Monday, November 23, 2009

Nintendo Game And Watch (Nintendo)



Nintendo Game and Watch
Nintendo
1980 - 1986

Nintendo Game and Watch began its life in the Spring of 1980 and would have a strong following up until the series end in the fall of 1991, two years after the release of the Nintendo Gameboy.

There were several sets in the Game and Watch series, though not too many people are aware of the differences in each individual series, and truth be told, rather than appearance or slight variations in the screen quality, there really isn't any.

Approximately sixty different games were released during the almost decade long run of the Game and Watch. Over time, Nintendo got a little creative with their styles of the hardware which would later be used on various versions of the Gameboys itself.

SILVER

The Silver series made its debut in April of 1980 with the game "Ball". April 28 to be exact. Like most of the games, simplicity was the key, but this didn't necessarily mean the games were going to be easy. In fact, some were far from it. The series got its name by way that the faceplates of the games themselves were silver.

The games were laid out in either a two or four button combination which were labeled with the screen in the middle. Along the bottom of the screen were three more buttons labeled, "Game A", "Game B", and "Time".

Game "A" was typically easier than game "B", and the time button did exactly what you would expect. It displayed the time - Thus the franchise name, "Game and Watch". Also included on each handheld game was a tiny, only accessibly with a very thin object "Alarm" button.

Each game came packed with a Styrofoam lining and was packed into a cardboard box with an instruction booklet. Sometimes the games would even come packed with the required LCD batteries.

The Silver series included five games in total. Those games are (listed in order of release);

Ball
Flagman
Vermin
Fire
Judge

Each had its own unique style of play which offered gamers a small variety to chose from. The most repeated style would be the concept of catching falling objects and either guiding them to safety or simply catching them once.

GOLD

The second series of Nintendo Game and Watches got its name in the same fashion that the prior series did. By now, Nintendo had sold thousands of games across the United States and the series had gained a rather strong following. Handheld gaming was depicted as the way of the future, and Nintendo was proudly leading the way.

The Gold series of games offered three new titles with the same basic concept and layout as the Silver series. The games were (listed in order of release);

Manhole
Helmet
Lion

All three games were released between January and April of 1981. Worth noting is the name change that the game Helmet got in the UK by way of being called Headache.

WIDE SCREEN

Very noticeable changes took place in the world of the Game and Watch in June of 1981. Boasting a larger screen and displaying the series name underneath, the Wide Screen offered a much larger display which meant that Nintendo could make the games more involved.

Another noticeable change was that the game option buttons as well as the time and alarm buttons were moved to the top right hand side of each game. This in turn meant that the screens could not only be longer, but also taller.

At this time Nintendo also took a step further in the gaming world by incorporating some iconic animated figures into their own games. This would be a huge step in the franchise, and one that would be continued until the series end.

The Wide Screen games included (listed in order of release);

Parachute
Octopus
Popeye
Chef
Mickey Mouse
Egg
Fire
Turtle Bridge
Fire Attack
Snoopy

Despite the slight price increase due to the larger screens, fans of the little handheld games happily received these ten new games into their collections.

NEW WIDE SCREEN

In 1982 Nintendo finally began displaying their company name on the front of each Game and Watch. This in turn meant that the name of the series was again excluded. But, Nintendo had good reasoning for doing this. During this time they were in the early development stages of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was crucial that they began getting their name out on the market. If people would make the connection between the highly successful hand held games and the upcoming system, it would be highly likely that they would in turn purchase more units of the upcoming console.

The New Wide Screen series would include several well known faces from the Nintendo line, and was so popular that the series continued on for two years after the Nintendo Gameboy was released, and managed to still sell several copies.

The games released in the New Wide Screen series were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Cement Factory
Manhole
Tropical Fish
Super Mario Bros.
Climber
Balloon Fight
Mario the Juggler

MULTI SCREEN

Not only were the multi screen games the most popular, they were also the most ground breaking. Where else at the time could you find a game that required such high skill as to require two screens to play?

Between May, 1982 and August 1989 Nintendo released a total of fifteen multi screen games.

The games included (in order of release);

Oil Panic
Donkey Kong
Mickey and Donald
Green House
Donkey Kong II
Mario Bros.
Rain Shower
Life Boat
Pinball
Black Jack
Squish
Bombsweeper
Safebuster
Goldcliff
Zelda

Despite the re-shrinking of the screens to their original sizes, the games were so good that most retail stores couldn't even keep them in stock. What helped drive the series was that a lot of the games depicted characters from prior arcade classics and earlier Game and Watch games as well as familiar faces from NES games.

