Last year, Nintendo provided its fans with the perfect stocking-filler via its Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. handheld, a neat tribute to the classic Game & Watch range of LCD games that were so popular in the pre-Game Boy landscape of the early 1980s. That release was essentially created to celebrate 35 years of Super Mario, and this year, the company has returned to the concept with Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda.
The first Zelda outing on the NES was released in Japan in 1986, making 2021 the 35th birthday of Link, Ganon and Princess Zelda. Alongside Super Mario and Metroid, Zelda is one of Nintendo's most popular and beloved franchises, so it makes sense for the Japanese veteran to focus on it for the next in its presumably regular series of Game & Watch updates.
As before, Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda (no relation to the actual Zelda Game & Watch from 1989) takes design inspiration from the single-screen handhelds which first appeared at the dawn of the '80s. While Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. sported a colour scheme that called to mind the Nintendo Famicom (NES in the west), Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda replaces the dark red with a more fitting green, but retains the gold metal front plate. Outside of that, the design is identical to the Super Mario Bros. version – save the neat inclusion of the Triforce, which is embossed on the rear of the unit and actually lights up.
The D-Pad feels great, the rubber buttons are responsive and it's reasonably comfortable to use, although the controls still feel like they're positioned a little too close to the bottom of the device, which can lead to some mild discomfort if you're playing for prolonged periods. The rechargeable internal battery is good for around 8 hours of play (that's with brightness and volume levels kept low) and is charged using the bundled USB-C cable. There's also no kickstand (again), but at least this time Nintendo has been kind enough to see that the packaging's internal cardboard tray can be turned into a rather fetching display stand.
When we reviewed Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., we were slightly disappointed that Nintendo hadn't included more games on the device. On that score, Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda is a slight improvement. As well as the original Legend of Zelda and its (often divisive) NES sequel Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, you get the 1993 Game Boy outing Zelda: Link's Awakening, the same game which was recently remastered on the Nintendo Switch. In addition to these three games, there's a reimagined version of the 1980 Game & Watch title Vermin, with Link in the starring role. There's also a special 'timer' mode which allows you to set a time limit between a minute and 10 minutes and beat as many enemies from Zelda II as possible, with the unit keeping track of your best performance at each time setting. There's also an interactive clock that is based on the overworld of the original Legend of Zelda. Left to its own devices, this clock will automatically show Link battling a series of enemies from the game, but you can pick up the unit at any point and take control of the Hero of Time yourself.
Because there are notable differences between the Japanese and western versions of the two NES games (in Japan, they were released on the Famicom Disk System – which was exclusive to that region – and featured different music), Nintendo has kindly included both the versions on this device. Obviously, unless you can read Japanese, the Famicom Disk System variants are little more than a neat curiosity; the Japanese version of Link's Awakening is also present, alongside French and German-language versions.
As was the case with Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., you can freeze the game at any time, which is handy for when you're out and about and aren't in a position to save your progress in the game itself. It even picks up where you left off if you switch to another game on the unit, which is nice. Other options include the ability to alter the screen brightness and volume, as well as toggle between full-screen and 1:1 aspect ratios on Link's Awakening. Emulation is, as you might expect, perfect, although the screen does have a certain softness that makes the visuals look a bit smeared (again, this is something that was equally true of the Super Mario version).
Between the three Zelda games included here, there are many hours of enjoyment to be had, which arguably makes Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda a much better proposition in terms of value than last year's Super Mario-based offering. While the first game shows its age and the second NES title has divided critics since release, they're still worth a play if you're a seasoned fan of the modern-day Zeldas. Link's Awakening, on the other hand, is just as joyous an experience now as it was back in 1993; it's one of the most oddball Zelda games and really stands up – largely because it borrows so many of its gameplay mechanics from the peerless Zelda: Link to the Past. So much so, in fact, that it makes you wonder why Nintendo didn't include that game, too; Link's Awakening is based on humbler technology, admittedly, but it came out after the SNES title, so it would have made sense to see it here – at least in terms of series chronology. Also, why include the original Link's Awakening and not the superior Game Boy Color update, Link's Awakening DX?
