Feature: Nintendo Battle - Game Watch: Super Mario Bros. 3 vs. Star Fox

The power's on the wrist

These days we take gaming portability for granted. We may kill time playing a bit of Angry Birds on our smartphones while waiting for the next bus to arrive or waiting for our dental appointment. Back in the early ’90s you could carry around a Game Boy or Atari Lynx, but neither was particularly pocket friendly. The clever people at Nintendo saw a gap in the market – a wearable product that could provide the time, an alarm and truly portable gaming: the Game Watch wristwatch. This fusion would breathe new life into Nintendo’s Game & Watch range. Nintendo capitalised on this idea and licensed its big name franchises to be made into Game Watch wristwatch products.

In this showdown, the Nintendo Battle is on your wrist! The gauntlet is thrown down and the gloves are off between Star Fox (made by Nelsonic) and Super Mario Bros. 3 (made by Zeon).

Round 1: Aesthetics

As the bell rings, both watches come out fighting - Star Fox (SF) with its triangular face and Super Mario Bros. 3 (SMB3) with its more traditional square look. The SF watch takes up a fair bit of wrist real estate. Even though the watch is bigger than its counterpart, the screen is smaller – this makes a big difference when playing the game. Also, the time is tucked up right at the top of the screen, making it hard to see when taking a quick glance. But what the SF watch has that the SMB3 doesn’t is a headphone jack. As we all know, nothing upsets people next to you more than hearing repetitive blips coming from your game.

The SMB3 watch is a sleek unit. It feels comfortable on the wrist and the LCD is bright and clear. This watch’s colour scheme makes the face stand out, with the red mode buttons and the Nintendo logo on the wrist band complimenting it perfectly.

Both watches look great on the wrist; I’ve received numerous complements and positive comments from passersby for both. They are different in appearance, so it comes down to personal taste.

Winner: Draw

Round 2: Gameplay and controls

The important round is nigh – how do these watches provide entertainment with their games, and are they any good to control? Primarily being watches, these units are always going to struggle to provide hours of gameplay entertainment. These Game Watches are merely intended for short bursts of time-killing.

The SF game is quite easy to get into - Fox McCloud and his team of mercenaries fly their Arwing and blast away oncoming flying enemies, while avoiding the obstacles on either side of the screen. The Arwing is controlled by four directional buttons, left, right, up and down, and two weapons buttons found on the right side of the watch face. The left and right buttons are nice and round, giving good feel to steer the ship with your thumbs, while the up and down keys are smaller and triangular, making them difficult to use due to their size and positioning. The laser and bomb keys on the side are great; your index finger is naturally poised over the buttons for some quick firing action.

On the other hand (no pun intended), the SMB3 game is a lot more difficult to play. The player controls Mario with the three directional buttons, left, right and jump on the face of the watch. This game is all about timing. Mario must avoid the Goombas by jumping over them, manoeuvre himself to avoid the fire spitting Fire Bros. and finally get past King Koopa (a.k.a. Bowser) to rescue Princess Toadstool. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. The detection is hit or miss and the concentration required to get the timing right proves very frustrating. Although, this frustration paradoxically makes you want to play again, not to rescue the princess, but to practice getting the timing right and move Mario around without getting stomped by the Goombas, or incinerated by the Fire Bros / King Koopa.

Winner: For its addictive qualities - Super Mario Bros. 3

Round 3: Spirit of their console counterparts

As mentioned in previous rounds, with limited screen real estate, there isn’t much gameplay from the original console counterparts found on these watches. Gone are the huge levels, hidden areas, challenging gameplay and awesome power-ups. The ‘spirit’ of both games is present in their respective watches, but only if you are wearing rose-tinted glasses.

Winner: Draw

And the winner is...

These wristwatches provide all the functions you would expect from a digital watch - they keep accurate time and provide an alarm to wake you up; both get positive attention when you are sporting them on your wrist. If you want conversation starters that you can also use to kill five minutes playing stripped down Nintendo games, then you can’t go wrong with either watch.

Overall winner: by a whisker - Super Mario Bros. 3