You may have noticed over the past few weeks that Nintendo has been releasing Game & Watch titles for the DSi at 200 points a pop. Then again, maybe you haven’t, since I had to put a temporary kibosh on my Nintendon’t column. Either way, most of the titles are really simple and not worth the points; even the most ardent Nintendo fan would have a hard time finding something to love about Ball or Manhole. The good news is that these throwaway releases bring us one step closer to an inexpensive return of Zelda Game & Watch from eons ago.
I actually used to own one of these when I was a kid (along with Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario Bros.), but my mom accidentally pitched it during some sort of misguided “spring cleaning” frenzy. Considering that the game is now selling for around $200 on eBay, I think it’s safe to say that this was a tragedy. I know for many, LCD games are ancient artifacts from the pre-Game-Boy era, but the Zelda Game & Watch is an exception. Though the game is simpler than even the original NES adventure, it was definitely the deepest and most satisfying experience of its kind.
While Zelda had a dual-screen layout, most of the action was on the bottom. Using Link’s shield and sword, players were asked to quickly dispatch any Moblins, Poes or Stalfoses (Stalfi?) in his way. After the screen was cleared, the player would then need to consult the top screen’s map to figure out where to go next. These dungeons would eventually lead to a dragon boss fights up top. Victory would earn you the eight pieces of Triforce required to rescue the princess. In other words, Zelda was less about scoring points and more about completing a quest, setting it apart from its peers. There was a sense of exploration that made it feel almost like Zelda II Lite, even without all of the nifty tools, puzzles and color.
Unfortunately, with handheld heavy hitters like Link’s Awakening and Spirit Tracks, the obscure Game & Watch game tends to get lost in the shuffle. Other than as a final unlockable in Game & Watch Gallery 4, there simply is no other way to play it, and that stinks. I’m hoping that this is where the DSi comes in to save the day. Zelda may be a bit creaky by today’s standards, but it’ll still be worthwhile if and when it hits the DSi.
Honestly I would love to see the Game and Watch Gallery games for the Gameboy Color and GBA converted to DSiWare – those were always pretty value-packed and easily worth an 800 point premium. Although if Nintendo plans to release the entire catalog of original Game and Watch games for 200 points each, I fear the Gallery titles will be forever lost to history.