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 message similar fashion to that of the SMB-35, where the moles have been replaced by Octorok.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. 😆