Which Game & Watch do you remember best, Izushi-san?
Game & Watch: Donkey Kong .21 I wondered how I could recreate the arcade version of Donkey Kong 22 with the limited number of segments available for Game & Watch, and even though I can’t draw, I redrew the sketches over and over. Then, when I thought they were ready, I had Kano-san polish them up. What’s more, this title was the first to use the control pad. 21Game & Watch: Donkey Kong: The second Game & Watch game in the Multi Screen series. The player avoids barrels while attempting to rescue a lady. Released in Japan in June 1982. 22Arcade version of Donkey Kong: An arcade game that appeared in Japan in 1981. The NES version was released in Japan in 1983.
One year before the NES went on sale, Game & Watch: Donkey Kong was the first game to use the +Control Pad.
We tried out all kinds of things for the +Control Pad. We would have Yokoi-san try prototypes that the hardware team had worked their hardest on and ask, “How is it?” and he’d say, “No, it’s not right,” and then we’d begin the whole process over again.
We sure did make a lot of those. Yokoi-san was really particular that players be able to operate it without looking at their hands, so we did things like make a depression in the centre.
Ah, I see. But it’s such an important element that you could say his dedication contributed significantly to today’s video game culture. Donkey Kong also had dual screens.
Two years had passed since Game & Watch: Ball went on sale, so we thought we should do something new and were given the task of using two screens.
That’s just like with the development for the Nintendo DS system! (laughs)
No one knew how to do it.
Yeah, just like with Nintendo DS! (laughs) But in 1982, there weren’t any laptop computers yet, so no electronic devices folded like that.
We made it folding because it was important that players could play it anywhere.
I went to buy compacts for reference.
Compacts? Like for makeup?
Yeah. To research a hinge for connecting the lower and upper screens. They’re still in my desk drawer! (laughs)
You’ve still got those compacts? Kano-san, your ability to keep stuff is astounding! (laughs)
The bottom container parts are gone, but the mirrors are still there. I made the multiscreen using those as reference.
Were makeup compacts the inspiration for the clam-shell design?
Yes. You asked earlier about which title put the wind to our backs, and I think Game & Watch: Donkey Kong was one such title. Miyamoto-san put out the arcade version of Donkey Kong, and then one year later we released the Multi Screen version, so I think there was a strong synergistic effect.
I suppose players were happy that they could now play Donkey Kong wherever and whenever they wanted as opposed to just at the arcade.
Ah, right. But if it weren’t for Game & Watch, today’s handheld game systems would probably be different. I doubt the Game Boy and Nintendo DS systems would have made it out into the world.
I think so, too.
Now, 30 years later, we’ve decided to reproduce Game & Watch: Ball as a limited-edition present to Club Nintendo’s23 2009 platinum members. Kano-san, you were central to this project as well, weren’t you? Editor’s note: in the UK & Ireland, Game & Watch: Ball is available to Club Nintendo members for 7,500 Stars in the Stars Catalogue. Reproduction of Game & Watch: Ball for Club Nintendo 23Club Nintendo: Nintendo’s membership service, which began in 2003 in Japan. (In the UK & Ireland, Club Nintendo officially opened in December 2007. Members are awarded points called Stars for registering Nintendo systems and software that they have purchased. Those Stars can then be exchanged for original Nintendo goods in the Stars Catalogue of Club Nintendo.
Yes. Not only is Game & Watch: Ball the memorable first title and the basis for all future Game & Watch titles, but it also held a special place in Yokoi-san’s heart.
What was difficult in bringing a 30-year-old game back to life in the 21st Century?
Well, it’s 30 years old, so none of the relevant documents were around anymore. It was hard contacting all those involved and gathering the materials.
But since we recreated Game & Watch for Game & Watch Gallery 24 for the Game Boy system, didn’t the software know-how exist? 24Game & Watch Gallery: A series of original and remade Game & Watch titles for the Game Boy system. Game & Watch: Ball is included in Game & Watch Gallery 2, released in Japan in September 1997.
For the software, yes. But that was for Game Boy, so it didn’t feel the same. I tried to recreate it as faithfully as possible by remembering the actual console 30 years ago - how it felt in your hands, how the LCD looked, and how it felt when you punched buttons.
See the black strips, like pillars at each end of the LCD?
Yes, that’s a peculiar design.
Those are actually hiding something.
At the ends of the screen in the original Game & Watch: Ball, there’s some unnecessary wiring sticking out, which you could see if we didn’t cover it up. We decided to hide it with a printed filter. You can’t see the wiring with today’s LCDs, so there was no need to do that in the reproduction, but I wanted to recreate it as faithfully as possible, so I put the pillars in this time, too. However, you couldn’t shut off the sound in the old one, but this time you can.
You updated it that way.
Yes. If you mute it, you can play on the train.
Pretty soon the platinum members will be able to play this reproduction of the Game & Watch: Ball game.
Yes. It’s the roots of Nintendo’s handheld gaming systems, so I hope they’ll play it. And it’s sure to hold up for a long time. It was hard to faithfully recreate something from 30 years ago, though. In addition to the documents, we had trouble getting our hands on the same parts.
The various parts used in Game & Watch aren’t around anymore.
Right. And what’s more, my memory is fading.
When the staff who worked on the reproduction with me asked, “Why is this part like this?” I could only say, “Beats me!”
You couldn’t answer because you’d forgotten! (laughs)
Exactly! It’s a fact that I had made it, but I thought, “How’s it all go now?” and had quite a hard time.
But it’s a good thing that you did it while you still remembered. Before long you might forget ever even making it! (laughs)
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