donkey Kong isn’t (according to the manual) Mario. Neither is he “jumpman”, as some would have it. Instead, he’s called “rescuer”. Obviously the ladies in Donkey Kong’s world aren’t all that fussy.

Greenhouse, from a time long before you'd add "gases" to the word.
Greenhouse, from a time long before you'd add "gases" to the word.

Greenhouse is likewise very frantic fun, and one of the games that doesn’t entirely just devolve into a series of patterns, as you’ve got to judge two levels of action. I’ve never gotten on quite as well with Oil Panic for some reason, and that’s a trend that continues to this day. Shortly after unwrapping the game, I’d already clocked Donkey Kong and Greenhouse, but my Oil Panic score is yet to hit the double figures.

Oil Panic. Or as I prefer to think of it, Oil Meh.
Oil Panic. Or as I prefer to think of it, Oil Meh.

Now I can’t exactly count myself ripped off in the same way that the Digital Dragon GB-150 was clearly intended to be a rip-off with the Game & Watch Collection. Do I think it’s a bit stingy of Nintendo to charge such a premium price for a very small selection of games on cartridge while at the same time offering up the same style of games for $3 a pop? Definitely. At the same time, it’s an interesting bit of gaming history, both in that Nintendo will update and re-sell any bit of its IP that it figures it can make a buck out of, as well as allowing me rather easier DSi-based access to these games. For the DS Slim, I’ll stick to Game & Watch Gallery 4, however.

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