Nintendo’s first gaming series: Game & Watch!
Original post came from Jake’s blog here.
Hello readers! Welcome back to my blog!
I finally got around to make another blog post. What will I be talking about this time? One of the first predecessors to all handheld gaming that exists today, Game & Watch from Nintendo!
I can imagine on some of you readers are thinking. “Hey! Wasn’t he that guy from Super Smash Bros Brawl?”
Why yes he is that same guy. When I explained Candy & Watch Saga that Sean and I made for the Candy Game Jam, I always get that question. I am not sure why, but for some reason, I get more motivated to explain where the Super Smash Bros Brawl character came from. Which is going to be the topic of this post.
So where did this LCD-like fellow come from? Well, he was the character featured in the first handheld gaming entities made by Nintendo called Game & Watch. This idea for Game & Watch was begotten by a Nintendo game designer named Gunpei Yokoi. While traveling in 1979, he came up with this idea when he saw a business man pressing random buttons on his LCD calculator out of boredom. The idea then dawned on Yokoi to invent a device that could double as a watch and a gaming device that can be used to kill time. And that’s how Game & Watch came to be. It ended becoming one of the most success gaming products in the early 80′s as it helped Nintendo establish their footprint in the video game industry.
Each system has its own setup of button and screen(s), depending on the games. Some of the systems have two buttons that move Mr. Game & Watch forward and back in one screen, some of them have four buttons move the fella diagonally in a screen. Some of them even have a d-pad and two screens like Nintendo DS! Each of them also has two additional buttons which each determine the game mode of the game, which is Game A and Game B. Game B is usually the harder version of Game A, with the objects in the game move faster. Each game screen has an LCD screen with the colored background. The sprites switch on and off similar to give off a pattern like a LCD clock to make it appear that the player is moving along the space. Check out of the video to get a look at the live play of Octopus.
For the entire duration that Game & Watch dominated the market, Nintendo created approximately 60 different Game & Watch games that spanned through the entire 80′s decade with the final entry being released in 1991. The very first game created was called Ball which was released in 1980. The objective of the game is to control the arms of the juggler and not drop a single ball on the ground. For each time that a ball lands in your hand, you score a point. If a ball misses your hand, you lose a chance. If you lose all three, then its game over. That similar formula of objective, scoring points, and losing chances is maintained throughout many different entries of the Game & Watch series. Many different ideas made it to the Game & Watch series. Some of the more popular games from the series include Octopus (the inspiration for our Candy & Watch Saga), Fire, and Oil Panic. Other games featured different characters from Nintendo back in the 80s including Mario & Donkey Kong. There are also other Game & Watch games that featured characters outside the Nintendo franchise such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye, and even Snoopy. The variety that Nintendo allowed in Game & Watch games managed to reach out to a huge variety of audiences making Game & Watch their first successful gaming series. If you are wondering about the current listing of all of the Game & Watch games, you can take a peek at this link here.
Since the Game & Watch reigned in the 80s, the technology used was primitive. For the series, Game & Watch didn’t feature interchangeable cartridges so each system has only one game pre-installed. The specs were minimal (since Nintendo cared more about the game play rather than fancy technology at the time) as each game screen per system has an LCD screen with a colored background. The batteries required to operate each system were button cell batteries or the batteries you would find in your laser pointers. They designed to specs to be minimal to where the player can play the game for as long as possible. Assuming that the player plays 1 hour a day on the machine, 2 of the button cell batteries can power the machine for 3-6 months, depending on the usage of the system and the batteries used to operate Game & Watch. Isn’t technology great?
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Near the end of the 80′s, Nintendo slowed down the production of Game & Watch games as they decided to focus their efforts on building the first iteration of the Game Boy. The final Game & Watch game was released in 1991 and it would be the end of it… forever.
Or is it? Yes it was the end of releasing new Game & Watch games, but Nintendo managed to keep the Game & Watch legacy alive. Since 1997, Nintendo started porting the games into compilation games, starting with Game & Watch Gallery for the Game Boy. The Game & Watch Gallery series featured the modern remakes of the Game & Watch games that featured Mario characters, along with the classic versions of the games. Nintendo also ported the dual screen Game & Watch games out to the Nintendo DS store, but they were made exclusive to Club Nintendo members. The DS ports were the most recent ports for the Game & Watch, as the last one got released in 2010.
Will Nintendo ever plan to port the Game & Watch games again? Who knows? There doesn’t seem to any plans to port more Game & Watch games. But for now, Mr. Game & Watch will hold his spot in roster in the Super Smash Bros. series as the games themselves will hold their spot into the hearts of Nintendo and the players.