A reader recently wrote to me to ask whether handheld games require special consideration when it comes to booze pairings. Having never owned a Gameboy, Game Gear, PSP, or any other portable system, this had not been something that had previously crossed my mind. The question intrigued me, however, and I decided that I would look into it during the vacation that I just returned from. My girlfriend let me borrow her Nintendo DS, and suggested that the tiny bottles of liquor given out on planes might be perfect for the smaller system. While this seemed quite plausible, both of my flights were early in the day, and I'm just not dedicated enough to start drinking straight gin before noon.
My first plane ride at least offered me an opportunity to find a game that I enjoyed playing. Being a big Metroid fan, I tried out Metroid Prime: Hunters, but quickly grew impatient with its awkward controls. I settled on Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. I haven't played any Castlevania games since the SNES versions. Portrait of Ruin was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the RPG elements thrown into the mix. It's a bit like a platformer take on Diablo. I had previously advised a different reader to try fine brandy or a red Bordeaux. I put this to the test, pairing the game with a 2004 Chateau Lalande-Borie.
Lalande-Borie is from Saint-Julien, and thus presumably contains a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is dark ruby, with a nose of cherry, oak, and subtle spice. After a restrained wave of cherry and currents, the wine smoothly fades into a lingering spiciness that is held up by its acidity and soft tannins. Chateau Lalande-Borie, like many red Bordeaux, is a dignified and balanced wine. I found it to be entirely appropriate for a journey into the heart of Dracula's castle. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for earlier Castlevania games, which maintained a drearier aesthetic than Portrait of Ruin. In any case, the wine was a satisfying match for the game. Both were interesting and delightful without being brash. As for the question of the game being hand-held, I can't say it made a big difference for me. I was just as absorbed in Portrait of Sorrow as I have been in any number of games that I've played on much larger screens. The physical format of video game controllers, screens, etc. really only affects booze pairings when it comes to the number of hands that one must be using at any given time. For example, I would not recommend drinking mugs of beer over 2 liters in size while singing in Rock Band. A smaller mug will ensure that your arm does not get tired and that you will not have to put your beer down in the middle of a song.