Whether it’s the Switch, the original Game Boy, weird Android-powered gaming portables or, now, Nintendo’s surprisingly solid Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda, I’m strangely drawn to handheld consoles.
While Nintendo’s follow-up to its Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. handheld is a surprisingly solid device, its game selection remains disappointing, and it has little to offer to those that aren’t hardcore collectors.
The actual device itself is nearly identical to the Mario Game & Watch. This means that it features a tiny 2.36-inch LCD display that’s surprisingly sharp and bright, and is small enough that you can easily hold it in one hand. Though I appreciate its tiny size, after an hour or so, my hands start to feel cramped, and the angled sides uncomfortably dig into my palms.
Still, part of the Game & Watch revival devices’ appeal is that it looks like a modern version of Nintendo’s classic handheld, so I’m okay with dealing with a small amount of comfort for the sake of its aesthetic. Its buttons are solid and responsive, and the portable’s overall build offers the high-quality sheen you’d expect from a Nintendo product.
Battery life comes in at roughly eight hours with display brightness set to approximately 50 percent, which, while isn’t amazing, is a still decent amount of time. The device also charges via USB-C.
Beyond the colour shift from red to green, the only other notable change to the device is a new auto-sleep mode that powers off the Game & Watch after roughly three minutes. Of course, you can still change the aspect ratio of games, set a timer and view a clock, just like Nintendo’s first Game & Watch portable.
Now that I have the device’s design out of the way, it’s time to dive into the Zelda Game & Watch’s most significant issue: games.
The handheld features The Legend of Zelda, the often-maligned The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and my favourite title in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. There’s also a classic Game & Watch game called Vermin included in the portable. Emulation-wise, all three titles perform great, though it’s worth noting that strangely, Nintendo included the original version of Link’s Awakening and not the superior DX iteration that was released for the Game Boy Colour.
This is where my major gripe comes in: Nintendo needs to add more titles to its Game & Watch collections, especially given their $69.99 price tag. Where are A Link To The Past, Oracle of Age/Oracle of Seasons, The Minish Cap and more?
The obvious answer is that the Japanese gaming giant didn’t include more titles in the handheld because it wants to be able to add them to its Switch Nintendo Online subscription service at a later date. However, that doesn’t make it easier to swallow the fact that the Zelda Game & Watch only includes three classic Zelda games and still costs $70.
If you’re a die-hard Zelda fan or love to collect handhelds, the Zelda Game & Watch is a worthwhile purchase. I’ve had a surprising amount of fun playing through a significant portion of Link’s Awakening again on its tiny display.
However, anyone else is likely better off playing the titles on other Nintendo consoles or through an emulator.
Nintendo’s Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda is available for $69.99 at Best Buy and several other retailers.
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