Nintendo’s first gaming series: Game & Watch!

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?”

Like this guy right here?

Like this guy right here?

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.

Donkey Kong Game & Watch

Donkey Kong Game & Watch

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.

Ball - first game made for the Game & Watch series

Ball – first game made for the Game & Watch series

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.

Hey...that looks awfully familiar. Hey that doesn't belong here!

Hey…that looks awfully familiar. Hey that doesn’t belong 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.

Game & Watch Gallery.

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.

Advertisements

Backlog gaming review: Guacamelee!

Title

As a independent game developer, I always enjoy playing a good indie game. It feels inspiring to feel the creativity and inspiration that has been brought from the games the independent game developers play. Or at least brought from some form of media that they are exposed too. Without some constraints made from work environment from bigger name studios, these independent game developers have more freedom to unleash their creativity and make their product a bit more heartfelt and homemade. Kind of like my dad’s breakfast burritos that I used to eat on weekends when I lived with my parents. More enjoyable when homemade as opposed to going out and eating breakfast burritos from bigger breakfast chains.

But enough about food, lets talk about a game I played recently called Guacamelee. After buying this game from the most recent Steam Holiday Sale, it has taken backseat to some other games and some life events…until recently I finally found time to play the game and enjoy what Guacamelee had to offer. And boy, it was a treat for me!

The story of Guacamelee takes place in Mexico where you play the muscular protagonist named Juan Aguacate. After gaining the powers of a Luchador, he is set out to save the world and El Presidente’s Daughter, which are both held captive by an evil charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca. The player must wrestle their way (see what I did there?) through temples in order to fight Carlos and his minions to save the world of the living AND the dead as they both hang in the balance.

Save the worlds...in a chicken costume! Yes, Gold Edition allows players to switch costumes as well as create ones of your own!

Save the worlds…in a chicken costume! Yes, Gold Edition allows players to switch costumes as well as create ones of your own!

Guacamelee is an Action-Adventure game with a few dashes of free exploration that pay homage to the older games that came before it, such as Metroid, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda. Like the other games in the same category, you start out with the basic mechanics, such as run, jump, and a basic punching combo. Throughout the game, the player will encounter “Choozo” statues (a major reference to Metroid) which will give the player more abilities to fight baddies as well as give Juan more mobility to traverse through the world. The player can also unlock more abilities to fight by purchasing through a shop with the money obtained from successfully crushing Carlos’s minions. Later on, the player will also gain an ability to switch in between the world of the living and the world of the dead. This is a mechanic that requires the player to use in order to travel throughout Mexico. This game can either be played solo or with another player locally, which the second player will take role as a female fighter named Tostada.

2 player

Presentation-wise, Drinkbox Studios did a fantastic job. I am not a guy who enjoys neat artwork/graphics in games. But when a game does a fantastic job in the art department, I actually take notice and give major brownie points to the game. And boy, Guacamelee will have brownie points for days from me. The visuals are outstanding in every aspect. They are mindful when it comes to picking the right color palettes as well as designing the visual environment for a variety of different levels and it shows. Guacamelee is a game that achieves visual excellence in its own fashion. Guacamelee also has a great soundtrack to complement with the Mexican world!

Guacamelee manages to maintain the free-exploration aspect of the game well like Metroid or Legend of Zelda did. When you first start out, there are areas in the first levels that you can’t access without certain abilities. Once the player has obtained these moves, the player can come back to the earlier levels and obtain extra goodies which can help the player throughout the game. There are also areas of the game where it can accessed with a little exploration. For the players that decide to go from the main path and explore, Guacamelee rewards the players for their efforts.

Guacamelee also did a great job on balancing the difficulty throughout the game by designing the enemies themselves. They created a variety of enemies, each with its own difficulty level. The player will fight the basic skeletal baddies in the beginning. As the player progresses through the game, the player will face either more of the basic goons, face foes of great valor, or they throw in a mixture of both, just to keep the player on their toes. On top of that, they gave foes different shields which each requires a certain ability to break. For example, the foes with red shield would require the player to use an uppercut in order to break the shield. And for those who seek a bigger challenge (or for those looking to unlock achievements), The Gold Edition has an optional level called El Infierno that consists of challenges that the player must complete for bragging rights. Even though that getting the gold on all of the challenges didn’t take me as long as I would have liked, the challenges made me work for the gold that I had received. I gotta say El Infierno is indeed hard as hell (pun intended).

I love the game for what it has done well. But no game is flawless, as Guacamelee has a couple of minor quirks that I wish that they would have worked on. For one, the length of the game was a little too short for my liking. Even after getting the gold metal of all the challenges, obtaining all of the orbs, and obtaining every single chest in the game, I still managed to complete the game in under 12 hours. I wished that they would have added more content into the game in order to increase the length of the game. I would be happier if they manage to add at least 4 more hours of content. The other quirk that I found is that I feel that the amount of meme references added in the game was a little overbearing. I know that we live in a age where memes are prominent in the internet culture, and I enjoy a meme here and there. But the amount of references that they put into the game was a little more than what I am comfortable with. I would be more ok with it if they removed a few of them from the game. At least they managed to make the memes blend with the theme of the game very well.

Don’t let what I have to say deter you from getting Guacamelee. Even if you end up spending a small chunk of your time playing the game from start to finish, you’d have a pleasant experience from what the game has to offer. If I were to give a score for this game, I’d give it a 9 out of 10. If you are looking for a wonderful visual experience that is complemented by a great and balanced gameplay, I’d recommend getting the game when you get a chance. It’ll be worth your time I promise!

I have been bad on making posts lately. Since I’m finally about to get some free time, I’ll use that time to write more blog posts. That way, I can make postings more consistent and in case something comes up, I won’t have to worry about setting aside over 3 hours I needed. Thanks for reading the review! Go ahead and support indie developers by buying the game if you haven’t and stay tuned for next week!