Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nintendo Love Tester (ラブテスター) remakes by Taito (2008) and Tenyo (2010)

In 1969 Nintendo released the Love Tester (ラブテスター). It was one of the earliest electronic toys, as well as the first step on the path of electronic entertainment by engineer and inventor Gunpei Yokoi. A path which would eventually include Game & Watch, Gameboy and WonderSwan, to name a few.

In recent years, two remakes of the the Love Tester have become available. Although this blog normally only features vintage toys, today we will take a small sidestep and look at these new versions of this toy from the late 60s. This will also give us an opportunity to take a closer look at the original toy.

The Love Tester remakes by Taito (left) and Tenyo (right)

Each of the two remakes takes a completely different approach. One has translated the concept of the original toy into a modern version, while the other tries to stay as close as possible to the original. Although not produced by Nintendo, they are both officially licensed.

The box of the Love Tester by Taito has a retro-ish feel to it

The Taito version of the Love Tester (2008) was a Ufo Catcher prize. The Ufo Catcher is the Japanese version of the Crane Game or Claw Crane you can see in arcades around the world. Taito is one of the big names in this area; they operate arcades and produce Ufo Catcher machines and prices.

"Prize Only": it could only be won in Ufo Catchers in Japanese arcades

This version of the Love Tester could only be won in arcades in Japan. Although it was never officially for sale, a thriving market exists for Ufo Catcher toys. It is not so hard to come by, even if you did not want to depend on luck and skill (and a good supply of 100 yen coins) to pry it from the machine.

Taito Love Tester remake (2008)

The Taito Love Tester is a modern recreation of the original toy in name and concept only. Regarding the design and looks, corners have been cut to keep the production cost low. The two external leads with the "knobs" you hold in your hands have been replaced by two sensors on the device, and the "love" meter is represented by five colored LEDs.

It is nice to see this kind of tribute appear in the arcade, but all in all it looks a bit cheap.

Tenyo (テンヨー), a Japanese company big in novelty items, took an entirely diffrent approach in 2010. They lovingly and painstakingly recreated the Love Tester in such a way that at first glance original and remake are hard to distinguish. Both the box and the actual toy are very good copies of the original.

Nintendo Love Tester (left, 1969) and Tenyo remake (right, 2010)

On the front of the box of the remake, only a small note on the top left corner gives it away.

Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

Flipping the boxes over, the difference between the two becomes more noticeable. The back of the remake box contains the kind of health and safety warnings people these days cannot survive without (do not eat this toy, do not feed it to your pet, etc). I am not sure how they managed to stay alive in the 60s.

On the back we also see the Tenyo company logo and the Nintendo copyright notice (1969-2010).

Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

Opening the old and new boxes side by side, it becomes even more clear what a nice job Tenyo has done with this remake.

Love Tester remake by Tenyo

This remake of the Love Tester looks very similar to its forty-year-old predecessor. The only difference we can immediately see is the use of rubber bands instead of the silver clips to keep the wires together.

Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

The back of the toys does not reveal any real differences until closer inspection.

The original Love Tester was "made in Japan"

The original Love Tester contains a "made in japan" note on the back. Japan in those days was still known for cheap electronics.

As most Japanese toys these days, the Tenyo remake is "made in China"

Forty years on, and Japanese companies have moved a large part of their production to China, as is also evident from this toy.

Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

Another sign of the time is the impact of changing safely regulations, which becomes clear when the back lid is removed to change the battery. In the old version the electronics are exposed, while in the new version they are neatly tucked away behind extra plastic shielding.

Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

When the additional shielding of the new version is removed and the electronics of old and new are placed side by side, another difference can be seen: although the electronic components used by both versions are virtually identical, the 1969 version did not yet use printed circuit board, which was not yet very common at the time.

The sensor "knobs" of Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

The wires leading to the sensor "knobs" in the new version also contain some additional protection at the spot where they enter the metal cups. The construction used by the original is probably considered a safety hazard these days.

Pouches of Nintendo Love Tester (left) and Tenyo remake (right)

Just like the original, the Tenyo remake contains a carry pouch to store the Love Tester when taking it on the road. Like the toy these are also very similar, except for the zipper (silver for the original, black for the remake).

All things considered, Tenyo has to be applauded for creating this quality replica. It is sold through their Japanese online shop, but can also be obtained through various Western sites selling Japanese items.

By the way, the Love Tester wasn't the only Nintendo re-release by Tenyo, as they also brought out a remake of the Ultra Machine.


  1. Does anybody know where they sell the Taito remake for a cheap price online?

  2. In paragraph 4, sentence 1 the word price should be prize.

  3. where do you get the remake from tenyo from?

    1. It is no longer for sale, so you will have to search on (Japanese) auction sites for someone to sell one second hand.