Look, I’m not saying these are great, or even good games, but The Legend of Zelda games for the Phillips CD-i weren’t all bad, just mostly. No one sets out to make a bad game, unless they have some sort of weird vendetta against the world for allotting them too much free time. Howard Warshaw didn’t want to make E.T. (Atari 2600) the game that would single-handedly crash the entire industry. No, he wanted to see if he could make a functional game in the tight five week production schedule. Developers Animation Magic and Viridis didn’t intend on creating atrocious games, they actually had some good ideas. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Quick history lesson. If you’ve only seen the modern Nintendo who fiercely protects their intellectual properties (I.P.’s), going so far as to force YouTube to remove videos featuring their games, then you might be confused. Nintendo partnered with Sony to make a Super Nintendo disc based add-on, the Play Station in 1989. Nintendo gave rise to their biggest competitor, famously leaving them and going with Phillips instead. Seeing the Sega CD fail, they got cold feet, opting out. Though Nintendo broke contract, Phillips still had rights to five Nintendo Characters, Link, Zelda, Ganon, Mario, and Luigi. And thus, Link: Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure was born. So was Hotel Mario too, but that’s a story for another time.
The first two games, Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon, were released simultaneously with only a year of development time and a limited budget by Animation Magic. Both games were nearly identical aesthetically and gameplay wise, with Link staring in Faces and Zelda in Wand. Both games took cues from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES), with an overworld and side-scrolling levels.
The infamous animations are hideous. Link appeared to be a cross dresser, looking as if this was some poorly drawn student project. It seemed as though they took design cues from the animated series. The gameplay was equally bad, mostly thanks to lag issues with the controls. The story had a fantasy flair, paying homage to what came before while adding to it. Guess where these stories took place? Not Hyrule! Faces took place on the island of Koridai. I’ll let you guess where Gamelon took place. Speaking of, Gamelon featured Zelda questing to rescue Link and her father, King Harkinian. With many decrying modern games for being white male power fantasies, this was pretty forward thinking for 1993. Since every Zelda game follows nearly the same formula, it’s nice to see others thought something needed to change after three entries. Attempting to showcase the hardware, the games also featured voice acting. How many years have Zelda fans been asking for that? Again, not saying it was good, but, they tried.
In 1994, Zelda’s Adventure released with some of the worst boxart ever. Again, Zelda took the lead, needing to rescue a kidnapped Link. Designed by a different studio, Viridis, this had traditional overhead gameplay, reminiscent of Ys or Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (yes I know this released after). Instead of animation, this had live action story FMV’s (full motion video). There wasn’t a lot of logic with this, many of the puzzles were trial and error, and it was incredibly frustrating to play. Again, this took place in a different land, Tolemac.
There were no good, or even descent games for the Phillips CD-i, least of all these three. Their execution, utterly terribly. In concept though, there’s plenty to like. I’ve always thought it would be fun to play as Zelda, especially with her Shiek persona from Ocarina of Time. The mainline series has been rutted with a few elements, these at least attempted to change them. I know, these were in different lands because they couldn’t use Hyrule. I’ve played all three, and I still enjoy some aspects, in concept. Mostly.
Did you have the honor of playing any of these? Surprised how inflated Zelda’s Adventure is on eBay? Comment below!
I’m not even sure I believe myself.