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Hardware Classics: Game & Watch JR-55 - Donkey Kong II

Posted by Damien McFerran

A multi-screen masterpiece

Before the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance and even the Game Boy, portable gaming was all about Nintendo's Game & Watch series. The brainchild of Nintendo engineer Gunpei Yokoi - who apparently came up with the idea after seeing a Japanese businessman playing around with his pocket calculator during his journey to work - this line of LCD handhelds ran from 1980 to 1991 and sold over 40 million units globally. Simply put, Game & Watch marked the beginning of Nintendo's dominance in the portable arena.

The Donkey Kong II unit we're looking at in this Hardware Classics feature is part of the Multi Screen range, which made its debut in 1982 and would run until the end of the decade. The forerunner of the Nintendo DS, the Multi Screen concept allowed play to flow between two separate LCD displays, broadening the scope of the game.

Another innovative element of the Game & Watch range is the iconic cross D-pad. Although D-pads existed prior to the launch of these portable titles, it was here where Nintendo truly refined the idea and created a template which endures to this very day. Compare the D-pad shown here with the one on your Nintendo 3DS and Wii U GamePad - it's practically identical, yet this unit is thirty years old (and yes, it has seen better days, we know).

The Game & Watch range is probably more vibrant than many people assume; as well as handheld editions, there were Table Top versions and "Panorama" variants, which added colour to the games. Collecting Game & Watch titles today is an thoroughly enjoyable pursuit; examples like Donkey Kong II won't cost you the earth, and the reasonably resilient nature of the hardware means you're unlikely to face too many problems getting things working. That's quite impressive when you consider the age of some of these games.

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User Comments (46)

Lan

#1

Lan said:

Nintendo should make a Game & Watch-style 3DS, like the NES GBA SP

MAB

#3

MAB said:

These are the only Game & Watch I own... Found them when I ransacked my old mans garage during a Xmas visit ;) as you do when you get older.

Tropical Fish 1985
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Balloon Fight 1988
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Sobtanian

#4

Sobtanian said:

I have both DK1 and DK2 in really really good condition complete with boxes/manuals.

Trouble is, I left then in Baghdad in 2000 and our house has since been ransacked many times. They're probably with some GI Joe's children as we speak.

Grrrrrr

cornishlee

#5

cornishlee said:

I actually had that Donkey Kong 2 game and watch! I guess it probably got car boot sold in the early nineties...

Just for a moment, I kind of wish I still had it... Does anyone else remember the purple snoopy game and watch game?

EaZy_T

#8

EaZy_T said:

Love these retro articles.
All my G&Ws still work after all these years.
Even to this day I use Octopus as a backup clock, just in case the power goes out. :)

Chris77

#9

Chris77 said:

@cornishlee yea I had that. I remember my folks bought me and my brother a game and watch each to shut us up on a flight to the states. It might still be at my folks house. Would love to see that again!

Ichiban

#10

Ichiban said:

I used to have this DK game as a kid. Why am I so terrible at keeping things?!
Mad Aussie should donate his to the Meowgravy foundation lol

WanderFan91

#12

WanderFan91 said:

I remember playing the Game & Watch Donkey Kong II as an unlockable in Game & Watch Gallery 3; I think it's a very good game

hydeks

#13

hydeks said:

awesome review! I love coming to this site and seeing the very classic reviews you guys do. I remember being alil kid and owning a NES and this, and thinking at the time there's no way video game would get any cooler....good thing I was very wrong lol

Mk_II

#14

Mk_II said:

ive got a small collection of eight G&W games and love 'm to bits. Back in the day when they were new a lot of my friends had several of these games but i could never afford them. They were quite expensive then but a mint copy will set you back a lot more today.

placidcasual

#15

placidcasual said:

Me and my friends had so many dodgy knock-off lcd games from Cardiff market when i was little. Still good fun though.

I also had the lcd game wristwatches of mario, zelda and tetris -now they were great because you could play them in school lessons and no-one would ever know...

Donjwolf

#16

Donjwolf said:

I had some too when I was young. Those were great games. Even today I prefer the original versions over the 'modern' versions we got in the G&W collections on handhelds.