Still, you're getting three of the foundational Zelda titles as part of this package, as well as some neat throwaway extras – plus, as Nintendo itself states, this is a 'collectable' item that will look great on your shelf. In an ideal world, this would be bursting with content, but as it stands, we can't say we're disappointed with this ongoing Game & Watch revival; long may it continue, in fact.
Thanks to Nintendo UK for supplying the Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda unit used in this review.
Where To Buy Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda In The UK
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I, for one, am glad they specifically included the original Link's Awakening. The 3DS had the DX version but not the original, so I think it's cool they chose to have the original version with this one. Of course, had the original version been already available on any other modern platform, it might not have been as cool.
I can't be the only one a little frustrated this didn't have the actual Zelda Game and Watch included? (I mean, I have the original but it just feels like an oversight.) However, as a celebratory item, this is super cool
Although it won't happen if I saw it for less than £40 I'd bite just to play LA again in its original glory. I can see why LTTP isn't included given the limited control options but had they included the Oracle games (which you can buy on 3DS) then I'd be all over this.
I've tried repeatedly to get into Zelda 1 and 2 and whilst interesting from a historical perspective I just don't find them very playable compared to other games of the era like Golvellius. Nostalgia might play a part here and I was (and still am) a blue blooded Sega kid during the 8 and 16bit eras so I don't look upon it quite as fondly.
Thanks for the nice review!👌
Nice review and certainly interesting. Really not for me though. I hope the collector's enjoy their purchase though, of course.
I'm excited to pick mine up this weekend! I'd love to see Nintendo continue this idea, it's not as good as the NES/SNES Classics were in terms of value but they're really cool collector items. Maybe a Kirby one with Dreamland 1+2, Adventure, and maybe the GB spin-offs next year to celebrate his anniversary?
Also, I know this will sound pedantic, but Link's Awakening HD is a full remake, not a remaster. It's important to distinguish the two, they're completely different and a lot of misinformation gets spread when they're used interchangeably.
useless ..it has no value actually
Picking up this and SMTV FoM Edition on Sunday, can't wait
Sadly, life has got in the way of my gaming.
I just ordered it. I don't know if I'm keeping it for myself, or giving it as a gift for a friend who's been doing me a big favor, but it's pretty cute. I like that we get the Famicom versions too, because the music on the famicom is sweet
@GrailUK I felt that way about the Super Mario one, but the Zelda G&W is multi screen, so it wouldn't have looked that neat.
Mine is on the way
Recently snatched up the mario one before they disappeared and was pleasantly surprised with how nifty it actually is and been super stoked to get this one since they had announced it, hopefully one day they make a pokemon yellow one...if they just want to take my money "hint hint" Nintendo!
Bit of a warp pipe dream but I hope Metroid's the next to get a G&W release with the NES, Famicom, and GB releases. Maybe that unreleased colour version of Metroid 2 as well.
Not so bothered about Zelda compared to Mario. I like the Mario Game and Watch, but this release makes me feel like they could have done more with it.
I thought the stand was Zelda themed (am I misremembering something)?
Not a bad price but these games have been available on several platforms for years- this is one for collectors only imo
@RadioHedgeFund Yes, the missing of the Oracle games is sad. Big N seem to treat them like their stepchildren from another father (Capcom).
I don't know if I want this.
Mine is not here yet 😥
I like shiny stuff
Picking up my copy today, along with Shin Megami Tensei V (hype!!) and the European physical edition of Doki Doki Literature Club (which finally has been released!).
The b&w GB Zelda game has the cool warp trick. The GBC version does not.
@TryToBeHopeful Wait, it's in the headline picture. Is that just the cardboard inner case?
I'm hoping they continue this line. Nice little collectibles from my childhood
Can’t wait to get mine!
@RadioHedgeFund I don’t know if it might make you enjoy them more, but you can actually start the games with maxed hearts, and in the case of 2, maxed everything, in this device… I’m gonna play Zelda 2 that way!
@TryToBeHopeful yes, the inner cardboard comes with cutouts to make a stand.
@TryToBeHopeful From the review:
"There's also no kickstand (again), but at least this time Nintendo has been kind enough to see that the packaging's internal cardboard tray can be turned into a rather fetching display stand."
