Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros: The collector's item in the test

Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros: The collector's item in the test
Even if 2020 was by and large a disaster, at least Nintendo could look forward to a small anniversary: ​​Cult plumber Mario celebrated his 35th birthday! On this occasion, the fans were not only served Super Mario 3D All-Stars, the online title Super Mario Bros. 35 or Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, there was also a special extra: The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. , a stand-alone mini-console for on the go. This is of course based on Nintendo's successful Game & Watch series, which enjoyed great popularity in the 80s and only came to an end with the triumph of the Game Boy. The handy LCD devices came with a permanently installed game on the market, offered only simple monochrome graphics and had a built-in clock function as a gimmick.

The new edition is reminiscent of with its angular design the old LCD models, but under the gold-plated front a modern interior is ticking: You get a colored screen, surprisingly powerful sound, a built-in battery and three pre-installed games, including Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels in theirs original NES versions. The device is only available in limited numbers and is expected to be delivered to dealers by March 31, 2021, after which it will be officially off the market. Thus, the small console is clearly aimed at collectors, which also explains its proud price: Nintendo wants to see just under 60 euros for the new Game & Watch edition.

Workmanship, screen and technology

The chic packaging is surprisingly small. In addition to the console, only a USB cable is included. Source: Nintendo With its narrow dimensions (approx. 11 x 6.5 cm) and a thickness of only 1 cm, the device feels like it fits into any tooth gap. Because it's light as a feather at around 68g, even children's hands can hold it without any problems. Similar to the NES controller, the control pad and action buttons are located in the lower third, which is nostalgic, but also a bit uncomfortable for the average thumb. The buttons would have been placed much better higher up, but are at least well made, so it can be played quite well despite everything. The gold-plated front panel looks high-quality and robust, the red plastic housing on the back, on the other hand, looks a bit cheap and can be easily pushed in.

The original Game & Watch devices were operated with simple button cells at the time. The new edition, on the other hand, has a permanently integrated battery that is charged via the USB-C cable supplied. Nintendo decided not to have its own power supply, which was the right decision.

Size comparison: 3DS (left), Switch (above), Game Boy Micro (right) and Game & Watch. (below). Source: PC Games The color screen is very small with a diagonal of approx. 2.4 inches (corresponds to approx. 6 cm), but for a pixelated NES game like Super Mario Bros. the format is okay, all details are neat recognizable. There are no volume buttons, all settings are made in a menu that you open via the pause / set button. Here you can regulate the screen brightness and volume in ten levels. The small mono loudspeaker on the left is tough and brings the happy Mario melodies across with surprisingly powerful force. However, there is no headphone connection, and connection via an adapter to the USB port is also not possible.

Three classics on board

In the LCD classic Ball, you have to juggle with Mario. Source: Nintendo Three games are permanently installed in Game & Watch, you cannot add further titles. The original LCD game "Ball" is included as a nice gimmick, this time with Mario as the main character. If you don't know the classic: You have to juggle balls in it by moving Mario's hands sideways. This ensures pleasant nostalgia for a few minutes, then leaden boredom sets in. The gameplay is just not fun anymore.

The core of the Game & Watch are the two NES classics Super Mario Bros. and the trickier successor Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels, which is in the game menu under the Name "Super Mario Bros. 2" is listed. For those of you who didn't know: In Japan, the game was released as a direct sequel just one year after the first part. The short development time of a few months was clearly noticeable in the game: Although it had tougher levels and a few new ideas, it was otherwise almost identical to the original. Basically, it was a stand-alone add-on that was aimed specifically at experienced gamers.

Due to the high degree of difficulty, Nintendo of America refused to localize the game for the western market at the time. Instead, it was decided to rework the Japanese platformer Doki Doki Panic into a Mario adventure; the result was Super Mario Bros. 2 as we know it in this country. Its Japanese equivalent, however, only made it onto the German market in 1993, as part of the Super Mario All Stars collection for Super Nintendo. In order to avoid confusion, the game was renamed "Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels" - and this is exactly what you get on Game & Watch.

Risk of confusion: The included Super Mario Bros. 2 corresponds to the game we know in this country as Super Mario Bros .: The Lost Levels. Source: Nintendo Since the two games are very similar, the conclusion is identical: The retro hops are cult and are still fun. But they are also 35 years old, played through quickly and on top of that have already appeared for dozens of other platforms. For normal gamers who do not identify as ardent collectors, this is simply not worth 60 euros. Nintendo could have built in the rest of the NES parts here or, as a bonus, the Super Mario Land series from the Game Boy to provide a little more value. Pressing the game button opens this menu, here you can easily switch between the three games. Source: PC Games

Nintendo has made improvements here

There is no save function, but you can easily interrupt a game session or switch between games without losing your progress. Nintendo has also added a few details that improve the gaming experience. For example, if you hold down the B button on the start screen, you can jump into worlds you have already reached and don't have to start over and over again in the first level. If, on the other hand, you hold down the A button when starting the game, you will have infinite lives and can play with much less stress.

Pure retro: The first Super Mario Bros. still has its charm even after 35 years. Source: Nintendo If you have played through Super Mario Bros., a higher level of difficulty will be unlocked as usual. In the Game & Watch version, however, this mode remains permanently available as soon as you have reached it for the first time. In the original game it was lost after the console was switched off. And anyone who has mastered the tricky successor and is looking for another challenge should be happy about it: Every time you play Super Mario Bros. 2 (or The Lost Levels), you will receive a star, which is then displayed in the main menu. Have you collected eight of these stars, a secret world with four more levels will be unlocked. To enter it, you have to hold down the B button in the start menu.

Oh yes, there is also a clock

In addition to the three games, there is also a clock function that you can use can be activated at any time with the "Time" button. The digital clock shines in different Mario designs and pleases with funny animations and details, but unfortunately does not offer an alarm clock function. The device also lacks a fold-out stand, so the console cannot simply be placed on the desk. At least there is a little gimmick in it: If you hold down the A button for several seconds in clock mode, a short, English song and animation will be played in which you learn to trace a Mario face. Incidentally, Nintendo made a small mistake, the subtitles do not match the selected language. But that's not a big deal: If you want German texts, you just have to choose the French option.

The clock function is appealing with its funny animations. Source: Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. has been available since November 13, 2020, the price is around 60 euros. With some providers, however, the device is already offered significantly cheaper. An overview of the device and its features can be found on the official Nintendo website.

CONCLUSION: A charming collector's item, which is only aimed at die-hard Nintendo fans and console lovers who really put every handheld in the glass case want. Everyone else can safely save the money, the little nostalgia is not worth it.

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