A playthrough of the Zelda Game & Watch game as it appears (in simulated form) in Nintendo's 2002 Game Boy Advance title, Game & Watch Gallery 4.
Zelda was among the last of the games ever released in Nintendo's Game & Watch series of standalone LCD games. It was released only in the US in 8/1989, and was followed only by Mario the Juggler before the entire line was discontinued in favor of development for the Game Boy. Do note that this is not the same as the Zelda Game Watch game, which was released only on one of those tiny watches that kids loved so much in the late 80s.
The format is similar to that used by the old Tiger Handheld LCD games, but Zelda was certainly one of the more ambitious (and playable) games of its type. It even included a short ending!
According to the manual, "The havoc caused by the eight fierce dragons is increasing day by day. These dragons have refused to live in peace with man are are fighting against him to rule the world. Now that your sweetheart Princess Zelda has been kidnapped by the evil dragons, you have resolved to destroy the dragons." It's not the most complex Zelda plot ever, but it works well enough to justify another adventure. Of Link.
The game features 8 dungeons, and each have branching layouts. Each screen has a different item up for grabs if you successfully clear out the enemies, including hearts, Water of Life (for refilling your life entirely), a map that shows the current dungeon layout, and a tomahawk that increases your attack power on the dragon boss stages. Once you've collected all 8 pieces of the Triforce, you rescue the princess and win the game. For as simple as it all is, it's quite playable and fun. It's a bit repetitive (which was a given, given the limitations of the format), but it's well above the average Atari 2600 game in nearly every way. Of course, it was developed by Gunpei Yokoi, who created the G&W series, the Game Boy, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and many other landmark bits of Nintendo fun. You'd expect it to be good, and it was.
This video shows an entire playthrough of the first "quest" along with the "ending." The game loops for a second quest that gives enemies more health and speed, but I felt like one quest was sufficient for this video.
The original game featured twin-LCD displays, and this is represented pretty well on the GBA's screen. It's far fuzzier on the GBA due to the system's low display resolution, but it does simulate the original experience pretty well. The black line represents the split between the LCD game's two screens, and the windows resize themselves to give you a proper view based on what is going on on-screen.
The original game had very little sound, and the GBA simulation does little but recreate the original bleeps and bloops. To make the sound a bit more palatable, I recorded (from a couple of midi files) the dungeon music from Zelda 1 and 2 playing on a Sound Blaster 16. I originally did recordings from playback on a Master System, but it was too shrill and beepy. Though that might have sounded more "authentic," it was irritating and ear-piercing, so I went with an alternative "retro" sound that I thought fit reasonably well. I also recorded the video through a Retroarch LCD shader to give an accurate representation of what this looked like playing on a real GBA.
For as massively loved as the Zelda series is, this official entry gets very little attention, and so very few people seem to be familiar with it. If you pride yourself on your knowledge of one of Nintendo's most beloved franchises, hopefully this helps you to fill in a few gaps.
It's simple but it's fun, and the quality is pretty startling given the format that the game appeared on. It won't last you 12+ hours, but it'll likely amuse you at least for a bit. I enjoyed it.
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
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