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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Memories of the Digital Past (Part II)

Mid 80s. Enter the Nintendo Game and Watch!

For those of you who have no idea what Game and Watches are, here’s a brief backgrounder from Wikipedia:

“The Game & Watch (G&W) series were handheld electronic games made by Nintendo and created by its game designer Gunpei Yokoi from 1980 to 1991. Most featured a single game that could be played on an LCD screen, in addition to a clock and an alarm. Most titles had a 'GAME A' and a 'GAME B' button. Game B is usually a faster, more difficult version of game A. The game Squish is a notable exception; here game B is very different from game A. Judge is another exception in that game B is a 2 player version of game A, rather than it being noticeably faster or more difficult. The games Climber and Super Mario Bros. do not have a 'GAME B' option.

The units used LR4x/SR4x "button-cell" batteries, the same type used in most laser pointers or watches. There are variations in height for button cell batteries, and the G&W units used the shorter height variety. Specifically, they were packaged with Maxell LR43 batteries.”

For more on this, head on to: Wikipedia.

I think the first G&W that we had was “Manhole”. In that game, you control the guy (or is it a gorilla?) who’s holding the manhole cover. The object of the game is to simply prevent people from falling down the hole. Just like in most, if not all, other G&W games, the “variety” in the game comes in the form of game speed changes as you hit certain scores.

Our next G&W was “Snoopy Tennis”. The game went like this: Good ol’ Charlie Brown (who is standing on the lower left corner of the screen) would start the game by making the first swing at the ball. Snoopy (whom you control) is on the right part on the screen, you then move him up or down the three levels of the tree and try to hit the ball. If you hit the ball and it flies towards the upper left portion of the screen, Lucy would then appear to hit the ball back to Snoopy. You get three misses after which it’s game over.

The game starts out very slow, and (as I have previously mentioned) as you reach certain scores, the game’s speed changes. And, I believe, there were some score levels which, when reached, would initiate the “bonus round” (which only lasts for a few seconds) wherein you get more points for your hits.

It’s an endless game (aren’t they all?) except until you run out of misses. And, if I remember it right, your opponents (Chuck and Lucy) never miss! Nevertheless, I got very much addicted to it and got very good at it that I would have scores beyond the 1000 points mark.

Personally, I only know of five Game & Watch types/variations. But after reading the Wikipedia article, I am very much surprised that there were more! Anyway, the ones known to me are the “standard” ones which came with small screens; the “widescreen” which, obviously had wider screens (along with wider bodies); the “multiscreen” which were very much like the Nintendo DS of today; the “Micro vs System” which were designed for two players, it had two wired game pads which can be hidden inside the clamshell-designed main unit; and the “colored” ones which had a colored LCD attached to the “lid” and had a translucent “backing”, the image displayed on the LCD screen would then be reflected to the user via a mirror of the base of the unit. All G&Ws had no built in backlighting, and for the “colored” variety, you need some light passing through the translucent material to see the display.

The aims of all the games of G&Ws were basically the same, get high scores and try not to “miss”. But, simple as they may be, those small wonders have made a big and strong impression on me and have become an undeniable part of my “digital memories”.

Being a sentimental person as I am, I still have all of the G&Ws we have ever had with some of them still working.

Read "Part I".


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