Saturday, April 10, 2010

Takara Tomy A.R.T.S Nintendo Game & Watch Solar Keyholders

I also got these Takara Tomy A.R.T.S Nintendo Game & Watch Solar Keyholders (Keychains) with the Magic Sakura Tree from Strapya the other day. If you know me, you know that I have a total infatuation/obsession with Nintendo's Game & Watches. These were released in the 80s-early 90s, amazingly as credit-card sized games (Really no thicker than an iPhone, which was amazing for any electronic back then, let alone games. Even Tiger's handhelds starting in the late 80s were bulky and thick as hell, even if they did have a nice form factor to them) and there were several series of these, all of which in one way or another conformed to that awesome design. I got my first G&W - Mario's Cement Factory - in 1985 or, well, at any rate I got it before 1987 because that's when I got my NES Control Deck, and I know I got it before I had that. I liked it when I was 5 or 6, but obviously I wasn't able to appreciate it like I can and do now.
So I wasn't exactly crazy over it whenever I was a kid, I mean I evidently liked it enough that when I dug it up several years later it had a few scratches on it from playing with it. In hindsight, I wish I was as much of a nerd back then as I am now because then I wouldn't be hunting them down at auction and paying assloads of money for something that I could've had my mom pay $30 for in 1985, lol.

Anyway, I'll be writing more on my G&W fetish, and how it came into full swing later, because I plan to drag out my G&Ws to display, so obviously I'll be taking pictures and doing an article/post on them at some point. Though they are one of my absolutely favorite things in the world, I don't talk about them too much because not too many people know that much about them, let alone of them most of the time. And chances are if someone that has a PS3/360 and plays it religiously is told about something "retro" that they didn't have that much interest in, in the first place, they're not going to be too thrilled about watching a little LCD dude move across the screen. Also, most people that are aware of these that are under the age of like... 25, automatically think of Smash Bros. when they hear "Game & Watch", as "Mr. Game & Watch" is one of the hidden characters in some of the series' games.

It's hard to explain, because a lot of collectors are "international" (i.e. - not from Japan) ones, but Nintendo and associated companies seem to know that they're out there. Also, of course, there are collectors inside of Japan, but now they seem to be more popular outside of Japan. In fact, if you look at the Japanese Wiki page for G&W - and I didn't know this until last week - a lot of G&Ws were outside-of-Japan only, releases. At any rate, in the last few years there have been sporadic releases of G&W-related goods (that are, of course, licensed by Nintendo). A few years ago there were arcade prize goods (ever-popular in Japan) by Banpresto that were G&W Vignettes, scenes from 4 different G&W games. These are so rare that even if you search in Japanese, there is only like ONE page on the data for them. The only page in English that I've found that contains any data on these is Play-Asia's product page from January 2005, from when they originally went on sale. I've seen them for sale on ebay exactly ONCE, and ONE of the four was up to $140US. And in the over two years I've been buying from Yahoo Japan Auctions, I've never seen one result for any of them. Actually, looking just now, I found some past results for these, from like December 2009 on YHJA that Google has apparently indexed, which gives me hope to snag one of these. =P

A more obtainable G&W related item was when the Gameboy Advance was around and its accessory, the e-Reader. This peripheral scanned cards that contained anything from Pokemon or Animal Crossing items, to full NES games, and one promo card included with every reader was an emulated Manhole Game & Watch. On the Gameboy Color there were several Game & Watch games with the originals and "arranged" versions with popular Nintendo characters replacing the graphics of the original G&W title. With the invention of the DS, 2 G&W titles were developed for it as well, but they could only be had via spending accumulated points with Club Nintendo in Japan. (Or go to Yahoo Japan Auctions, they're around $30US, there)

There is a site affiliated with Nintendo as well, called The King of Games, which makes Nintendo-themed apparel, and they sold/sell really awesome G&W shirts. Last year, Club Nintendo also offered a "remake" of the original G&W, Ball, to their Platinum members.

Fast forward to February of this year, Takara Tomy's A.R.T.S division announced that they'd be making keychain versions of Chef, Octopus and Parachute. Initially it had been thought that these would be original-size and playable. Not so, these were just going to be keychains with the animations of the games (their "attract" or demo modes that the real deal plays when you're not playing a game), and they'd be substantially smaller than the real G&Ws. Also, these would be solar-powered, so not batteries would be required to run these.

I pre-ordered all 3, and received them on Wednesday of this week. Sure enough, the tiny screens replicate the original G&Ws' animations perfectly. There are no sounds, as the material comprising the whole unit, aside from the screen and solar cell, is just generic plastic. I have to say, the solar cells are super receptive, when I held it at eye-level under the lamp in the center of my bedroom, all sprang to life.

These were relatively cheap, like $9 a piece I think. Their buttons press for tactile sensation, and supposedly the right button speeds up the demo, but I saw little difference. And while I like these a lot, I don't understand why they're marketed as keychains. The plastic on the outside is cheap, (or at least the paint on top of the plastic) and the screens seem semi-fragile. I was mounting mine on a wall underneath a light I have, so they'd constantly work (as you'll see in the pics), and I managed to chip a small piece of the red paint off of the outer edge of Chef just by pressing a little too firmly on the plastic-topped tack holding it in place. If it was on a keychain in your pocket, I'm fairly certain it'd be paintless and the screen would be scuffed inside of a week.

In spite of that one little flaw and not being playable, these are really cool. Would I rather have the real thing? Sure. (I already have Parachute) Do I hope they make another series of these? Hell yes!

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