Game and Watch Gallery 4 is the fourth installment in recreating a laundry list of Nintendo LCD games. Some of Nintendo's newer fans may only know the Game Boy as the only Nintendo product with LCD hardware, but there were games before that running at the complexity of something you'd find if you strolled into Wal-Mart and bought a $5 "video game machine" that played just that one game.
These games are more like "timewasters" than anything else. Titles like Fire or Donkey Kong Jr., for example, are the most instantly recognizable of the bunch. Fire has undergone countless revisions and releases, but the gameplay mechanics still hold true to the original.
You're responsible for rescuing people jumping out of a burning building and they still have to bounce the requisite three times before they end up in the ambulance.
Of course, the entire corpus isn't just bringing these old games to the newer Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Advance SP LCD screens. There are modern versions of nearly a dozen of these games, complete with colourful graphics and modern Nintendo franchise characters. I'll hark back to the Fire example again. Mario and Luigi show up to do the rescuing, and the inhabitants of the burning building turn into mushrooms a la Super Mario Bros.
It's interesting to note that some of the LCD games weren't very much like their arcade and console counterparts. Donkey Kong III really has no bearing to the old Donkey Kong in the arcades - the one where you have to rescue the girl at the top. On the same note, Mario Bros. isn't the same as the one on the console. It's not the one with the "pow" block.
The modern versions can be quite fun and are a drastic improvement over the originals, but I'm sure memorabilia collectors will want to hang on to the LCD versions just for kicks. Unfortunately, the conversion to modernity has left the gameplay a little too intact. These LCD games were designed with fixed graphics. There weren't a lot of what you would call fluid animations. There were four or five frames of a person jumping out of a burning building. There were a couple of frames of Donkey Kong Jr. moving across the screen. The modern versions are still like that, even though the Game Boy Advance has more than enough horsepower to animate these characters fully.
This is significant because the Game and Watch gallery games are lacking in depth, given the fact that there are stars to collect to unlock new titles and the difficulty ramps up generally by speeding the game up. However, at the very end of the day, these games are all about timing. If you can catch the timing without opening your eyes, you could still win the game by pressing the buttons in a rhythmic manner. Were the modern versions not so orthodox about mimicking everything about the original LCD game, it wouldn't be caught in this same trap too.
In some cases the makeover is very convincing. It's almost as if it was a new game but it only takes a few minutes to realize it's not more complex than the original in concept. That's a shame too, considering the appealing graphics and likable soundtracks. I would have liked the developers to run on and expand the initial ideas. A simple platform game revolving around all the mini games would have been a more novel idea.
The fundamentals for these games were not bad during their time. They aren't bad even now, although their scope might be a little short. I take the word gallery in the fourth edition of Game and Watch Gallery quite literally. This is a gallery of sound, fundamental gaming concepts. Now, if only someone would come along and fuse all of them into one cohesive title.
Standing on its own, the Game and Watch Gallery is akin to the basic set of martial arts moves. You have your simple karate kicks, punches and chops all in order here. They're done very well too, but in a day and age where people are accustomed to gravity defying Matrix-like moves that spin the room around in 360 degrees -- these basics look a lot less appealing than they ought to be.