Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the excellent Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch system to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the beloved plumber. This year, it’s the turn of the hero in a green tunic, as we celebrate three and a half decades of adventuring through Hyrule and beyond, with The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch system from Nintendo.
There are many similarities between last year’s Super Mario Bros. release, and it comes just in time for the holiday season. But how does this one compare? Is it the perfect gift for that Zelda fan in your life? Or a crushing disappointment that makes the CDi games look like a masterpiece? Let’s go on an adventure…
Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda
Developed by Nintendo
Published by Nintendo
Released: 12th November 2021
Review copy provided by Nintendo UK
Just like the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch, the packaging is adorned with sprites and throwbacks to the original Legend of Zelda title, albeit slightly less so than the previous system, and comes in a bright green colour this time around. I was really happy to see these cool design choices return once again. The system can be charged using a USB-C cable, which is included within the packaging.
Be sure to redeem the 300 Gold Points voucher bundled within, which will give you the equivalent of £3 off any title or application from the Nintendo eShop. It’s a small addition, but a nice bonus. This offer expires on November 30th 2023!
The Game & Watch system itself has the same button layout, design, mono speaker, and colour screen features as the Super Mario Bros. edition. At first glance, it looked like this was just more of the same, but there’s a number of new features and cool additions in this release that are worth taking note of.
First of all, let’s touch on the games and applications in this release a little. This device comes with four classic titles that promise hours of fun. The Legend of Zelda is the game that started it all, and it was obvious that Link’s first adventure was bound to be a part of this release. I spent a good deal of time navigating through the different dungeons and monsters that Hyrule could throw at me. The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often referred to as the black sheep of the series, offering a very different take on the franchise, and presumably its a title that is overlooked by fans. It’s a great opportunity to jump in and play an underrated classic.
One of the best games in this release however, is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. While we’ve seen plenty of NES love for these Game & Watch systems so far, Link’s Game Boy outing is a wonderful surprise addition, and an absolute must play. You can also change the screen size by navigating to the game’s settings via the pause/set button. and play Link’s Awakening in its original Game Boy aspect ratio if you wish. If you enjoyed the highly recommended Switch remake of Link’s Awakening, you should definitely give the original a try.
All three Legend of Zelda games included in this release, allow you to switch between the English and Japanese versions of the game. Link’s Awakening also includes French and German translations. It’s a great opportunity to explore the regional differences between the games. For example, the Japanese versions of The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link have much fuller sounding music and sound effects, thanks to the Famicom Disk System’s extra sound channel, which wasn’t present in the western release. Other differences include additional monsters within dungeons, sprite differences and text fonts. Some of these can also be found on the official Nintendo website in Japanese and English.
It wouldn’t be a Game & Watch release without a game from the series making an appearance. This time around, it’s Vermin, a 1980’s classic where you attempt to rid burrowing moles from underground by bashing them over the head with your hammers. The main character has taken a step back and allows Link to trade saving the kingdom of Hyrule, to saving the world from pesky moles instead.
The system also has a cool Legend of Zelda themed clock, in the same vein as the Super Mario Bros. release. It’s definitely fun watching Link navigate environments on his own, and watching scenes transition on the hour. You can even take control of Link yourself if you prefer! Unlike the Super Mario Bros. release, Nintendo have conveniently given owners the option of converting the inner packaging into a stand, so you can rest your Game & Watch inside it and admire the time as it rests upon your desk or bedside table. We definitely approve of this secondary use of its packaging!
Finally, a themed timer is included, which lets you set a time limit between one and ten minutes, and defeat as many enemies as you can in that time as Link from Zelda II. You can switch between three different stages from the game, and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive. Try to work on beating your highest score, which is saved in the bottom right of the screen.
The Legend of Zelda series is well known for secrets and surprises, and this Game & Watch is no exception to this rule. While I would prefer to not spoil all the surprises, there are some very useful additions hidden away. By holding down the A button on the profile select menu of the original Legend of Zelda game for five seconds, you will hear a chime that will confirm you have unlocked a secret. You can start the game with all twenty heart containers! If you do the same with The Adventure of Link, you will receive eight lives.
While it works a little differently in Link’s Awakening, the same secret can be unlocked by holding down A as you move into some gameplay. After five seconds, you will hear the familiar jingle, and you will have fourteen heart containers, the maximum number offered in the game.
These additions certainly open things up for those who may struggle with some of these classic Zelda titles. This secret also applies to the clock, timer and Vermin game, offering some neat changes that I hope fans will explore for themselves. Additionally, every game can have its save state saved so you can return to them later.
One other neat addition to the system itself is the addition of a backlight in the shape of a Triforce, a really awesome feature that I didn’t even spot the first time I used it, as I was so focused on playing the games, and didn’t imagine something like that would be included!
While the system appears to have less hidden secrets than the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch that released last year, I would say the additions are much more valuable to the player, offering greater accessibility and fun. It also features three mainline Zelda games, as opposed to the two Mario games included in the previous release. I feel this release offers better value for the consumer, and would be the perfect gift for a Legend of Zelda fan this holiday season.
Final score – 4.5 out of 5
Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.