Nintendo's most retro console proves to be a mixed bag.
Hey, do you know that there is a third new console releasing this Autumn? Nintendo celebrates the 35th anniversary of Super Mario with a new little retro console, Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. Don't be fooled by marketing, those two didn't come together in the early days of gaming. The original Game & Watch is five years older than the popular game, but Nintendo just put them together and, you know, they blend perfectly.
The Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. is like a fusion of grandma's recipes. It looks similar to the older models of Game & Watch but sports the modern D-pad, which was introduced a couple of years later. It also takes the colour scheme from the Japanese Famicom controller, bringing in the Mario vibes. It's a small plastic unit with a ruby body and a fake gold metal front plate surrounding a prominent frame that encapsulates a small 2.36 inches LCD panel. It's a nice device, and the box containing it is beautiful and fits perfectly on a shelf.
Playing is not as comfortable as one would expect for a modern device. The console is so light (70 grams) that you can hold it as long as you want, but the round edges and the button layout doesn't fit perfectly. The D-pad and the A and B buttons are too close to the bottom edge. If only they were closer to the center, the lower corners would rest softer in the palm of my hands. Was the Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. designed thinking of small hands with shorter fingers? Probably.
The little screen is one of the pros of the hardware. It's bright and colorful, giving these backgrounds we have already seen a million times a vivid aspect. You can quickly increase or reduce screen brightness on the pause menu, and don't hesitate on taking it out with you on a sunny day, because it works fine under direct sun rays. I was worried about the size and the resolution, yet you can see quite well what is going on at any time and have full control of Mario, even when you need to more than half body in the air to break a block or make a backside jump.
The audio in the console is also great. The mono speaker sounds great, even in the loudest configuration, and this is quite loud for what I was expecting. The problem is that it lacks any other sound connector (it doesn't even include a simple 3.5mm headphone jack). It's bad also at home, as I could not play as I wanted on the sofa while my partner was watching TV.
Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. comes with three games preloaded and a clock, and that's all because officially you can't add any other software. Of course, here is the old Super Mario Bros. from the NES, emulated in a superb way with the old feel, but the greatest visual and sound quality. The same goes for Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which is maybe the most interesting content on the package. I must confess though, that I have never got to the third world before. And then there is Ball featuring Super Mario. This thing is boring as hell, but it's great to see where we came from in this industry and how far we've come. For me, the most useless thing is the clock app, as it's disturbing and noisy.
By the way, you know what Xbox Series Quick Resume is? The ability to pause a game, launch another game, and then come back to the former one exactly at the same point you left it, no loading times. Well, this small device also has it. If you go from one game or to the clock, you can pick up always where you were before. This is just one of the many little tricks Nintendo did include in the software. You can play as Luigi in Ball, play as hard mode in Super Mario Bos. and unlock a secret world in Lost Levels.
Finally, I would like to talk about battery life. Nintendo says it lasts around 8 hours, but my experience playing almost full brightness and high volume is that the battery doesn't last so long. It's easy and quick to recharge with the USB Type-C port (and the cable is included in the box), but I was expecting one of those electronics that you can forget about cables for weeks.
At £44.99, you can clearly see what Nintendo is doing here. Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. is a piece for a collection and a nice addition to Nintendo's retro family. In 2020, you probably own like five different machines supporting Super Mario Bros. It's all down to whether you in love with it at first glance or not. Did you?
7 / 10
Beautiful box and console design, colorful and bright LDC panel, loud and clear speaker.
Main buttons are too close to the bottom edge, no 3.5mm jack, battery could last longer.