BrightBeing

#17

BrightBeing said:

My parents bought me the blue mario Game & Watch in the 80's. Took me weeks to beat it as a kid, but it was awesome!

edcomics

#18

edcomics said:

Yes :) I have Game & Watch Donkey Kong II. What a fancy little machine it is. It really is funny to go back and look at those, realizing they're the original DS systems.

drumsandperc92

#19

drumsandperc92 said:

wow....Nintendo literally ripped the DS design straight from this clamshell! I had no idea that the idea had existed so far back in Nintendo's history.
And now we are finally getting that 2 screen gameplay at home a la Wii U.
Guess it was a long time coming!
Very cool article.

Moshugan

#24

Moshugan said:

@undead_terror Game & Watch Zelda was wicked!
Some random family friend had it when I was a kid. Pretty funny that I don't even remember who they were or anything other from the visit, but still the game is etched in my memory clearly.
It was so exotic.

JJtheTexan

#26

JJtheTexan said:

Seems like I read somewhere the D-pad used here and on the original Famicom / NES — and subsequently every single Nintendo controller and handheld to this day — was patented by Nintendo and fiercely protected. Supposedly this is why the Sega Genesis, PlayStation and Xbox controller D-pads are so different (and by most accounts, inferior). Nintendo got it right the first time.

asusanto

#28

asusanto said:

Why can't Nintendo Wii release these classics for Wii VC ? Many people want old classic games like this.

Magrane

#29

Magrane said:

I can relate with MadAussieBloke - Tropical Fish was one of my first video games and to this day I remember the purchase of it. I had that little game for many many years and I'm sure it's stashed somewhere at my parents house. Granted, I carved my name on it but I remember getting so good at it and even using it as an alarm clock when I woke up in the mornings as a child.....even when I had no reason to!

My brother got Donkey Kong Jr. the same day and I have memories with that game too.

Nowadays, both can be found on GBA's Game & Watch Gallery 4, but I still wish Tropical Fish had its own DSi game just like Donkey Kong Jr. G&W. :-( I have that game on my 3DS and it's nice how the graphics have made the screen even feel like the original toy.

I just downloaded the Game & Watch game "Chef" on the 3DS, just to get a similar feel to Tropical Fish. I'm glad I grew up in this era as I can still appreciate the simplicity of these kind of games. :-)

sinalefa

#30

sinalefa said:

Cool. I would have liked to see at least a sentence describing what you had to do in the game, since I had no idea this DK sequel existed. I only knew about the first one, as one of my bro's friend had it in school.

xj0462

#31

xj0462 said:

personally i have a ''mickey mouse'' game and watch and the game and watch ''ball'' reproduction off of club nintendo

luminalace

#32

luminalace said:

I was jealous as a kid of people who had them and guess what - I am still jealous now.

Capt_N

#33

Capt_N said:

I would definitely attempt to collect these, if I had the money to spare. They just look so cool. Although, you can play some of these in a reproduction of their original form, via Game & Watch series on GB through GBA, &/or some available for DSi/3DS d/l.

StarDust4Ever

#34

StarDust4Ever said:

I had Mario Bros (Bottle Factory), Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, and Cement Factory. I've still got them somewhere too...

Mario Bros flipped horizontally, and Donkey Kong flipped vertically.

Tasuki

#35

Tasuki said:

I never had the Nintendo Game and Watch when I was a kid. My parents always got me the Tiger Electronic ones that you could wear as wristwatches.

LightSuitGuy

#36

LightSuitGuy said:

Untitled

I remember always playing this and a DK Jr. version at a store when I was younger. Never got either of them, and still don't know why. :P

Platypus

#41

Platypus said:

Anyone got one of those Micro vs System things? So much cooler than Game and Watch. Too bad mine broke last year.

3dbrains

#42

3dbrains said:

I have the original game and watch Donkey Kong. It's orangy gold. I love it, and it still works! Got to love Nintendo.

MarioKenny1992

#45

MarioKenny1992 said:

This is the Game & Watch game I had
Untitled
I also had the first two Game & Watch Gallery games in cartridge form, but I lost them. I have them downloaded on the 3DS though

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