If there were ever one consistent staple of the 80’s and 90’s, it would have to be Nintendo. The NES, the SNES, the Game Boy… these consoles defined our childhood in a way that today’s modern games just can’t match. As far as most people are concerned, Nintendo got its start in the 80’s with the NES. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Believe it or not, Nintendo actually was founded all the way back in 1889… as a playing card company, no less!
So clearly Nintendo goes waaayyy back. But what of their video games? Well, their foray into the video gaming industry began in 1974… nearly a decade before the NES was even released in Japan. Nintendo actually released a console of sorts called the Color TV Game back in 1977, but few remember that. However, while still a bit obscure, people do tend to remember their Game & Watch series.
If you’ve ever played one of those Tiger Electronics games (and trust me, even if you can’t recall, you HAVE), the Game & Watch was essentially like a great grandaddy to them. Each contained a fairly simple game, played on an LCD screen. They also contained a clock and alarm, hence the name Game & Watch. There were all sorts of games available, from simplified arcade hits such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. to original games like Octopus and Flagman. The “graphics” were simple, as one would expect from an LCD screen, and the sound was limited to various beeps, but the games caught on thanks to their affordable prices and pick-up-and-play gameplay. The serious lasted all the way from 1980 to 1998, taking various shapes and sizes along the way… with the multi-screen models eventually serving as inspiration for the Nintendo DS!
In 1997, Nintendo decided to pay tribute to the classic series with Game & Watch Gallery, a collection of four of the most popular games on the handhelds. But these weren’t just the same old games… no, they had been remade with modern graphics, sound, and most notably, the addition of Mario characters in place of the old stick-figure like characters from the original. Most of us Game Boy kids had no idea what Game & Watch was, but the promise of 4 games in one was too good for us to pass up.
The four featured games are Manhole (giggle), Fire, Octopus, and Oil Panic. Not a bad selection. Let’s start with Manhole.
Though there’s only four games, there’s a bit of variety with each one. You can choose between the Modern remakes, and the original Classics as they appeared on the Game & Watch. You can choose between easy and hard mode, too. But the modern versions of the games are more than just facelifts of the originals, there’s actually gameplay differences between both versions as well. So I’ll start with the classic versions, and then show the remakes.
In Manhole, you move between four open manholes as dumbasses walk by, holding up a sewer lid so they don’t fall. Kind of an odd situation, I must say. As you could expect, they start coming more frequently, and it becomes difficult to reach each hole in time.
They’re none too happy if they fall. I guess I can understand their displeasure with falling into a nasty sewer, but really, you can hardly blame me for that. It’s their fault for not watching their step, and I can’t be everywhere at once. The main character, on the other hand, couldn’t give less of a shit. He must get paid well.
The remade version seems similar, at first glance. You’re Yoshi, and you need to hold up four sewer lids for passing Toads and Donkey Kong Juniors. But things are a bit different here… the sewer lids stay up after you lift them! They’ll stay up until one person crosses over them, and then fall afterwards. You’d think this would make things easier…
…but to compensate, there’s a LOT more dumbasses to deal with. Learning how to focus on everything at once is the key to victory here.
Occasionally, Mario will hop by. He goes by much faster than the others, so you need to keep on your toes and make sure the lids are ready for him when he comes.
The Toads are also not very happy if they fall, but y’know, serves them right for acting like they’re equals to Mario and Luigi in the New Super Mario Bros. games.
Next is Fire. You control two men with a trampoline, trying to bounce people jumping from a burning building into an ambulance. If you’ve ever played Earthworm Jim 2, this should seem familiar.
Fail to catch someone and they bust their ass. Oops.
The remake is similar. You control Mario and Luigi, and need to save Toads, Yoshis, and DKs jumping from a burning castle. However, each character’s physics vary, and they don’t bounce the same height. So you need to keep this in mind when there’s multiple characters jumping out at once.
Occasionally, a egg will drop out and hatch into a Bob-Omb. I’m assuming you don’t want these to reach the carriage, so just let them drop onto the ground… just watch out for that explosion.
Upon dropping someone, Mario and Luigi run and hide while the unfortunate victim runs off crying, likely suffering from a shattered tailbone. Assholes.
In Octopus, you carefully inch your way towards a treasure chest full of gold, dodging tentacles along the way. You then make your way back up to deposit the gold, before heading back down again. It’s actually quite challenging, and I’m terrible at it.
I guess the message here is “Greed leads only to ruin”. That, or “Octopi are fucking assholes”.
In the Modern version, you play as Mario, retrieving treasure for Peach. Ain’t that bitch a princess? Whatever. At first glance, it’s similar, but there’s a catch: the more gold you try to bring back, the slower you move. You can throw the treasure out to make a speedy getaway if necessary, but often it’s already too late. Mario is dead thanks to your gold-digging ways, Peach.
Lastly, there’s Oil Panic, arguably the hardest game out of the four. You catch oil drops in a bucket, but can only hold three; you need to empty the bucket by pouring it out to your friend, who runs back and forth across the lower floor. If you miss him, you pour it onto an unfortunate pedestrian, who gets rightfully pissed off. What makes this game so challenging is the number of things you need to keep track of at the same time… where the next drop is falling, how many drops you currently have in your bucket, and where your friend is so you can empty the bucket. This makes the game incredibly intense despite its simplicity.
In the Modern version, you play as Mario and have two buckets instead of one. You can switch sides as needed, and overall this version feels a lot easier than the original. You pour the oil into Yoshi’s mouth this time, and dumbass DK Jr. and Luigi replace the pedestrians. Luigi doesn’t care. Look at that lazy bastard.
So that’s it for Game & Watch Gallery. While fun, let’s face it… it leaves a lot to be desired. Keep in mind that the majority of people with Game Boys were kids, too young to be familiar with the Game & Watch series. So instead of a nostalgic tribute to Nintendo’s past, to us it felt more like a collection of four minigames that barely justified the price tag. Sure, they were fun to play for a short time, but we’d get bored of them quickly… they just didn’t have as much to offer as the more advanced games on the Game Boy.
That said, the game still sold pretty well… well enough to spawn several sequels, each of which were vastly superior to the original. So tune in next time for…