It’s not hard to play the original Legend of Zelda games. With each new hardware release, Nintendo trots out its 8-bit Hyrule adventures again, giving players a chance to relive (and rebuy) the games that started it all. If you’re a Switch Online subscriber, for instance, you can play them right now on your Switch. Even still, there’s something pleasing about Nintendo’s new standalone Game & Watch handheld. It’s a niche little toy that does nothing more than let you play three classic games and keep track of the time. But it does a great job at it — and it’s so darn cute.
This latest retread of nostalgia is a sequel of sorts. Last year, amidst the height of next-gen hype, Nintendo released a small plastic-and-metal machine that played the original Super Mario and doubled as a clock. Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda is basically the same thing, but, you know, for Zelda. It has the same tiny-yet-crisp screen, the same rubbery buttons, and the same metallic front that looks a lot like the original Game & Watch handheld. Visually, the main difference is the bright green color scheme and the words “The Legend of Zelda” printed on the front. Also, when the screen is on, a triforce is lit up on the back, which is a nice, nerdy touch.
Functionally, though, there’s actually quite a bit more going on here. Yes, the device still serves as a clock with a Zelda theme; Nintendo even turned the packaging into a stand of sorts, so you can prop it up on a desk. But there’s also a great selection of games. It includes both The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link from the NES, alongside the Game Boy classic Link’s Awakening. All three hold up pretty well (provided you can deal with Zelda II’s punishing combat), and they look, sound, and control great here, despite Nintendo’s recent emulation woes. The games all support save states as well, so it’s easy to dip in and out.
In keeping with the theme, there’s a slightly remixed version of the mole-smashing Game & Watch game Vermin, which now stars a stick figure version of Link. Rounding out the package is a deceptive mode called “timer.” Basically, it’s a countdown clock, but it’s also playable, essentially turning it into Zelda II: Arcade Edition. You choose how long you want to play for (10 minutes is the max), select an Adventure of Link location, and then spend that period of time trying to kill as many baddies as possible to get a high score. It’s surprisingly engrossing and a great way to kill a few minutes.
Is all of that worth $50? That’s a personal question. There are certainly cheaper and easier ways to play some 8-bit Zelda. But, just like with the Mario Game & Watch, I’ve enjoyed the single-use nature of this machine. When I pick it up, I know what I’m going to do: get lost in Hyrule without distraction. Plus, it’s nice to toss in a bag knowing I have something to do when I need to kill a few minutes while I’m out. It’s something I want, not need — but for dedicated Zelda fans, it will likely offer just enough for that asking price.