Sadly, the series ended prior to two more games which were scheduled for release (Tetris and Boukas) that never saw the light of day.

TABLETOP

While Game and Watch games were perfect for car rides, Nintendo wanted to offer a more "home" version style.

The tabletop games would resemble shrunken down arcade machines, and also offer players with color screens. They were widely received by gamers around the world, and were so popular that other video game companies began producing their own as well.

A total of four tabletop machines were released, but all four were basically upgraded versions of prior released games.

The four games were (listed in order of release);

Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Cement Factory
Snoopy
Popeye

The tabletop games were only released in 1983 and disappeared mainly because while popular, they weren't cost efficient on the part of Nintendo to manufacture.

PANORAMA

To understand what this series is, one must first understand what a panorama is. Simply explained, a panorama is any wide view of a physical space or a wide-angle representation of such a view. In other words, the Nintendo Game and Watch Panorama series was Wide Screen with more.

The Panorama series (at the time) was a beautiful way to show the slight advance in handheld gaming technology. The graphics were slightly better, and the games were some of the best ever released.

The layout of the games changed considerably as were the style of the overall design of the cases. Some even argued that the Game and Watches now looked rather cheap - Far from the truth.

The six games released throughout 1983 and 1984 were (listed in order of release);

Snoopy
Popey
Donkey Kong Jr.
Mario's Bombs Away
Mickey Mouse
Donkey Kong Circus

The Panorama games to this day remain the most difficult to track down among collectors.

SUPERCOLOR

The two SuperColor games released in early February were not well received at all. Perhaps it was their futuristic look that scared gamers away. Perhaps it was because the look and feel of the games that gamers were used to appeared to be gone. Or, maybe it was the simple truth that the two games that were released sucked so bad that nobody bothered.

I'm going with the third guess on that one.

Despite it’s flashy looks and boasting of color, the games for the SuperColor were so horrible that it wasn't enough for this new handheld technology to push these games to the front line. Because of their utter failure, Nintendo quickly jumped back into making their standard style of Game and Watch games.

The two games released were (listed in order of release);

Spitball Sparky
Crab Grab

Micro Vs.

We'd had the ability to play two players Game and Watch games before, but never at the same time. Never like this.

Before, if one wanted to partake of a two player Game and Watch game, you had to hand it back and forth to each other. If not done quickly, chances were you weren't going to last long.

Micro Vs. changed all that by offering two sets of controls which branched off of the main unit. This way, each person could hold their controller, and still be able to see the screen. The downside to this however was that you had to get pretty friendly with that person because there wasn't a lot of lead on the wires.

The three games released in this set were (listed in order of release);

Boxing
Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong Hockey

For some reason, while this was a great new concept, the Micro Vs. never took off. Maybe because people didn't want to sit on top of each others laps to play a game.

CRYSTAL SCREEN

The Crystal Screen series was a major step up as far as picture quality, but the price alone was enough to kill the series. Costing almost twice as much as a regular Game and Watch, consumers weren't too eager to jump on this technology.

Through 1986 only three Crystal Screen games were released. It didn't help that all of them were previously released titles. They were (in order of release);

Super Mario Bros.
Climber
Balloon

The Crystal Screen games faded away almost as quickly as they came. It didn't help that in an attempt to make the games easier to play Nintendo threw a bunch of buttons all over the place. Have you ever tried to hit only one small button in a cluster of four? Not easy.

Though Nintendo no longer produces the Game and Watch series, there have been a few "Special Editions" released over the years of prior best selling ones. They're typically released in very low quantities and in my personal opinion cost way more than they're worth.

However, collectors around the world continue to hunt down their missing pieces from their collection. The series remains so popular not only for nostalgic reasons, but because a lot of the games simply were that good. For these reasons alone, Nintendo Game and Watch prices have skyrocketed on the secondary market, fetching prices upwards of the high hundreds range to even slightly over a thousand for some while most remain in the couple hundred range - Still, not a bad investment or cash in (depending on what side of the market you're on).

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3 comments:

  1. Awesome document and great pictures. i have a few of these antiques myself but i remember playing most of them as a kid.
    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. NO SUPER MARIO BROS F1 RACE GAME & WATCH?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never heard of it. Please send photos if you have any.

      Delete

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