Promotional Consideration: Multi Screen

Eric Caoili
E. Caoili|09.16.07

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Promotional Consideration: Multi Screen

Promotional Consideration is a weekly feature about the Nintendo DS advertisements you usually flip past, change the channel on, or just tune out.

Gunpei Yokoi, the same engineer who would eventually go on to father the Game Boy and Metroid, was riding home one evening on a bullet train when he spotted a bored businessman randomly pressing buttons on an LCD calculator to entertain himself. Believing that commuters would enjoy passing the time with handheld video games, Yokoi soon developed a set of portable gaming systems which also doubled as watches/alarms -- the Game & Watch.

This week, we'll take a look at several ads for the fourth Game & Watch series, the Multi Screen, whose clamshell case and vertically stacked screens would later serve as inspiration for the Nintendo DS's design.

Oil Panic
and Donkey Kong
No. Game & Watch. Multi Screen.

It's interesting that while the Game Boy, even with its name, was marketed towards teenagers and younger audiences, specifically the male demographic, this Japanese Game & Watch commercial targets adults, both male and female. The off-screen voice asks, "Is that a compact?," and, "Is that a cigarette case?," complimenting the system's portability with his misjudgments. The well-to-do woman and salaryman smile politely and reply, "No, sir, you are mistaken. It is a Game & Watch Multi Screen."

Oil Panic and Donkey Kong, the games featured in the ad, were the first two Multi Screen games, released in the spring of 1982. Donkey Kong is especially significant not only for being the most common and one of the most popular Game & Watch titles, but for its application of the directional pad (updating Cosmic Hunter's four-arrow design), now the standard for pretty much any modern game controller that's worth a damn.

Both Multi Screen games, along with Green House, were included with last year's Game & Watch Collection, a Japan-only Nintendo DS release that was available to Club Nintendo members. Many of the other twelve Multi Screen games were also ported to the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance with the Game & Watch Gallery series.

French modder Kotomi painted two Nintendo DS systems last year, modeling them after the designs of the Donkey Kong and Zelda Game & Watch handhelds. Despite having been conceived over twenty years later, they very much resemble their Multi Screen ancestors, don't you agree?

The Game & Watch Multi Screen portables remain popular with collectors to this day -- just two weeks ago, an empty cardboard box which was originally used to ship ten Donkey Kong systems sold for over $150 on eBay! As for an actual game, a mint copy, complete with an unblemished box and all the slips of paper that often come with these purchases, was also auctioned off recently for $498!
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