Like somebody with a birthday towards the end of December, Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. combines two celebrations into one. Not only does it celebrate all things Super Mario to coincide with the moustachioed oneâ€™s 35th anniversary, but also the Game & Watch itself, as noted by a â€˜Special Thanks to Youâ€™ message hidden on the box.
It comes nicely packaged, further enforcing the fact that itâ€™s firmly aimed at collectors. The transparent sleeve summarises that this is indeed a Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch, but once removed, an authentic Game & Watch â€˜Ballâ€™ box is revealed. Itâ€™s a nice touch.
The build quality of the device itself is equally impressive. The d-pad is surprisingly springy, the rubber buttons are pleasing to touch, and the colour screen is remarkably sharp and clear. Astonishingly bright, too â€“ we even had to turn the contrast down a couple of notches. The unit is powered by a rechargeable battery, with a small USB C cable included. Also of note is how light this device is, making it surprisingly comfortable to hold for long periods.
Itâ€™s whatâ€™s actually on the handheld that disappoints, especially given the Â£49.99 price tag. It features the original NES Super Mario Bros. and itâ€™s tougher, once Japan-only, sequel, a rendition of the Game & Watch title Ball (the first-ever G&W), and an animated clock with numerous secrets to find.
Super Mario Bros. remains as quintessential as ever, while Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels still provides a stiff challenge. Here, enemies are placed perilously, the level design is far more devious, and the poisonous mushroom pick-up leads to many early graves. Ball, meanwhile, isnâ€™t exactly the greatest Game & Watch of all-time. You could even say itâ€™s the crudest.
The clock is a curiously entertaining addition, though â€“ if placed on a desk or within a workspace, and youâ€™ll likely find it highly distracting. Itâ€™s a shame a kickstand wasnâ€™t included. A case or pouch wouldnâ€™t have gone amiss either – due to fear of scratching the screen, itâ€™s hard to imagine many will take this handheld out and about. A far cry from the G&Wâ€™s original purpose.
Ultimately, Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. is a peculiar thing, feeling a little half-hearted. Itâ€™s meant for playing games on yet features very few. At the same, itâ€™s clearly aimed at collectors but isnâ€™t the easiest of things to display. Super Mario Bros. will always be a classic, this much is true, but it could have been so much more.
We can understand why Nintendo didnâ€™t want to bulk it up with NES ROMs given the Nintendo NES Classic Edition already exists, but on a system accurately resembling a Game & Watch, including nothing more than Ball feels stingy. Nintendo had the chance here to create a Game & Watch Classic â€“ ideally, it should have dozens of G&W titles. Or at the very least, all those starring Super Mario.
Hopefully, this is a stepping stone for something greater – weâ€™d love to see that wonderful screen re-used for a Game Boy Color Classic. Providing there are more than three bloody games on it, of course.