It has been a busy week for video game consoles. This week saw the launch of two next-generation platforms, with the launch of PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X and Series S. Each platform was designed around new developments such as ray tracing and fast-loading SSDs. Meanwhile, Nintendo releases today … a watch that works Super Mario Bros. It might sound odd timing, but it’s also very much in line with Nintendo’s history: This is a company that always goes its own way.
New game and watch: Super Mario Bros. It is an exceptionally fine piece of hardware. Modeled after the classic mobile Game & Watch – a precursor to the Game Boy – with a color scheme inspired by the original Famicom Japanese console. In terms of functionality, the device is incredibly straightforward. It contains three built-in games, most notably the first SMB Game. There is, too Super Mario Bros.2Known in the West as Missing levels, A truly sinister sequel that remixes the first game with deceptive features like killer mushrooms. Rounding out the lineup is the ball, A simple but surprisingly fun version of the 1980’s LCD juggling game, this time starring Mario.
All the games are solid ports, the screen is nice and bright while the mobile has a great D-pad. I’ve found myself regularly picking up Game & Watch to sneak a level or two whenever I have a few extra minutes. The lack of frills is almost a nice thing: I can really focus on just playing the game. It even has save states, so you can pause the game and return to the same place whenever you want. Outside of games, the main function of the Game & Watch is to be a watch. One of the face buttons simply reads “time”, and pressing it will return a file Super MarioThemed watch with a plumber running and bouncing across the regions of the classic Mushroom Kingdom. The playing time of the day changes as the real world changes.
If you are to be honest, the device is quite modern. There are better and easier ways to play Super Mario Bros. And check the time. But Game & Watch has the right mix of nostalgia and functionality to make it worth checking out for me. I certainly don’t need to This is, but I want it. It’s similar to Nintendo’s line of minicabs, which began a surprisingly long-standing trend after the NES Classic way was released back in 2016.
Here’s the thing: Only Nintendo will release a new portable comic device the same week that its biggest competitors release ambitious home appliances. The situation is indicative of Nintendo as a whole. While Sony and Microsoft focus on each other’s external maneuvering, Nintendo is in its own world, separate from concerns like frame rates, 3D audio or 4K graphics.
This is not always a good thing. All too often, Nintendo’s lonely nature leads to outright failures, like the Wii U. But for now, the company’s distinct focus is a definite positive. Just yesterday, Nintendo revealed that the Switch has been the best-selling console in the US for 23 consecutive months, and that its global lifetime sales will soon surpass the Nintendo 3DS. Meanwhile, profnimal crossing: new horizons – which only released in March of this year – is already the second best-selling game from Switch, with over 26 million copies sold.
It is not clear how long this momentum will last. Perhaps one day Nintendo will finally release the 4K switch, as has long been rumored. For now, though, the company’s current philosophy – that a poor tablet with great games is the best experience for most people – is working. And it looks like it won’t change any amount of intimidation from the next generation.
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