Release Date: 11/12/2021
The Game & Watch series is Nintendo’s first foray into video games and handhelds like the GameBoy Micro, and even the DS drew inspiration from it. It’s also not going to attract the attention of anyone under 25 who isn’t just curious or truly into retro gaming. The original Mario Bros. release was underwhelming as it didn’t have much value for your money. They could have easily added the entire NES Mario library at no extra cost but chose not to. It seems Nintendo listened this time as the entire Zelda NES library is included here in a nice package with extras.
The unboxing experience is quite nice here for such a small proprietary device. The handheld comes out in a display box (more on that later), some of the usual safety pamphlet stuff Nintendo does, and a code to redeem 300 platinum coins on Nintendo.com (which are used to redeem things that actually matter like physical items). The device itself is inside a foam sleeve and that’s your lot. The charger is hidden away inside a “compartment” of the display box and this is a tiny three-inch USB-C cable, but any cable will work. This one just so happens to be Nintendo branded so collectors might want to hold on to it and not lose it. When you power on the device you will be greeted with a splash screen of Link himself and plopped right into the “main” screen which is the clock. If you press the Pause/Set button you can enter the system’s settings that allow you to change the sound and brightness and turn off sleep mode (if plugged in).
Once you have your time set you can go into the game selection screen and can choose between the original Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and Link’s Awakening. You can also play the Game & Watch series Vermin which stars Link himself. You can then use the Timer app as well. So, these sound great on their own right? Well, this entire device is chock-full of Easter eggs and features that you will probably miss or never know about without playing around or reading about them. First, the Timer and Clock screens both have playable games built into them. The Clock features several screens and Link will take 12 hours to complete the “game” or you can control him yourself. There are hidden Easter eggs here such as fairies appearing when the clock says 2:22, and other things happening when all digits are the same number. The game’s lighting will affect the time of day as well which is really neat. There are also several language versions for each game and you can experience their regional differences. This is more of a historical curiosity thing for most, but it’s nice these were all included.
The Timer app has three backgrounds you can cycle through and a time attack mode. Every game has cheats built-in that will give you full hearts if you hold A for five seconds while starting a new game. The Clock screen can switch from the 8-bit ticking sound (which is really freaking annoying by the way) to the game’s music and sound effects. There is also an auto-save feature that resumes right where you left off. You can easily switch between all three games and never lose your spot. There’s also a manual-save mode by holding A+B+Select+Start. Vermin has an extra hard C mode if you press A for five seconds, and the Clock screen will also cycle through 11 different backgrounds before going into sleep mode.
If that isn’t enough to keep you busy for a while (seriously this would be a great stocking stuffer as it’s great value for your money) you get a nice little cardboard display that has a fold-out stand in the back which is made from the tray the device sits in. This isn’t going to hold up over time so I suggest you get a third-party stand or something that someone else made for the long-term. Collectors will probably not want to use this either. And, as a nice little bonus, the rear tri-force logo lights up when it’s on.
So, that’s your lot. Three fantastic and iconic Zelda titles and the Game & Watch title to tie it all in with fun interactive apps. The device itself is what you would expect from Nintendo. It’s lightweight but has sturdy plastic and the screen is gorgeous with sharp colors and a vivid picture. The speaker is great too and spits out 8-bit tunes clearly and doesn’t sound tinny or anything like that. While these games are emulated ROMs they don’t have any issues and work just fine. The D-pad feels amazing and while the two face buttons are a bit rubbery, they’re fine for this device. It just looks gorgeous and is a fantastic piece to display as well. Overall, this is how these need to be done in the future and is well worth the $50.