Picking my pre-order up tomorrow.
The included languages for Link's Awakening are English, Japanese, French, Dutch, but not German?
I wonder if that has anything to do with Moyse's translations?
I was concerned about how low the buttons were when it was first announced. Hopefully I don't find it too awkward or uncomfortable. And it's funny that the article asked why it didn't include the DX version of Link's Awakening instead, because the fact that the original version was included is the sole reason I pre-ordered this. While I do enjoy the color itself in the DX version, there are some facets about the original that I prefer, in addition to the nostalgia factor. And the DX version was already made available on the 3DS Virtual Console, so I already have that one. The original version, on the other hand, has never been made available in any way like that since its original GB release. So I for one was very happy to see that they included that version.
Mine is currently being shipped - should have it on Saturday, I believe.
@Damo What do you think are the chances that we'll see another new Game & Watch soon?
@MarioBrickLayer Very likely, I'd say. Metroid next, perhaps?
If it’s anything like the Mario one then it’ll be half price within a few weeks.
@RadioHedgeFund you could have preordered last month from Shopto ebay with a discount code for just a smidge under £40 No time machine though!
@Damo Metriod would be great!! I'd love a Super Mario Bros 3 one in Yellow, maybe we could get that in 2023 as it's the 35th anniversary of the games release in Japan that year.
@Damo Donkey Kong feels like a much better fit I think. Games like DK Jr would be small enough to play
@Damo Sorry, I thought that clear stand in the pictures was the one mentioned previously. I was skimming, I'll be honest.
@RupeeClock It's possible that it is in fact German but someone got confused between Deutsch (German) and Dutch.
@TryToBeHopeful Ah, sorry - the clear stands are unofficial ones a friend designed for me, you don't get those with the unit. I can see where the confusion has come from now!
I’d love to see Kirby follow suit with all NES/SNES/GB/GBC Kirby games packed in.
Better yet, this should have been its own console, similar to Pokémon Mini back in the day, but with classic Nintendo games given a new lease on life with their own compilation cartridges. Better still if they used Switch cartridges, with those carts being compatible with the Switch as well.
It’s such a waste of all that good tech on something that will rarely get any use. I can definitely see myself using the Zelda one though for the OG Link’s Awakening, though I’m bummed that the DX version wasn’t included as well. I would have loved to play both back-to-back and maybe give the Switch remake a replay.
@TheRealKyleHyde You know what? You're 100% correct lol
@VIIIAxel You're not being pedantic, you're absolutely right. Remake vs remaster shouldn't be mixed up in articles.
Anyway, this one does indeed look very cool...maybe I'll pick one up next year at a reduced price.
Just got it and it is really neat but I have so many questions
Is there a guide on the functionalities?
How to save, how to turn off or sleep mode etc?
Mine's arrived this morning from Nintendo. Have to say that I know that this isn't really the best way to play these games but it's a cute little novelty (like the SMB one). I do wish that they were more easily hackable to stick more games on like the NES mini but obviously understand why Nintendo wouldn't like that (I know that people have got things running on the SMB one but it's hardly a very practical solution).
No SNES titles will be available on G & W because of the extra buttons on the SNES pad. Having said that, including the Oracle games would have made more sense.
Not including the original Zelda Game & Watch title was indeed a missed opportunity. Yes, it's dual screen, but It was emulated 20 years ago on a single screen for G & W Gallery 4 for GBA.
@Eel Thats interesting to know! I might give it a go then based on that....
What is this, Zelda for ants? No idea how anyone could play on something that small.
No regrets with purchase but I do agree an extra few roms on here wouldn’t have hurt…
Second comment but I do feel, and I’m a massive fan of Nintendo but they do always seem to do the bare minimum. I feel now and then they could push the boat out - especially when some of the frustrations are things that would be minimal effort for what would be to the fans massive.
It's a shame that they chose a reskinned version of Vermin over Zelda Game & Watch. The irony is rather surprising. However, overall Nintendo has done well on this.
Are you referring to how there was barely any content to celebrate the 35th anniversary?
"Why include the original Link's Awakening and not the superior Game Boy Color update, Link's Awakening DX?"
