Review: Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda

Review: Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda

Turn back time and enjoy a fitting 35th Anniversary tribute to one of the most beloved video game franchises with the Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda edition. Marking the second release for the modernised Game & Watch family of systems, this tiny but mighty console comes packed with three classic games from the series and offers more features than the Mario Edition. Some may say it’s dangerous to go alone on one adventure, but for three? Well, that’s why Zelda tells us to try force, even in pocket form.  

There are many ways to experience Zelda’s long and rich history. Between playing them on the original consoles, diving into the Virtual Console or via the Nintendo Switch Online membership, it’s hard to believe the much-loved franchise has turned 35 years old already – yes, we feel it too. But we’re pleased to report that the Zelda Game & Watch succeeds in offering yet another way of returning to the gems that helped to make The Legend of Zelda so memorable. On the surface, the console is largely similar to the Mario Game & Watch that was released last year, but there are some noticeable and enjoyable improvements.

The stand that comes packed in is a little flimsy, but it does the job.

Looking at the system itself, the Zelda variation shares the same great build quality and weight as the Mario iteration, and you’ll still be charging it with a USB-C cable, which comes included in the pack. With a full charge, you can expect six to eight hours of playtime – a little less if you have the brightness and volume set to maximum. Instead of the red casing, we’re treated to a vibrant green shell that makes an impact whether it’s in your hands or nestled in the cardboard stand that comes included. Like with the Mario Game & Watch, there’s no kickstand. However, there is a cardboard stand that’s included and, while it’s a little on the flimsy side, it still looks fantastic when propped up on a shelf. 

On the console, there’s the addition of Start and Select buttons, which has resulted in the rubbery A and B inputs being situated further down on the right compared to the Mario Game & Watch. While this rearrangement hasn’t caused any issues, it’s a shame the same cannot be said about the D-Pad, as this remains positioned near the bottom edge of the system. It’s no deal-breaker, but it would have been nice to have it shifted up a little. Still, the soft clicky feel is a real treat for the senses and responds remarkably well meaning it’s comfortable to play for extended periods of time. Turn the Game & Watch over while it’s switched on and you’ll notice a light-up Triforce has been included; a neat and unexpected touch that rounds off the package nicely. This is certainly something we’d love 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 the fan favourite The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening can be easily accessed with a press of the ‘Game’ button, with each title featuring its own save files, too. There are also some secrets to uncover, such as playing in hard mode, which can be unlocked with certain button presses or by leaving the system idle so that the screen displays classic Zelda artwork. Switching between each game was quick and easy, making it perfect to pick up where you left off, similar to the ‘Quick Resume’ feature on the Xbox X|S. Performance-wise, the emulation is executed brilliantly with no compromise to image quality or controller input. Each game and mode runs smoothly and there’s also the ability to switch to the standard image ratio in Link’s Awakening to help soak in the nostalgia. Changing between the two screen ratios meant the wider screen option was preferable given the small display. Fortunately, the LCD screen is bright and crisp and the same applies to the sound quality. 

Comparing both the Mario and Zelda systems side-by-side, it seems as though the same screen has been used here. So, if you own the Mario Game & Watch, you’ll know what to expect.  Cranking it up to its highest settings and the brightness was admittedly quite dazzling. From the unmistakable retro green and blacks from the Game Boy’s Zelda: Link’s Awakening, to the striking colour palette of Zelda II, the display presents each game and mode very well. Sure, the 2.5 inch LCD display may seem minuscule at first glance, but this will fit easily in your pocket or sit happily on your bedside table. It’s just great to play when you have a spare few moments as it’s easy to pick up where you left off.

Another lovely touch is the classic mole-bashing Vermin game that also comes included with the package. It has three difficulty options with the hardest, ‘C’ mode, unlockable if you hold down the A Button for five seconds, benefiting players who are after a tougher challenge. Differing from the Mario variation last year, and instead of playing as the famous Mr Game & Watch, the controllable character is our green-clad Hero of Time, Link. The addition of a rupee jingle when you whack a mole would have been the icing on the cake, but this slight tweak to the design fits so well on the system that it oozes charm from every corner.

Another notable change is part of the Clock feature. Here, you’re able to control a mini Link that moves behind the large on-screen digits. Hold A for five seconds and the ticking sound is swapped with some Zelda music, too. It’s fun to fiddle with, but it’s purely there to keep your hands busy. The sixth feature – the Playtime Timer – allows you to set a specific amount of time to defeat enemies from the infamous Zelda II title. It’s oddly satisfying to rack up a best score and tops off this sentimental assortment of modes nicely. 

Well worth a mention is the option to change the language of all three games. The original Zelda and Zelda II both offer Japanese language options that result in a few surprises that may initially go unnoticed. Switching to Japanese on the original The Legend of Zelda title means you’ll get richer sounding audio in some places. This is because the original game was released on the Japanese Famicom system. The improved hardware specs of the Famicom granted the developers the use of upgraded sounds compared to the NES. Zelda II, however, sees the dialogue sounds changing slightly, too. The adjustments don’t stop at the audio either. The Japanese version of the game boasts some different character models and screens, which will delight fans who have a keener eye for detail. It’s these small tweaks that highlight the appeal of this cute pocket system.

Retailing at an RRP 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 some simple, yet fun, modes to play, the refinements made in the second Game & Watch collection will go down a storm with Zelda fans and collectors alike. It may not be the prettiest system you’ll own, but there’s a certain charm to its simplicity that’s amplified by the gorgeous screen, rich sounds and its portability, making these classics a real joy to replay.

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

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