Review: Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda

Review: Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda

Step back in time and enjoy a 35th anniversary-worthy tribute to one of the most beloved video game franchises with the Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda Edition. Marking the second iteration in the modernized Game & Watch family of systems, this tiny but powerful console comes with three classic games in the series and offers more features than the Mario edition. Some would say that it is dangerous to go on an adventure alone, but with three? Well, that’s why Zelda tells us to try the strength, even in pocket form.

There are many ways to learn about Zelda’s long and rich history. Between playing them on the original consoles, diving into Virtual Console, or through the Nintendo Switch Online membership, it’s hard to believe that the beloved franchise has already turned 35 – yes, we feel it, too. But we’re happy to report that the Zelda Game & Watch manages to offer another way to return to the gems that helped make The Legend of Zelda so memorable. In appearance, the console is largely similar to the Mario Game & Watch released last year, but there are some noticeable and pleasant improvements.

The support provided is a bit flimsy, but it gets the job done.

Looking at the system itself, the Zelda variant shares the same build quality and weight as the Mario iteration, and you’ll still be charging it with a USB-C cable, which is included in the pack. With a full charge, you can expect six to eight hours of playback – a little less if you’ve set the brightness and volume to maximum. Instead of the red case, we’re treated to a vibrant green shell that makes an impact, whether it’s in your hands or tucked away in the included cardboard holder. As with the Mario Game & Watch, there is no kickstand. However, there is a cardboard backing that is included and although it is a bit flimsy it still looks fantastic when placed on a shelf.

On the console there are the addition of Start and Select buttons, which results in the rubbery inputs A and B being located lower to the right of the Mario Game & Watch. While this rearrangement didn’t cause any problems, it’s a shame that the same can’t be said for the D-Pad, as it stays positioned near the bottom edge of the system. It’s not a compromise, but it would have been nice to increase it a bit. Nonetheless, the soft click feeling is a real treat for the senses and responds remarkably well, which means it’s comfortable to play for long periods of time. Turn the Game & Watch over while it is on and you will notice that a Lighted Triforce has been included; a neat and unexpected touch that completes the whole well. This is definitely something we would like to see more of with future themed releases.

Speaking of fun features, the system offers players six different games or modes. The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and fan favorite The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening are easily accessible by pressing the “Play” button, with each title also having its own save files. There are also a few secrets to uncover, like playing hard mode, which can be unlocked by pressing certain buttons or leaving the system idle for the screen to show classic Zelda artwork. Switching between games was quick and easy, making it perfect for picking up where you left off, similar to the “Quick Resume” feature on the Xbox X | S. From a performance standpoint, the emulation is performed brilliantly, without compromising on image quality or controller input. Every game and mode works smoothly, and there’s also the option to switch to the standard aspect ratio in Link’s Awakening to help soak up the nostalgia. Switching between the two screen ratios meant that the larger screen option was better given the small screen. Fortunately, the LCD screen is bright and crisp and so is the sound quality.

Comparing the Mario and Zelda systems side by side, it looks like the same screen was used here. So if you own the Mario Game & Watch, you will know what to expect. Crank it up to its highest settings and the brightness was admittedly pretty dazzling. From the retro greens and unmistakable blacks of Game Boy’s Zelda: Link’s Awakening to the striking color palette of Zelda II, the screen presents every game and mode very well. Sure, the 2.5-inch LCD screen may seem tiny at first glance, but it will slip easily into your pocket or easily sit on your nightstand. It’s just great to play when you have a few spare moments because it’s easy to pick up where you left off.

Another nice touch is the classic Vermin mole bashing game which is also included in the package. It has three difficulty options with the most difficult, “C” mode, unlockable if you hold down the A button for five seconds, benefiting players who are looking for a more difficult challenge. Unlike last year’s Mario variant, and instead of playing the famous Mr. Game & Watch, the controllable character is our green clad time hero, Link. Adding a rupee jingle when you hit a mole would have been the icing on the cake, but this slight adjustment to the design fits the system so well that it is overflowing with charm from every corner.

Another notable change is part of the Clock function. Here you can control a mini Link that moves behind the big numbers on the screen. Hold A for five seconds and the ticking sound is also exchanged with Zelda music. It’s fun to play with, but it’s purely there to occupy your hands. The sixth feature – the play timer – allows you to set a specific duration to defeat the enemies of the infamous Zelda II title. It’s oddly satisfying to get the highest score and round off this sentimental assortment of modes nicely.

It is worth mentioning the possibility to change the language of the three games. Both the original Zelda and Zelda II offer Japanese language options which come with a few surprises that may initially go unnoticed. The switch to Japanese on the original title of The Legend of Zelda means you’ll get richer sound in some places. This is because the original game was released on the Japanese Famicom system. Famicom’s improved hardware specs allowed developers to use improved sounds over the NES. Zelda II, however, also sees the dialogue sounds change slightly. The settings don’t stop at the audio either. The Japanese version of the game features different character models and screens, which will delight fans who pay attention to detail. It’s these little tweaks that bring out the appeal of this cute pocket-sized system.

At a suggested retail price of $ 49.99 / £ 44.99, the Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda edition is a fantastic piece of Nintendo hardware. With three games on offer and simple yet fun game modes, the refinements made in the second Game & Watch collection will appeal to Zelda fans and collectors alike. It might not be the prettiest system you’ll own, but its simplicity has a certain charm that is amplified by the gorgeous display, rich sounds, and portability, making these classics a blast to replay.

Final Verdict: Recommended for fans of the Zelda franchise, people who love Nintendo collectibles, or those who want to experience iconic Zelda games for the first time.

A Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda console was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.

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