Here's why I think they did that. It's because they don't want people to realize how much better the Game Boy Color version of the game looks than the Switch remake does.
@ModdedInkling well that too but I meant more when they release an item like this or the N64 expansion online - it’s the bare minimum…. You know…. I feel they could have with little effort thrown in another few roms and versions on this and it cost them next to nothing…. I don’t believe it takes lots of people months to add and test roms on a machine like this. Most of us have done similar at home.
They could have thrown in the extras suggested in the review.
Also on the online n64…. The Nintendo owned exclusives should have been the bare minimum for launch imho. Again this would have broken the bank and many more of us would have signed up.
It’s about creating goodwill for me… I love Nintendo and when the n64 controller is back in stock I’ll will trump up for the expansion… just feel it’s always bare minimum.
As cool as these are, I just can't convince myself that I need to buy one. My local Walmart still has about half a dozen of the Mario version in stock, and if the price is ever heavily discounted then I might consider it, but otherwise, no sale.
I’m excited to go pick mine up later today. I mostly got it to go with my Mario one but I’m excited to play Link’s Awakening for the first time. I hope they make more of these going forward, and that they add more games to them in the future to further justify the $50 USD price tag.
Oh cool, forgot this was coming out now. I pre ordered one all the way back in June. I don't normally go for these kind of novelty items, but I couldn't resist in this case. Seemed like a fun thing to bring along on a canoe trip or something.
I'm picking mine up this afternoon. Even though I've played all these games dozens of times, from the original hardware to the many times they've been on Virtual Console or mini's, I'm looking forward to playing them again. If Nintendo isn't going to make any more "classic" mini systems, (GB or N64), I hope they continue to make these Game & Watch's periodically. I'd like to see a Metroid one or maybe a celebration of Donkey Kong?
Anyone in the UK that preordered this through Nintendo store received theirs yet? When I check the order of mine it just says processing.
@RedRaven723 Got mine around 11am!
@Gumbo1995 OK, well hopefully mine might arrive tomorrow. Enjoy.
This is on my Christmas list, so the rule is I wait until after the big day before picking up anything that was missed lol. It's worth it for me just to experience the original Link's Awakening. I've played both the DX version via the 3DS VC and the Switch rerelease.
The review laments that a link to the past is not on the system, but to be fair to them that was 16 bit graphics from the SNES and the others are 8 bit from the NES or GB. I am guessing it would have just been too much of a faff to have the capability for a link to the past and not worth the extra time and price this would add to the project. £50 for a stand alone portable that runs 3 classic Nintendo games and 2 mini games on topos an attractivly priced gift, £60-70 with just one more game and perhaps a December or January release date missing out on some Christmas present shopping time and it won't find its way under as many trees.
I got taken by the Mario ones and bought 3 - one for myself and ones for the kids. never opened mine and the kids are just gathering dust. While at the local department stores still have stacks of them.
If I get the Zelda one it will be at a steep discount or as a present from someone else.
I'm really interested in this one, mostly because the original 1986 Zelda is one my absolute favorite games (and I played it for the first time in 2019) and Link's Awakening is probably the most "perfect" Zelda game ever made (at least, based on my play through of the Switch remake) and I'm keen on trying out the original version.
Still… compared to those Chinese Anbernic devices this is a really low quality and cheap effort. The used plastics are disgusting cheap, aa are the buttons and screen should be of a much higher quality. Also, if this should be a Game and Watch… where is the stand?!
Still bought it, but it’s absolutely below the ‘seal of quality’ which Nintendo introduced haha.
@TheWingedAvenger They only had 3 emulators on there, if they use the DX version then they'll be force use a better emulator, something they clearly don't want hackers to get access to. Because they only use 3 emulators, if you could hack it, NES, Game Boy and G&W games are the only games you could play on it.
I like that they've gone for the non-DX version of Link's Awakening. The color dungeon was never that great, and there's the phantom limb of the Gameboy Printer in there. The monochrome version is the better match thematically for the Game & Watch line, and the GBC's pallette was always quite unimpressive on those backwards compatible carts. Plus, DX is the one that anyone with a 3DS can go buy for themselves right now.
