Thursday, November 11, 2021

Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda - Teardown & Observations

On the one year anniversary of the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. Nintendo has released a follow-up Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda (aka ZL-35). While there are a number of similarities between the two, Nintendo introduced a few new interesting features and changes to keep this entry interesting.

Packaging & Contents

Similar to the SMB-35 (G&W: SMB), the ZL-35 follows a similar packaging design - outer film wrap with printed graphics over a metallic golden cardboard box. I really enjoyed the SMB-35 packaging so it was great to see this design carried over to the ZL-35.

Continuing tradition, the left box lip contains a Zelda Vermin styled "Special thanks to you!" message similar fashion to that of the SMB-35, where the moles have been replaced by Octorok.

The contents remain similar to that of the SMB-35:

  • Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda unit
  • USB-C to USB-A cable for changing (no charger included)
  • User Guide
  • My Nintendo Point Code sheet

What's new is the fancier inner tray that doubles as a product display stand, which is a nice upcycling of the product packaging. Instead of the USB-C to USB-A cable being exposed by removing the inner tray, it's encapsulated by the inner tray. If there's a desire to keep the packaging materials intact, there are a number fan created designs available that can be printed, ordered, or designed if so inclined!

Fit & Finish

Not too much to say compared to the SMB-35 overall. The feel is still solid for the buttons and casing, but there are a few interesting changes. Aside from the addition of discrete Select and Start buttons utilized by the included Zelda titles, engineers decided to take advantage the LCD backlight splash and turn it into a novel easter egg of sorts. The backlight/brightness setting for the unit determines the luminosity of the Triforce on the back of the case, which is a very creative touch!


No drastic changes have been made here. The same ZJ024NA-17 320x240 LCD panel from InnoLux has been employed. The main difference appears to be the revision. The launch SMB-35 used an "A" suffix model whereas the ZL-35 is using a F suffix model (A->F :S). The NES/Famicom games continue to display rows of pixels 1:1, and the columns of pixels are stretched from 256px to 320px in a similar fashion to the SMB-35.

With the inclusion of Link's Awakening, things get interesting. The original GameBoy has a native resolution of 160x144 - square pixels in a 10:9 aspect ratio. The ZL-35 includes a "Screen Size" option providing two options for Link's Awakening - "Full" or "Original". "Full" stretches 160x144 to 320x240, and "Original" stretches 160x144 to ~266x144. While the "Original" setting might be enticing for fabled aspect ratio "purists", it does come with the compromise of blending pixel values across both axis. Interestingly enough, the "Full" setting does a horizontal 2x "integer scale", bypassing any pixel blending on the horizontal axis. Why should it after all!!!


One interesting "easter egg" of sorts with this release is tied to the language selection for Zelda 1 & 2. When English is selected, the Western release is presented as expected. When Japanese is selected, the Famicom Disk System version of the game is loaded, along with the additional audio channel provided by the FDS!

Teardown & Technical Specifications

The overall architecture of the ZL-35 & SMB-35 is similar, but features some layout differences for the nifty Triforce lightguide to the rear of the casing as well as some updated components.

  • LCD Module - Innolux ZJ024NF-17A 2.4" 320x240 resolution (same)
  • MCU - STMicroelectronics STM32H7B0VB (same)
    • 32-bit Arm® Cortex®-M7 core up to 280MHz
    • Integrated LCD controller
    • Integrated USB controller
  • Storage: Macronix MX25U3232FM2I 32Mb Flash (Updated)
  • Battery - Nintendo HAC-006 3.7V 525mAh 1.9Wh (Same)
  • Battery Charger  - Texas Instruments BQ24168 (Updated)
    • Previously Texas Instruments BQ24072


If you enjoyed last years SMB-35 and are partial to the early Zelda titles, then yes, this is once again a must purchase item for the holiday season. I'm still waiting for that Analogue Pocket to ship. 😆

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. - Teardown & Observations

While Microsoft and Sony are launching new hardware this week (Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5), so too is Nintendo with the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. This Game & Watch "Classic" of sorts provides yet another way for fans new and old to play the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka "Lost Levels" outside of Japan), and a recreation of the original Game & Watch Ball game.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Mega Sg Utilities - Font Generator Tool (plus Font Pak!)

Now that the Analogue Mega Sg is shipping, retro gaming enthusiasts are finally able to get an all in one solution for playing Sega Genesis games (and legacy ones too) on modern displays via HDMI. One of the interesting new features introduced with the Mega Sg is the ability to import custom fonts to tailor the OSD look to ones liking. Analogue provides a description of the file format and usage in their Mega Sg Reference Guide:
The user loaded font allows you to select your own font in place of those which come with the Mega Sg. The load font option will bring you to the file browser. If you have a directory called FONT at the root of your SD card, it will default to that directory to load a font file. The font must use an 8x8 text box and must be represented in binary in a 1-bit per pixel format. Each character will take eight bytes to represent in this format. The file must be 768 bytes in size and use the extension .fnt. The characters in the file will have to start at ASCII 20 (space) and end at ASCII 7F (delete).
Binary representation of an 'A' character font 
I've created a PowerShell module (MegaSgUtils) containing a cmdlet named New-MegaSgFont that generates fnt files from prepared source image files (aka Font sheets).

Friday, March 9, 2018

Super Nt Firmware v4.4 - An Inadvertent Virtual Boy Compatibility Fix!


A number of years back I was perusing the GamesX Nintendo controller data wiki page and noticed that the same type of signals were shared between the NES and SNES. Given that both the NES and SNES used essentially the same protocol (Clock/Latch/Data using shift registers) I figured it would be worth a try to build an adapter so that I could use my favorite SNES pad, the AsciiWare asciiPad, on the NES. After building an adapter using a NES controller cable and a SNES controller extension (socket half) I was pleased to discover that everything worked perfectly! Another pleasant surprise was that NES buttons B/A map to SNES buttons Y/B respectively!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

UltraHDMI FW v1.07 - Gamma & Presets

Retroactive has released new firmware for the UltraHDMI kit! While this kit has been shipping for just over 2 years now, it's always great to receive new features and settings. The latest update (v1.07) has been further optimized to utilize the remaining resources on the Cyclone III FPGA.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Retron HD NES Color Palette Extracted - Gawkers Beware!

The recent flood of low quality NES consoles has made me curious to see how they look and perform. I picked up a Retron HD at Hyperkin's PAX 2017 booth and was most curious to see what the color palette looked like. Not to my surprise, it looked a little... off.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

SNES Classic Edition - Observations and Captures

After the wildly popular NES Classic from 2016 Nintendo has followed up with the release of the SNES Classic. While there are many outlets covering this exciting new device (and how it's essentially the same HW as the NES Classic), I'd like take the opportunity to cover a few particular points of interest.