Game & Watch was Nintendo's first foray into the world of portable electronic gaming. These small, pocket-sized devices used LCD screens to create crude but surprisingly playable games, perfect for passing the time on the way to and from work (in fact, creator Gunpei Yokoi even stated that he was inspired to create the range after observing a businessman idly tapping away on his calculator on the train). A massive success throughout the '80s, Game & Watch eventually gave way to the next evolution of the concept: the Game Boy. While the tech seems like a relic of the distant past, interest in the Game & Watch series remains bouyant, partly because of Nintendo's reputation and partly because the vast majority of these releases still stand up today in pure gaming terms.
Even so, despite the incredible commercial success the Game & Watch series enjoyed and its place in Nintendo's colourful gaming history, there have been very few attempts made to properly document the importance of these pint-sized portable gems. That has thankfully changed now due to the combined efforts of David Gschmeidler and Gerard Meyer, two Game & Watch fans who recently published The Unofficial Game & Watch Collector's Guide in German. The book has since been translated into English, and it's that edition that is the focus of this feature.
Available in paperback and in a limited edition hardback, The Unofficial Game & Watch Collector's Guide is, as the title suggests, a tome which not only covers every single release in the range, but also delivers some historical context as well as looking at the many clones which appeared at the time. The book's opening pages neatly offer up the background of the line, showing how it evolved from Nintendo - and Yokoi's - previous experiments with pocket-sized entertainment products, including the Ten Billion puzzle toy, which took inspiration from the world-famous Rubik's Cube. Immaculately researched and a pleasure to read, this opening segment of the book sets the reader up perfectly for the meat of the publication: an exhaustive game-by-game analysis of the complete Game & Watch product line.
Each Game & Watch game gets two pages to itself, boasting a written description, rarity scale, price guide, gameplay info and gorgeous, high-quality photos. Handily, some entries also have a little box-out which shows related editions of the game - so for example, the first Game & Watch release Ball has page references which point you in the direction of its other iterations, such as the DSiWare release and the Game & Watch Collection 2 release on 3DS. This info is present because as well as investigating the core Game & Watch line, the book also focuses attention on the various digital releases.
Towards the back of the book there's info on the various challengers and clones which flooded the market during the decade, and info on the various distributors that Nintendo used to sell Game & Watch titles all over the world. You'll even find images and descriptions of the various spin-off mechanise items - any child from the '80s will surely recall the iconic (and unofficial) Game & Watch-style pencil erasers, which showcased a lenticular image that gave the impression of a moving screen. To cap it all off, both editions come with a quick reference card which shows the page number for every single release.
Considering that the book is adapted from the original German version, the writing is of an incredibly high standard and doesn't come across as clumsy or awkward - a common problem with translated works. The knowledge and love Gschmeidler and Meyer clearly have for the Game & Watch line shines through on every single page, and even if the writing was sub-par - which it isn't - the entire book is illustrated in such a lavish fashion that you probably wouldn't be too concerned. This is a must for Nintendo fans and Game & Watch collectors alike, and makes for the ideal coffee table read.
The is available now from here. The standard edition costs 39.95 Euros while the hardcover edition - limited to just 500 copies - costs 59.95 Euros.