Even though I really don't need this, and should put my money toward a new game like brilliant diamond, SMT V, or GTA, I can't help myself lol
Looks beautiful. Still at work so will try later.
Just grabbed one from Gamestop.
This sounds like a really charming little device.
@Strumpan Yeah, you're right
I would assume Nintendo has this strategy where they expect players to play the whole library of NSO games now and when new ones come out, they'll finish those new ones off as if there was a checklist. When you think about it, they're treating them like brand new releases.
This is the definition of play once then never use it again
I got it pre-ordered on Amazon as soon as possible. Now it's still telling me they'll e-mail me when it will ship. So... I don't know what is happening.
@TheRealKyleHyde That's my suspicion, too. Link's Awakening didn't get a Dutch translation until the remake, Europe only ever had English, French and German.
Wouldn’t be a game and watch without mislabeled languages!
Mine just arrived. I love everything about it. The sound and picture are great, surprisingly, and the construction feels very solid. The metal faceplate is a high quality touch. It’s a gorgeous package. These are my favorite Zelda games and I look forward to having a dedicated pocket sized device for them.
Was able to snag one from Bet Buy.com. Will be a nice Christmas Present for my younger son to go along with his Mario Game n Watch
Sounds like they've packed quite a bit into this one.
Really hope Nintendo continues the trend of releasing annual G&W units for older series. Would love to see one for Kirby and Metroid!
Only thing I'm not sure about is... well, playing Zelda 1 on the Switch was great, but the final dungeons had me sweaty-palmed, gripping the Pro Controller, frantically swinging away at Darknuts and Wizzrobes. Not sure how I'd fare with these tiny buttons.
I have confirmed that this contains the best version of Link’s Awakening, the original 1.0 Game Boy release. The glitches in this version, like screen warping, defined my childhood. I never thought I’d see this version released again and I am beyond excited.
Got mine. Like it. Looks nice next to my other Game & Watches. Is that really how you guys spell “collectible” over there?
EDIT: ah…Nevermind. I see you guys distinguish between noun and adjective…
Here's a little friendly PSA for people: Each mode on this device has its own secret that is accessed by holding down the "A" button.
The Legend of Zelda starts you with max hearts if you hold the button while selecting a file.
Zelda II will start you with eight lives, fully levelled Attack, Magic and Life stats, in addition to maxed Magic and Life meters, and all Sword Techniques and Spells learned if you hold the button while selecting a file.
Link's Awakening starts you with max hearts if you hold the button while selecting a brand new file, but you have to hold it during the cutscene until you hear the chime, then leave the house to see the results.
Vermin will turn into Game C if you hold the button while selecting Game A or Game B.
Timer will change from counting the number of enemies you defeat within the time limit to counting how long it takes you to fight off a number of enemies if you hold the button while setting the time limit.
And, yes, even the clock mode has a secret function if you hold the A button. It doesn't sing a song and tell you how to draw Link, but it does enable music and sound effects to be heard on the clock screen.
@GrailUK I am also puzzled by them not including the actual Zelda Game & Watch with this. I'm curious if it was over a licensing issue or what? It's totally my fav out of the game & watch library, & would have been perfect here! ah well I guess, it is what it is.
I'm a huge Zelda fan but kinda meh on this. If it had Link to the to Past instead of Zelda II it would have been an insta-buy.
@Hot_Chick Some one said it's 2 screens (like the DS.) (Although they could have easily made it flip screens) Anyhoo. Yeah. I think the idea was to present a new way for us to play 8-bit Zeldas. So I still think the Game and Watch idea is still cool .
@VIIIAxel that is actually a fantastic idea! I would love a Kirby Game & Watch!
I bought this specifically because it does NOT include the DX version of Link's Awakening. I have that on GBC and 3DS already, but I have no copies of this version.
@GrailUK ooooh, I hadn't even thought about that! Now it makes good sense actually! lol
Nintendolife - can you tag game and watch content with the retro tag? That is the part of the site I visit most often and whilst this is new hardware, it definitely has a strong retro theme.
@RadioHedgeFund UPDATE: I actually found one today sealed for £40!
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